Chapter X: Villains in the night

Ochaco was certain that she was going to miss Hiroshima. She was going to miss the many food shops, from the fast food restaurants to the street vendors. She would definitively miss the Iron Agency and Ursai, especially because of how the hero had spoiled his interns with free food. However, if there was something she was going to miss of such large city, it was going to be some of its stores. Or rather, a particular type of them.

"Are you going to drool over that Holo-Projector all evening?"

"Just one more minute!" Begged Ochaco.

"You said that half an hour ago!" harrumphed Iida, angrily karate-chopping the air. "Now do not indulge in such behavior! This is our last evening in Hiroshima and we should make the most of it!"

Ochaco pouted. Iida was right, as usual. However, she couldn't pry her eyes from the beautiful divine cylinder across the street window within the confines of a tech shop. This was the closest she had ever been to an actual Holo-Projector, especially when she stamped her face against the glass. Still, just ogling at it was pointless. It wouldn't magically escape the shop and jump into her hands, no matter how much she really, really, really concentrated on it.

In the end, Ochaco released a long sigh of resignation and pried her face off the glass.

"Fine," grumbled Ochaco in defeat. "Let's go…"

"Finally!" Iida replied.

When Ochaco turned away from the tech shop and towards the rest of the street, she was surprised that dusk was fast approaching. The skies were growing a darker shade of orange as the last remnants of blue disappeared. In turn, the city was alit with colorful lights. Even the people had changed somewhat. Rather than salary men leaving their jobs, the two prospective heroes were surrounded by pedestrians enjoying themselves. There were more people window shopping, either as couples or in groups.

Without any clear destination in mind, the two aimlessly walked across the busy city center.

"It has been fun, hasn't it?" Ochaco said, eyeing a sushi restaurant.

"Indeed," noncommittally said Iida. "It has been a truly enriching experience."

"That's one way of calling it," laughed Ochaco.

Onwards they went, taking in the sights around them. Truthfully, Ochaco wasn't sure what to think about their little outing.

Maybe this is what normal teenagers feel like? Ochaco thought.

As if in answer to her ponderings, Ochaco spotted a group of teenage girls taking selfies around the corner, in front of some clothing shop. She didn't miss how they were all carrying multiple bags, evidence of an eventful shopping spree. The group left Ochaco's sight, but she couldn't quite remove them from her head.

It was hard not to wonder what her own life would have been like had she not enrolled in U.A. She probably would have been back at her home town, probably hanging with familiar faces. Ochaco suspected she would have been the carefree sort of teenager, spending her evenings playing videogames or maybe hanging out with friends.

I wouldn't be training all the time, thought Ochaco with a sad smile. A hand absent-mindedly rubbed her face. Nor would I have scars on my face…

"Hey, Iida?"


Ochaco opened her mouth to voice her own doubts only to struggle to summon words forth. Sentences formed in her head, but no sound escaped her lips.

"Is something troubling you?" Iida asked with concern.

"No! No, I was just…" she trailed off.

Ochaco felt a pang of guilt. Why was she being such a spoilsports? They were supposed to be having fun! A little voice in the back of her head also reminded her that Iida had had it rough as of late. Thus, she forced a cheerful grin on her face.

"Let us take a picture!" Proposed Ochaco, pulling out her cell phone.

"Ochaco, do not wave that thing around in such a manner!" Admonished Iida, dramatically pointing at said thing. "City streets are no place to tempt pickpockets!"

"Oh, relax, Tenya," giggled Ochaco.

Just as she said that, with a confident smile towards Iida and her cell phone aimed at her friend, something small blurred between the two teenagers. When Ochaco and Iida blinked at each other and looked down at Ochaco's cell phone, they quickly realized there was now an empty hand instead.

As one, Iida and Ochaco snapped their heads to a side. There, not far from them, a petite monkey-boy snickered, holding Ochaco's phone. As tall as Mineta, with a tail and more hair than skin, the brown-furred boy leaped off with his prize in hand.

"Hey, give that back!" "Return that device immediately!"

Neither cry made the boy stop. It did make him turn back and blow a taunting raspberry.

"Hey!" Cried out Ochaco, running after it.

Iida followed suit, sprinting past her and going after the thief. The boy was by no means fast. However, much to their chagrin, the monkey-boy used pedestrians to block Iida and Ochaco. He hopped over the heads of people, slipped under their legs, or squeezed between them. It was impossible to catch him.

"Cease this criminal behavior!" Exclaimed Iida.

That only got them another raspberry.

"Someone stop that primate!" Shouted an annoyed Iida.

No one bothered. As the two students tried to capture the thief, people simply stood and watched. Some even went as far as taking out their phones and record the entire thing instead. Thus, the pursuit continued down the street.

At one point, the monkey-boy run past a group of schoolgirls and stopped. He studied the cell phone and turned to smirk at Ochaco and Iida. He taunted them further by aiming his rear and smacking his butt-cheeks. With more than a few ticks in his face, Iida shot off with his quirk. The monkey-boy's confidence evaporated and, in a panic, tried to run. This time, there were no pedestrians to squeeze amongst. Iida smirked. He stretched his hand and then-

The monkey boy a sharp turn into an alley, laughing all the way. Iida sped past, but Ochaco was able to chase after the thief.

"Wait, Ochaco!"

"Give me back my phone!"

In she went, into the depths of the dark alleyway. Worried, Iida looked around before hurrying in to pull her friend out of such a place.

Unbeknownst to the two teenagers, a certain man stared at their backs. A smirk spread on his face, stretching the sickly skin grafts on his face.

"Have no fear…!"

Izuku looked up from the buffet table and turned his head. He wasn't the only one. All around the large hall, every guest of that night's gala watched at the entrance with wide eyes.

"…for I am here!"

"All Might!"

Izuku winced as the crowd of allegedly important people cheered, not before flocking onto the Number One hero. However, even as he wished they could keep their enthusiasm down, Izuku found a smile stretching on his face.

Tall and laughing boisterously, All Might was in his element. He had that patented smile of his and seemed at ease with the herd of people. He shook hands, patted shoulders, laughed some more and traded jokes with the guests. The people, in turn, loved every second.

"Man, he's really good at the whole celebrity shtick, isn't he?"

Izuku glanced at Kendo before they went back to staring at their teacher.

"Yeah," said Izuku, absentmindedly taking a mouthful of delicacies from the table. "I guess he has experience."

"Do you think we get some training on that?"

"Like how to deal with the press? I don't know, but I sure hope so," hummed Izuku contemplatively.

I know some of my classmates will definitively need it, he thought.

"Hey, Midoriya – ehm, I mean Kogitsu…"

"Kogitsunemaru," sighed Izuku.

"Right," chuckled an apologetic Kendo. "Sorry about that."

Izuku shrugged.

"What do you think about All Might as a teacher?" Kendo asked.

"I am not sure," he admitted with a frown. "He's not bad but you can tell that, unlike his status as celebrity, he's rather new in the whole teaching business."

His tails whipped behind him as he remembered the admonishment he had earned the first day with All Might. It had been well-deserved, for the most part. Still, Izuku felt a bubble of resentment in his gut. While he knew All Might hadn't been fully informed about much of Izuku's history (and truly, why should Izuku be treated like a special case?), it would have been nice if he had been a bit more understanding. Coming from his idol, the symbol that had inspired Izuku for so long, the admonishments had been devastating…

"That bad, huh?"

"Huh?" Izuku replied ever so intelligently, snapped out of his thoughts.

"It is written all over your face," said Kendo with a sad smile. Turned to look at All Might. "I guess the saying is true: never meet your heroes."

"Did something happen in your class?"

"A bit of an accident on our first day with him," said Kendo.

Izuku raised an eyebrow as Kendo visibly cringed at some memory.

"I don't want to go into details but let us say that it was not a good idea to have teenagers use their quirks on each other in mock combat," Kendo said.

While she gave no specifics, it was more than enough to understand what had happened: someone had misjudged his or her quirk, and someone had gotten hurt. Izuku grimaced as he thought of Bakugo. All Might had pretty much given him leeway to use his quirk in combat. Thankfully, Bakugo didn't get to use those grenade-armbands of his, or else someone could have died that day.

"Yeah," nodded Izuku.

"I don't know why I feel so disappointed," grunted Kendo, looking down in shame. "He's All Might. People would literally kill to be taught anything by him."

"I suppose the problem is that he might be the most powerful hero in existence but, in the end, he's only human," said Izuku.

Whatever bitterness Izuku felt, it vanished soon after. He looked over at the cheerful All Might, moving across the crowd with practiced ease and taking a moment to spend equal time with every person in his path. Another feeling surfaced in his chest.

"Actually, I think I feel a bit of pity for him," Izuku said.

"Pity?" Kendo stared at him, slack-jawed.

"Yeah," nodded Izuku. "All we ever see of him is this side of All Might…" he gestured at All Might, laughing proudly with his hands on his waist. It was a well-known pose that even his toy-line mimicked. "But he is human. It can't possibly do any good to his health, physical and mental, to be this invincible atlas holding Japan's peace on his shoulders."

"Damn, I…" Kendo blinked. "I never really thought about that."

"I guess he doesn't want anyone to think about it," summarized Izuku. "And let's face it, All Might is great at keeping his public image."

Of course, the truth was Izuku reached such line of thought after Rumi shared what she had overheard during the Sports Festival. He wasn't entirely sure if he would have suspected about All Might's façade before that. It was logical, yet at the same time, it was likely everyone, Izuku included, instinctively could not bring themselves to think of All Might other than the much needed pillar of society. It was simply too easy to ignore the man and idolize the legend.

And just like that, his pity evolved into something else. He felt newfound admiration for All Might. Izuku wasn't sure he could ever hope to become anything like the Symbol of Peace. He knew that he'd try if he had to, but Izuku seriously doubted that given his state of mind he wouldn't be overwhelmed. In fact, Izuku wasn't sure anyone could pick up All Might's burden.

Well, maybe Togata could, Izuku thought.

The blond in question was cracking jokes to Tatsuma. The dragon girl was mildly amused but otherwise remained silent. In all honesty, after meeting Togata and spending a little more time with him, Izuku could truly believe that perhaps he was the only one worthy of the four interns to be All Might's successor.

He glanced at Kendo and reassessed his thoughts. Perhaps she could be the next All Might. He wasn't sure, though. Differently from Kendo, Togata actually looked like he could behave much like the Number One Hero in public. Then again, he was on his third-year and had way more experience than any of them. Perhaps Kendo would be like Togata in a couple of years, or perhaps she'd a better choice in due time.

Sadly, there lied the true question: how much time did All Might have left as the Symbol of Peace?

Izuku sighed and turned around, focusing on the food. Kendo too went back to trying different delicacies on display. As Ochaco would say: never say no to free food.

As per usual, Izuku's mind remained running miles per hours, pondering about the question of the next All Might. Thankfully, rather than fall into a deep pit of cynicism and despair, he thought back to when he was a toddler, when he had sincerely thought he wanted to be the next All Might.

Looking back I was really pathetic, wasn't I? A quirkless child hopelessly wanting to be a hero, he thought with a wry smile.

This was not the first time he tried to understand his line of thought back in the day. People rarely stuck so stubbornly to a childhood dream born as early as kindergarten, and yet Izuku had. No matter how much people had tried to dissuade him or pointed out the reality of his situation, for some reason, Izuku had soldiered on.

Part desperation, part the desire to be useful and part something else, Izuku concluded as he always did when he analyzed his previous self. I suppose I need to go back to a shrink if I want any real answers…

The thought of a psychiatrist made his fox ears flatten with distaste. He shook his head and tried to dispel such things from his mind. Rather, he returned his attention to All Might and the admiration (and awe) Izuku had felt as a toddler, back when he watched over and over the same video of All Might.

It was the thoughts of his early childhood that pried his gaze from the Number One hero and straight to Kai Chisaki. Or rather, to the white-haired child surrounded by men in suits and who looked utterly miserable. Chisaki appeared like he couldn't care any less for the child while he discussed something seemingly more important with a woman that gave off vibes of a politician.

The Mayor, Izuku reminded herself.

Thin, grey-haired and with angular face, she chirpily chatted with the Yakuza boss. Chisaki did not look entertained, but he was keeping a sufficiently polite front. He did seem disgusted at times when the Mayor would laugh and spew spit.

"I feel really sorry for Eri."

Izuku glanced at Kendo, who had no doubt followed his gaze to the child.

"Her grandfather is comatose, her mother and father are missing and her only guardian is a ruthless Yazuka boss," she said. "She does look well-cared for but I feel like there's something…"

"…Wrong. Yes, I have that feeling too," growled Izuku, squinting at Chisaki.

His nine tails angrily lashed behind him. He recoiled, startled, at the sound of platters being struck. Kendo look on with surprise as Izuku panicked. Thankfully, everyone was too entertained by All Might to notice the fox boy who had sent flying food off the buffet table. Well, someone did notice.

"Wow, careful there. I don't think food would do any favors to your fur," mused Togata.

Izuku wished the ground was swallow him, utterly embarrassed. Damn his traitorous tails! His attention, though, quickly went to Tatsuma. Like many times before, he noticed the tug on her lips, as if she wanted to pull a teasing smile but she fought against it. Again, Izuku had a strong urge to be nosy about such behavior.

"Is everything alright?" Asked Tatsuma with concern.

"Yes, these tails just insist on causing trouble," grumbled Izuku.

"It wasn't really his fault," interceded Kendo. "We were talking about Eri."

Cold steel replaced the glimmer of amusement in Togata's eyes. He kept smiling goofily at his fellow U.A. students, but there was an edge to his posture. Izuku wondered if he had missed his reaction back when he had first asked about Eri.

"Ah, the Yakuza child," hummed Tatsuma. "I am baffled she is allowed to stay anywhere near Shie Hassaikai, especially their leader."

"Yeah, it's hard not to notice the villain vibes… I think it's the weird masks," joked Togata. "Sadly, as far as the law goes, Chisaki isn't a criminal and has every right to be Eri's guardian. Heck, for all we know, he's a good guy to her."

None of the interns believed that last bit, not even Togata. There was something in the harsh mannerisms, dismissive look and outright antagonist demeanor of Chisaki that suggested he was, at best, neglectful towards Eri. Moreover, they had all been informed about what Shie Hassaikai had been up to. There may not have been enough evidence to make arrests, but as far as they all knew, Chisaki was a criminal and one of the worse ones out there.

"Maybe there's something we could do," suggested Kendo with a hopeful smile.

"I'm not so sure 'bout that," said Togata with a grim face. "Nighteye tried everything and it seems Eri is perfectly provided for. Yes, I wish she was away from mister Plague-Doctor back there. However, without any evidence or proper reason, we uphold the law."

Kendo deflated and sent a sad look towards the white-haired girl. Tatsuma remained quite stoic. Izuku, on his part, had to wonder if there wasn't some way he could help. Perhaps his newly found ability to dream-walk as the Six Tails could allow him to tap into Eri's memories for something? No, that would be a horrible breach of privacy. Still, the Six Tails spectral form sounded perfect to find dirt on Chisaki. However, Izuku felt rather uncomfortable about mentioning that particular ability to anyone.

"How about we talk about something else? Oh, I know! Hey, Kendo, where did you classmate intern at?"

And so, Togata deviated the topic of conversation. Izuku could see that Kendo and Tatsuma weren't entirely pleased with the change of subject, but went along regardless. Izuku, on his part, listened half-heartedly. Instead, he glanced at Eri. Perhaps he could talk to Arachne about it.

But what if Togata is right? What if Chisaki is a decent guardian? Thought Izuku.

He dispelled such notion. A mere glimpse at Eri screamed at him to keep an eye on her. She reminded him of someone else, of some other child who had hid his suffering… but who? Someone of his childhood? Bakugo had had a wide range of victims, after all.

The conversation between the interns managed to lighten up considerable as time went by. While Izuku had only gotten brief impressions of Kendo's classmates during the Sports Festival, he was far more invested when Tatsuma spoke of her class. Right from the start, it became quite clear that Tatsuma had a few unspoken issues against her classmates but opted on only speaking positively about them. If anything, Izuku got the impression she didn't think too highly about her fellow second-year prospective heroes. Inevitably, when Rumi came up, the dragon girl was a bit harsher, but Izuku couldn't blame her; Rumi had been a hellion the previous year.

Their conversation was cut short by All Might's loud voice.

"I sincerely apologize everyone," the Number One Hero said. "But duty calls!"

The guests all expressed their disappointment.

"Worry not! I should be back before you know it!"

And with that, the big man made his swift escape.

"Huh, I wonder what that's about," said Kendo. "A villain attack?"

She wasn't the only one intrigued by All Might's swift retreat. Unfortunately, there was no way of being sure unless they tapped into the news.

There was a loud "BING" and three heads turned towards Izuku. The Fox Boy sheepishly chuckled as he pulled out his cell phone. It was the Hero Watcher app. Izuku felt like smacking himself for having forgotten about. With fanboyish excitement, Izuku unlocked his phone. His eyes promised to bulge at what he read.

"What is it?" Kendo asked, leaning over to look at Izuku's phone.

Over his shoulders, Togata and Tatsuma joined in.

"Wow, that looks bad," whistled Togata.

"A massive explosion at gas station… two heroes already on sight… nearby buildings in flames..." Tatsuma read aloud. "It sounds like a catastrophe."

"Huh, why does that app look familiar?" Kendo hummed.

Izuku blushed. Tatsuma, on her part, looked like she also recognized the phone application.

"Does this app say if it is far from here?" Asked Togata eagerly.

The desire to go jump into the fray shone in the blond's eyes. Truth be told, that was the case on the other teenagers as well.

Izuku typed on the phone, revealing the feature that traced the fastest route to the action. The device in his sweaty hands felt heavy and Izuku felt old memories surface. He remembered his classmates back at Alderra making fun for using the app, calling him a stalker and a creep. While he consciously knew that his fellow interns would not bully him over his pastime, he still felt nervous about his fan-boy hobbies.

"That is a bit far from here, isn't it?" Kendo commented.

"It looks like the whole thing is taking place right at the outskirts of the city and far from Nighteye's jurisdiction," Togata pointed out.

"But it is close enough for All Might," said Izuku.

"Gran Torino could get there in no time too," Kendo added. She looked at the old man in question, but he was talking to Nighteye. "I suppose All Might should be enough, though."

Izuku, on his part, squinted at the map shown in the phone. There was something suspicious about the explosion. He was no explosion expert, but was it possible that some accident caused nearly an entire neighborhood to catch on fire? The location was also very strategic. Too far yet so close.

He shook his head, dispelling his paranoid thoughts. They were only the result of his overthinking mind taking over.

"It does look suspicious, doesn't it?"

Izuku's eyes widened and snapped his head at Tatsuma. The dragon girl offered a kind yet teasing smile unlike her usual polite one. Her eyes twinkled with mischief. Izuku blinked, unsure whether he wasn't hallucinating. Had her mask dropped?

"You are not the only one with an active mind, Fox Boy," said Tatsuma.

She quickly stiffened, realizing she had broken character, and went back to offering a polite smile. Izuku only shrugged and grinned all while, deep down, he was quite shocked. For a brief moment there, Tatsuma had sounded an awful lot like Rumi.

"There's nothing wrong with being a bit paranoid," said Togata, giving Izuku a reassuring pat on his shoulder. "It's actually part and parcel of hero-work."

"What? Suffering from paranoia?" Joked Kendo.

"To expect the worst," rebutted Togata.

"Should we do something?" Izuku asked, looking around.

The heroes present hadn't stopped mingling with the crowd nor did they look like they were planning to stop at any time. Then again, Arachne was nowhere in sight.

"If they want us to do something, they'll tell us," Togata said. "Relax, smile and enjoy until then, at least for the sake of the guests."

That was easier said than done. Izuku's mind was already trying to picture the worst possible scenario. In fact, he had an itch to rush to the sight of the explosion if only to see firsthand the heroes in action.

Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do at the moment, other than chat with his fellow U.A. students… and enjoy the buffet table, of course.

Rumi Usagiyama did not like feeling guilty. No, scratch that. She abhorred that pesky niggling feeling in her gut. Sadly, no matter how much she detested it, Rumi was currently guilt-ridden and extremely annoyed because of it.

Hence, it was a huffing and puffing Rumi who stomped down the streets of Hiroshima in civilian attire, grinding her teeth, ignoring the looks from other pedestrians and cursing to the high heavens that thing called a conscience. She was sure she had been more than happy without one.

This is all Fox Boy's fault, mentally growled Rumi. I should be back at the Agency, training, not wasting my time gallivanting across the city! Damn that fox boy…

An image of a certain green-haired vulpine boyfriend, smiling at her with that goofy smile of his, jumped at the forefront of her mind. A smile of her own stretched on her face and some of her annoyance faded away.

He should be glad I like him as much as I do, huffed Rumi.

She glared at her cell phone. Her frustration redoubled as she saw that yet another call had been missed.

"Oy, come on, Infinity Girl! What's the hold up?" Muttered Rumi.

She tried to call the brunette a third time. She stopped her aggressive march and impatiently thumped the ground. Seconds passed and all Rumi got was the same ringing as the previous times she had tried to contact Fox Boy's classmates. Just as Rumi was about to release a last groan of exasperation, the call was answered.

"Hey, Rumi!"

"Finally!" Exclaimed Rumi. "What took you so long?"

"Oh, you won't believe it!" The bubbly girl replied. "This kid tried to steal my phone! Can you believe it? We had to chase and corner him at an alley before he finally gave it back."

"Seriously? You were pickpocketed? What were you doing? Waving that expensive phone of yours around?"


Rumi groaned.

"Sorry," sheepishly giggled Infinity Girl. "Anyway… what's up?"

"Look, I've decided to join you guys," muttered Rumi.

"Really? That's great!" Exclaimed a cheerful Ochaco.

"I am doing it only because of Fox Boy, get it?" Insisted Rumi. "I rather be back training…"

But Infinity Girl wasn't listening. She was happily telling Robot Boy about it and ignoring the grumpy rabbit girl.

"Oy! Just tell me where you are," interrupted Rumi.

"Alright… but wait, are you sure, Rumi? We don't want to force you to do anything. If you want to stay back at the coop, we'd understand."

The what? Thought Rumi.

Someone angrily berated the girl. Rumi rolled her eyes, picturing Robot Boy at it, karate-chopping the air with vehemence and unparalleled stiffness.

"Sorry, I meant the hero agency," dismissively giggled Infinity Girl. "So, are you really sure you want to come with us?"

"Infinity Girl," said Rumi before taking a deep breath. "Do not make me track you down. Address. Now."

"Wow, you really want to hang out with us!" Laughed Infinity Girl.

She sounded happier and chirpier than usual. Again, someone spoke in the background. It was probably Robot Boy.

Seriously, Infinity Girl can be really oblivious at times, thought Rumi.

"Alright, here I'm sending the coordinates… if I can figure out this thing out."

Send coordinates? Figure this thing? Rumi frowned at that, only to remember phones had geo-location and navigation capabilities. She hadn't thought about it. Considering she had the Watcher App to find places where heroes were out having a blast, Rumi felt like a dumb bunny at the moment.

What Rumi did not expect was for the brunette to struggle to find such feature. Wasn't Infinity Girl tech-savvy? No, now that Rumi thought about it, the brunette was crazy for video games, not necessarily technology in general. That honor was for that pesky Support Girl that had the bad habit of latching onto her Fox Boy.

I guess Infinity Girl isn't used to the new phone model, dismissively thought Rumi. Still, she could not quite dispel her original notion that Infinity Girl had explored her beloved new phone for all what it was worth.

Eventually, Infinity Girl sent the address. They bid their farewells and Rumi, with a destination in mind, hurried down the street. She leaped rather than run, crossing entire city blocks in seconds and making more than one pedestrian gasp or yelp. Rumi ignored it all, smirking and enjoying the thrill of high speed.

Rumi glanced at the night sky, spotting the moon up amidst clouds and stars. She smiled at it, and she could have sworn she felt its warm presence against her skin. Of course, Rumi dismissed it as the tingling familiarity of moon-gazing, which always reminded her to her Auntie Yoko.

Down the streets she hopped, and with each city block, the city around Rumi shifted. Busy bright streets filled with people were replaced by less populated areas, with fewer and smaller shops. While she was pleased with being surrounded by less traffic (and pesky pedestrians), Rumi did find it odd Infinity Girl and Robot Boy had walked so far from the city center. Their Squirrel Chaperone had urged them not to stray from the hotel and agency, after all. The rabbit girl decided to chalk it up to Infinity Girl's quest for video games.

Eventually, she reached her destination, which so happened to be a side street, one which made Rumi pause and re-check her phone. It was by no means a shady street, being rather well-lit and in a middle-class residential area, with three story-high unassuming buildings on each side and filled with cars parked ridding the pavement. However, it was the lack of shops and people that baffled the rabbit girl. Well, there was someone waving at Rumi, but otherwise the entire place appeared devoid of life.

Her rabbit ears moved on their own, searching for any sounds. There were none. Regardless, restlessness bubbled in her gut.

Rumi cautiously hopped over to Infinity Girl and Robot Boy. They both smiled at her, looking rather pleased. Maybe a bit too pleased. In fact, the closer she got, the more Rumi found something odd in the way both of Fox Boy's friends behaved. She couldn't pinpoint precisely what, but whatever it was, it gnawed at her.

"Hey, you made it!" Cheerfully exclaimed Infinity Girl.

Her smile had gained a creepy tint to it. Rumi slowed down to halt more than twelve feet away from the brunette and Robot Boy. Alarms flared in her head. Something was so very wrong here. She suddenly recalled what Infinity Girl had called the Iron Agency and a very bad feeling settled in the pit of her stomach.

"I'm glad you came," purred Infinity Girl.

There was a faint "click" that came from behind the brunette. Before Rumi knew it, the girl was throwing something at Rumi.


And catch she did. On mere instinct, Rumi caught some sort of cylinder in her hand. Dumbfounded and with a deep urge to figure out what the hell was wrong, it took her longer than it should to realize what she was holding. It was in that moment, though, as her eyes widened that many things happened at once, each one more mind-boggling than the previous one:

First, Infinity Girl's body quivered and melted, falling off much like a layer of wax to reveal another face. Blonde, golden eyed with cat-like slits for pupils and sharp canines, the impostor cackled. Next to her, Robot Boy, on his part, also melted, but only to drop into a vicious pile of formless goo. Then, Rumi's ears were picking the shuffling sounds of movement around her and steps of people jumping out of hiding.

Rumi was surrounded in an instant. From nearby alleys, under cars and even doors and windows of the houses, all manner of crooks were moving to cut her exits. However, she had more pressing concerns, such as the fact that the Infinity Girl impersonator had some sort of earplug clogging her ears and, of course, the object in her hand, which so happened to be a grenade. The rabbit girl had less than a second to react. One part of her wished to lung at the impostor and demand answers. Her instincts, though, screamed at her to run away.

In the end, Rumi did neither; she jumped. She dropped the grenade, crouched, angled her body towards the building roofs to her right and kicked off the ground. That's when the grenade went off.

Rumi's world disappeared behind blinding whiteness. All colors and sounds vanished into nothingness. Pain was all she felt. Her eyes burned, and her head was filled with a piercing ringing. Rumi could have sworn her skull was being split open.

The feeling of her body smacking against the hard ground of a roof and the ensuing rolling distracted Rumi of her agony, if only for a few seconds. She tried to rise, to press herself up from the ground, only to find the white world around her spinning. Her arms gave away and her face flared with yet more suffering as she smacked against the ground. She felt vile rising to her mouth, only to realize she had had her mouth wide open all along and her throat was sore. She hadn't heard herself screaming.

Never before had Rumi felt so helpless. She couldn't tell up from down. Her usually keen senses were in utter disarray, overloaded by that horrid contraption the impostor used. To make matters worse, her body refused to respond.

Move, damn it! MOVE! Rumi roared to herself.

Somehow, she found strength course anew into her being. Whether it was fear, fury or outright pettiness, Rumi couldn't tell. She only cared that it was enough to push herself up and move forwards. Her eyes though remained blinded and she had no idea where she was going. And yet, Rumi found herself feeling something high above, serving as a beacon with which to guide her movements.

Desperate to escape and driven by sheer force of will, Rumi jumped. The feeling of gravity told her she had just jumped off a building. She didn't care. She landed and rolled on hard pavement, but did not stop. Instead, she collapsed on the ground, her head spinning yet again, before pulling herself up and jumping upwards as far and high as she could.

Stubbornness proved to serve Rumi enough to make huge jumps a couple of times, but it could only take her so far. It may have been her third long leap when she inevitably crashed against a flat vertical surface. A wall.

Rumi felt back on gravel. This time, she found herself unable to raise. It was simply too much. Her head was still ringing, her mind was spinning and her instincts were in a frenzy, rendering her as thoughtless as a frightened animal.

She felt like rolling over and dying just to make her pain go away.

Thankfully, her vision was starting to clear. She blinked as the whiteness slowly receded. Sadly, as Rumi regained her ability to discern things, tall silhouettes fell on her. Rumi wished to fight, to punch and kick to her last breath, but at the moment, nothing was working. Rather, she remained there, limp as a corpse, as hands grabbed her. The best she could do was groan in protest.

Darkness slowly claimed her consciousness and Rumi felt her mind slipping away. Before she fell unconscious, something else moved before her eyes. Then there was only pitch blackness and the lingering image of a White Paw.

Sir Nighteye wished he could have avoided attending the gala entirely. Mingling with bureaucrats always left him with a bad taste in his mouth, especially when most of them enabled the likes of Overhaul one way or another. Sadly, with Kai Chisaki present, Nighteye could ill afford not to attend. That and his agency needed the visibility.

There were times Nighteye missed being part of All Might's agency. Back then, Nighteye didn't have to care about popularity polls or politicking. Funds poured in all the time, leaving Nighteye to do his job. Sadly, someone needed to protect the less popular areas, the parts that saw little villain activity and most hero agencies avoided. He didn't care about profits but rather fight true evils like Overhaul.

That meant attending galas and doing Cross-Overs. Of course, the Cross-Over with the Iron Agency hadn't been part of his plans. Nighteye wished he could have avoided such distasteful breed of heroes as those under Ferrus Magnus. They were violent, ruthless and too pragmatic to be treated as proper heroes. Unfortunately, a certain fox boy had decided to intern there.

The true culprit of the Cross-Over was Nezu, though. The Principal was at his usual shenanigans, scheming and plotting behind the scenes, and he had picked Izuku Midoriya as his pawn. How he had managed to convince All Might that the green-haired boy was a suitable successor was still a mystery to Nighteye.

The Pro-Hero looked over at the interns, who stood near the buffet table and chatting amicably. Mirio, as always, was the boisterous center of attention, joking and smiling. Confident, strong yet sharp-minded and witty, Mirio had come a long way. Nighteye felt a small nearly imperceptible tug at the corner of his lips. Yes, the Pro-Hero would not deny he had grown fond and proud of the hero LeMillion had become.

And as All Might's successor, he will be the hero the world needs, thought Nighteye.

On one side of Mirio, Itsuka Kendo listened with rapt attention, her entire demeanor glowing with confidence. She gave off the air of a natural caring leader. Nighteye assumed that that had been the case of Nana Shimura, for he would not have been surprised that was one reason Gran Torino supported Kendo as All Might's successor. On the other side of Mirio was Ryuko Tatsuma. Capable, strong and undaunted, the young woman kept her features schooled behind a veil of politeness. The underlying personality of Tatsuma was a huge unknown for Nighteye, but knowing enough of her past he believed he had an accurate profile.

Last but not least, Izuku Midoriya was opposite Mirio, holding a platter of what looked like katsudon. Whereas his companions carried an aura of heroism, Midoriya gave off an air of innocence and curiosity. There was apprehension and a distinct sense of paranoia in the furtive glances he shot around him, and his emerald eyes radiated with a feral slyness.

All in all, the green-haired boy was an enigma. While Nighteye could understand a person with a mere glance, figuring out possible motives and behavior from a simple interaction, the Pro-Hero had come blank when it came to Midoriya. The fox-quirk user seemed like a walking contradiction and a chaotic mass of unpredictability, perhaps in no small part due to his quirk. Still, Nighteye disliked being unable to predict things, especially people.

Nighteye didn't understand what Nezu saw in Midoriya. While the young man had proven himself to be heroic during the Sports Festival, there was a villainous streak in the fox adolescent (one that reminded Nighteye of Principal Nezu, which could be reason enough for the mouse-dog-bear thing). Midoriya was cunning, mischievous and manipulative. He had an ability to read people and exploit weaknesses in character. Underlying it all, however, there was an anger and bitterness that concerned Nighteye.

And that's leaving aside that he's mentally unstable, thought Nighteye.

Truly, his heart went out for poor Midoriya, but the truth of the matter was that someone with the psychological profile of the fox-quirk user needed therapy, not to delve in the nerve-wrecking profession of heroism. Nighteye may not have had an accurate profile, yet he felt certain Midoriya would inevitably crack at some point. Needless to say, of the four interns, he was the unlikeliest to be a good successor for All Might.

Eventually, Nighteye had fulfilled his quota of useless chatting and stepped aside, away from general crowd. He glanced around and failed to spot Arachne and Gran Torino. He decided not to dwell on the fact his supposed allies in this boring event had deserted him. Instead, Nighteye reached to his ear.

"Bubble Girl," Nighteye called through an earpiece. "Anything to report?"

"The explosion is worse than we first thought. First responders are overwhelmed and fires are spreading at a higher rate than predicted. An emergency is being called in the area and all nearby heroes are answering."

"Have we been called?"

"Not yet, but I bet it is only a matter of time," said Bubble Girl. "It's hell over there."

Truth be told, Nighteye wished they could rush to the area. The thought of civilians in danger urged him to answer the call of duty. However, he couldn't break protocol. Heroes had assigned areas for a reason. One couldn't just move into someone else's jurisdiction without good reason. Nighteye did find the system rather flawed. Unfortunately, the law was the law. Nighteye was not All Might; he believed heroes had no excuses to break the rules.

He quickly dispelled such unproductive thoughts.

"Any activity on my location?"

"Nothing, really, just a change of security. The next shift is rolling in. Oh, a truck has entered the parking lot, but it is within the expected arrivals for tonight. More food and drinks, if this manifest is correct," reported Bubble Girl.

"Thank you, Bubble Girl. That would be all," hummed Nighteye. "Stay vigilant."

"You can count on me, Sir!" Chirpily said Bubble Girl.

The connection was cut and Nighteye turned to the crowd of guests once again. He felt a wave of frustration but otherwise stepped forward and engaged with a couple of journalists. He forced a polite smile in place and worked to ingratiate himself with the bloodhounds.

Unfortunately, just when Nighteye thought his night couldn't get worse, the unlikely happened.

"Hands up! This is an assault!"

There were screams and gasps. From all entrances and corridors, men in suits rushed in, wielding handguns and swords and hiding their faces behind Yokai masks. Alongside them came a different set of men. Of more varying sizes, heavily-cloaked people trudged in. Rather than masks, they had scarfs and shaded glasses to hide their identities. Some had an odd gait, suggesting they had a different than average type of foot or leg. Others swayed, as if unused to standing upright.

All exits were closed, and the crowd was herded to the center of the hall. Panic and outrage swept amidst the journalists, politicians and god-knows-who else present. With an unbothered face, Nighteye adjusted his tie and pushed himself towards the head of the flock of civilians. He spotted the Mayor standing in pompous anger and went towards her. He took her shoulders, catching her attention. Their eyes met and Nighteye gently pulled her back. Unbeknownst to the woman, all conditions for his quirk had been met. Thus, he moved to stand in front of the Mayor, eyes closed. Then, he opened one eye, but it didn't look like it used to. Rather, it was a pitch-black eye with a glowing purple circle for a pupil. His quirk had been activated.

"Stay close to me, Ma'am," urged Nighteye. He then addressed the villains. "And who, may I ask, are you?"

One of the men in suits, carrying a Blue Devil mask, stepped forward. He aimed a handgun at Nighteye.

"No one of importance, hero," he replied. "Alright, everyone, listen up! On the ground, right now! Hands where we can see them! Anyone reaches for their cell phone and there will be a few less people breathing tonight!"

The guests all were too shocked to react right away. Nighteye calmly urged the civilians to do as told and to follow their instructions. He didn't comply with the villains, though. Chisaki and his bodyguards didn't move to lie down on the floor either. Nighteye calmly folded his hands behind him and faced off the leader of the band. He wasn't seeing the present, though. At the moment, all he saw events playing forward, much like in a movie. In a span of seconds, Nighteye knew what would happen around the Mayor. Such was the power of the quirk Foresight.

"Oy, hero, that goes for you too. On the ground," grunted the annoyed Blue Devil masked villain. He swore as he noticed Nighteye's glowing eye. "Shit…"

"What exactly do you want?" Wondered Nighteye.

As Nighteye had seen beforehand, the leader sent a betraying look towards Chisaki, before angrily waving his weapon at Nighteye.

"Oh, you son of a bitch," swore the villain. "Fine, do what you want. We are here for one reason, and one reason alone…"

He aimed his gun at Chisaki. To the villain's shock, Nighteye stepped in the middle, as stoic as ever.

"Get out of the way, hero," spat the man. "We're here to do a favor to the world."

"You know I can't allow that," said Nighteye, adjusting his glasses. No matter my feelings on the matter, he mentally added.

"Seriously? Here we are, offering to get rid of the most freaking awful asshole in this part of the country, and you want to save him?"

"I do not make the law. I enforce it," stated Nighteye.

"Really? Goes to show what you heroes are all really about," mockingly laughed the villain. "Guess what, genius, you'll never get Overhaul behind bars. Wanna know why? Because of his damned quirk. He doesn't just disintegrate stuff with a touch. Oh no, it's much worse than that. He can disassemble and reassemble anything he touches…"

The implications made Nighteye's eye widen a mere fraction more than usual.

"You get it, don't you? Overhaul can hide any and all crimes he does. That's what he has been doing," snidely remarked the Blue Devil villain. "Oh, and did I mention that it also works perfectly on people? Yeah, that's right. Overhaul can fix you up with a touch. Most amazing healing quirk I've ever seen, perfect to make scars disappear…"

The villain's gaze turned to Chisaki, before lowering towards Eri. It was then that Nighteye fully understood what the villain was implying.

"What has he done to the child?"

"I don't know what exactly," softly said the villain. "But I know he's been running experiments on her and her quirk, and whatever she's been put through, it has been terrible…"

The man sounded as if filled with regret. That suggested a possible connection to the girl. Given his insight on Overhaul, Nighteye suspected the yokai masked villains were actually members of Shie Hassaikai. In other words, this assault on the gala was a desperate attack to get back at Overhaul in a setting where the yazkua boss probably would hold back. That was only if Overhaul didn't want the world to know the true power of his quirk. Still, it was a reckless plan rooted in desperation.

"You could have provided me with evidence," stated Nighteye.

"And then what? Overhaul has most of these idiots here in his pockets," said the villain, gesturing at the quivering guests. "Especially the Mayor. She's the head bitch here."

"How dare you!" someone exclaimed amidst the hostages, only to go ignored by everyone.

"No, this is the only way to make that bastard croak," growled the villain.

Now Nighteye knew that the anger towards Chisaki was personal. If he had to guess, the villain had probably lost a colleague to Overhaul, if not many. It went to show how fear could only contain someone for so long.

"So, please, step aside," the villain almost begged.

Nighteye didn't need to turn to see the Yakuza boss was glaring daggers at the Blue Devil man, not with his quirk's third-person view. Nighteye noticed that Chisaki had removed the glove from his right hand and his fingers twitched impatiently. If push came to shove, what would Chisaki do? Kill everyone that night?

"I understand your feelings," Nighteye sighed, before delivering a stony stare at the Blue Devil villain. "But as a hero, I have my duty."

"A pity," huffed the villain. "I rooted for you, y'know?"

Movement drew Nighteye's attention back to Chisaki. In the moment they were all distracted, one of the bodyguards grabbed Eri and jumped away from his comrades, drawing his gun at them. The girl yelped but could only watch in confusion as one of Chisaki's men openly betrayed him.

"You won't get away with this," Chisaki growled.

"I may end up in prison," said the man holding Eri. "But can live with that."

Nighteye turned to the Blue Devil man. He was looking around only for his attention to land on the interns.

"You, the green fox brat, you're coming with us."

Although Nighteye had foreseen it, he was still surprised. Midoriya, in turn, stared in disbelief. He looked over at Nighteye, all while the other interns watched in horror. Sadly, Nighteye had no idea what to say or do.

Unfortunately, Midoriya pried his eyes from Nighteye and looked towards to Eri. In that moment, just as Nighteye feared, the spark of something crossed Midoriya's eyes much like Nighteye had seen it happen. The fox boy stepped away from his fellow interns and towards the villains, cautiously approaching the man holding Eri.

Nighteye didn't panic. Instead, he prepared himself. Just as Midoriya was about to be grabbed by one of the cloaked men with a clawed hand not far from Eri, one of the masked villains realized something.

"Huh… where are the old geezer and spider woman?"


From the glass entrance door swept in a blur of movement that kicked the two villains guarding it and moved to the other shocked evil-doers. From a side corridor, Arachne shot off the shadows and slashed at the villains, who collapsed as limp twitching heaps on the ground. Not missing a bit, Nighteye spun around, grabbed Hyper-Density Seals and, with the momentum of his spin, threw a dozen at the surrounding villains. They all reached their target.

Mayhem ensued. The villains, shocked, were unable to threaten the civilians, not with Gran Torino jumping around the hall and aiming his foot on anyone with a handgun. Arachne's presence had served as more as a surprise; there was something utterly terrifying of a massive spider being when she was angry, especially when she was looming over you.

The interns didn't disappoint. Tatsuma jumped over the herd of guests and, taking the form of massive dragon, protectively covered them with her body and wings, all while her tail cleared an entire side of the hall from villains. Kendo and Togata were punching villains the next instant. It was Midoriya who took the biggest initiative. He exploded twice into a white cloud with loud POOFs right at the faces of the villains, only for long furry tails to rush towards Eri and pull her into the cloud. The villains lunged at the cloud just as Midoriya leaped at the ceiling. He anchored himself with his tails and, no differently to how Arachne would, used the tails to move across the ceiling and towards the same corridor the spider hero had come from. He vanished in the shadows there soon after.

Nighteye was unable to focus on what was going on around him. One of the cloaked men jumped at him, revealing pitch-black claws and snarling like a wild dog. Nighteye wasn't intimidated; he could see each and every swipe happening with his foresight. It was like watching the fight from a camera that hovered over the Mayor. Soon after, he expertly dodged those deadly claws, before delivering precise strikes at the creature's jaw and throat. In a span of seconds, the villain was down. It all had happened as predicted.

There had been something about the villain that gave Nighteye pause. Rather than rush out and join the still ongoing fray, Nighteye knelt down, opening his other inactivated eye, and pulled the man's face mask. The eye caught in the present widened in pure horror.

These villains should be in Okinawa! Thought Nighteye, his mind reeling with the realization.

Suddenly, Nighteye wished Midoriya had remained there. After all, he now understood why the villains had wanted Midoriya.

When Rumi opened her eyes, she hissed and shut them. A groan escaped her lips. Her head felt dull and heavy, and her body was numb. Thankfully, the room was lit only in a faint bluish light and the bed she was lying on was rather comfy…

Wait, bed?

Rumi's eyes snapped open again and she sat up. A wave of nausea promised to make her puke and her focus was lost as her mind swirled. Thankfully, the sensation was manageable enough for Rumi to remain seated.

"Finally awake?"

On a chair next to the bed, a very familiar woman smiled at her. Rumi may have been surprised she hadn't noticed her presence before, but at the moment, it was the fact she recognized that person that made Rumi feel like running away.

"You're-" started shouting Rumi, only to be interrupted by the mother of all migraines.

"Easy, love," softly said woman. "And please, call me the Madam."

The redhead smirked as Rumi glared at her, leisurely reclining on her chair while scratching her eyepatch with her artificial claw.

"You should be thanking me, love," purred the Madam. "Were it not for me, you'd be in the streets, lying unconscious, if not worse, and then there's the medicine. Trust me, love, hadn't we patched you up you'd still be a bloody mess…"

Rumi stiffened as memories of the attack jumped in her head.

"Infinity Girl! Robot Boy!" Exclaimed Rumi. She growled at the Madam. "What did you do to them?!"

She gritted her teeth as a new wave of pain assaulted her head.

"Now, love, take it easy," giggled the Madam. "And no, love, the White Paws did not kidnap your friends." Her smile dropped and a grave expression crossed her face. "It was the Forsaken."


The Madam sighed. Rather than speak, she bent to a side and picked a glass of water, which she offered Rumi. The rabbit girl only glared at the woman. The Madam rolled her good eye, took a sip of water and tried offering it again. This time, Rumi accepted the glass, but only because she only then realized she was parched.

"The Forsaken are not a villain clan, per se," said the Madam. "I doubt you heard about them. The government has been trying to keep it all hush-hush."

"What are they then?" Growled Rumi. The splitting headache and situation were not helping with her mood or patience.

"They are something of a movement of sorts made mostly of obnoxious and miserable people who believe heroes has failed them… at least some of them. I am sure they count on some crazies who joined in only for the fun."

Rumi did not like the look of amusement on the Madam's face.

"And they have Infinity Girl and Robot Boy?"

"Your friends? Yes. I do not know why, however," said the Madam.

Rumi hated to admit it, but she knew the White Paws wouldn't have risked it by kidnapping two hero interns. Kidnapping and trafficking was not their modus operandi, not like drugs and smuggling at least.

Her mind conjured the image of that blonde impostor. What manner of quirk had she used? And what about Robot Boy? Then there was the grenade. By the lack of shrapnel injuries, Rumi guessed it had been some kind of stun grenade. She winced as she remembered the effects of that weapon. Now there was an experience Rumi had no intentions of repeating.

She shook her head and looked at the Madam. First was first, she had to deal with that accursed woman.

"Why did you help me?"

"Because your father is a White Paw and us White Paws look after each other," said the Madam as it was an obvious thing.

"My father was one of you," snapped Rumi, shooting an accusing finger at the woman. "Until you lot failed him! You were useless when he needed you the most."

The Madam grimaced but nodded in understanding.

"Yes, we did fail your family and we owe Tanshiro for it," agreed the Madam. "That's why I believe we should help you. It is the least we could do."

"Oh no, I know how you lot do things, and I'm not falling for it," spat Rumi.

She got off the bed, only to tumbled around, unbalanced. The Madam swiftly got off her chair and helped the rabbit girl find her balance. Once she had steadied herself, Rumi pushed the Madam away, disgusted by her touch. The older woman, in turn, showed no signs of feeling offended or hurt.

"I'm out of here and straight to the Iron Agency," said Rumi. She paused and reluctantly gave the Madam a firm yet curt nod. "Urgh, thanks for saving me, I guess…"

The Madam only smiled and sat back, reclining confidently against the chair. Rumi didn't like it. It was as if she was acting exactly as the redhead wanted. The way the older woman didn't try to stop Rumi bothered the rabbit girl. Regardless, Rumi walked over to the door, glad she wasn't overwhelmed with nausea. No sooner had she touched the doorknob, the Madam spoke again.

"Will they save them?"

Rumi paused and scowled. She didn't look back, unwilling to reveal her emotions coursing through her body or see the smug look on the Madam's face.

"Us White Paws failed your Aunt, but we weren't the only ones, were we?"

Rumi grinded her teeth. She had to get away before the Madam got exactly what she wanted. Rumi, though, found her body unwilling to respond. Old festering resentment resurfaced and she hated every single moment of it.

"Let me tell you what will happen when you return to the Iron Agency. First, they will coddle you and fret like mother-hens. Then, they will pat you in the head like a good obedient bunny for not acting out. Finally, they will do nothing. Better yet, they will keep you locked up and under watch so you can't do anything either. Do you think that's how it will go down, or am I wrong?"

Rumi balled her fists and scrunched her eyes shut. As much as she detested to admit it, Rumi could see that being the likeliest scenario.

"Oh, Magnus and his lot know about the Forsaken. The White Paws told the heroes all we knew back then. Did they do anything? Of course not," sardonically giggled the Madam. "They are heroes. The law has a tight leash on them, especially now when their popularity is in the mud. Instead, they are doing exactly what we expected: they are keeping an eye on the Forsaken and waiting on their cold bums until an opportunity arises. If an opportunity rises."

Rumi knew the Madam was exaggerating, maybe even misleading her. However, a part of the rabbit girl saw only truth in her words. Regardless, she turned the doorknob. She had to leave before the Madam talked her into whatever evil scheme the dastardly woman had in store for Rumi. Thus, with renewed confidence and only a mild headache, the rabbit girl started opening the door.

"I guess you made your mind, then," hummed a disappointed Madam. "Your boyfriend will not take the news well…"

Rumi smashed the door closed and turned around. Gritting her teeth and ready to punch the woman, Rumi's face burned with rage. That had been a low blow. The Madam, though, smirked. Unfortunately, as much fury as she felt, Rumi also felt a lot of shame and fear. She was ridden with remorse and a chilling dread gnawed at her soul. Rumi didn't want Infinity Girl and Robot Boy to be another Auntie Yoko, ripped off her life and leaving a hole of despair. Worse, it wouldn't be her who would take the blunt of the suffering: it would be Fox Boy. The anguish Izuku would feel made Rumi's heart clench with agony. The fox boy had gone through enough and deserved better.

It is all my fault, thought Rumi, pulling her hair and releasing a cry of anger, infuriated with herself. Had I been there for those two idiots, they wouldn't have been kidnapped!

Would Fox Boy ever forgive her? Would he be mad at her? Such thoughts only made Rumi feel worse.

Ursai and the others will get them, Rumi told herself.

What if they don't? Came an annoying voice. They didn't before…

This time they have intel! Thought Rumi.

And will that suffice for them to act?

The uncertainty was deafening.

"ARGH, damn it!"

Rumi punched the door. Her fist went right through the wood. Cries of surprise were heard from the other side, but Rumi couldn't care less. She turned back to the Madam and angrily stomped over to her, waving a furious and menacing fist.

"Fine, you bint," growled Rumi. "I'll hear you out. How are you going to rescue Infinity Girl and Robot Boy?"

"Easy," shrugged the Madam. "We know where their headquarters is. We will cause a commotion to draw their attention, sneak in and pull your friends out. Easy, isn't it?"

Too easy, thought a squinting Rumi. Just as she expected, the Madam looked away, her smile turned apologetic.

"Of course, there is the slight complication that it isn't just the Forsaken out there," sheepishly said the Madam. "The Circus of Nightmares and Blue Gears are in cahoots with them, as well as the Black Thorns. There's also the tiny problem that the Blue Gears have provided a few crates of military grade weapons, just like the stun grenade you were hit with. Yeah… the Iron Agency doesn't know about those things. They are news to us."

"WHAT?!" Exclaimed Rumi. "What are these bastards planning?"

"If I had to guess: attack the Iron Agency," said the Madam.

Rumi was flummoxed by the mere suggestion of such a hay brained scheme. What could they hope to achieve with such a sordid plan? And yet, villains were not always smart or sane. Did they intend to use Infinity Girl and Robot Boy as hostage? Or could they be…?

"Yes, love, I think your friends are bait," mused the Madam, almost like she had read Rumi's thoughts. "I think that's why odds are Magnus will not attack right away. He'll rather be cautious and… well… I would never leave any of my girls anywhere nears the freaks of the Circus, so I can only hope they do nothing to your friends."

Rumi's eyes widened in horror. Of all villain clans in Hiroshima, there wasn't one more infamous and repulsive as the Circus of Nightmares. They were all petty and horrible people, who committed most of their villainy more out of resentment against the world than for any other reason.

Unbidden scenes flashed across Rumi's mind. She gnashed her teeth, fighting the distress such imagery conjured, and pushing back the desperation that promised to swell in her entire being.

"…what was the name of that friend of yours? Infinity Girl was it?" Smugly purred the Madam.

Rumi yelled and punched the wall behind the Madam. The woman, though, remained unfazed. If anything, she was amused and triumphant.

If Rumi had felt terrible before, the idea of the infamous villain clan known for their human trafficking and other awful crimes made Rumi feel much more desperate. Obviously, the Madam had done so in purpose. Sadly, knowing that changed nothing. Rumi was never one to sit back and think things through, and now it was made worse by a new sense of urgency.

"You- you BITCH!" Roared Rumi. "Fine! I'll do it! What the hell do you want from me?"

The Madam raised a hand, smirking triumphantly.

"Love, as much as I'd love to take your soul or whatever, there is something we must work out in order to rescue your friends," the Madam said.

"Huh?" Rumi said, confused. Here she had been expecting for the Madam to request Rumi to steal something from the Iron Agency or spy for the villain clan.

"We are going to need allies," the Madam said. "Convincing other villain clans won't be that difficult. The problem is approaching them. I am afraid it has been hard to keep contact with the people you fight against."

Rumi scowled. Diplomacy had never been her forte. Heck, it was her weakness. That and being merciful. However, a ludicrous idea popped into her mind.

Fine, I will be diplomatic, for Fox Boy and his friends, Rumi decided.

"That's why I'd like you to-"

"I think I know how to get in touch with the Green Plagues," muttered Rumi.

The Madam blinked in surprise.

"You do? That's wonderful, love," she said. Her smile dropped. "But before that, I think there's something you need to know about the Forsaken."

"Which you happily have been keeping secret until now, huh?" An annoyed Rumi grumbled. "Spill it already."

"It's about the leader of the Forsaken."

And indeed, while that was a great surprise (if not a disturbing shock), that did not stop Rumi from figuratively signing a deal with the devil. No, the Madam had played her cards right and Rumi hated her for it.

It would be half an hour later when Rumi, feeling much better, would be spotted jumping around Hiroshima's outer districts, particular the area called the Hive. She located the Animal Shop she had sought, and then a Kebab shop, before retracing her steps from back during one of the many patrols she had had with Ursai. Visiting such shops had worsened Rumi's feelings, reminded of Infinity Girl. She hadn't known how much she cared for the brunette until that moment, and shame burned her pride with each passing moment.

Eventually, Rumi found herself standing outside an apartment door of a dismally grey complex. What she was about to do was far from what she was known for, and yet, desperation, fear, guilt and rage kept her there. She had to do this, for Fox Boy, for Infinity Girl and even for Robot Boy. Rumi wouldn't fail. She couldn't.

With those thoughts, Rumi knocked on the door. She didn't have to wait long before it opened and a familiar boy poked his head out. Surprise marred his face.

"Yeah, I know. I'm the last person you wanted to see, or close enough," muttered Rumi.

She took a deep breath and calmed her nerves, before facing the quirkless boy in front of her. Behind him, a familiar mantis-girl watched from beneath her ever present hood, just as shocked as her brother.

"I need your help," said Rumi.

Inari Okami, if you are listening, I really need your help tonight, she thought.

Thankfully, Fox Boy was probably doing much better than her. Or at least, she hoped so.

Izuku had had better nights. Running away from maniacs and masked men had not been his idea of an ideal Cross-Over. Still, with a terrified girl in his embrace and who-knows how many villains in pursuit, he had little room to complain.

He was using his nine tails to spring himself from building to building, across entire streets, and putting as much distance from the event hall as he could. Izuku wasn't entirely sure that was the wisest idea, but considering how Eri was as much a target of that band of villains as Izuku, it probably was best to split away from the others if only to divide the villains.

Izuku stopped atop a lamppost, his tails wrapping around it for safety, and looked around. His fox ears perked up, angling around. He picked no sound from any pursuers, only the traffic and chatter of surprised pedestrians below. He then checked on the girl in his arms. Eri was clutching him as if her life depended on it, eyes closed and curled into a tiny ball.

I guess this is a bit much for her, Izuku decided.

He gave his surroundings a second glance. His eyes landed on a corner store and soon after he was jumping down, his tails serving as a landing cushion, and ignoring the gasps of people. Instead, Izuku walked over to the store and entered as unbothered as just anyone else would. He was greeted by a dumbfounded clerk, gaping at him.

"Ehm… good night," tentatively said Izuku with a sheepish smile.

The clerk only stared at him. It probably wasn't every day he saw a young teenager in a hero costume waltzing into his store. That or he recognized Izuku from the Sports Festival.

Izuku took a deep breath and walked away from the door, further into the corner store. He pulled out his phone and immediately called for the police, all while keeping an eye on the street outside. The police thankfully responded fast enough, and one question at the clerk later, they promised to send people over, both to that store and the hall. Apparently, and much to Izuku's dismay, it seemed a chaotic skirmish was still taking place back with Sir Nighteye.

"Good, I guess that's it," sighed Izuku, putting his phone away and awkwardly looking around the store.

Actually, he wished he had stayed to fight, or at least help. However, he was a student. He didn't have a license yet, and he was still untrained when it came to combat. More importantly, Eri was his priority. After learning that Chisaki appeared to have been experimenting on her, Izuku felt an odd protective urge to get her as far away as heavenly possible from the bastard. Just thinking about Overhaul made his fur rise up in anger and to bare his teeth.

He shook his head and put Eri down. The girl seemed to have calmed down, and she looked at the store in wonder. She didn't stray from Izuku, though. Rather, she clench at his costume while her red curious gaze wandered around. A tail protectively wrapped around her shoulder as a scarf to keep her warm. Her little dress was not suited for the cold night.

"Is everything alright?" The clerk wondered.

"Not really," said Izuku, scratching his head. "There's been some… ehm… trouble with some villains and-"

"Villains?" Gasped the clerk. "Where?"

"They are not here!" Hastily amended Izuku. "But… ehm… I just got away from them and-"

"You are leading villains here?!"

Izuku sighed, exasperated.

"Look, I've called the police. They should be here in no time," he said. "Besides, I doubt any villains will have expected me to just walk into a corner store."

The clerk wasn't reassured though. However, one look at Eri and all desire to kick Izuku out evaporated. The fox boy glanced at the girl, only to notice the way she stared at the candies. Izuku frowned.

I didn't see Chisaki approach the buffet table back at the gala and Eri never strayed from him. Did she eat anything? He wondered.

Seeing the look of interest from the girl, Izuku chuckled and knelt in front of her, drawing her attention.

"Hey, is there anything that you'd like?" Izuku said with a smile.

Eri tried to be inconspicuous as she glanced at an aisle filled with chewlets only to stare straight at Izuku and shake her head. Izuku's smile only grew.

"Alright, be my guest. I'd like some candy myself," he said, stroking his chin. "I think I'll have some of these…"

Eri had a cute wishful look as Izuku's hand hovered over the High-Choo* brand. From the corner of his eyes, Izuku noticed Eri's face shine intently when his claws grazed over the green packaged ones. Stifling a snicker, Izuku grabbed a pair and walked over to the counter. There was an awkward silence between the clerk and fox boy as the candy was paid. Then, the once fearful clerk looked at Izuku and then at Eri.

"Hey, you can take the backroom to wait for the police," mumbled the clerk.

"Oh? Oh!" Said a surprised Izuku. "That's… no, sorry sir, but I rather not impose."

"Meh, it's fine," huffed the clerk, folding his arm and giving off an air of bravado. "Here, take these as well." He gave Izuku a pair of water bottles. "You know… to stay hydrated."

"Ehm… thanks?" Izuku said, unsure.

"It's no problem!" Exclaimed the clerk with a proud smirk and a thumbs up.

Soon after, Izuku found himself seated at a small round table in the stuffed kitchen that was the shop's backroom. There was a microwave, the table, counters and the smell of fast food and cheese. In front of Izuku, Eri quietly sat on a chair of her own whilst hungrily staring at the candy.

The fox boy couldn't hold back a guffaw as he unwrapped one of them and handed it over to the child. Her eyes widened and she reached towards it, only to stare at Izuku with adorable eyes. Thankfully, she ended up hesitantly grabbing it and taking a nibble. She kept shooting furtive glances at Izuku, as if expecting him to snatch the candy, before digging in with gusto. Izuku, on his part, ate one bite of the candy and acted as if he wasn't enjoying the girl's adorableness.

"You like it?" Izuku asked.

Eri nodded. She didn't smile but otherwise didn't look sad. Izuku studied the candy's wrapping. Apparently, Eri liked apple-flavored candy. Izuku then opened one of the small water bottles and filled a plastic cup, placing it in front of Eri. The little girl needed no prompting to drink some water.

"So…" Izuku said, awkwardly scratching his neck. "What a night, huh?"

Eri just stared at him. Izuku stared back, before he decided to cut the staring contest short and sighed. What was he supposed to do now? The nosy fox in him wanted to ask about the allegations against Chisaki, but the rest of him thought that was a bad way to approach the subject.

"Hey," said Izuku. "You know, I am working to be a hero so… ehm… if you need help or anything, I am… ehm… here, alright?"

Eri blankly stared at him, before slowly nodding. Izuku, on his part, felt like slapping himself. What was he even thinking? He groaned in frustration and slumped on the table. Why was it so hard to speak with this child?

"Why did you take me away?"

Izuku looked up, surprised. He hadn't expected the little girl to speak up. He did not like the stare he was receiving, though, filled with genuine confusion.

"Because it was the right thing to do," said Izuku. "Those men back there wanted to take you away and do god-knows what."

Eri frowned for a while, lost in thought.

"Are you going to take me back?"

"To Chisaki?" Izuku wondered.

Eri nodded.


Truth be told, Izuku wanted to tell the little girl that she didn't have to worry. However, he quickly realized that there really wasn't any reason not to return Eri to Chisaki (once the situation was under control, of course). Yes, there had been terrible allegations thrown against the Yakuza Boss, but they wouldn't hold in court. Moreover, there wasn't any actual proof. Unless people actually saw Chisaki using his full power (if what that Blue Devil mask guy had been telling the truth), there would no reason to throw an investigation at Chisaki. There were ways to delay the return, however.

Izuku hummed, plans and schemes sweeping into his head. He could talk Arachne into taking Eri under temporary witness protection. She had witnessed an armed assault, and she had been the target of it. Taking Eri to another city and a far better staffed Hero Agency would be common sense, and while they'd have to extend the protection to Chisaki, something told Izuku that man would be quite displeased to be surrounded by animal mutant types like Arachne. Moreover, the Iron Agency would have welcomed the good press. Protecting children always added to the popularity polls.

"Not if I can help it," Izuku decided.



"You must take me back."

"Ehm… why? Hasn't he… eh… hurt you?"

Eri didn't reply right away, she merely put the remains of her candy and kept her head bowed. In that moment, Izuku was reminded of the kitten girl back in Hiroshima. Eri's demeanor, which screamed misery and misfortune, was identical to the rescued child.

"I must go back…"

Alright, maybe I need to try another approach, decided Izuku.

"Very well," stated Izuku with a firm nod. "But I'll need a good reason. Otherwise, I'll have to take you away."

He raised a challenging eyebrow towards Eri. The girl frowned, pursuing her lips in a cute thoughtful expression.

"I am sick," she started saying. "Overhaul is going to cure me."

"Sick?" Asked Izuku, wide-eyed.

Suddenly, he wondered if Eri wasn't suffering from some serious terminal disease and Chisaki's alleged reassembling power was the only thing holding the child together.

Eri nodded.

"Sorry, Eri, but Chisaki isn't a professional doctor, regardless of his quirk," slowly said Izuku. "He could be making it worse, actually."

"But he promised!" Eri exclaimed.

Izuku was taken aback by the desperation lacing the girl's cry.

"He must cure me!" She shouted. "Or- or…"

She deflated, bowing her head in defeat. To Izuku's horror, tears started coming down her eyes.

"Hey, hey, it's alright. There's no need to cry," Izuku softly said, moving over and wrapping an arm around the girl. Eri was surprised, but under the one-armed embraced it seemed to only encourage her to start sobbing. "I know plenty of professionals. In fact, I've been trained by one of the best! She'll heal you in an instant."

"Really?" Eri mumbled, looking up at him with heart-breaking eyes.

"Yep," reassured Izuku. "Actually, I could give it a try as well…" POOF "…I'm something of a healer myself."

A Three-Tailed Izuku grinned at the girl. She paused and looked at the hand touching Eri's shoulder. Why did it feel so hot? She dismissed the thought and instead went back to confidently grinning at the little girl.

"See these flames?" Izuku created a handful of burning orbs to hover around Eri. "They can heal pretty much anything. Here, look."

She made a small cut on her forearm with one claw and quickly healed it before Eri's eyes. The girl watched in fascination.

"See? Pretty hot stuff, huh?" Three-Tailed Izuku laughed at her own joke. "Just tell me what's wrong, and I'll fix it."

Eri looked ready to spill the beans, but hesitated. Instead, fear marred her features. If Izuku had to guess, then Overhaul had scared Eri into keeping quiet about whatever he was doing to her.

"I'll try my best, Eri," softly said Izuku, ruffling Eri's head. "You have this fabulous vixen's word."

The girl stared mystified at the offending hand. Someone hadn't many head-pats, apparently. Izuku made a mental note to change that in the future.

"I shouldn't," Eri said, her face scrunched with conflict. "Overhaul told me not to tell anyone but…" she bit her lower lip "…I want to see mommy."

Izuku was flabbergasted. What had Overhaul been telling Eri?

"I…" Eri trailed off, looking at her hands. "I have this sickness."

Izuku nodded and kept an encouraging smile on her face.

"Sometimes, when I touch people, things happen."

A very bad feeling crawled down Izuku's spine.

"Sometimes, they become younger or turn into children or- or babies or – or back when they were hurt or…"

She turned to Izuku, fighting her tears.

"Sometimes, they disappear, like daddy," Eri explained with a quivering voice.

Oh God, thought a horrified Izuku.

"If I am healed, mommy will love me again, and- and Overhaul will bring daddy back. So- so you must cure me… please."

Izuku's body moved on its own. She hugged the little girl and held her tight. She had no idea what instinct drove her to do that, but the Three-Tailed fox girl did not let go. Eri broke down on her arms, unable to hold back all the suffering she had endured and all the horrors she must have witnessed. There was no doubt about it: Chisaki had traumatized the child.

The fox girl's imagination played awful scenarios of Overhaul lying to the child, deceiving Eri into compliance. How could a man be so heartless? And why? What had he hoped to achieve? To control Eri?

"That's not a sickness," whispered Izuku, feeling tears of her own. "That's your quirk."

and what a powerful quirk it is, came the unbidden thought. The power to rewind… Gods, in the wrong hands, that power could do so much evil…

Such power could rejuvenate a target. Old men could become young. It could also heal grievous wounds. At the same time, it sounded like it could rewind a person to a time before they even existed, vanishing a target without trace or evidence of their existence.

"I don't want it," sobbed Eri. "I- I want my daddy back… I… I want mommy…"

Izuku didn't have the heart to tell her that her mother was missing. No, if she had to guess, Chisaki either had her disintegrated and used to control Eri, or Overhaul had vanished her with his quirk. As for Eri's father…

There was a knock on the door and the shop clerk poke his head in.

"Sorry about interrupting. The police is here," he said.

Izuku nodded his thanks and carried Eri out. The child kept sobbing all over her chest, but she couldn't care less. Izuku silently marched out of the backroom and out the corner store. A patrol car was parked outside, and two policemen in riot gear greeted them.

For a moment, Izuku found some semblance of hope for Eri. The police was there, ready to take them to a safe location, and Izuku had a course of action to keep Eri the hell away from that accursed Chisaki.

Best part? I avoided jumping into trouble! Rabbit Girl is going to be happy about that, mused the three-tailed fox girl.

However, nothing good ever lasts.


Izuku and the policemen jumped back, away from the police car, as something dropped like a bombshell onto it. The vehicle was squashed under the weight of something utterly massive. No, it was not a thing. Rather, it was someone. Gigantic and terrifying, it cackled as it tumbled out of the wreckage. Although Izuku knew it was a person, it looked closer to a monster.

The creature stepped forward. With a maniacal glint in his animalistic eyes, he looked like huge muscular humanoid hyena on its hind legs. Wearing simple tattered jean shorts and open jacket, he was a towering fiend taller even than All Might.

Izuku felt rationality escape her. She recognized the beast before him. A primal fear was slowly overwhelming her. Her fur bristled and her ears went flat against her head as her thoughts vanished, replaced only with an instinctual desire to flee.

Who could blame the fox girl? She was facing one of the lieutenants of the Shadow Pack, the Laughing Terror himself: Grim Grin.

Tenya Iida knew he was in a precarious situation. There he was, gagged and chained to a chair, in the middle of some warehouse, surrounded by all manner of villains. Blood was slowly being drained out of him to fill a blood pack. To make matters worse, Ochaco was also there, on a chair next to him, pale from fear and blood loss.

However, it was not the disgusting monstrous villains that bothered Tenya, or the sneering villains with weapons or powerful quirks. It wasn't even the wide range of military grade weaponry being distributed or what looked like explosives. No, Tenya's attention and apprehension came from the leader of them all.

The man carried a belt across his chest filled with grenade cans. However, Iida's attention went to the swords on the man's back and waist before jumping to the eyes. Glowing murderous red shone with equal measures of piercing ambition and fiery madness.

There, before Tenya, was his brother's murderer and infamous villain: the Hero Killer Stain.

Author Notes: I'm BAAAAAACK! And I am sorry for the delay.

*High-Choo For reference sake, the candy in the real world is called Hi-Chew.

I got really caught up with another fic and lost a lot of my motivation for this story. Sincerely, since I write for the fun of it, without the fun, it was hard. However, I have found some strength back and I am trying to finish the story; it's the least I can do for all who have enjoyed and reviewed the story. Again, sorry for the delay.

I hope you liked the chapter. Please, tell me what you thought, what you liked, disliked, what you would have changed and so forth. Reviews have always been my caffeine to keep me writing, after all.


The Emerald Commander