"Mwah?" Ben raised his head, eyesight still blurry.

With the small break of two days over, it was time to head back to school. Ben flung out his hand to slap his alarm clock, but paused. He always made sure his alarm was set to the correct time before going to sleep on a school night, but he couldn't help but doubt himself. His window lacked the illumination of the sun's rays. He brought the clock close to his face. Nope, the time was right.

So why was his room so dark?

Pitter Patter Pitter Patter Pitter Patter Pitter Patter

"Ah, man!" Ben groaned as he dragged himself out of bed and swung open the window blinds. That noise could only mean one thing: rain.

And as it turns out, this wasn't any gentle morning drizzle. The sidewalks were already covered in a thin sheet of water. The street's drainage gutters were turbulent and full, a sign that it had been raining for a while. Judging by the dark overcast clouds, it looked like the rain wasn't going anywhere soon.

Ben went through his morning routine robotically, cleaning himself, dressing himself and packing his bag. The rain kept occupying his thoughts. UA was too close to justify a drive, but at the same time Ben wasn't exactly relishing in walking through such a downpour. Rain was a rare occurrence back in Bellwood, maybe once or twice a year. But this year Ben was residing in an island nation. Rain was going to be something he would have to deal with.

"But I don't have a coat." Ben threw around long sleeves, jackets and sweaters, but couldn't find anything waterproof in his closet. "Not allowed to transform to get to class either. Just an umbrella won't work, I think. My backpack and pants will get soaked."

"Ben, Breakfast!" Grandpa Max's voice called from the main room.

"Coming!" Ben hollered back. May as well eat first, then deal with finding a raincoat.

Exiting his room, Ben spotted his grandpa not at the kitchen, but near the couches. Breakfast was sitting on the table, already finished. Spread on the couches were several raincoats, and boxes strewn about. From what Ben could see peaking into the boxes, they were clothes for more extreme weather.

"Here." Grandpa Max shoved a folded green raincoat into Ben's arms. It was long, Ben noted as he unfolded it, as it went well past his knees which would help keep his pants cuffs dry. The hood was half green and half clear plastic, to protect his eyes while still letting him see.

"Thanks!" Ben tossed it over his chair, dropped his backpack and started to eat. Max followed suit, but put his tablet on the table with a frown.

Ben paused, fork halfway to his mouth. "Is something wrong?"

"Ben." Grandpa Max sucked in a deep breath. "There is something you need to know about before going to school today."

"And that is?" Ben brought the fork to his mouth and chewed. "Oh, is it about Mimi? How's she doing?"

"Oh, the Splixson rescued from the Forever Knight base? She's doing fine, estimated to have made a full recovery by the end of the week." Max smiled at the memory of receiving that report yesterday. "Patelliday is organizing a force to escort her back to her homeworld as well as a request to galactic Plumber headquarters to increase patrols in that region of space."

"That's great!" Ben cheered.

"Indeed it is! Wait, but that wasn't what I wanted to talk about. Got sidetracked." Max reached over for his tablet as his face turned serious.

"It has to do with this." Max turned on his tablet, which was previously on some headliner news article. Ben grabbed the offered device and read the most popular article of the week.

The 'Hero-Killer' Strikes Again! Ingenium in Critical Condition!

"Ingenium?" Ben mused. The hero name was familiar, a name he had definitely had heard of before. But he could just not place it on a face.

"Ingenium comes from a long line of heroes. His younger brother is in your class." Grandpa Max explained.

"Oh yeah!" Ben snapped his fingers. Now he remembered! "Our class president! Ida often talks about his older brother, and how he's the person he wants to be-oh."

Ben winced. The final puzzle pieces finally came together. Max saw his grandson frown and grimace, and let out a sigh.

"It is a tragedy. According to all sources, Ingenium was lucky to escape his encounter with this 'Stain' person with his life still intact. Most of the Hero Killers victims die on first contact, or perish while enroute to a hospital. That isn't to say Ingenium will fully recover. His spinal injury has crippled him permanently."

"Wait, a hit to the spine?" Ben didn't know much about medicine or the human body, but he knew enough to know where this was going.

"The extensiveness of the wound hasn't been revealed, but I know how these things go. I've seen many Plumbers lose limbs or become crippled from less. He will likely never walk again. His hero career is over." Grandpa Max looked Ben straight in the eyes. "The whole family is grieving, and it is likely that their youngest son will be suffering the most."

"So you want me to make sure he's ok?"

"Actually, I would like you to do the opposite." Grandpa Max contradicted Ben. "This is national news. There has been a lot of attention on the Ida family, and they have received condolences from everyone, from the HPSC to the janitors at Ingenium's agency. People from across the country are coming to express their sorrow. But at the same time, the Hero Killer is the biggest news story of the month. The media has been hounding the family, and not with the best of intentions."

"Oh. I didn't think of it that way." Ben admitted.

"The poor boy's world has been thrown upside down. But, that is just my opinion. You know the kid better than I do Ben. I want you to watch and observe. If you think he needs someone to talk to, be there for him. If he wants space, let him be. This is just something you should know before going back to school."

"Alright. I'll do that." Ben caught the time on the microwave. "Better get going. See you later Grandpa!"

"Have a good day." Max waved his grandson goodbye, watching as he threw on the raincoat over his uniform, grabbed an umbrella and left.

Max then turned to the task he had been working on all day yesterday. He swiped around, compiling all the evidence the Plumbers had gathered from the raid on the Forever Knight's base a few days prior. Just a bit more work and the report will be finished and ready to be sent to Nezu. It contained everything that hinted towards an extraterrestrial threat being in Japan.

'The Plumbers are working on apprehending these fiends.' Max hit send and rested his chin on his knuckles. 'But it is up to you, Nezu, to keep your charges safe.'

In contrast to Max's worry, Ben meandered down the street, trying his best to prevent water from seeping into his shoes. In hindsight, boots may have been a better choice in footwear. The weather may have been stormy, but there were still a good amount of people outside. Other students going to school, adults going to work, the crowd seemed especially large near the train station Ben passed on the way to school. It was there that Ben's usual morning walk was interrupted.

"Hey, you're him aren't you?"

Ben ignored the question at first. He brushed it off as someone calling out to a friend near his position. After all, he had never had any stranger call out to him in his months walking to UA, so why now?

But then the memories of his activities with the Plumbers were brushed aside to make way for the Sports Festival. Suddenly, the finger pointed at him made a lot more sense. Ben had temporarily forgotten that before going on a mission with the Plumbers, he had transformed for the first time on the public stage. He wasn't hiding in the shadows anymore like in the States, he was now in the spotlight.

"Umm." Ben cracked a nervous smile as he turned to the man pointing at him. Others were staring too, muttering amongst each other. "Probably?"

"The transforming kid, right? The winner of UA's Sports Festival?"

"Yes?" Ben coughed. This wasn't how a winner presented himself! He drew himself up and rolled up his sleeve to display the Omnitrix. "Yes. That's me!"

For a moment, there was silence. Now, the majority of the crowd had turned to stare at him. It was a bit unnerving, if Ben was being completely honest, but he held himself up.

"Wow, it really is him!"

Then, the crowd moved forward. In a flash, Ben found himself being talked to from all directions, people asking questions, complimenting him, and even flashing their phone cameras. It was like the media crowd in front of UA in his first week, but this wasn't as bad.

"Kid, you really were something else out there! I have never seen anything like the show you put on!"

"What are they feeding you kids over in the United States? Looks like Japan has some competition!"

"What even is your quirk? Gotta say, I wouldn't be shocked that in a few years time, you broke into the top 10, or even 5! Like Hawks!"

"Mind if I get a picture? My kids saw you on TV and haven't stopped talking about you since!"

"Those villains better watch out, I wouldn't want to be the one who has to face you down!"

People from all walks of life, the vast majority of which are a lot older than Ben, were talking about him. Praising him! Ben felt light, giddy, happy! Before, he was feared, a vigilante and in some cases, a straight up wanted criminal. Heck, during his adventures, there was even a special task force created just to take him, and any other aliens, down! The Special Alien Containment Team, led by the stern Lieutenant Steel, spent a good amount of time tracking the Tennysons down. It was only a chance encounter against Kevin 11 that Ben managed to clear his name. Coleson assured him that he wouldn't be hunted like that again. Unless Ben disappeared. In which case, Steel would be sent after him again.

But that was then, and this was now! Ben answered the questions hurled his way as best he could, a smile on his face. This was what he envisioned life with the Omnitrix being like; a public figure with a reputation for doing good. No more transforming outside a city, running from police, and reverting back in some alley way or sewer. No, Ben wanted to be able to walk around, in plain view! These people were at ease, accepting of him and his powers. It may not be a quirk, but it was close enough, so who really cared? This was what Ben always wanted!

But then he saw something that froze him in his tracks.

On the edge of the crowd, there was a single young adult. A man, who couldn't have been any older than 25. Clad in typical office worker clothing, complete with a briefcase, he didn't look any different from anyone else in the crowd. For a brief moment, Ben made eye contact with this unknown japanese salary man.

There was fear in his eyes.

It was fear directed towards Ben. There was no other thing to be afraid of in the immediate area. The man jolted, quickly averting his eyes and looking down. He turned, refusing to look back, and walked to a further area protected by the station's roof. That wasn't something Ben had been expecting. That sort of fear, he had only seen that a couple times, and it was always when he was transformed. Back in the States, during his first weeks with the Omnitrix, that was common. People would be just as afraid of the alien rescuing them as the people who were terrorizing them moments ago.

But to see it here, directed at Ben who at the moment was just an 11-year old human boy, it struck something. Ben's smile wavered.

There were more people like that man. There were few, in the minority, but now that Ben knew they were there, it wasn't hard to make them out. A mother with a child in her stroller saw him in the crowd. She pushed faster, angling herself so that she was between her child and Ben. An older couple huddled together, on the edge of the roofed area, trying to keep as much distance between themselves and Ben while not being in the rain.

Even in the crowd around Ben, there were some. A young couple approached him, the woman cheerfully congratulating him, asking questions. The man held back, chewing his bottom lip. Their eyes met and the man flushed, turned away, muttered something to the lady, and walked away. Another woman did the same thing, leaving her partner to speed-walk away, casting a fearful glance over her shoulder on the way.

Ben's smile was fake now.

"Hey, this was great and all." Ben spoke up. "But I gotta get to class. My teacher won't like it if I'm late, winner of the Sports Festival or not. Also, the train is pulling in."

Ben pointed, and heads turned to see a train pulling into the station. Many sighed. Others walked away. Most left with uplifting words. Ben stood and watched the crowd fill in, with many waving or flashing one last picture. As the train doors closed and the train left, Ben continued the walk to school.

The cold air chilled his hands, nose and eyes. The water on the street splashed up with every step and some of it soaked his socks. His walk now felt a lot less cheerful now. More people noticed him as he moved past the station, and started down the street where UA's gate awaited him at the end. Most gasped on seeing him, and acted similarly to how the station people did. Ben didn't stop to talk this time, something these people understood.

There were a few that held that fear of him. Those that crossed the street when they saw him. Those that sped up to pass him quickly. Those that refused to make eye contact, and gave him a wide berth. As these people passed him, Ben did his best to ignore them. However, he couldn't stop the emotions swirling around his chest. Confusion. Frustration. Even some anger.

Ben knew he shouldn't be feeling these things. Those were not emotions heroes should hold towards those that they swore to protect. It was hard, though, to push those emotions out of the way. Ben's teeth clenched. It wasn't even a lot of people! For every one person that avoided him, fifty others approached him. In purely numerical terms, Ben was well-received by the public.

So why did those people make his gut twist and turn?

Ben walked through the UA gates with turbulent thoughts. He couldn't sift through them with a good conscience, it was all too recent. Ben walked through the halls, up the stairs and approached his classroom door. A few smacks to his head and two deep breaths set him right.

'This is such a stupid problem. So what if I'm not as beloved as All Might? I'm still just a student. I got time to turn those people around.' Ben tried to push those bad emotions out of his mind. He didn't want to drag the entire class down with his moody thoughts.

He opened the door to colorful conversation.

"People noticed me! Me! The invisible girl! It was embarrassing, with so many people talking about me, but they never did that before!" Hagakure squealed, her uniform bouncing up and down.

"People were taking selfies with me on the train ride here!" Ashido joined in, shedding her raincoat.

"I was the talk of the gym! I went in to get a sweat going, maybe run a few laps, and I was swamped immediately!" Kirishima was talking to a group of guys, his sharp teeth on display as he smiled wide.

"Must have been nice." Sero groaned, face-down on his arms.

"Eh, what's wrong dude?" Kaminari turned from boasting with Sato to question his friend.

"You guys got congratulations and fans. I got consolation looks from elementary schoolers!" Sero looked up, clearly unhappy. "I pass an elementary school on the way here. Man, kids can be brutal."

"Brutally honest." Sato patted Sero on the back. "At least you got noticed. That's something, right?"

Class 1-A was in good spirits. Well, aside from Bakugo, who was brooding in his corner, refusing to interact with the class. That suited Ben fine, he didn't really want to talk to the guy either. The class was so engrossed in their conversations that Ben didn't really get noticed. He just quietly slipped in and got to his desk without people noticing.

As soon as he sat down, Midoriya and Ida walked through the door. Midoriya trailed behind Ida, a pensive look on his face. Ida marched to his desk, sat down, brought out his supplies and faced forward. Ben frowned. Ida must really be hurting, as his usual actions were absent. Jiro and Tokoyami were sitting on their desks. Sato was snacking. Ashido had her phone out. Ida would be on their cases for breaking classroom rules, but he sat with a stone cold expression on his face.

Midoriya nervously hovered for a few moments before turning and walking to the other side of the class, where his seat was. He and Ben looked at each other, both worried. Ben jabbed his head in Ida's direction, and raised an eyebrow.

Midoriya stepped in close. "He claims he's fine. Refused to say anything else though."

"If he is fine, then why hasn't he gone all Class President on all the rule breakers?" Ben asked.

"I don't know." Midoriya gave a helpless shrug. "All we can do at this point is trust him. He is the class president, like you said. Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt."

"You're probably right." Ben glanced at Ida again. "It's not like we're counselors anyways."

And with that, Midoriya splintered off to talk to Uraraka, and Ben turned to Shoji and Ojiro.

"It's nice!" Ojiro stretched his arms happily. "To be in the center of attention for once!"

"Even after you, Aoyama and Sato withdrew?" Ben asked.

"Attention is attention. I'll take the good with the bad." Ojiro didn't seem bothered.

"Well, good for you I guess." Ben then saw Shoji staring at him. Not through one of his eye-arms, but with his two original eyes. In his head. "What?"

"Are you alright Ben?" The massive student asked through a mouth.

"Err, yeah? Why wouldn't I be?" Ben forced a laugh. He berated himself internally. There was no need to drag down his classmates with his stupid thoughts!

"You don't have to force yourself to laugh." Shoji spoke in a gentle tone.

"We're friends, right Ben?" Ojiro leaned close, worry in his eyes. "If I'm being honest, you looked off when you came into the classroom. I think everyone else noticed too, that's why no one talked to you at first."

"So I wasn't being slick." Ben sighed.

"Like I said, there's both good and bad attention. As the winner, you've had the most attention by far." Ojiro said. "If there's something eating at you, we can listen."

Ben hesitated. He looked down. Then he looked back up.

"Excuse me, Tennyson?"

To the surprise of all three boys, and everyone nearby, it was Todoroki who was speaking. The heterochromatic teen stood over Ben, his face blank. He was obviously waiting for a response.

"Umm, yeah, what is it?" Ben cautiously answered. He still remembered how Todoroki acted at the Sports Festival.

"Could I talk to you in private? It won't take long, I promise." Todoroki spoke in his usual, monotone voice.

Ben was bewildered. When did this guy learn to quit? First in the waiting room, then after the cavalry battle, and now at the beginning of the school day? Ben was about to give a scathing retort, when he saw how Todoroki stood. His shoulders were loose, his body sagging. He looked tired, and while he had no bags under his eyes, the way he carried himself spoke to how little rest he had gotten. There was no malice or aggression in his eyes. There was no emotion at all, really.

"Well, alright." Ben stood. Might as well see where this goes. "As long as we can be back in our seats before Aizawa-sensei arrives."

"I promise it will not take long." Todoroki nodded and turned to walk out of the classroom.

As the two exited, many eyes were upon them. Todoroki was famous for his aloof demeanor, never speaking unless spoken to, and even then only to figures of authority. Many times those who approached him were repelled not by words, but by a chilly stare. The only times he had spoken without someone initiating a conversation was during the combat trial and the Sports Festival. So people were justifiably nervous as he walked out with Tennyson in tow.

"Sooooo..." Ben looked over at Todoroki, who silently stared back. "You were the one who wanted to talk, right? Well, I'm right here."

Todoroki opened his mouth. Then he closed it. His face contorted, wrestling through a whirlwind of emotions. He brought up a hand to his face.

"I-" The sentence ended abruptly. Todoroki waved his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Ben waited, confused as Todoroki finally seemed to put himself together. Todoroki opened his eyes, and looked at Ben directly.

"I'm sorry."

"Huh?" Out of everything the teen could have said, this was not what Ben was expecting.

"I'm sorry." Todoroki repeated. He stood tall and his eyes remained unblinking.

"The way I have acted towards you. From the first day. After the combat trial. During our days in class. At the Sports Festival. How I've acted so villain-like. I'm sorry."

The words were tumbling out of Todoroki's mouth, and real emotions started to spread over his face.

"I thought what I was doing was right. I wanted to concentrate on my studies, on becoming a hero. I wanted to prove to my father, my mother, to myself, that I could be strong without my fire. Anything that didn't help me on that journey was something I cast aside. I never wanted to become... what I was. In my attempt to spite my father, I became even more like him. I was arrogant, cold, and alone. I now see that I wasn't being strong or focused. I was pushing people away, or using them like tools. I tricked myself into thinking by antagonizing you like I did, I was somehow improving myself. But all that did was drag Ida, Kaminari and Yaoyorozu down. I've hurt a lot of people. And the one who suffered the most from my actions was you. So, I wanted to apologize." Todoroki finished by bowing his head.

"Oh-kay. Wow, this came out of left field." Ben awkwardly scratched the back of his head. "Truth be told, I wasn't too bothered. I mean, if anything, Shiozaki was the one who got frozen in a literal glacier. I'd say that I got off light compared to her."

"And I will make my amends to her the next time I am able to talk to her. After all, it was her words that shook me, forced me to open my eyes to what I was becoming." Todoroki said, recalling the stern talking-to she gave him after the second event in the Sports Festival. "I just needed to start somewhere, and I have been awful to you."

"You see, Ben, my family isn't normal. Are you familiar with-"

"Yeah, I'm gonna stop you right there." Ben held out his hand, silencing Todoroki. Ben smiled, trying to lessen the tension. "I don't think we are close enough for you to reveal your whole life's story to me yet."

"Oh. I see." Todoroki shuffled his feet.

"Look dude, you don't have to spill your past to everyone to explain yourself. What matters is that you're trying to make up for what you've done, right? I can't speak for everyone, but for me, that's good enough. We can talk about your tragic life's story later, when we get to know each other a bit better." Ben consoled the teen.

"My tragic backstory? Well, I suppose if anyone is to lecture me about how to present their personal backgrounds, it should be the one with the most secretive one." That got a reaction.

"Oof." Ben winced. "Here I was, thinking that I was doing such a good job."

"To most, you did do enough." Todoroki agreed. Then he tilted his head back, remembering, recalling. "However, you keep using the same tactics. Redirection, distraction. You are quick to change subjects whenever your history or quirk comes up in conversation. You may start as the topic of the talk, but it swiftly changes to someone else. If you can not do that, you give basic information on your quirk and your life. Yet, at the same time, it is nothing that can not be gleaned from basic observation. You restate facts, nothing more or less."

"Well, yeah. I guess I do." Ben admitted, not really sure how to squirm out of this one.

"Then to each their own. You have a mysterious past, but you did not let it control you as I let mine. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two from your example." The corners of Todoroki's mouth twitched upward.

"Hey, there's a smile!" Ben joked. It was the first positive emotion the boy had shown on school grounds.

The pair paused, the conversation slowing. Neither really knew what to say. The air had been mostly cleared, but not fully cleansed.

"So, I must ask." Todoroki broke the silence. "Where do I go from here? What are we?"

"Well, what do you want us to be?" Ben probed. "You were the one to approach me."

"I wanted to apologize for my past. Make up for my actions. But I am not great at relations with others. Are we friends? I've never had any, so I wouldn't know when two people go from acquaintances to friends. Just classmates?" Todoroki seemed lost. So, Ben chose to take charge.

"Then how about we start over?" At the proposition, Todoroki gave a confused look.

Ben clarified. "You want to start anew, right? Turn a new leaf, so to speak? So, let's start from scratch, leave all that beef from the Sports Festival behind us. We don't have to be friends right away. We can start off as classmates. Maybe, in time, we could become friends."

"You can do that?" Todoroki asked, confused.

Ben shook his head, smiling. Drawing himself up, he approached the taller boy. Then he held out his hand.

"Hey, I'm Tennyson Benjamin. But, you can just call me Ben."

Todoroki looked at the offered limb. His lips curved upward like before, but this time they stayed there. He took the hand and shook it.

"My name is Todoroki Shoto. I hope we can get along."

Clap Clap Clap Clap

The two perked up on hearing clapping. Turning around, Ben groaned upon seeing that they had an audience, that being a few Class 1-B kids.

Tokage was slow clapping, a mischievous smile on her face. Pony looked on in confusion. Tetsutetsu and a boy with a bandana were nodding, as if approving the scene before them.

"Aww, why'd you two stop?" Tokage teased, stopping her slow clap.

"And give you more ammo to use against me in the future? No thanks." Ben curtly responded. "Does Japan have different customs on eavesdropping? Cause in the States, where I'm from, it's generally considered rude."

"Blame it on this meathead." Tokage jabbed a thumb at Tetsutetsu. "He was walking down the hall with Awase when he saw you and Todoroki talking. He got fired up, and started moving towards you two. Me and Pony stopped him from interfering."

"Huh. Well, I guess I should thank you, Tetsutetsu." Ben remembered that Tetsutetsu was there, alongside Shiozaki, when Todoroki demanded Ben meet him after the game. It made sense that he would expect the worst.

Tetsutetsu walked up and slapped Todoroki's back with a large grin. "That was a manly thing you did there bro. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions so fast."

"Guess you aren't that bad after all." The now identified Awase said.

"You say everything is manly, Tetsutetsu." Tokage rolled her eyes dramatically. Todoroki staggered slightly on the back slap, but quickly recovered.

"Hey, it takes a lot of guts to admit you're wrong. Even more to apologize face-to-face! I'd say that Todoroki is plenty manly if he can own up to his own mistakes." Tetsutetsu argued.

"Well, I can try to be more 'manly' from now on." Todoroki said with a completely straight face. "Kirishima, from our class, often speaks of this 'manly' lifestyle, and he is well-liked and excels in our heroics classes. There must be merit to such an ideology."

"Oh no, don't encourage him!" Tokage moaned, as Tetsutetsu grew excited at the mention of that name.

"Kirishima, the hardening guy, right? Man, I really wish I could have fought him in the third event. Hey, could you ask him about his gym plans? I really could use a partner, and he seems like he'd be a good match!"

"As much as I hate to break this up." Awase, the boy with the bandana spoke up. "Class is going to start in less than a minute."

"Oh crap!" Ben and Todoroki bolted the moment the words left Awase's mouth.

Even with his injuries from the USJ, Aizawa always arrived to class the second the bell rang over the loudspeakers. Kaminari was late once, hoping those bandages over his eyes would let him slip in unnoticed. As a result, he was the first in the class to receive after-school detention. Ben and Todoroki would not try their luck.

They had not a second to spare. One second they were outside, the next they were in their seats. The entire classroom had transformed from rambunctious talk to complete silence. The moment the bell rang, the classroom door opened. Just like clockwork, Aizawa walked in, slouched as usual.

Only this time, he had finally removed his many layers of bandages. No longer were his eyes peering through cracks between medical gauze. While his face still bore bruises, cuts and discoloration, they were all minor injuries all things considered.

"Morning." The teacher grunted as he took his position behind his desk.

"It's great to see that you don't need those bandages anymore, Aizawa-sensei!" The relief in Asui's voice was clear. She had seen first-hand how brutal his wounds were at the USJ.

"More like the old lady was over dramatic. I could have been out of them before the Sports Festival, but she didn't want the wounds exposed in such a crowded environment. Something about infections." Aizawa wiped some scruff out from beneath his eye. "Now is not a time to talk about me, though. This week will have a different schedule than usual, due to your upcoming internships."

Class 1-A dared not speak, hanging onto his every word.

"You have all read the syllabus, and therefore are all aware of the requirements UA has every student fulfill before they will be allowed to graduate. One of those is real work experience. It would not make sense to release new professional heroes out into society without that key experience. This is a crucial time for you first-years. This entire week will have homeroom and hero informatics joined together to help prepare you for your internships next week." Aizawa lectured, waving a paper with their new schedule for the week.

"Every year, UA reaches out to well-known and established hero agencies across Japan for the first-year's internships. Everyone in this room will have access to every agency on that list. But there is a hard limit of two students per agency, and that includes your sister class. At the end of the period, I will hand out a paper that you can write down your top three choices. It is first-come, first-served, so if you aren't fast enough to secure your first choice, we will work down that list. If none of your choices are available, then we will call you for a personal session to get you in an agency." Another paper was waved.

"Now, many of you no doubt realized that the Sports Festival plays a big part in getting personal nominations from specific hero agencies that may not participate in our basic internship program. I won't beat around the bush: some of you received many, but most of you did not receive a personal nomination." A few disappointed groans were heard.

"However!" Aizawa gripped his desk tightly, eyes hardening. "Keep in mind that these nominations are not true indicators of who will be more successful, more popular, or any other metric heroes these days concern themselves with. In truth, these are more expressions of interest in your future potential. No matter how flashy you may have been in your first Sports Festival, everyone is aware that you are teenagers. Young, still discovering yourselves and growing. True interest will only come in your second and third years, when you have more experience under your belt, such as what you will get this upcoming week. Those of you with many nominations, don't let it inflate your ego. Those of you with none, don't let it discourage you."

"And with that." Aizawa held a small remote in his hand and pointed it behind him. A projector flickered to life and a graph displayed on the whiteboard. "Here are the nominations Class 1-A has received."

The left column had the names of the students, the middle column had bars starting from the right and stretching to the left, growing in length depending on the amount of nominations. The right most column had the finite number. At the top, with massive bars and a number in the thousands, were Todoroki and Bakugo. Todoroki pulled ahead by about 600 nominations. Then there was a dramatic drop, as the third place Ida had 350 offers. The numbers petered out as it dropped from in the hundred to double digit, then to single digit. Less than half of the class had received personal nominations.

"Normally the results are more balanced." Aizawa noted, not even looking back. "The graph says otherwise; this year is far from normal."

"Man, the difference between the top two and literally everyone else is crazy!" Sato slunk back in his seat, obviously not happy by his lack of offers.

"Hmph! Japanese pro heroes obviously lack a discerning eye for talent!" Aoyama sniffed, trying his best not to look disappointed.

"Just as expected, Todoroki." Yaoyorozu tried to congratulate her neighbor, hoping that the looks she gave him was not envious.

"The majority of them are from my father's influence. As Aizawa-sensei said, pay it no mind. You received offers of your own, did you not?" Todoroki said back.

Yaoyorozu blinked in surprise. She was not expecting a response, much less an encouraging one.

"Wow! We got offers. Offers, Ida! They want us!" Uraraka cried through teary eyes, jostling Ida around from her position behind his desk.

"None?" Midoriya muttered, trying to fight back the bitterness in his throat.

"Well I guess 14 is better than none at all. I made an impact after all." Sero may have been the last person to make it onto the graph, but he felt pride at making the list at all.

"Hey." Ojiro got over his disappointment over no offers quickly, he had voluntarily dropped out after all. His eyes scanned the list again and again, noticing something big was missing. "Where are Ben's offers?"

"Wait a sec, Ojiro is right!" Ashido noticed too. "Where are the winner's nominations? Don't tell me he didn't get any!"

No one noticed this faster than Ben himself. It was the first thing he noticed. He was a bit miffed that Todoroki was at the top, seeing as how Ben beat him quite convincingly. However, that feeling gave way to nervousness as he noticed that his name just wasn't there at all. That knot of nervousness grew and spread, a feeling of dread now rising up. What if those scared people from the walk to school had a point? What if Ben was too unknown, too strange, too alien for someone to give him offers?

"Ah yes. That." Aizawa's tone took on a tired tone, as if this was something he was dreading.

He reached inside his sleeping bag, and withdrew a thick navy blue binder, stuffed full of files. It required two hands to hold and from the way it swung in his arms, it must have been quite heavy. Aizawa walked through the desks, coming up to Bens. With a grunt, he unceremoniously dumped the binder onto the desk, which quaked from the impact.


"Uhhh..." Ben stared wide-eyed at the binder, as did the rest of the class. It was thicker than his arm!

"You're going to hear this a lot in the coming years, but yours is a special case Tennyson." Aizawa tapped the binder. "This is your list of recommendations."

"All that?" Jiro asked incredulously. "I knew the kid would be popular, but an entire binder? Wouldn't it be easier to just list the agencies on the same piece of paper, front and back? This is a bit overkill."

"Very much overkill. Such a waste of resources." Agreed Tokoyami from behind her.

"Now, this is a special case because of who requested you, Tennyson. To answer your classmate's questions, yes, we condense the list of agencies to a single paper and leave it up to the students to do their own research." Aizawa gave the two students who interrupted the stink-eye. Jiro and Tokoyami sat straight, and shut their mouths.

"Your status as a foreign student from the United States means that you are not too familiar with how Japan works. Each nation has their own way of running things, so we thought it prudent to include basic information. If you want to research individual heroes, you can do that on your own time. As for my initial statement, this is a unique situation for even me. This isn't the first time this has happened to a student at UA, just the first time it has happened to one of my students. Open the binder."

Ben flicked open the binder, revealing the first page. It was the first of several pages that contained the basics on the hero agencies of Japan and the laws surrounding them. At the top of the papers were bookmarks, so Ben grabbed one and flipped past the info sheets. He came across the first of what he thought were offers, but the text was absolutely tiny. Ben had to strain his eyes to see.

"Ky... Oc... Ra?" Ben didn't recognize the names.

Midoriya turned around in his seat. He got as good a look at the paper as he could, despite it being upside down for him. "Kyocera? That's odd, I've never heard of a hero agency by that name."

"That's because it isn't a hero agency." Yaoyorozu leaned over Ben's shoulder and immediately recognized the name. "It is one of Japan's longest standing electronics manufacturing companies, created before the twenty-first century. They started by making phones and printers, then moved to solar technology and LCD's. As of late, they have started to branch out into the hero business, supplying hero offices with their devices and even making some of their own support gear."

"Yaoyorozu is correct." Aizawa affirmed. "This is why your case is so special, Tennyson. That transformation you displayed in the first event in the Sports Festival attracted a lot of attention."

"You mean Upgrade?" Ben recalled how that form was really an accident. He never even meant to transform into the Mechamorph at all.

"If that's what you call it, then yes." Aizawa replied. "Like I said, it isn't unheard of for a hero student to receive offers from a support company, or for a support student to get a few offers from hero agencies. Hatsume Mei got a few agencies requesting her as a matter of fact. They applied for you as they would for any other student, so we had no reason to deny them."

"However, the amount that did send a request for you is unusual to say the least." Aizawa brought attention to just how thick the binder was. "Support course nominations are very different from hero ones. Where hero agencies are just listed, Support course nominations come from massive companies with dozens of branches, teams and organizations. Each company that applied for you, Tennyson, had to outline exactly why they want you, where they want you to go, and what you would be doing."

"Sounds a bit excessive." Ben had to agree with Jiro and Tokoyami on this one.

"It is." Aizawa, surprisingly, also agreed. "Normally, I wouldn't even entertain the notion of presenting this amount of support course offers to one of my hero students. But our principal did bring up a few good points. If word got out that the student in question never even received the offers, there would be a massive amount of backlash. UA spends just as much time cultivating good relations with support companies as it does hero agencies. It would be illogical to throw away those ties. Nezu said we should give you their offers, if only just to be polite."

"Well, what do you think sensei?" Ben asked his teacher.

"As an official employee of UA High School, I am obligated to tell you that you should research each offer you have been given, and make sure that you investigate each offer equally to ensure your final decision was made with the most information possible." Aizawa gave a clearly rehearsed answer. Then he exhaled loudly. "As your teacher, however, I don't think you should seriously consider them. You need real experience in a hero agency, and you won't get that at a support company. I've read most of those offers you received, and they all just involve you using that mechanical form of yours to interact and upgrade their machinery. How that would work, you probably know better than me. So, ask yourself this: is that really how you want to spend an entire week?"

"That doesn't sound like a good use of my time." Ben agreed. He could only stay as Upgrade for 10 minutes at a time anyways.

"Honestly Tennyson, I'm not the best at analyzing support course nominations. If you really are interested in one of those offers, then I can't stop you. I would suggest you seek out Powerloader before making a final decision. He would be the most qualified to inform you on this subject, beside Nezu. But our principal is busy organizing the third-years work-studys. So, if you really want to know more, head down to the support labs after school."

"Noted." Ben said, before discarding it immediately. He wasn't going to spend his internship in a crusty old lab, what, were these guys crazy?

"So sensei, how many offers did Tennyson receive? Not counting the support course style nominations." Hagakure asked as Aizawa took his place behind his podium again.

"More than Todoroki." Aizawa briskly responded, refusing to give a number.

"Like that tells us anything." Aoyama spoke, voicing what everyone else was thinking.

"Focus on yourselves rather than someone else. The nominations will be handed out after this double period, but you need to know how to fill out the forms. And in doing so, you will be moving onto the next phase of your burgeoning careers." Class 1-A exchanged looks between themselves. What did he mean?

"For hero informatics today, you will be developing your code names: the names you will adopt as heroes."

"YES!" More than a few students stood up at that.

The room erupted into enthusiastic cheers, hoots and hollers.

"It makes sense now! During work, heroes refer to each other by their code names. It wouldn't be a true workplace experience if we didn't partake as well!" Kirishima thumped his desk in excitement.

"All right, settle down. Now." Aizawa's sharp voice managed to quell their voices, but not their spirits. "You are still students, so these names don't have to be permanent. A placeholder name is fine. Just make sure it is appropriate, because-"

"Because if not, there will be hell to pay! These names could very well be what the world will know you by during your careers and long after you retire!" Never one to pass an opportunity for a dramatic entrance, Midnight entered the classroom with a flourish.

"Midnight-sensi is right. She is taking over for her usual hero informatics lesson, and will be evaluating your hero names. Since, apparently, I can't." Aizawa was already slipping into his sleeping bag.

"Oh, Eraserhead, who would trust the taste of a man who would name himself after the backend of a pencil?" Midnight giggled, obviously one of those who deemed him incapable.

"Don't you have a lecture to get to?" Came Aizawa's dry response. "Get to it. I'm getting some sleep."

"He's right, kids. Before you can choose your names, I want you all to know why heroes have code names to begin with. What purpose they have, what they stand for and why it is such an important part of hero culture." Midnight strode over and took Aizawa's place, nudging the sleeping bag out of the way.

"Code names used to exist as protection for one's identity." Midnight's voice lost its usual flirty tone and took on her teacher's voice. "This was when quirks were beginning to emerge. Heroes in that age were more akin to modern vigilantes. In the modern day, where heroes are publicly accepted, hiding your identity is now a choice. Some do so because they wish to keep their personal lives private. Others, because they are underground heroes, like your homeroom teacher. Keeping themselves out of sight of the public is beneficial in their line of work."

"For the majority of heroes, their code names are publicly used and are often the more common way to designate them. These names are more than just alternate ways to refer to someone. Depending on who you ask, a code name can be any number of things: a promise, an ambition, a symbol to name a few. The code name a hero adopts may be something personal; their drive to keep working. Maybe it is a veiled threat: a warning to villains who may try to cross them. In most cases, the name inspires a feeling, and there is no better example than the number one hero: All Might."

"When you hear the name All Might, what do you feel? To civilians, they feel safe. His flawless record in all his years as a hero tells those in need that he will help them, that the situation is alright now that he is there. To villains, they feel despair. All Might's record isn't just about civilian rescue, it also stretches to villain apprehension. There has never been a hero who can resolve a villain case like All Might."

"So, take these whiteboards and start brainstorming." Midnight passed around stacks of mini-whiteboards and markers. "Think about what you want to be, what you stand for, and what you want people to think and feel when they hear your code name. Like Aizawa said, these names are not permanent. Take your time, and think things through. Code names may seem superficial, but it isn't the name that really matters. It is what the name represents. So think deeply about who you want to be and how your hero name can convey that. What kind of hero do you want to be?"

"Now, you have 15 minutes! In the last 10 minutes of class, you will be presenting your name and the thought process behind it!" With a crack of her whip, the class took their whiteboards and started thinking.

'Man.' Ben played with his marker, spinning it in his hand. 'What I want to be... what I want to represent... and a name to tie it all together?'

A name. Something so simple, yet so elusive at the same time. Ben rolled his head.

The first option that emerged was 'Ben 10.' It was the first, the original, the name he loftily gave himself. But, it was cast aside. Ben didn't want to be the same as he was before. That Ben was the Ben that did criminal activities with Kevin 11. Used his aliens for joyrides. Not that Ben was completely above that now. It was just that Ben wanted to declare to all those watching that he was grown, matured, even if it was just a little.

Potential names swirled in his head. Nothing sounded right.


Huh. Ben paused, flicking his pen around. Maybe the answer was simpler than he realized.

He wanted to prove that he was different now, right? That he was no longer the reckless kid who used his powers on a moment's whim? To the people scared of him in the morning, that he was still human under all his transformations? What better way than to just be who he was?


It was short, recognizable, and a word that he was already used to responding to in stressful situations. Vilgax called him 'Ben Tennyson.' The Plumbers did too. The strongest villain he ever encountered, and the most heroic people he knew called him Ben. It was a name that already held meaning. Isn't that what Midnight said? A name should mean something, no matter who that person is?

It wasn't just his hero name he had to worry about. His actions were being watched now, by the Plumbers and other intergalactic organizations. His codename couldn't just be for one side of his life. Ben was walking a fine line between his normal life and his alien life. Already his name was synonymous with the Omnitrix, so maybe the choice was already made.

And at the end of the day, it was just like what Aizawa and Midnight had said. The name didn't have to be permanent. Maybe a placeholder code name wouldn't be that bad. Something that would stand in until Ben found a name that could truly represent who he was, across on Earth and across the rest of the galaxy.

"Alright, class is ending in ten minutes!" Midnight's whip cracked, ending the brainstorming period.

"Now let's get started! If you can't share your name to the class, then it isn't a name you can present to the public!" Midnight scanned the room. She landed at Ben. "Who better to start than the winner of the Sports Festival? Get up here Tennyson!"

"Yes sensei." Ben took his whiteboard and walked behind the podium.

Midnight backed up, giving him room. Aizawa's head rose from his sleeping bag. The entire class was looking at Ben, even Bakugo.

"Well, to start off, I'm just going to say that this could be a placeholder name. As I told you all, I plan on moving back to the United States after I graduate. Might stick around for a few months, but I won't stay for long. So, I want to make sure my name represents me in my home country. If I don't find anything, I'll keep this one. Hope that's ok."

Midnight gave him a thumbs up, but didn't interrupt him.


"Ben." One word, on the whiteboard and spoken aloud.

"Just your name, huh?" Midnight put her hands on her hips. "Not going to do anything creative with it? One of our standout third years added -chan to hers."

"I think I'll stick with a simple name for now. Keep the creativity for my transformations." Ben said.

"Well, you are special in that department. Transforming heroes aren't unheard of, but none of them have more than a single transformation, until you came along. In that sense you have many codenames! How many do you have?"

"Enough." Ben smirked. "Don't want to reveal all my secrets, do I? Gotta keep my classmates on their toes!"

"How coy. I like it!" Midnight giggled, before resuming her teacher persona. "You were right, you can change your name when transferring overseas. You will have to go through government screening to properly transfer a Japanese hero license to an American one, and in that process you can choose a new name if you find one that is better suited to you. Keep in mind class, that who you are now will not be the same person that graduates from our school."

"Thank you, Tennyson!" Polite clapping echoed out as Ben gave the whiteboard back and took his seat. "Let's move on! Aoyama, how about you?"

The rest of class 1-A went up, giving their hero names. Aoyama's was a sentence, and was rejected. 'I cannot stop twinkling' was a mouthful and a half. Ashido chose 'The heroine of Ridley: Alien Queen.' Midnight axed that one as well, choosing to save the girl from a future copyright. The mood dropped, with the first two names being rejected. Asui was the one who changed that.

'Froppy', a name conceived in elementary school. Simple and cute with a friendly feel, it rejuvenated the class. 'Uravity' and 'Creatie' were similar; code names that played on the name of their quirks. Then there was 'Earphone Jack,' which was just Jiro's quirk put in as her name. 'Tail Man ', 'Sugar Man' and 'Invisible Girl' were straightforward and to the point.

"King Explosion Murder!" Just three words strung together. Bakugo was shot down by Midnight in seconds.

"Shoto." Todoroki followed the same line of thought as Ben. Midnight let it pass as well, if only because Shoto absolutely refused to change it.

"Red Riot!" A name that took inspiration from a hero of old, Crimson Riot. That was certainly heartwarming, learning where Kirishima's ideology originated from.

'Tsukuyomi', another name that held personal meaning, and something that Tokoyami looked particularly pleased by. Koda's name, 'Anima', held similar meaning. 'Tentacole' and 'Cellophane' were representative of the physical aspects of Shoji's and Sero's quirks. Ashido followed a similar line of thought, changing her name to 'Pinky' based on her skin tone. 'Chargebolt' was Kaminari's, being quite self explanatory.

"Tenya." Ida's weak voice stated, with no reasoning or joy.

"I see." Midnight was treading carefully. Everyone, teachers and students, were aware of what the boy was going through. "Like with Tennyson and Todoroki, these names are something that can change. For now, it will do. But, don't be afraid to talk to me if you have a change of heart, ok?"

"Of course." Ida walked back to his desk with his head down.

"Let's finish up with Midoriya!"

Midoriya strode up, and flipped his whiteboard over. He stood tall and unwavering. His gaze seemed to linger on Bakugo for a bit longer than necessary.

"Deku!" Well, that's why.

'Turning his insulting nickname into a hero name? I guess if that's what floats his boat.' Ben thought as Midoirya sat down and Bakugo was ushered up. Unlike Ashido, Bakugo's second try wasn't any better. 'Baron of Explodo-kills' didn't exactly inspire positive feelings. The blonde was instructed to meet with Midnight at lunch to discuss different options.

The bell rang and Aizawa was dragged out by a happy Midnight. An equally jovial Present Mic danced his way in, only stopping to exchange a few words with Midnight.

"Alright listeners, I know you're preparing for your internships in homeroom and hero informatics, but that doesn't mean school stops! I'm giving here to tell y'all that there's a quiz coming up, at the end of the week! And at the end of the month, are the final exams! Crack open those books, time to learn!"

And back to the mundane reality of high school.


"So much for focusing on the internships next week. With something so important coming up, you'd think they would lighten the workload, but no! Quizzes this week, homework out the wazoo and final exams coming up!" Ben grumbled, flipping through a myriad of papers and books strewn across the lunch table.

A gallery of grunts, affirmations and groans responded.

Present Mic was not the only teacher to unload a veritable truckload of work on the students. Every class, from math to science to literature, started adding work to an ever growing pile that more resembled a mountain at this point. Quizzes and assessments were scheduled at the end of the week, giving precious little breathing room. Then, the coup de grâce, an announcement of scheduled final exams of all academic subjects at the end of the month.

The Sports Festival may have been a national event, but UA didn't let that stop their predetermined academic schedule. The hero course may have had a hectic past few months of training and internship just across the horizon, but every other department didn't. All four departments were expected to follow the same schedule, and that meant crunch time. Due to the internships next week, the heroics students would be losing a week of studying, and would not be given compensation. It was expected that they would take it upon themselves to be prepared for the finals, which is why the cafeteria was the way it currently was.

Ben's table was covered in worksheets, notes and textbooks, with the occasional lunch tray scattered in every so often. Other tables were the same, with even class B following suit. Support course students weren't tinkering with their devices. Business students were nose-deep into textbooks. Even the general education students were a bit frazzled. It was finals month, and everyone was being affected. Hero students most of all, as they knew they were on a tighter schedule.

"It is just what is expected of us, Ben. " Shoji chided Ben. He then folded his book and picked up his utensils with a sigh. "I think we should stop for now. We don't have that much time left, and we need to eat."

The large student sat next to Ben, multiple hero history textbooks in his many arms. Ben was at least adequate in most subjects, but struggled the most with Japanese hero history, considering that he wasn't a native. He knew American hero history, but that helped little. Ben took solace in the fact that he wasn't the only person asking for help.

At the table were two other pairs of students. Asui was guiding Ashido through the latest math lesson, which was definitely going to be on the quiz and final. Ojiro was tutoring Tokoyami in science, who was struggling with the chemistry chapter they had just finished.

But at Shoji's sigh, they too began putting down their study material in favor of food and drink.

"We have the rest of the week to study and prepare, ribbit, no need to stress out now." Asui agreed. "Burnout is definitely something we need to avoid."

"You can say that because you have good grades. Some of us are in dire need of a boost!" Ashido grumbled as she jabbed her chopsticks down into a bowl.

"Indeed." Tokoyami eyed his chemistry notes with disdain as he neatly packed them up into a folder.

A few silent minutes passed as the hero students ate their fill.

Then, Ojiro spoke. "So, if you don't mind me asking Ben..."

"Shoot." Ben scooped up the last of his beef bowl.

"Are you really ok? Nothing happened this morning?"

Ben wanted to snap that it wasn't his business. He swiveled his head to glare at the blonde, but the sight of him gave Ben pause. Ojiro was on the same side of the table as Ben, which meant when Ben turned to look at him, his tail was in clear view. Ben looked around. Shoji, Tokoyami, Asui and Ashido. If there were any who would know anything about what Ben was feeling, it would be these guys.

"Well," Ben began. "There were a bunch of people that talked to me on the way to school this morning."

"Same as most of us!" Ashido joined in.

"Yeah, I guess. Now, don't get me wrong, most of them were nice! Like, the majority. I guess it's stupid of me to get all worked up about this, but I mean, it's just that-." Ben let his shoulders sag, his mind all cluttered. He worked through the fog, finally arriving at one all-encompassing question.

"How do you guys deal with it?"

At that moment, everyone's eyes lit up. They understood.

"Ah, you got those looks, didn't you?" Ojiro gently asked.

"Where those around you judge you based on factors out of your control, and ostracize you as a result?" Tokoyami nodded.

"I guess. There were a few people that treated me like a bomb. Giving me looks, moving away, avoiding me at all costs." Ben recounted.

"And these looks only just started now? What about your life back in the States?" Ashido asked.

"Well I was kinda a late bloomer. Not as late as Midoriya, but later than usual." Ben fibbed quickly. Considering the Omnitrix entered his life at 10, it wasn't a complete lie. "But I didn't have a lot of friends in school either. Didn't need a weird quirk or quirklessness to be alone."

"So those looks are new to you. It's understandable that they are affecting you so much. When you grow up with them, you eventually grow desensitized." Shoji said.

"Oh." Now Ben felt guilty. A truckload of redhot guilt straight to the throat. Here he was, down in the dumps about a few looks in one morning walk. Compare that to his classmates who spend all their lives with those looks thrown their way. "Sorry, I didn't mean-"

"Nothing to apologize for. It's not like we'd wish these things on people, ribbit. It's actually nice to have someone without an obvious quirk mutation noticing and paying attention." Asui stated, as blunt as ever.

"But as for how we dealt with it?" Ashido rested her chin on his folded arms. "I worked hard to always be approachable and likable. Like, just be my normal self. I hoped that if I was outgoing enough, people could overlook my pink skin and horns in favor of my personality."

"I never had much time for socialization. Most of my life up until now was caring for my little siblings after school due to my parents being on business trips so often. I would just leave school as soon as the last bell rang. People did talk about me behind my back. It was hard to not notice the looks, stares and fingers. I simply didn't have it in me to care about what people thought about me. I had a few friends, but they were similar to me; physical mutations due to animal quirks." Asui said.

"I, like most of us here, was born with my mutation: my avian head. Dark Shadow manifested early on as well." Tokoyami shuffled uncomfortably, obviously unhappy with his memories. "The other children were scared of me. My dark plumage and sentient quirk made sure any who could overcome their prejudices got scared off. I spent my days with Dark Shadow, but his company proved quite enjoyable."

Shoji spoke next. "I spent my early years alone as well. I was large for my age, and couldn't exactly hide my quirk. I tried to stay strong, but there was an incident one day where I accidently made a little girl cry. Since that day, I've tried to stay in the background and wear a mask."

"Geez Shoji, I'm sorry about that." Ben felt another stab of guilt.

"You didn't cause the incident to happen, so you are not at fault." Shoji didn't let any emotion cloud his voice. "But I will admit that the looks have not gotten easier to bear. I just have been more able to ignore them. There are some days though, that they do get to me."

"Well, I'm probably the most well off here, including even you, Ben." Ojiro tried to bring the mood back up. "If you approach me from the front, my tail is hardly noticeable. Even when people see it, I'm hardly the type of guy that stands out in a crowd. But, even I got some looks once in a while. They happened when I was younger and my tail just went through a growth spurt. I'd knock stuff over."

"Sounds rough." Ben looked at them each in turn. "Thanks for sharing. But, back to what I asked originally, how do you guys deal with it?"

"I can't speak for everyone here." Asui croaked. "But the way I deal with it is doing what I'm doing now. By becoming a hero, someone that does the right thing. Lead by example, not just words. Be the change you want to see in the world. If I want people to respect me and those who have similar mutation quirks like me, then I'll prove it through my actions and life choices. It's already started to work. People approached me this morning, and even complimented my frog quirk, something that really hasn't happened before."

The rest of the table voiced their agreement and nodded their heads.

"There were others in my district who isolated themselves due to their quirks, like me. No one should go through that. I'm here to show everyone that looks don't amount to character. I guess I'm dealing with it by taking on the problem head-on." Shoji stated.

"As will I. No child should be forced to hide themselves away, ashamed of who they are." Tokoyami agreed. "I will become a hero without trying to change myself to suit what people want of me. To inspire those that have felt downtrodden all their lives."

"Exactly!" Ashido exclaimed, rising up. "People with obvious transformation or mutation quirks feel so awful, they hide themselves away. We need more heroes that can show them that there are people just like them! We can't get rid of all the bias and discrimination, but we can show that we are just as willing to fight for people's safety as anyone else."

"I too want to lead by example. I will do my duty as a hero to save and rescue people, regardless of physical altering quirks or not. I want to show that you don't need a standout quirk to be a hero. Use the gifts that you have." Ojiro smiled at Ben.

"Will that be enough? Working for the future, thinking years ahead? I scared people last week! I feel like I need to do something now!" Ben groaned.

"You won't get that far so early, Ben. It wouldn't matter when you made your first debut, some people would find your abilities terrifying. Power like yours scares people. Nothing you can do about that right now.. The best you can do in the present is probably just proving to people that they can trust you." Shoji advised.

"But what more can I do?"

"We have the internships coming up, right? That's where we will get some real exposure. We just gotta remember what Midnight told us and work towards becoming the kind of hero we want to be." Ashido perked up as the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch period.

'What kind of hero do you want to be?'

Those words echoed through Ben's head through the rest of lunch. Through the rest of his classes. He wanted to be a hero that did good. A broad, unfocused concept, but it was the best Ben could come up with. A hero like his grandpa, who saved people across the entire galaxy. Didn't he prove that at the Forever Knight Base? But the human world didn't know that.

How could he prove he could be trusted? He couldn't be doing more than he was already. He wasn't cursing up a storm and blowing people up like Bakugo. But people still wanted Bakugo, evident from his mountain of nominations. Was there something Bakugo was doing that Ben wasn't?

Thoughts swirled in Ben's head as he left the cafeteria for science. He robotically took notes throughout the lecture, still deep in thought. As class ended, Ben chose not to partake in the lively discussion about internship choices and left in a hurry.. It was class 1-B's turn for heroics, so Ben knew it was time for conditioning with Aizawa. Maybe his sensei could shed some light on this topic. Thankfully it stopped raining.

Unfortunately, it was still very wet outside, and humid. Now in his UA sports clothes, Ben walked through the field, his shoes squelching as they slapped the wet pavement. At least the track was made of a special material that was water resistant. For the most part.

Upon reaching his destination, Ben noticed something very odd. Aizawa was not there. For any other teacher, it may have just been a scheduling error or a slip of the mind, but this was Aizawa. The teacher was never a second early or late. He made it a point to drive it into his class's mind that timing was important. There was no reason for him to be late.

Squelch Squelch

The noise of more shoes approaching made Ben turn his head. But it wasn't Aizawa-sensei staring back at him. It wasn't even a teacher.

"Hey?" It didn't take Ben long to identify the student. Purple hair, skinny build and large bags under his eyes.

It was Shinsou, the only general education student to make it into the 3rd event of the Sports Festival. Also the one who publicly confronted class 1-A in the weeks leading up to the event.

"Hey." Ben eyed the boy as he responded. He was also in UA sweats.

Both boys were dismissed from class, yet ended up at the same place. It didn't take a genius to deduce why Shinsou was here.

"Uhh, so is Aizawa-sensei here yet?" Ben asked, hoping Shinsou was the reason the teacher was late.

"He said he had something to attend to. He told me to give this-" Shinsou reached into his pocket and brought out a folded note. "-to the student he was also personally training. He also told me to follow the instructions of whoever was here first. I guess that's you?"

Ben took the offered note and opened it. The penmanship was obviously his teacher's.

Lead Shinsou through a cardio warmup and a core workout. Do not cut any corners or give him any slack.

'I'm watching you.' Ben mentally added as he refolded the note. The last part wasn't written, but it was very much implied.

Was this a test? For Shinsou, to see if he was worth Aizawa's time? Maybe it was for Ben, after all this was the exact workout that he made Ben go through on the first day. Perhaps it was to see if Ben was paying enough attention to the workouts? So that Ben could replicate them without Aizawa himself present?

Well, Aizawa-sensei was definitely watching from somewhere, and Ben wasn't going to delay any longer. Whatever plan his teacher had in store, he'd roll with it.

"So, you're being trained by Aizawa-sensei too? Asked him for help after the Festival?" Ben tried to strike up conversation as he put his phone on a bench after wiping it down with a towel.

"Actually, he approached me." Pride seeped into Shinsou's voice as he went through basic stretches with Ben on the edge of the track. "Told me that if I wanted to join the hero course one day, I had some catching up to do."

The stretching finished up all too soon. Ben turned to his fellow student with a serious expression. "Well then, I hope you're ready for hell."

An eyebrow was raised in response. "How hard can an afterschool workout be?"

It only took the warmup for him to eat those words.

"Come on dude!" Ben managed to choke out through his gasps for air. He staggered to the side, giving Shinsou room to finish. "Almost done!"

"You... said that... three laps... ago!" Shinsou threw his body across the 50 meter mark on the straightaway, barely catching himself before falling over.

"Alright! We are done with the track." Ben jogged over to the bench and laid himself down onto the synthetic grass. "Now, onto the next part!"

"Grrr!" Shinsou growled in pain as he stumbled over his own legs, his own limbs not responding to his commands.

Ben was no stranger to the pain Shinsou was in. Just a few months ago, it was Ben who was in that position. Seeing someone else struggle to even walk straight was strangely cathartic in a way. Ben was never weak, but he never hit the gym or took sports super seriously. He felt a strange sort of bond with Shinsou, as it really wasn't hard to see the older boy wasn't much of a body builder either.

Shinsou's body was lanky, tall and thin. There wasn't a lot of fat on him, but there wasn't much muscle either. He started the cardio strong, keeping up with Ben, staying behind him to be guided through the workout. Then, he hit a wall, a wall that he never encountered before and didn't know how to overcome. His legs refused to move, breathing was hard and he couldn't keep his body still or straight. It didn't help that the heavy morning rain made the air hot and muggy. It was only thirty minutes in, and both boy's clothes were drenched in sweat and clinging uncomfortably to their bodies.

"You know how to do leg lifts?" Ben asked.

"Yes!" Shinsou hissed with a shocking amount of vitriol. Ben prayed that it was directed at the workout and not him.

"Alright, lift and... hold!"

Ben felt the familiar tension through his body. It wasn't pleasant by any means, but it was something that he had grown used to, and therefore was able to bear. His phone beeped, signaling the time for a thirty second break. The moment those seconds were up, Ben had restarted the timer and resumed the exercise. It was all just routine at this point.

For Shinsou, on the other hand, it was the last straw. Halfway through the leg lifts, his legs hit the ground prematurely.

"Huh?" Ben tilted his head to see Shinsou struggling back up. "Hey!"

Shinsou stood up and started limping away.

Ben paused the timer and jogged to catch up to him. "What are you doing? You need to use the bathroom? If so, that's the wrong way."

"I'm done." Shinsou's voice was quiet, but was as solid as steel.

Ben hesitated. "Uhh, what?"

"I said I'm done with this stupid shit!" Shinsou didn't even bother to stop, turn around, or even look at Ben. He just kept limping forward, throwing his hands in the air. "What good is this doing for me?"

"It's exercise! Everyone benefits!" Ben didn't know how to handle this, so he just stuck with trying to get Shinsou to stay. "Didn't you say that Aizawa-sensei sent you here?"

"To do what? Running laps? Leg lifts?" Shinsou seethed in anger, his hands balling up into fists. "Any gym rat with half a brain can exercise! I'm not trying to work out, I'm trying to get into the hero course! How can I make up for the months of training you privileged kids got through exercise?"

"Hey, come on!" Ben frowned at the sight of Shinsou regressing. The boy was no longer the excited and proud student trying to break into the hero course. He was now back to the bitter and jealous person that threw shade at the hero course months ago.

"At least finish what we started!"

"Fat lot of good that'll do me. I'll talk to the teachers about this mixup tomorrow. But right now, I'm heading home."

Shinsou set his shoulders and strode away from the field. Ben reached out a hand, opening his mouth. He thought of something, anything, to say.

But someone else beat him to it.

"So this is the limit of your resolve."

The two boys stood up straight at the sound of a teacher. Turning to the location of the voice, they saw Aizawa, hunched over, dressed in his gray sweats and lower head and neck covered by his scarf weapon. His eyes were not focused on Ben, but rather at Shinsou. And those eyes burned with disappointment.

It was a similar look that Grandpa Max had after Ben's Sumo Slammers debacle back in New York. So, Ben chose to step back and be quiet.

"Couldn't even make it through the first day." Aizawa pushed himself from the side of the shed he was leaning on and slunk his way towards Shinsou. "I didn't have high expectations for you, but you still surprised me with your eagerness to quit."

"Wha- you were the one who approached me!" Shinsou quickly recovered from his shock and started defending himself. "I was told to meet you in the teacher's lounge, during lunch period! You told me I had a shot at joining the hero course next year and then you gave me that slip of paper, telling me that this was my ticket in!"

"If you remembered that this was your ticket in, why are you so willing to throw it away?"

"Because this is a mistake! Or some sort of joke!" Shinsou forced himself to breathe, staring back into Aizawa's emotionless eyes. "How can I catch up with just exercise? Any schmuck with a gym membership can work out! The hero students have months of real training to lean on, and I have nothing!"

"Is that what you think?" Aizawa lazily slouched back. The lack of a response only riled up Shinsou further.

"Yes!" The student all but shouted. "How can I ever hope to enter the hero course if I stay at my current level? I need to catch up, but all you're having me do is advancing at the same rate as I was before! Can't you see that this isn't working!"

"Watch your tongue." If Shinsou's voice was steel, then Aizawa's voice was the hammer that bent the steel with a single blow. "I am a teacher, and you will show me respect. Otherwise I can rescind everything I told you today and you'll never have a shot at the hero course again."

Shinsou's shoulders heaved and his eyes held frustration, but he shut up.

"Let's address all of your concerns, Shinsou Hitoshi." From behind his back, Aizawa produced a small folder. Ben couldn't make out any words, but he could see the first page was sticking out a bit, and had a picture of Shinsou in the top right corner.

"Name: Shinsou Hitoshi. Quirk: Brainwashing. Height: 177 cm." Aizawa began rattling off Shinsou's basic health information, then lifted an eyebrow. "Do I have the right student?"

"Yes?" Shinsou responded, puzzled as to where this was going.

"Graduated from Nabu Middle School. Currently enrolled in UA High School's general education department, but seeks to transfer to the hero course. Am I correct?"

"Are those my health records?" Shinsou connected the dots.

"Yes, as well as your academic records from middle school and the few months you've spent at UA." Aizawa closed the folder with a snap. He strode over to the bench and set the folder down.

"Tell me, Shinsou, why do you think you deserve to enter the hero course?"

"Why?" Shinsou gave a sad, sarcastic laugh. "Because if the practical exam at the beginning of the year was anything but robots, I'd have made it in! But, because all anyone cares about these days is flashiness and marketability, people like me get shoved to the side! I've been treated like a villain for years, for no good reason other than my quirk, and I'm sick of it!"

"Sounds like your past has a big part in your drive to enter the hero course." Aizawa noted as he crossed his arms.

"All because people think my quirk is villainous." Shinsou fumed. "I'm going to show them just how wrong they are! That even with a 'villainous' quirk like mine, I can make it in the hero course! That I can beat all those kids with flashy and loud quirks and stand on top!"

"I see." Aizawa paused, waiting for Shinsou to simmer down. When Shinsou had a better grip on himself, he resumed. "It sounds like you have plenty of drive to push yourself into the hero course."

"Of course I do!" Shinsou perked up, hoping that this was finally going in his direction.

"So why don't we have any proof of that drive?"

"Wa?" Shinsou just stared at the teacher, who sighed again.

"You may talk big, but the real truth is in the details. In your files." Aizawa jabbed a thumb at the folder on the bench. "And they show that you don't have nearly as much drive as you claim you do."

Shinsou stepped back as if hit by a real blow.

"Your academic standing in your current class is middling. While far from failing, you are just as far from the top. As a gen ed student, the only things taking away from your time would be clubs or other extracurricular activities hosted after school. Of which you have joined none. The hero course demands much more of its students. You would have much less time, and have a lot more to worry about. From an academic viewpoint, having you enter the hero course would be very risky."

"Now your health and fitness level is where UA has a much bigger issue with you joining the hero course. Your fitness test results indicate that you are unhealthy. You weigh less than a boy of your age and height should, scored low on strength and endurance tests and have not done much school-sanctioned physical activities like sports. If you were to compare you to the hero course, you'd be in the bottom five across both classes. You wouldn't be last in every test, but not being last isn't a good goal."

"That's not fair!" Shinsou vehemently protested. "The hero course students have flashier quirks that are more applicable to physical tests!"

"When did I say that these tests included quirk use?" Aizawa drawled, seemingly oblivious to Shinsou's rising temper. "If you recall, I said that the results in your file included not just your first and only fitness test at UA, but also from your middle school. I'm comparing your middle school results to those in the hero course that were also from Japan. Now, if we were to talk about including quirk use, you'd go from bottom five to bottom three."

Shinsou's face paled.

"And that is the problem. From everything I've heard, you have plenty of grievances against pretty much everyone, Shinsou Hitoshi." Aizawa began counting off his fingers. "You blame your schoolmates for calling your quirk villainous. You blame UA for using a test that favors flashy quirks over practical ones. You blame me for making you exercise instead of another form of training. The list goes on."

"Those are all reasonable and logical reasons for a teenager to use as a source of drive. I have not forgotten that you are a teenager. I've seen dozens of students like you, who use negative emotions as their primary drive to improve. However, it does not justify the fact that you have done nothing with that drive." Aizawa's voice lost its calm visage and took on a tone as cold as ice.

Shinsou tried to speak, but no words came out. His tongue tried to wet his dry lips, his throat pulsed, but all he could do was stare.

"In all the reports about you, from academic to extracurricular, they only share one thing in common. Do you know what that is?" Aizawa crossed his arms. "'He does the bare minimum.' You get good enough grades to pass. You exercise just enough to maintain your body. You never try anything new or push yourself. Everyday in middle school, you'd arrive, go through school, and leave."

"Do you know what everyone in the hero course has in common? Everyone, from those blessed with powerful quirks like Bakugo and Shiozaki, to the recommended students like Todoroki and Tokage? The ones whose quirks were of comparatively little use during the entrance exam, like Hagakure and Komori? Do you know what they all did?"

"They did something to help achieve their dreams of entering the hero course. From training everyday at a gym or dojo, studying to achieve top grades, or accomplishing something based on their own merit that impressed a hero so much they gave them a recommendation ticket. Every single one of the kids in the hero course has proven themselves worthy in one way or another. All of it out of their own volition. No one told them to do it. There was no punishment for failure, nor a supervisor to tell them what to do and when. It was all self-driven, all for their dream."

"And this stretches to the three international students as well. Tennyson, Tsunotori and Rin all are attending a school that not only communicates in a foreign language, but they are also tested on it as an academic subject. They are all at an inherent disadvantage, yet they persevered."

"Don't think that I forgot your performance at the Sport's Festival. Your only battle in the third event exposed your lack of drive. The moment your quirk was negated, you lost. Despite your proclamation against my hero class, despite all you've said about your drive to get into the hero course, you didn't even bother to train for the single event that had the potential to get you into the hero course. And you still have the gall to claim that physical fitness won't help you improve."

Aizawa walked forward until he was directly in front of Shinsou. The teacher's cold eyes met the student's apprehensive ones.

"So tell me, Shinsou Hitoshi, what have you done to earn a place in the hero course?"

"I've... well..." Shinsou trailed off.

"Are you aware that being a hero isn't about personal grudges? Becoming a hero isn't about satisfying personal, selfish desires. It's about putting yourself in danger so others do not have to. Apprehending dangerous individuals so that people can live their lives without constantly looking over their shoulder. The hero course is not for the faint of heart, that is why we have the entrance exam the way it is. If you can't face down a large robot, how will you face down a true villain? One who has killed and will kill again unless you stop them?"

"Shinsou Hitoshi, are you trying to be a hero because you truly want to help people? Or are you just trying to spite those who said you couldn't make it?"

Shinsou looked away.

"Tch." Aizawa turned his back to the student. "I offered you this chance because I saw a piece of myself in you. But, if your resolve is so weak and your drive is so shallow, then we are done."

The teacher walked away for a few steps before pausing one last time. "Tomorrow I'll be waiting here, same time. Show up if you are willing to work, or don't if you aren't. Think about your decision carefully. I don't tolerate those who waste my time."

With those scathing words, Aizawa strode off into the main building, the heavy doors slamming shut behind him.

Ben slowly approached Shinsou, who wasn't taking that shakedown very well. He was on his knees, his back hunched and his arms weak. His wispy purple hair shadowed over his face, blocking sight of his eyes and mouth. Even when Ben stepped purposefully hard to tell Shinsou he was there, the boy didn't even twitch.

"Hey?" Ben tentatively reached a hand out to place on the purple-haired boy's shoulder. "Umm, you alright?"

Shinsou slowly turned to Ben. His eyes were clogged with unshed tears, his lips pulled back to expose grit teeth and his cheeks were twitching in frustration. Ben winced. He was obviously not ok.

Ben wondered if he should try to comfort his fellow student. Wouldn't hurt to try, right?

"Don't take Aizawa-sensei's words too hard. I mean, he says those kinds of things to us in the hero course all the time! Constantly criticizing our battle performances, making us correct our mistakes and fix our bad habits, you know how it goes right?" Ben laughed nervously, but soon noticed that Shinsou wasn't saying or doing anything back.

"...but he's right." Shinsou's voice was so soft that Ben almost didn't catch it.

"Everything he said... it was all true." Shinsou repeated, louder this time. "I wanted to scream at him, that he was over exaggerating, that he was missing the bigger picture in favor of what he wanted to see. But I couldn't. 'Cause deep down, I knew he was right."

Shinsou fell on his hands, his fingers digging deep into the synthetic grass. "All these months, no, years! I've just been sitting on my ass, complaining and running my mouth when I should have been doing something! Anything! Literally anything that could have increased my chance at making it in! Instead of whining about how unfair the world is, I could have just buckled down and got to work! But I got lazy and wanted the world to change, instead of changing myself!"

"Dammit!" Shinsou leaned back on his thighs and screamed! There he remained, his chest heaving with exhaustion and emotion.

"You, you good?" Ben stammered, not sure if he was interrupting an important personal monologue.

"A little." Shinsou sighed. He then gave a hollow laugh and turned to Ben. "You know, it's funny. When I researched your class's quirks, I got so angry. How could an invisible girl make it in? The UA robots use things like heat-based detection so she wouldn't be able to fool them. Or the boy with a quirk that let him talk to animals. At the entrance exam and the Sports Festival, there was so much noise that the only animals left were bugs. They were just like me, with quirks that weren't suited for the exams given. But they made it. I didn't. Guess they actually trained to get in, instead of complaining like me."

"Well, we can change that, can't we?" Ben gestured with his head back at the bench. "Aizawa-sensei said that you need to give an answer tomorrow, but you can start training now. How about it? Want to finish the workout?"

"No time to get started like the present, right?" Shinsou chuckled as he pushed himself up and started walking with Ben.

"Oh. And, uh." Shinsou scratched the back of his head, a sheepish expression on his face. "Thanks. For, you know, listening to my rant. It felt good to get some of that off my chest."

"Don't worry about it." Ben waved him off. Then, he pondered. "I know we aren't friends or anything, too fast for that leap, but maybe we could not be enemies?"


"Look, we're gonna be doing this together for a while, if not for the rest of the year. Aizawa-sensei never gave me a set date when I'm done with these after school exercises, and you're probably gonna be training all the way until next year." Ben explained as he sat back down. "I'd rather be on friendly terms if we are gonna be seeing each other this often."

"Work out buddies, huh? Guess I could do that. I think a workout buddy would make this transition a little easier." Shinsou shot a small smile in Ben's direction as he flopped down as well.

"Yay." Ben cheered weakly, preparing himself for the torture to come.

"Oh, that reminds me." Shinsou sat up suddenly. "I'm curious, but never got a chance to ask. Why is Aizawa-sensei training you? I'd think that after winning the Sports Festival and getting a score similar to All Might's at the entrance exam would exempt you from this sort of thing."

"Oh, well." Ben rubbed his neck and looked away. "I did something stupid at the USJ. Really stupid. So, this is my punishment."

"Harsh." Shinsou noted. Then he set his jaw and prepared himself. "Enough stalling! Let's finish this so we can be home in time for dinner!"

"Alright, leg lifts for a minute! Ready... go!"

1 1/2 hours later-


With one final grunt, Shinsou curled his body up, keeping his back as straight as he could. He pulled himself up, before slowly lowering himself back down. With the final rep of the final exercise done, the workout was completed.

"Yes!" "Ha!"

Ben and Shinsou finally relaxed, sprawling on the ground with their arms and legs outstretched. Their chests heaved as they greedily sucked in air and let their sore muscles rest.

"That! Was one of the hardest things I've ever done." Shinsou groaned as he massaged his stomach. A smile danced on his lips, even through the pain. "But, there's this sense of satisfaction too. I've never gone to the gym before. Is this the feeling that those people work towards everyday?"

"You'll change your tune when you start doing this everyday." Ben grumbled as he stood up on shaky legs.

"You're probably right. But if this is what gets me into the hero course, I'll get through it. I'll take every and any workout Aizawa-sensei throws at me!" Shinsou vowed, his eyes shining with renewed resolve.

"That's the spirit." Ben headed back to the locker room to change out. In his post-workout haze, it wasn't until Ben grabbed his backpack that he noticed Shinsou wasn't with him.

Leaving the locker room, Ben found Shinsou still on his back, on the grass. "Hey, didn't you say you wanted to go home after this? Come on, let's get out of here."

"About that." Shinsou tried to push himself up, only for a sharp hiss to escape his lips. "I don't think I can get up."

"Oh shit!" Ben dropped his backpack and kneeled by Shinsou's side. "Dull, throbbing aches or sharp, hot pain?"

"Actually, I don't really feel much at all." Shinsou's face screwed up as he wrestled with his unresponsive body.

Ben made a quick judgment call. "Then I'll get you to the infirmary. Hopefully Recovery Girl can fix this."

Ignoring his own aches and pains, Ben flung Shinsou's arm over his shoulders and hoisted him up as best he could. It was an awkward sight, as Shinsou was quite a bit taller than Ben, which made supporting him difficult. But there was no one there to criticize them, so Ben began the shuffle towards the main building.

As a hero student, Ben had the unfortunate knowledge of the route to the infirmary memorized, as did many of his classmates, usually due to Bakugo's explosions. But injuries are expected if not guaranteed in UA's hero course. While it took a decent amount of time, Ben soon found himself outside the infamous double set doors.

Ben reached out with his free arm and pushed the doors open. "Hello? Anyone still here?"

"Right here, dear!" Recovery Girl put down a book she was reading and hopped off her stool.

"Oh, thank god you're still here!" Ben dragged Shinsou into the room. "Shinsou here needs help!"

"Ah, Aizawa's personal test subjects. It was only a matter of time." The elderly healer said sagely as she tapped her cane against one of the beds. "Set him down here please."

Shinsou grimaced as he rolled onto the bed, the pains starting to turn into cramps. "Alright, I feel it now Ben, and I do not like it. Feels like my limbs have turned to jell-o!"

"That's what you get for pushing yourself too hard!" Recovery Girl snapped as she grabbed various items across her workstation. "I swear, every year, it's always the same thing! You can't just decide to start training one day and miraculously become strong! It's a process, over a long period of time!"

"Every year?" Ben focused on a specific part of her rant.

"You think you two are the first students Aizawa has pulled aside for extra training? You aren't the first, and definitely not the last." Recovery Girl shooed Ben out of the infirmary. "Now, be a good friend and grab this boy's school bags while I do my thing."

With the doors shut in his face, Ben had little choice to grab the only remaining bag in the locker room. On the way back, Ben noticed a decent amount of traffic in the building. Teachers, third-years from every course and other faculty still roamed UA's halls.

Ben pushed the doors back open to Shinsou receiving a second lecture.

"You haven't done any serious exercise until now, so that's why you feel so awful! Take this pamphlet, it has a list of sites you can visit to help ease you into more serious workouts. Watch the videos carefully, and ask for help the moment things start to hurt again. Make sure to warm up before each of your sessions with Aizawa, and stretch when you get home. The man will put you through all sorts of torture on a weekly basis, so you can't neglect taking care of your body. If you push yourself without stopping to take care of yourself, you'll break."

"I understand, ma'am." Shinsou nodded.

"I hope you do. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in tremendous pain that my quirk will not be able to help with. You won't be able to move, much less go to school and train. Let's go through some of those cooldown stretches now, so that you'll know how to do them and what you should be feeling in each muscle."

"Sounds good." Shinsou gingerly put weight on his feet as he stood up from the bed. It was then he caught sight of Ben with his bag. "Thanks for that."

"Sure thing." Ben set the bag down by the door. "I'm going to head out for now. Take care!"

"Later-urk!" Ben closed the doors to the sound of Recovery Girl smacking her cane against Shinsou's leg.

Ben walked through the halls of UA, eyes drifting towards the ceiling. It was a long day, with an emotional beginning and an exhausting end. The thoughts of what happened in the morning flooded back. Would people react the same way? Would there be a few people who saw Ben's powers as something to fear?

Ben bit his lip in frustration. He was starting to miss the wild days of the fateful summer vacation. Sure he was technically a criminal, and had to avoid arrest in every state, but there was just so much more freedom. He didn't have to worry about public opinion, didn't have to deal with publicity, and he certainly didn't have to think about what other people thought of him.

Ben was so lost in thought, that he failed to hear footsteps from around the corner he was about to turn. Spinning on his heel, Ben turned, muttering to himself all the while, unaware of the person walking in front of him.


It was like hitting a brick wall! Ben was sent tumbling back, his backpack weighing him down. Landing hard on his butt, Ben rubbed his forehead, throbbing from the impact. Papers were fluttering all around him, a consequence of his carelessness. Already pushing himself up, only a foot away, was a figure Ben hadn't seen since the first week of school.

It was Hound Dog, the canine hero who served as UA's counselor.

Ben immediately snapped to attention.

"S-sorry about that Hound Dog-sensei! Here, let me!" Ben started scrambling across the floor, wildly grasping with sweaty hands, trying to correct his mistake.

Hound Dog just chuckled. "It's alright, Tennyson. No harm done."

"Oh. Good." Ben relaxed a bit, but didn't stop collecting the papers strewn across the ground. In just a little bit, Ben had the papers messily stacked and handed them over.

"Thank you, Tennyson. I must say though, I didn't think I would catch anyone off guard. I wasn't trying to be quiet or anything. Anything on your mind?"

Ben opened his mouth, but hesitated. This was a stupid problem, a small one that really shouldn't be eating at him as it was. No need to bother someone who probably had enough on their plate. "Nah, it's nothing sensei. Just-."

Hound Dog's rumbling laughter interrupted Ben. The young American watched in confusion as the teacher accepted the offered stack of papers, shaking his head in amusement.

"Ah, Tennyson. I understand this is a harmless lie, but try not to get into the habit of lying to others."

"W-what?" Ben sputtered.

Hound Dog tapped his nose. "I've been around kids longer than you've been alive. I got a knack for identifying kids with underlying issues, no matter how big or small they may seem. Just one reason I inherited the UA counselor position."

"Darn." Ben rubbed the back of his neck. Where to go from here?

Hound Dog answered that question for him. "If you're not too busy Tennyson, why don't you come with me? It would be easier to carry all these papers with two people anyways."

With no good reason to refuse a teacher, Ben shrugged and took half of the stack. Hound Dog didn't press any further, choosing to talk to the student about his training with Aizawa. Similarity to Recovery Girl, an additional staff member would be present to assist in any emergencies that could happen during the extra lesson. It just so happened that today, it was Hound Dog.

"And here we are!" Hound Dog lifted the stack so he could hook a claw around the door handle and pushed down and back. The heavy metal door, with 'Counselor' spelled in fancy golden characters, opened to a very strange room, unlike any Ben had seen at UA yet.

It was half the size of a classroom, but much more posh. Soft carpet beneath their feet, a large window behind an equally large desk on the opposite side of the room. Two big armchairs sat in front of the desk, obviously for students in need of Hound Dog's services. To the right was an assortment of items and furniture. A table held pamphlets and books. A water cooler and a dispenser stood beside it. Tissues, paper towels, squeeze balls, fidget toys and more adorned the other stools and baskets. The left side was much more well kept, being dedicated to important certificates and large portraits of various men and women. At the corner of the left wall and the back wall, was a glass structure holding trophies and other similar awards.

Dropping the papers off of Hound Dog's desk, where the hero in question quickly began organizing them, Ben wandered to the left side, looking at the portraits. They appeared to be for certain UA alumni who went above and beyond, the shining jewels of the school. A young All Might was there, and what Ben assumed to be a young Endeavor. There was a slender blond man whose clothes covered up his long neck that Ben swore was on some fashion magazines that he sometimes saw when walking to school. Ben could only recognize three of the dozens of portraits on the wall.

"I'm sure this wall must be confusing to you." Ben turned his head to see Hound Dog standing beside him, arms crossed behind his back. "These are mostly Japanese heroes, with All Might being the exception. To make it onto this wall, a UA alumni must do something truly spectacular. Whether it be All Might becoming the greatest hero in the world, or Endeavor solving the most villain cases in history, even in All Might's era, every single person on this wall graced our halls in the past and then did something amazing."

"Could an American transfer student make it onto here?" Ben murmured, mostly to himself, but Hound Dog's sharp sense caught it.

"Of course. It's only because UA is located in Japan that Japanese heroes are the most common on this wall. We have Persian, Russian, Brazilian, African..." With each nationality announced, Hound Dog pointed to a portrait in turn, having memorized the wall long ago. Ben followed his finger, taking note of all the hero's confident smiles and firm posture. It looked like none of them had any doubts in their lives. Or had anyone doubt them in the way a few people were doubting Ben.

"You have that look again. The look you had when you ran into me." Hound Dog glanced over at Ben. "I am your school counselor Ben; I am here to help. You can talk to me. No matter how trivial the matter is, I will always be there to help a student with their problems."

"Well..." Ben sat down on one of the large blue armchairs, as Hound Dog took his seat behind his desk.

Ben tapped his fingers together, then on the desk and then gripped his thighs. Counselor's didn't blab unless they needed to, right?

So Ben started talking. And talking. Soon, the dam burst and words spewed out of his mouth like a geyser. All of his worries, frustrations and more than had been building up throughout the entire day, just everything started tumbled out and around.

Ben didn't even know when he got a paper cup of water, or when he got out of the chair to pace around. He waved his right arm around dramatically, his left clutching his water cup. All the while Hound Dog sat and paid attention, only giving the occasional one word reply to indicate that he was following along.

" then they start running away from me! Like I was some sort of bomb, waiting to go off! I mean, look around you lady! No one else thinks so! So how did you come to the conclusion that I'm dangerous, when everyone else doesn't! Did I do something wrong? I don't think so! I was just doing what everyone was supposed to do at the Sports Festival, going 'Plus Ultra!' How is that fair, to be feared for doing what I was supposed to do!"

"Understandable." Hound Dog sipped his own water, watching Ben stride back and forth.

"I mean, if I really wanted to hurt people, I wouldn't be in a freaking hero school, learning from heroes to be a hero! I wouldn't have flown across the globe, away from my friends and parents and family, to a county that I don't speak the language of! I'm a hero in training, Present Mic-sensei announced as such! So why are some people treating me as if I'm not!"

With that, Ben flopped down back in the armchair, chest heaving from the rant. His throat burned from the near-yelling, and he was sweating again. Ben felt physically exhausted again, but emotionally, he felt lighter. His insecurities weren't all gone, but a chunk was lifted off his shoulders.

"Sorry." Ben sighed. "You probably didn't want to hear all this stupid crap. I can't believe I'm getting this worked up about something so silly."

"Oh, believe me Ben. Compared to what I usually hear, this is downright tame." Hound Dog remarked as he refueled both of their waters. He set the paper cups back down, then faced Ben with arms folded on the desk. "I do need to say, though, that you must get the thought that this isn't worth talking about out of your head. I said it before and I will say it again: I am here to help. No issue, however trivial or not, is beneath me."

The canine hero paused, flashing a smile at Ben. "Although, don't be so quick to disregard those thoughts either. The fact that you're thinking along these lines is important. After all, it shows that you are now aware of another, less talked about, purpose of the Sports Festival."

"Huh?" Ben tilted his head in confusion.\

"Let me put it this way Tennyson: the way the Sports Festival is proposed to participating students is far different from how it actually plays out. We tell you students that this is to demonstrate your worth, that hero agencies will be watching, and this is your big chance to get noticed. However, the Festival plays out more like a gameshow. We have the last event, which is 100% geared towards that purpose, but the first two? Is an obstacle course and a cavalry battle really the best way to show your stuff to hero agencies? And why have it so publicized? On every TV station in the nation with millions watching? We could make it so much simpler by just inviting pro heroes to spectate hero students in more realistic combat and rescue situations, so why do we do it in such grandiose fashion?"

"I don't... know?" Ben was still confused.

"Perhaps I need to take a step back." Hound Dog brought out a thick book. "Here's a question for a hero student like you: what is a hero? Not what a hero means to you, but the dictionary definition of the profession, 'hero.'"

"Someone who saves people?" Ben weakly ventured, not having given this question much thought in the past.

Hound Dog opened the book and pointed at a certain passage. "This is the official profession, as defined by the HPSC. The long and short of it is that heroes are people who have been given permission to use their quirks in public for the betterment of society. Serving at the behest of the people, heroes use their quirks to stop those that would harm others and harm society. While heroes are treated as celebrities in the modern day, we are really no different from police, or other law enforcement. But, as most things do, change swept through the hero profession. Different expectations, different roles to fill in society."

"Tennyson, the Sports Festival is the way it is because we here at UA recognzie the need to for our students to understand public relations. A hero can be strong, have a pure heart, and a flawless record, but if the public doesn't approve of that hero for whatever reason, their career is over. We serve at the will of the people, it's the people who pay for our agencies, give us our permission to use our quirks as we see fit. Once that will is gone, a hero can no longer act. So it is important for you hero students to realize that power and capability is not everything. How the public perceives you is just as, if not more important. Once the public deems you unfit for duty, there really isn't anything you can do. It's your obligation as a hero to stand down."

"That's why the Sports Festival is broadcasted as something like the Olympics?" Ben asked.

"Yes." Hound Dog affirmed. "The earlier the better. You all are still in your first year, so nothing you do is career-defining. No one is dumb enough to base your entire future careers while you're teenagers, or in your case younger than that. It is important to expose you all to the realities of the hero world early, but subtly. The fact that you're so concerned about how people are reacting to you now that you have some public exposure is good, great even. Heck, you won the whole thing, so you probably feel it worse than your classmates. And you can bet that your fellow hero students, from both classes, are feeling the same thing. They just hide it better, trust me."

"Huh. I see." Ben shifted in his seat, a frown on his face. "Still doesn't make me feel much better."

"Oh Tennyson, no matter how much you try or accomplish, you will never be universally loved. For people like you and me, the sad truth is that we will never reach All Might levels of fame and adoration."

"I don't want fame!" Ben protested. Hound Dog stopped and raised an eyebrow.

"Err, I mean, a little bit is fine. I don't want All Might levels, that would be nuts." Ben tried to correct. Hound Dog's eyebrow raised higher.

"All right, I want to be famous, is that what you want to hear?" Ben threw his hands up, face burning with embarrassment. "It would be cool to have an action figure line, and being on TV would be really cool! I can't help wanting those things!"

Hound Dog barked a laugh. "It's hard to remember sometimes Tennyson, but heroes are human too. And humans are social animals. We want to feel needed, included, to feel like we belong. Don't be ashamed of wanting to be famous, that's a good goal! You'll really need good PR skills if you want to make it that far, ha!"

"Heh!" Ben smiled alongside his teacher, but soon frowned again. "Hey sensei, before you mentioned something along the lines of you and I not ever being super popular, like All Might. What do you mean by that?"

Hound Dog grew serious once again. He let out a heavy sigh. "Humans are social creatures Tennyson. We form groups of similar people, and eventually cultures form. As various cultures develop, humans take diverging paths towards the ultimate goal of survival. Through it all, humans have developed a strong distaste for anything that doesn't resemble themselves."

"We see it in nature. Why are bugs and spiders among the most common phobias in humanity? Because they are so fundamentally different from us. Their body shape, the way they move, it's so alien to us that it creates fear."

"And we see it throughout human history. For as long as humans existed, discrimination has too. Cultural differences like religion have caused wars and tremendous loss of life. Physical differences such as skin color tear us apart even to this day."

Hound Dog looked at his paw, clenching it into a fist. "When quirks came into the picture? Now that just pulled the worst of both of those worlds and mixed them together. Suddenly, humans were fundamentally different from each other, just look at me. While it is true that over the generations, quirks have become so integrated into society that people claim they are over it, nothing could be further from the truth. Centuries of habit building doesn't disappear on the eve of a new era."

"You are familiar with the common '-isms,' are you not? Racism, sexism, those words. Well, in this age, a new word has joined the list: quirkism. The discrimination of an individual based on the properties of their quirk. And the main victims of quirkism? Those with transformation and mutation quirks. Those with obvious alterations to their body suffer the most. And your transformation quirk, Tennyson, is the most alien of all."

"But I can't change my quirk! That isn't fair!" Ben protested.

"You're right." Hound Dog surprisingly nodded and agreed. "It isn't fair. Soon, Tennyson, you'll realize that the world isn't fair. Your class is full of powerful quirks, but depending on their properties, certain individuals will be more accepted than others. Midoriya, Bakugo and Todoroki possess powerful quirks, similar to yours in terms of destructive power they potentially have, but they have the basic human body type. At a glance, they look human, so naturally people will accept them easier."

"But you? Transforming into alien beasts? Tokoyami, with his avian features and strange sentient quirk? Shoji, whose extra arms break the normal human figure? No one will argue you three are any less capable, or likable on paper. But in reality, you are just too different from the status quo. Remember who I told you people fear bugs and spiders? People may claim they don't think any less of you, but you will have to do double the PR work in order to be seen equally as those with more normal bodies. I experienced it first hand, as did Cementoss, Ectoplasm, all your senseis with mutation quirks have. It's the harsh reality of the world of heroics."

"So I'll never be rid of those people, eyeing me like I'm a ticking time bomb. All because I won the Sports Festival and got everyone's attention." Ben slumped in his seat, defeated.

"Yes and no." Hound Dog spoke, making Ben sit back up. "While it is true as someone with a transformation quirk you will suffer from quirkism, you aren't wrong in saying winning the Sports Festival is a part of it."

"You see Tennyson, at the end of the day you are strong. Incredibly strong. There's no hiding it, you are here at a high school institution because of that strength. Years behind your classmates and you still won the Festival by quite a large margin. There is a gap in the strength between you and your peers, and consider who your peers are! For someone as young as you, who has yet to hit their peak, your potential is vast. And that potential scares people. People saw, in person and on TV, how you could break concrete like it was nothing, take over machines, become as hard as diamonds, and generate extreme levels of fire and heat just to name a few of your feats. In the face of such power, it is understandable why many would find you intimidating, or even dangerous."

"But not all hope is lost! Here at UA we have had many students just like you. While most see the foolishness of judging students on their first Sports Festival appearances, there have been many who, like you, generated a substantial amount of fear and hesitation based on their powers and performance. But, the students who did not let it get to them, those who persevered and had the drive to prove the doubters wrong, they went on to become phenomenal heroes."

Hound Dog suddenly got up, remarking how he had examples right on the wall of fame.

"These three." Hound Dog gestured to three of the bigger portraits. "Are currently in the top 5 ranked heroes of Japan. And they all had similar circumstances to you in their first years here."

"This is Best Jeanist." Hound Dog pointed to the long-necked blonde gentleman. "What a first impression he had! His quirk, Fiber Master, allows him to control the fibers of cloth around him. He demonstrated prodigal control, and swept the competition away in seconds flat! No one expected a quirk that controlled clothing fibers to be so powerful, yet he proved them wrong with absolute grace and precision."

"However, then reality set in. A young boy with great skill had absolute control over a quirk that manipulated clothing. Clothing is something that everyone takes for granted, being so omnipresent. All of a sudden, the clothing that you wear is just a weapon waiting to be used against you, and the quirk's wielder is especially skilled. Such a quirk can be used for nefarious and perverted reasons, so fear followed Hakamada's Festival debut. He proved them wrong with his cool and collected attitude as a hero and with his devotion to fashion as a person."

"Endeavor made a... appearance at your Sports Festival, so perhaps you recognize him from that." Ben chose not to tell his sensei of the personal conversation they had. "His first Festival debut was similar to yours Tennyson, as he used overwhelming power to win. Contrasting Best Jeanist, Endeavor showed just how powerful his quirk, Hellflame, was, even at a young age. Fire quirks are common, but Hellflame was aptly named as it stood above the rest by far.

"It didn't take much for people to fear such a quirk. Fire has always been a devastating force of nature, a force that has taken countless lives. Even today, with modern equipment and safety features in homes and other buildings, fires still break out. Urban fires still claim lives to this day, despite firefighters and heroes dedicated to anti-fire duties. A temperamental young man with such a quirk sparked a great deal of fear that hasn't quite settled down even after all these years. It was only after becoming the number 1 crime fighter that Endeavor managed to prove his worth."

"Then, All Might." Hound Dog shook his head, laughing all the while. "Where to begin? He had the power that your classmate Midoriya has, but with actual control. Even at his first Sports Festival, it was clear All Might was destined for something great. His speed was unmatched, crossing the entire stadium in the blink of an eye. His endurance was incredible, going the entire Festival without breaking a sweat and smiling all the while. No one was even able to test his durability, not leaving a single bruise or cut. And his strength, well, I don't think any words can properly describe how strong All Might really is."

"But comparisons were made. It was estimated that his most powerful Smashes could maybe reach the power of a small nuclear bomb. All Might barely tried in his first Sports Festival, so it was hard to know for sure, but the implications were there. This kid would grow to shape the world. But for the better or worse? Those doubts surrounded All Might through his school days, and you know what he did?"

Hound Dog turned back to face Ben. "He left."

"All Might ran away?" Ben nearly leapt to his feet at such a declaration.

"Not so much ran away as disappeared. No one knows why he left his home nation of Japan, but he eventually made his debut in the United States. The difference was night and day, no one could see any trace of the reckless UA student from years past. His declaration, that no one needs to worry, because he is here? Iconic, and set the tone for his hero career. The rest, well, it's history that the entire world knows."

"Wow. This is, a, a lot to take in." Ben rubbed his forehead.

"I know I dumped a lot on you Tennyson, but you don't have the luxury of time." Hound Dog took his seat again. "Three years isn't long at all, and out of the 3 Sports Festivals you have, you've already finished one, and look at how much it has opened your eyes. You have a lot opposing you. It was never my intention to discourage you, rather I just wanted to make you aware of what waits for you later in life. We are not here to coddle you from the truth."

"I understand." Ben rubbed his eyes and tried to sit up straight.

"You're new in every sense of the word, so what you do now is important. Similar to the three on the wall, you showed great power and potential to grow, but you have yet to do anything to prove the people can trust their lives to you. This upcoming internship of yours will be critical in determining people's opinions of you. Therefore, make sure you pick your agency carefully. Although, with your performance, you have the pick of the litter."

"Don't remind me." Ben groaned as he heaved the massive binder out of his backpack. He set it on the desk with a thud. "I got to go through all of this!"

"I heard from Aizawa you had more than just hero agencies asking for you, but I had no idea it was to this degree." Hound Dog observed, impressed by the binder's size.

It was then that Ben had an idea.

"Uhh, if you wouldn't mind Hound Dog-sensei." Ben nervously ventured. "I don't know many high ranking heroes, or any heroes for that matter, in Japan. I don't think I can do good research in just a few days either. Could you help me with this?"

Hound Dog barked in amusement. "Tennyson, I may not teach an academic subject, but I am a qualified teacher as well as a counselor. If you want my help, all you need to do is ask."

"Well you've taught me a lot in just the past hour or so..." Ben trailed off, before coming to his senses. No good would come from indecisiveness. "So, yes! Could you please help me? It would be a massive help."

"No problem kid." Hound Dog started by removing the support course nominations. "You interested in support course work?"

"Nope!" Ben responded with confidence. This was the one thing he knew for certain.

"Recycling it is!" The removed papers were dumped into a blue bin.

"Now, I don't think you need an internship at a combat focused agency. You proved that you are already competent in battle. Besides, these are internships; you're just getting a feel for how heroes work and how agencies function. It's a test run. Once you get your licenses, you can go on work-studies and get some real combat experience. Until then, though, I think it's fair to assume that you want someone who can show you how to be a hero through appearances."

"Well, not just looks!" Ben hurried to interject.

"I didn't mean through modeling Tennyson." Hound Dog reassured the student. "I mean through PR, like we talked about. How to patrol without causing panic, how to calm a situation down despite a fearsome quirk. Appearance in terms of your public appearances. Now, let's see."

Hound Dog then removed a list with a few agencies listed on it. From the size of the font and the fact that these had descriptions, unlike the page still in the binder, Ben knew these were important.

"I'm not one to judge a hero by their rank." Hound Dog began. "But those at the top get there through hard work. There's no shortcuts in the hero business. Let's look at the top ten to find a good fit."

"2,3,4,5,6,8,9 and 10. Only two are missing, impressive." Hound Dog muttered.

"Endeavor is very combat oriented, probably not the best choice. Probably just train with you all week." A red X was scribbled by his name.

"Hawks? Maybe. Very popular, laid back, but undoubtedly skilled. Personality doesn't quite match, but there's a chance." A blue ? was written.

"As we talked about, Best Jeanist is someone who had a somewhat similar situation as you, and I'd highly recommend." Hound Dog flicked his eyes up.

"Sure?" Ben helplessly shrugged. "I'd like to hear all the options and your opinions on them first though."

"Of course." Hound Dog marked the agency with a yellow streak and then moved down to number 5.

"Edgeshot, now that's a surprise. He usually doesn't take first years on, although he barely takes any students at all. I honestly have no idea about him, there's not enough data." A red ? was written.

"Crust, a seasoned hero known for his defensive capabilities and valiant attitude. Hasn't taken on any student recently, but the ones he has have all made into the top 100, so he has a very good track record with UA students. Well liked by the public, with lots to teach you, a viable choice." A yellow streak highlighted the agency.

"Yoroi Musha, the oldest hero in the top 10, and one of the oldest heroes still in service. His public appearances are few, and most of the data on the students he has taken on are outdated. He has still maintained his top 10 position, but there are definitely others that offer more." A red X was marked down.

"And then we come to... oh. Oh!" Hound Dog's eyes widened. "This is a perfect fit! Why didn't I think of this sooner!"

"Huh?" Ben rotated his head to try and read the list. Who was number 9?

"The number 9 heroine, Ryukyu, checks all the boxes! Why, out of all the pro heroes in service right now, she has the most similar quirk to yours. Her quirk is Dragon, which lets her transform her body into that of a dragon, with all the benefits and powers a draconic body provides."

"I think I've heard of that name before too!" Ben mussed, rubbing his chin.

"She constantly takes on UA students, and one of our most promising third years, one of the Big Three, is currently working in Ryukyu's agency for her work-study. She's popular, a top ranked hero, a great history with UA students, and has a flawless track record. Yes, if I had to recommend you a single agency, it would be this one Tennyson."

"The number 9 hero, huh." Ben accepted the list and binder from Hound Dog, deep in thought.

"At the end of the day, these are only suggestions. I can not choose the agency for you." Hound Dog reminded Ben.

"You said she transforms. Like me." Ben gripped the paper tight. It sounded too good to be true.

"Very much like you. When she transforms into her dragon form, she disappears into a cloud of gray smoke and dramatically increases in size and strength. Few villains can take even a single swipe of her claws and her hide can withstand a falling building with little strain. Very similar in function to your red skinned, four armed form."

"And she's liked? People aren't afraid of her?"

"She's number 9 of all heroes in Japan. She would have never gotten to that position if people didn't trust her with their lives."

"Then I think I've made my choice. This agency is the one I want to go to." Ben declared with as much finality as he could muster.

"An excellent choice. I have no doubt that you'll learn a lot from that agency." Hound Dog smiled and then held his paw out. "I can deliver your agency request paper to the teacher's lounge, where your homeroom teacher currently is. I'm heading there myself before checking out. It is getting late."

"Ah, it is!" Ben noticed the sky turning amber as the sun started its descent.

Ben filled out his form with a flourish of a pen and handed it over. Stuffing the rest of his stuff into his bag, he was about to hurry home, but then he remembered his manners.

"Thank you so much Hound Dog-sensei!" Ben performed a 90 degree bow and hoped his words matched the sincerity he felt. "For everything today!"

"It's my job, kid. Now get going, before all the sunlight's gone." Hound Dog waved him off with an easy grin.

Ben turned and ran, feeling so much lighter than before.

As for Hound Dog, he stood, stretched, and walked towards the teacher's lounge. He had a paper to deliver, one that declared the agency rising star Tennyson Benjamin would be attending for his internship.

The agency of the number 9 heroine.

The Dragoon Hero: Ryukyu.