There are many truths about the world and how it operates. Many are dark. Many are false.

One that is neither is this: Hard work and determination beat natural talent eventually.

But when your rival is both naturally talented and determined?

To match that, one needs more than hard work, more than simple determination.

Another truth is this: Sanity is overrated.

Underneath the smiling surface, dug beneath the diamond core of determination, there was a truth in the depths of the pebble called Midoriya:

Izuku was just a little bit nuts.

Izuku's declaration, momentous as it was to only him, set him down the path that many call a 'no-life road.' It was habit that made him begin to follow Katsuki as soon as lunch was declared, and it was his promise that made him stop, spin on his heel, and head to the library instead.

It would be the first time he spent the entire break reading. It wouldn't be the last.

The librarian had taken one look at Izuku and then loudly declared him to be the most precious thing she'd ever seen, and gladly pointed him towards the section on physical education. And then when he'd come back after five minutes of trying to read an advanced textbook, she handed him a dictionary.

After spending most of lunch reading the textbook, then translating with the dictionary and then reading again to make sure he actually understood what it was saying, Izuku was disappointed to discover that he was, in fact, a child. The book laid out in no uncertain terms that making a child do high-intensity workouts to build muscle was a terrible idea and would most likely stunt their growth and future potential. What it did offer, however, is that if a child is determined to reach a certain level of physical fitness later in life, then starting out with low-intensity activities such as jogging and light calisthenics to create habits that could then be used a jumping-off point for the more serious things was the way to go.

So when Izuku got home that night, he told his mom over dinner that he wanted to start jogging in the mornings. Inko was of two minds on the subject. On one, she was glad her son was showing his determination so quickly and willing to begin improving himself and his chances at making it as a Pro Hero. On the other, well…she wasn't fat, per se, just on the dumpy side. She'd gained weight having a kid and hadn't really shed it in the years since.

Also she wasn't about to let her sweet boy out of her sight to go running around town at eight. So Inko did what she usually did when she was in need of help; she called Bakugou Mitsuki.

Now, Inko and Mitsuki on the surface seemed like the kind of people who would hate each other on sight. Inko was shy and quiet, always ready to burst into tears of joy or sadness or relief or…sleepiness, sometimes. Mitsuki was brash, loud-mouthed and unapologetically sassy, a trait her daughter shared. The two women were very much opposites, at least on the surface. In fact, when they first met, Mitsuki had labeled Inko as an easy mark, some who could be forged into a minion with the right pressure. To that effect, she stole Inko's lunch, a katsu pork sandwich. Inko had then used her Quirk and pulled an open can of milk tea at the back of Mitsuki's head.

They had been best friends ever since.

While on the surface they seemed dichotomous, they were, at their core, people who felt emotions very intensely who just expressed them differently. Together they created a fine balance that had served them well in their careers until they'd met their husbands and married. They'd gotten pregnant around the same time, gave birth within weeks of each other and supported each other in the raising of the other kid. Inko had left her field to be a mother, seeing as her husband worked overseas. Mitsuki and her husband worked at the same firm designing clothes and had jumped right back in as soon as she'd popped.

Basically, when Inko called and asked Mitsuki if she would come along on morning jogs with her and Izuku, the other woman was pleased as punch and accepted immediately. Her hope was that, while exercising, she might finally convince her friend to take better care of herself and also possibly model some of their clothes. Inko was, of course, the perfect size for the children's extra tall section.

That was only halfway a joke.

Their first outing was, put bluntly, embarrassing. Izuku was young and got tired easily, but also sprang back. Mitsuki was a regular jogger and thus led the pack. Inko, however…she was out of shape and had no form, so she huffed and puffed after the first couple of minutes. After the requisite five minutes of teasing, the blonde woman showed her what she was doing wrong and they set off again.

That was the beginning of Izuku's 'regimen' and later added simple things like jumping jacks and whatnot.

Stalled though he was physically, that didn't stop the young boy from focusing on what he could improve: his usage of his Quirk.

It was during this study of his power that Izuku determined something: he had absolute control of any rock or mineral that entered his field. That meant he could pick up a pebble, break it down into a pile of sand, then clump it back up into a pebble. Or flatten it into a plate or a scale or into small knives.

He also realized something else. The speed of his Quirk, breaking down, shaping and solidifying, was dependent on his brain power. Telekinetic field, you see. Better brain, better telekinesis. Izuku remembered, before that fateful night, that the biggest leap in what his Quirk had been able to do had occurred after he'd started school. It was a fairly obvious leap to make, even for a child, though he did have to look the word up in the dictionary before he told his mother.

Mental acuity equaled Quirk acuity.

And so, in his free moments between sleep, jogging and school, Izuku was reading whatever he could his hands on. Fiction, non-fiction, textbooks and magazines. Whatever could expand his knowledge, he devoured.

When he understood the words, that was. The school librarian was all too happy to lend him a dictionary or her knowledge whenever he needed it. And Katsuki was all too happy to call him a nerd when she bothered to pay him any obvious attention.

This also meant, to his joy, that his favorite activity of watching Hero fights and observing, examining and breaking down their Quirks was technically exercise. He had to peel himself away from the All Might fights, though. Everyone knew that his Quirk was impossible to fully analyze.

With all of his training, studying and generally living, Izuku was a busy, albeit quiet, little bee.

And life moved on.

IZUKU, AGE 10

Two years later, things were much the same as before. Izuku, his mother and Mitsuki (and occasionally her husband, Masaru) still jogged in the mornings, though for longer periods and with greater ease. Inko had, after several months and several pounds later had confidently stated that she might maybe possibly model a few clothes or so for the fashion firm her best friend worked at.

Maybe.

If she was comfortable.

And had the time.

And if the thought of people she didn't know taking pictures of her didn't make her want to hide under the couch. (She could comfortably fit under there now!)

And also if she could model anything other than clothes for teenagers. She was a grown-ass woman with a kid, dammit!

As a consequence of his constant reading, studying and training, Izuku was very lean, led his class in grades and had absolutely zero friends. His mother didn't count, she was his mother. Mitsuki didn't count either. They were friendly, and she loved to ruffle his hair but she did that to his mom, too.

The closest thing he had was Atsuko, the librarian. Even after the time they'd first met, she still loudly proclaimed him to be the most precious boy ever. Profusely. And whenever he needed it, though the instances had become further and further in between, she offered her knowledge along with tea and snacks on occasion.

Katsuki, on the other hand, had many 'friends,' though more akin to followers and sycophants than anything more intimate. Awed by her Quirk and her growing ability to use it, many of the teachers took it upon themselves to ease her rise, as it was, when her temper got the better of her or someone wanted to challenge the 'top dog.' A few brushed instances of Quirk usage aside later, it wasn't uncommon to see her holding a handful of flashing miniature explosions to show off or intimidate another kid.

Izuku thought it was rather sad, actually. All those kids and teachers praising her for her Quirk, even attributing it for her high test scores for some reason. 'As expected of someone with such a powerful Quirk!'

He may have been biased, but he thought there was more to admire about Katsuki than just her ability to explode.

For some reason, possibly out of respect for their mothers, their previous friendship or just the fact that he kept to himself, she tended to let him be. On occasion, though, she'd drop in to yank his pigtails, so to speak.

"The hell are you doing with that book, Deku?" She growled at him one day, as he sat outside in the sun to read a book on geology.

"Well it is lunch time, so I thought I might eat it," he replied dryly, marking his place with his thumb and closing it, setting the bento on his lap aside.

Bakugou snorted, though whether it was because she thought it was funny or because she didn't was a mystery. She grabbed the book and tilted it up to read the words on the spine. "The useless little pebble reading about pebbles, huh, Deku Koishi? Think maybe that'll make your weak-ass Quirk any better?"

"You never know," Izuku said evenly, meeting her eyes. Deep inside, a part of him sort of hoped she might sit down with him and ask about it.

"Yeah fuckin' right," Katsuki grunted, shoving a finger in his face. "Read all the books you want, Deku, but a polished pebble is still a pebble. Remember that, Deku Koishi."

But he knew better.

One of her hanger-ons, a chubby kid with small wings on his back, guffawed inelegantly. "Yeah, Deku Koish-"

Without breaking eye contact with Izuku, Katsuki reached over and seized the boy by the front of his shirt. "Come up with your own names, Butterball, or shut up." Her hand crackled and when she released him, his tie and shirt had a cluster of circular burn marks. Then she snagged one of Izuku's onigiri and stomped off.

Izuku watched her go. The other hanger-on tried to grab a rice ball, too, and he sharply smacked the back of his hand with the book. With dirty looks, the pair scurried after Bakugou like a pair of eager puppies.

'Deku Koishi' sighed and went back to his reading.

As far as his Quirk went, there hadn't been much progress on that front, simply an increase in speed. While he wasn't happy, per se, Izuku knew it would be a long road to advancement. He continued to read, to run and study, laying the foundations for the future.

IZUKU, AGE 11

There also wasn't much advancement a year later, just a few interesting occasions.

One morning Inko begged off their jog as her husband and Izuku's dad, Hisashi, had called from his job in another country with news.

So it was only Mitsuki and Izuku running that morning. It was afterwards that something interesting happened. "Alright Bonsai-chan," Katsuki's mother teased, ruffling his sweaty hair even as she breathed hard. "We're close to my home, so come on in and I'll get us some water before we head back, alright?"

"Sure, Aunty Mitsuki," Izuku panted, wiping the sweat from his forehead before bolting down the path. "Race you!"

"Agh! You brat!" She called with a grin, racing after him. He was smaller and had more energy, but she had longer legs and also knew the shortcuts.

Chuckling to himself as the building came into sight, he chanced a look over his shoulder and blinked upon seeing that there was no one behind him. He had just begun to frown when the bushes ahead of him shuddered and Mitsuki jumped out with a war cry. He yelped and managed minimal resistance as she quickly got him in a headlock, purposefully shoving his face against the side of her chest and smearing him with her sweat.

"Ha-ha!" She crowed victoriously, roughly rubbing his hair like he was an excitable puppy. "Age and treachery win over youth and treachery any day!"

"Mitsuki-ba-chan!" Izuku yelled, trying in vain to escape her grasp until he was sweaty enough to just slide right out. Immediately grabbing his tank top, he scrubbed at his face both to get it off of him and to hide his burning face. "You're gross…"

"Aww, who's a cute lil' Bonsai-chan," she cooed aggressively, throwing an arm around his shoulders and dragging him towards her door. "You should be happy I'm so generously sharing my sweat with you. Not everyone is so lucky!"

Izuku, still red in the cheeks, scrubbed at his chin. "Why would anyone want to share sweat?" He grumbled to himself as she led them through the hall to the kitchen.

As he sat down on a stool near a kitchen island, Mitsuki chuckled gleefully to herself and tweaked his nose. "In a year or two, you're gonna remember this moment and the context is gonna hit you like a truck! I wish I could see your face when it does!"

Izuku frowned thoughtfully at her back as she went around grabbing cups and fruit for a light snack, but for some reason his eyes drifted downwards. He'd seen her in shorts and yoga pants before, almost every day, but for some reason seeing her now, watching her reach for a glass high up felt…different somehow. And why was his face hot?

Diverting his gaze away from whatever Mitsuki was doing, his eyes fell on the counter and a sheaf of loose paper spread across it. Curious, he pulled the nearest paper closer and looked closely. It was a sketch of a summer dress worn by a faceless woman in various poses. And on another paper was a sweater, but the sketch had a face; his mother, wearing a confident half-smile and a lovely long sweater.

"What are these?" He asked aloud, looking up as Mitsuki set a couple glasses of water and a cutting board with all the slices of apples and oranges on it.

"I'm a designer. They're designs," she said around a mouthful of apple. "Not bad, right? Your momma's already cute as a button but she'd look so huggable in that sweater."

Izuku hummed to himself, peering closer. He could make out the designs on the sweater, a small pattern of simple knots. It reminded him of his rough sketches of various Heroes, but the ones he was looking at then made his seem like drawings made by a child.

Because they were.

"Can you teach me?" The words left his mouth before he'd really thought of them, and he blinked in surprise. His thoughts were mirrored on Mitsuki's face, who paused mid-bite.

"…You like 'em that much?" She asked with a pleased smile, before tapping her chin in thought. "The problem with that, though, is that I'm kinda busy…oh wait, Masaru can help. Hold up, I'mma go ask him what you'd need to start. OI, MASARU!"

She stomped off to find him, leaving Izuku to snack and look at the other sketches. Then the front door slammed shut and Katsuki came marching into the kitchen with a towel thrown over her shoulder and sweat on her face. She paused as she beheld him sitting at the counter, a slice of apple sticking out of his mouth. "…The hell are you doing at my home, Deku?"

Izuku bit off the section in his mouth and held it up. "Snacking." He said simply.

She snorted and marched off, calling back over her shoulder, "Snack at your own house you damn nerd!"

"This is my own house, Brat!"

"Not you, hag!"

"WHO'RE YOU CALLING HAG?!"

Mitsuki eventually made it back to the kitchen, where she handed Izuku a thick notebook of blank paper. "I'll email you the basic stuff to get you started and then you can show me what you've drawn. And if you need help, don't be afraid to call me or Masaru, okay?"

Izuku sniffed and hugged the notebook to his chest, a happy tear forming in his eye. "Thank you so much, Mitsuki-ba-chan!"

"When the more advanced stuff comes around, you'll have to call me Tsuki-sama!" She declared with a victorious finger, before pausing. "No, wait…Tsuki-sensei! Ha!"

He nodded fervently. "Okay, Tsuki-sensei!" He was still sniffling happily.

"Don't you start crying Bonsai-chan, you'll make me want to hug you!" She held her arms out threateningly. "And I'm still sweaty…"

Izuku sobered up so quickly it surprised a laugh out of her.

"Too late!" She shouted gleefully. "Hug!"

"Gah! No!"

That too was another step on the path, another brick in the foundation.

IZUKU, AGE 12

Turning twelve was a momentous occasion, not only because he received a new sketchbook and pencils from Mitsuki and Masaru, as well as a chunk of sandstone from his mom and dad, he also got a library card from Atsuko. Sure, library cards were free, but this was a custom one, with a picture of the two of them that had been taken during his last day of primary school.

She had left her job at the school and gotten another one at the public library, so now it wouldn't be weird for Izuku to come visit her for tea and snacks!

Plus books.

But it was almost momentous because Izuku was now old enough to start physical training. And his first stop was the library because no shit.

It was there, near the back looking through shelves of dry, technical manuals on various beginner martial arts because, while it would be easier to learn at a dojo, that would also involve other people. Not to mention that a dojo would be expensive.

It was as he was putting back a manual on Karate that he saw it. A slim red booklet, dusty from disuse and unadorned except for one word.

SERRATION.

Immediately inside on the first page, there was a note.

If you are reading this, then it is no mistake that you found it, for the call of destiny is strong and writ across the pages in every character. What you have found, what has called to you is a primer on the style whispered on quivering lips, murmured in fear behind black doors.

Serration.

Serration is no mere Martial Art, it is a way of life. A way of living. A method by which you shall take the ore of yourself, leash your emotions and burn away the impurities until you are malleable.

You are the metal. Fury is your forge, kindled by your rage and shaped by your determination. You must harness it all and become the sword, burning white-hot and directed at your enemies. Strike at their heart, their mind and then, their body. Destroy them on every level and only then is victory achieved.

Let's get you started on that, shall we?

Izuku looked up from the words and frowned at the ceiling. Is this…is this a manual for Villains? It really reads like one.

For some reason, though, it stuck with him. Casting his mind back for 'villainous' thoughts, it didn't take him long to remember that day. That day when he had been broken from his first friend, cast aside on the perception of worthlessness. And the day following, when he had declared to himself his goal.

And then his eyes went wide. Strike at their heart. He trained so that one day he would face down Katsuki with strength to match her, to forcibly tear away the veil of uselessness on her eyes and pierce her heart with the truth. Strike at their mind. He hid the real power of his Quirk because he knew that the longer her expectations were set in stone, the bigger the impact would be when he shattered them. Strike at their body. Well, with Katsuki there wouldn't be any other way to prove it to her than by kicking each other's asses. That was just a given.

It had stuck with him because, subconsciously, he had identified with it. But it wasn't one-to-one. Shattering Katsuki's worldview was secondary.

His primary reason for everything since the first time he'd seen All Might jump into a fight, his mere smile bolstering the other Heroes and intimidating the Villains even before he threw a single punch; was to be the same. To save the innocent, protect them from those who would abuse their power. To show up and reassure everyone with his presence alone.

To be a Hero. Not the greatest Hero, not Ranked Number One. Just a Hero. Recognition would be nice, but he would rather save lives than accrue accolades.

Izuku nodded to himself and read the introduction again. He could see where the words would be Villainous. But the core message could be applied to a Hero as well. He decided that knowing more was worth it, especially if he was accosted by a user of the style.

And there was something poetic about using Villainous methods against Villains.

Even though it had no sleeve, no labels that said if it belonged to the Mustafu Public Library, simply taking it still felt wrong to Izuku. He took it up to Atsuko and asked to check it out.

She looked down at the booklet, then back at him and blinked. "Hey Izuku, did you want to check something out?" She asked brightly.

He tried three more times, and each time she would forget it existed after a blink. A little disquieted, Izuku grabbed another book on precious stones and checked that out, taking the booklet with him as he left.

And so began Izuku's physical education.

The first method of 'purifying' as the booklet called it was resistance training. Using weights of some kind spread about the body to make it slower, heavier, harder to even move so that the muscles could develop and more speed could be achieved.

Izuku realized that he already had the means with which to begin his training: his glass. He wore it constantly under his clothes, because without it he felt naked. The answer was simple. Form the glass into bands around his limbs and chest hidden under his clothes and bam, training. The first and worst problem he discovered was that his field really did not want to withdraw into his body.

It took him a month by itself to simply withdraw his field from a finger alone, but that breakthrough led to his ability to draw it in completely. It was an uncomfortable feeling, suppressing his Quirk, but he persevered with the quiet hope that the exercise could one day increase the range of his field.

Then came the second problem with the solving of the first; his field did a lot of heavy lifting when it came to his glass. The first time he formed his glass into resistance bands and withdrew his field, he fell flat on his face. It was only the instinctive releasing of his field that meant he simply bruised his nose instead of breaking the floor. To actually use his glass, he had to bleed off small amounts at a time until he could safely carry it without his field. It was during this that Izuku was forced to amend his previous understanding of his Quirk.

He had almost absolute control over the minerals and rock in his field. All of the little blocks of glass he'd used to store the material came out opaque despite coming from a clear window. It irritated him, but he resolved to add more things to his studying, such as how glass was made.

Previous problems thus solved and new ones added, it took Izuku about a week before he could jog even a little bit with the weight he now carried. The teasing from Mitsuki had been both a constant source of annoyance and a source of determination; Izuku really wanted her to shut up about 'performance issues.' She wouldn't shut up until he could match her for the whole route. That presented a new problem, because there was such a lack of those.

He spent weeks trudging along behind Mitsuki as she tauntingly skipped along, and her workout gear had never been anything other than tight because why wouldn't it. It was during his second month of weighted jogging that he realized, for the last ten or so minutes, his eyes had been fixed firmly on her rear.

He couldn't help but admire the way it jiggled with every impact, the way he could see the physical effects of jogging on her musculature because of her yoga pants. And that was when he heard someone clear their throat and felt an elbow poking his arm. He looked slowly to the left and saw Masaru jogging along beside him, the man's glasses fogging up slightly but not enough to hide that Izuku had definitely been ogling his wife.

Masaru, instead of getting angry or teasing, simply nodded at his wife's very fine posterior and shrugged in a commiserating way as if to say, 'yeah, I've been looking too, what can you do?'

Izuku's face went red and steam just about burst out of his ears. I really don't want to be in this situation right now, he thought distantly, suddenly turning a corner and bolting. And now it's a problem for future me! Lost in his thoughts as he was, Izuku didn't realize he had released his control over his field, which automatically shifted the glass bands into sand and coated his limbs, making him run far faster than he had intended.

By the time he managed to suppress his embarrassment, his feet had carried him far away, to a park of some kind given the trees and the crystal clear spring bubbling through it. There was no one there, thankfully, so Izuku sat down by the spring, bent over and shoved his face underwater. "Pubglrglgle!" He screamed into the liquid, before sitting up and screaming into the air, "Puberty!" He thought he could withstand the effects, that all his studying and training would successfully distract him enough that the onset of puberty would go unnoticed until he was a Pro Hero.

He was very wrong.

Angst thus expressed, Izuku heaved a sigh and sat back near the creek. Emotional though he was, it didn't take long for the gentle burble of the water, the cool breeze rustling through the leaves to drain the emotions out of him like a sieve, leaving him peaceful and contemplative. I know I'm going to need to explain myself when I get home, but that's another problem for future me and he's not here yet. Ooh, is that quartz? He stuck a hand into the water and plucked the shiny rock from the bed and held it up. "Oh, it is." He looked back down and beheld a multitude of water-smoothed rocks in various gentle shapes and colors.

Shrugging, Izuku pulled off his shoes and socks and stepped into the creek, searching through the bed for little stones that caught his eye and snatching them up. One in particular was a red rock striped through with white, reminding him of the layered block of sandstone he'd received on his birthday. With a little mental flex, it lost cohesion and collapsed into a pile of sand.

The different colors separated into dusty little streaks on his palm, and even with a slight swirl of his field, they remained stubbornly unmixed. Izuku frowned and focused, the sand whirling together into a tornado in his palm before going still. The rock had become a fine pink powder but upon closer examination, he found that it was just really fine sand, the particles stubbornly refusing to mesh.

Izuku growled to himself. Luckily he was alone, otherwise people would be looking for a very small angry dog. His fingers crooked into claws, burgeoning muscles tensing as he focused his will on the pile of dust in his hand. The dust began to vibrate in place, but nothing else. The water of the creek brushed over his shins and reminded him of the peace and tranquility he had felt mere moments ago. He relaxed his invisible grip and released his emotions in a quiet sigh, pulling the dust into a round pink rock.

I felt it, he thought, storing it in his pocket with the other stones. I guess I'm just missing something. Maybe it'll come to me later. He huffed and bent to pick up another rock and paused as the light of the sun glinted off the water. Slowly, Izuku turned his head to gaze up at the sky and suddenly realized that it was noon.

Which meant his morning jog, which had turned into panicked sprinting, had lasted for about two hours.

It was supposed to be forty-five minutes.

"…Uh-oh."

The only upside was that it was a Saturday.

Izuku scrambled out of the creek and shook his feet dry before pulling his shoes and socks back on. His pocket full of rocks clacked rhythmically as he jogged out of the park and onto a sidewalk. His eyes found a nearby street sign and sighed in relief as he saw the words 'Kenobe Street.' It meant he wasn't as far away from his route as he thought and he didn't need to stop for directions.

With another sigh, Izuku set off towards home and what would probably be a tearful earful from his mother.

It was.

Later that night, Izuku sat at his desk with the round quartz rock sitting on the surface, tapping his fingers rapidly. After the tears had faded, Inko had ordered him to apologize to Mitsuki and Masaru given that his little disappearing act had made the former angry and the latter scared, especially when they couldn't find him after an hour of looking. They would be coming over in a few minutes to get his reasons for running and the other thing, and Izuku was attempting to muddle a solution that would let him hold onto a shred of dignity after the inevitable crying.

His only idea was to shape the quartz into something for Mitsuki, but he was wary of trying; for one, he still hadn't managed to make his cubes of glass clear and that would ruin the whole idea in his mind. And two, that was just her, not her husband.

Izuku let his fingers rest before sucking his teeth and taking the rock between his hands. He could see the opaque lines where the crystal structure spread on the insides. Clasping it between his hands, he closed his eyes and let his field sink into the stone, mapping out every minute crack and crevice within with a hundred microscopic hands.

Izuku opened his eyes and stared at the largest line in the mineral. He gently pressed with his field and the stone came apart in his hands. He ran his thumbs along the smooth cut, but paused as his skin prickled. He held it up to his face and squinted. There, barely visible, was a tiny chunk of something that wasn't quartz. To his mind, the structure was ordered, though not neat, and that little speck of rock interrupted it.

With a mere flick of his field, the speck was separated and dropped aside. Izuku clasped the two halves back together and melded them into one. Closing his eyes once more, he dove into the rock and let his field expand into the confines. He felt the ordered nature of the quartz, and the little dots of material that weren't. Wrapping his field around them, he pulled them out and filled in the tiny gaps left behind. Then he gently smoothed out some of the more jagged lines and moved others around into a more orderly pattern.

His eyes fluttered open and then went wide. The crystal, once a chaotic mess of lines under a smooth exterior, had become an expression of beauty. A thick line ran down the center, smaller ones splitting off from the top, carving through nearly-clear crystal. It seemed as if it had caught a beam of light at just the right angle and the refractions the instant the sun had touched it, turning a common chunk of crystal into a stunning mosaic.

…But it wasn't quite right. Izuku narrowed his eyes in concentration and brushed his thumbs across the surface, coaxing the crystal into another shape while keeping the beauty of the stone untouched. When he stopped, the round rock had been shaped into a smoothly defined heart.

"Wow."

Izuku yelped and threw his hands up in surprise, tossing the crystal heart into the air. "Ah! No!" He snatched at it and each time the smooth stone shot back out between his fingers until he managed to lean back and catch with both hands, suspending it in his field. Peeking at it, he sighed in relief as he saw it was undamaged, then glanced to the side to see who had scared him.

It was Mitsuki.

"Ah!" Izuku leaned away from her so hard his chair nearly toppled over, only managing to keep his balance by seizing his desk. "Mi-Mitsuki-ba-chan!" He squeaked, before remembering just why she was there. Cheeks blazing, he shot to his feet, grabbed the crystal heart and presented it to her with a bowed head. "For you! I'm sorry I made you worried and had to look around and couldn't find me and made my mom cry and-"

"This is really pretty, Bonsai-chan," she muttered, turning it over in her hands before glancing at him. "You know you really had us worried there, huh Izuku? I barely got a look at your skinny ass when you bolted. Fast lil' brat, ain'tcha? I gotta wonder why you ran, though." She stepped closer, looming over him with the light shining from behind her head. She looked like an avatar of cold vengeance. "Is there something you want to tell me, Izuku? Like, perhaps, the reason you ran away?"

Izuku gulped audibly and rubbed his hands together anxiously, tongue tripping over itself as he fumbled for an excuse. How did one tell the mother of a former-best friend, current jogging partner and occasional sketching teacher that he'd been caught staring at her rear, by her husband no less? "I-uh, there-was-I-accidentally-um-" This went on for a good minute and a half.

"Just kidding, I already know," she announced with a grin, breaking out into laughter at his shocked face. "Masaru told me already. I was wondering why you'd been lagging behind for the last couple of weeks, but I shoulda guessed." Mitsuki flipped the crystal heart in her palm, her teeth on full display as she held it up, leaning forward with a hand on her hip. "Is that why this is a heart, Bonsai-chan? Because you love staring at me~!"

"No!" He squeaked, trying to cover his blushing face, "I just-I meant! I-it's an apology from the h-heart! That's all!"

"Uh-huh," she said, unconvinced, casting an eye at his desk. "And I'm guessing you only made something for me, huh? Trying to get in my heart, as it were?"

Izuku looked at his desk, then at the heart in her hands and balked. "Oh crap! Uh, hold on one second!" He darted towards his chair and scrambled for something to make, before his eyes settled on a pair of small, smooth orbs of rock. Sketching for hours at a time had made his hand cramp up, and the internet had provided a solution; Chinese Medicine Balls. It was perfect.

Izuku grabbed the block of sandstone and used his field to cut two even chunks out of it, running his fingers over the surface to smooth it out and distribute the material evenly. Then, calling on his practice with the quartz, shaped the separate layers into fine, nearly scalloped lines that curved around the body of the orbs. With a final brush of his fingers, they became polished and smooth. "See?" He asked quickly, holding the balls out. "For Masaru!"

Mitsuki looked down at the orbs of finely polished, neatly shaped and wonderfully designed rock, then back up and him. Her eyebrow rose as a toothy grin spread across her lips. "Ohoho…" she chuckled, rubbing the heart between her fingers. "A heart for me and some balls for Masaru…you are not a subtle lil' Bonsai-chan, are ya?"

Izuku blinked at her. "…What?"

"Context still escapes you, huh?" She wondered aloud, cocking a hip. The motion had some effects on the rest of her body, specifically her chest. Unconsciously, his eyes darted down…and he remembered the strange, embarrassing and strangely embarrassing conversation from a year ago.

Then his face went red. Followed by his neck and the rest of his visible skin while his cheeks puffed out with a restrained scream.

Mitsuki burst out with a raucous laugh, clutching her stomach with one hand as she bent over from the force of her mirth. "Jus-just like your mom!" She wheezed, nearly crying, "Face goes r-red! Cheeks go fwoomp! Green h-hair! Like a r-ripe tomato! HAhaha!"

Izuku, still burning, sat down at his desk, set the medicine balls to the side and then thumped his head against the wood and groaned loudly. "Whyyyyyyyy…"

"Heh-hehehe! You k-know I'm just teasing you, Bonsai-chan!" She ruffled his fluffy green hair with aggressive affection, and he tilted his red face to crack an eye open. Mitsuku grinned toothily. "I'd be honored to take your balls!"

As she started laughing again, he started thumping his head on the desk more, chanting, "Why, why, why, why," with each impact. He was stopped by his honorary aunt interposing her hand under his head and pushing him back.

"C'mon brat, that whole 'bow and present' thing was really cute, so do it again, please. Then we'll be good," she promised, though there was an edge to her smile that he didn't like.

Clearing his throat, grabbing his balls (heh) and standing, Izuku bowed and presented them to her. "Tsuki-Sensei, I'm very sorry for how I acted. Please take this as a token of my heartfelt apology," he mumbled out, looking directly at the floor.

"Hmm," Mitsuki hummed thoughtfully, tapping her chin. "Nah."

Izuku looked up, shocked. "What?"

She grabbed him by the back of the head and shoved his face into her shirt-clad chest with what could only be described as an evil grin. "Now apology accepted!"

Much fun was had at Izuku's expense.

Masaru accepted the Chinese Medicine Balls and a hug with grace, before turning the conversation to something important. A phone for Izuku. Both he and Mitsuki were about to enter the busy season and wouldn't have enough time to run with 'Bonsai-chan' as often until it was over, but he was also old enough that he could run around the neighborhood by himself as long as he had a way of keeping in touch.

A week later, Izuku found himself the proud owner of a modern smartphone. It wasn't anything cutting edge or fancy, but it let him call, text and play music, so it worked perfectly.

After that embarrassing day, Izuku added running into his schedule, with his finish line being the park he'd found himself in before.

He also continued his study into the Style Known as Serration.

The first thing, oddly enough, was meditation.

Find yourself a place where the sun meets the water. The park served that purpose very well, and Izuku was beginning to get suspicious about the book. Given that no one else would acknowledge its existence for more than a blink, perhaps there was something to the whole 'call of destiny' thing. This is the proper environment to begin the purification. It is believed by some that there are two methods of purifying; by fire, and by water. We are forging a sword. We will use both.

There are two energies which allow the body to function; the physical and the mental. Of the 'spiritual' we will not debate, for this is a book and you are likely in public. Physical energy is generated by the organs, the bones, the nerves and the blood. Without it, we would be wondering dust, forever static except for the motion of the world around us. Mental energy is generated by thoughts, feelings, emotions and instinct. Without it, we would be simple plants, for what is life without thought except mere existence?

Together, they are what give us life. The ability to think, and to act on those thoughts. There are people, even after the advent of Quirks, who still prescribe to the idea that humans use only ten percent or so of our brains.

Those people are idiots.

Humanity uses almost every part of our brain, but we are only conscious of a certain amount. The majority of it is used for unconscious means, such as breathing, pumping blood or blinking. There are still sections that remain dormant except for specific circumstances. These are what we will harness. Everything that exists can be used as a weapon, and they are no different.

First, you must learn to separate the mental energy from the physical. This will be difficult. Step one: stop thinking.

As Izuku sat by the creek, scratching his temple, he debated on whether or not he should search for the man or woman or whoever wrote the book so that he could punch them in the face and/or debate philosophy. He had a feeling it would end up being both.

Let your body do it's thing. Let it breathe, let it pump, let it flow. Turn the eyes of your mind on itself. Step two: stop feeling. This will also be difficult. Do not worry about such things as hopes, dreams, thoughts, feelings and emotions. Allow logic to be your guide, and step away from your feelings.

This may take you some time, but remember this: you wouldn't have found this book if you couldn't do it.

Izuku took a deep breath and set the book aside, making himself comfortable in his patch of grass, the trickling of the creek playing in his ears as the sun warmed his skin, and closed his eyes. It was actually really easy for him to separate his mind from his body; all he had to do was concern himself with his field, something he'd been doing regularly to help map out crystal structures. He could feel the steady rhythm of his heart in his chest, felt his lungs expand as he breathed in under no direction from himself, and let it be.

He wasn't sure how long he'd been meditating before he heard it: a quiet, wet sucking noise, followed by a swish of liquid. It took him a moment to realize he'd just heard the exchanging of blood in his heart. And as if on cue, he could feel everything. The slight ruffle of his hair in the breeze, the liquid flow of blood traveling through his veins, the slightest of creaks from his bones as his muscles twitched, the sunlight gently pressing down his skin like thousands of microscopic fingers.

Distantly, Izuku wondered how people couldn't hear their own bodies at work, how the sloshing of liquids didn't drive them mad. Then he realized that they did hear it, but it was such a life-long constant that it was automatically tuned out, and he could see why.

Human bodies were kinda gross.

Turning his attention away from his body, Izuku focused on his mind, but there was no ease to be found there. His emotions swirled chaotically in his brain; his hunger, fatigue, annoyance, disgust at the noises of his body, the ever-present arousal kept just under control. It was like a maelstrom whirling with all of his feelings, the occasional clear thought poking through like the shattered mast of a sunken ship, only to be swallowed by the morass once more.

And that was when Izuku hit a metaphysical whorling water wall of whirling wetness. Trying to disconnect from his mental energy, his emotions especially, was much, much harder. It was like a family curse, even if he thankfully didn't burst into tears as often as his mother.

It took him two weeks of extended effort to make any sort of head way. Separating from his physical energy was easy, he learned how to do it as he sat in class and as he jogged, but it was as he sat by the creek, playing with a smooth stone of smoky quartz that he realized the answer was in his hand.

Delving into his meditative state, Izuku separated his physical energy and fell into the eye of the maelstrom that was his mental energy. Focusing on the stone he'd been holding, he visualized a line of jagged crystal growing from the floor, the edges parting the whirling wall of water and continuing to rise until it split, creating a rough portal just large enough for him to figuratively squeeze through.

And then he was through. Before him stretched a vast infinitude warm, inviting dark, like the best blanket, bath and hot chocolate combined, just quietly calling him to let go and drift. There was nothing to feel, nothing to fear, no one and nothing to bother him, just an eternity of soft, comfortable sleep.

Izuku looked back and found himself, his body sitting on nothing, face emotionless, body still. There was a line, tying him to himself. His fingers drifted to the line, and he found it ethereal. How easily it would release him, if only he would let it go…

His hands clenched around the rope and it thickened until it was akin to a golden steel cable. No, he said to himself, to the darkness. I have achieved nothing. I cannot sleep. I will not let go.

Hand over hand, he pulled himself back to himself until something like gravity began to pull him in. As he entered his atmosphere, he felt something from the dark. It understood. It would miss him. And it would wait for his return. And when he came back, it would pull him into its embrace and he would never worry or fear ever again.

And then Izuku was outside looking in on his mental and physical energies, represented by his body sitting inside of a maelstrom. He floated there for what felt like hours, trying to figure out what he was supposed to do. It only occurred later that he hadn't actually read that far ahead.

Coming back to his body was an odd sensation. For an instant, he heard all small things, the blood, the air and such, but it was filtered out for the sound of nature. Izuku flexed his fingers and felt his knuckles crack, then rubbed his hands up and down his arms. He felt cold for some reason, even though it was still sunny, though later in the day. Not even on his run back home, not even the final sprint to his building, legs burning, heart pounding, did the chill fade.

He leaned against the wall next to his door and let his breathing settle, worry seeping down his spine. Why do I feel cold? Is something wrong with me?

The door opened and Mitsuki backed out, calling, "-just think about it, okay? Let me know-oh!" She jumped a little as she turned around and found Izuku silently standing there. Her sassy smirk came back as she cocked a hip. "Gettin' allll sweaty just for me, Bonsai-chan? Trying to remind me of what I'm mis-"

She was stunned into silence as Izuku stepped forward and hugged her, resting his temple against her shoulder. It wasn't the first time he'd hugged her, though the instances had become vanishingly small with puberty hitting him like a truck. He was on track to be taller than her in a short time. But it was the first time he'd initiated without also crying first.

Mitsuki brought her arms up and rested them on his back, giving his spine a little rub. "You, uh…you alright, B-uh, Izuku?" She asked cautiously.

"Yeah," he mumbled into her shoulder, giving her a squeeze and stepping back, sniffling gently before he wiped his eyes and gave her a blinding smile. "I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you, Mitsuki-ba-chan. Thank you…for everything."

She blinked and swallowed, feeling a prickle of uncharacteristic heat in her cheeks. "You're welcome, Izuku, but…it's really not that much, y'know…"

"But you didn't have to do anything," he replied, still giving her that same beaming smile. "So thank you anyways."

Mitsuki felt her lips curl into a gentle smile, even as she reached out and pressed her hand to his forehead. "And you sure you're alright? You know you can talk to me about anything, right? I'll only tease you a little bit. At first."

He pulled her hand down and patted it. "I really am fine, Mitsuki-ba-chan, just…appreciating what I have."

"Well, appreciate away, then," she barely had to bend down to kiss his cheek. "We'll go running in a couple days, alright? Seeya later Bonsai-chan."

He gave her a wave before stepping inside of his home, finding his mom sitting on the couch fretting over a sheaf of paper. "Mom?"

Inko looked up from the paper and released the knuckle she'd been gnawing from her maw. She didn't know why, he didn't look distressed, but something seemed off about her boy. "Izuku?" she asked.

Izuku felt his lips tremble and his eyes well with tears even though he wasn't sad. He darted forward and wrapped his mother in a tight embrace, burying his face in the warmth of her sweater and crying silently.

"W-what's wrong?!" She asked, panicking as her son clutched at her like he hadn't seen her in years. "Izuku?!"

With a hitching breath, he wiped his eyes and hugged again. "I love you, mom," he whispered, and smiled when he heard her heart thump against his ear. "I love you so much…thank you for being my mother."

Inko swallowed thickly and ran a hand through his fluffy, slightly damp hair. "I-I love you too, Izuku…I'm proud to be the m-mother of such a sweet boy." She kissed the top of his head and held him tight against her chest. "Did something happen, honey?"

"Yes," he admitted quietly, wiping his eyes on his arm as he looked up at her. A slow smile creased his face as he met her eyes. "I realized how lucky I am to have you."

His mother blinked, her cheeks filling with color. And then the tears started to flow. "I love you Izuku!" She wailed, clutching him to her.

It went on for some time.

Eventually, though they broke apart and Izuku helped his mother cook dinner that night, a simple chicken salad, that they ate with a smile. When all was said and done, he settled at his desk and opened the book for further instruction.

Got it? Good.

Be aware, though; deep in this state, you will find something. Something vast and terrifyingly wonderful. The Deep. You will have brushed against it once and at some point you will have broken down crying for a reason you cannot identify.

It is because you long for The Deep. It offers nothing less than complete comfort and contentment, a release from every trouble of the mind, the body and the world. And if you allow it, you will happily drown in The Deep. It will be a constant longing, a desire so deep you will eventually forget it, and then the remembrance will drive you to despair. All this, from only the merest brush of The Deep.

Heed these words: if you desire ever to enact change on any scale, remember- NEVER. TOUCH. THE DEEP. EVER. It will wrap you in a blanket of comfort and you will never escape.

But since you are reading this, that means you were able to hold onto your body and tether yourself with your determination. That is why it will be the core of your weapon.

Good on you.

Izuku resisted the urge, barely, to hurl the book across the room. THAT'S why I felt so cold?! That's why I held onto my mom like a baby?! He growled deep in his chest and took a deep breath, letting the anger flow out with his breath and continued to read.

Now that you have successfully separated your mind and body energies, it is time to begin visualizing them. The body is solid, yet pliable; imagine wood. The mind is ethereal, fleeting yet ponderous; imagine water.

Izuku gave himself a flat look in his mirror.

Gather the wood into your chest, near the heart. Spark it. Let it build. Breathe life upon it. Let it burn.

Gather the water into a ball. Spin it and let the driftwood and the algae fall away until it is pure. Let it be as fast or slow as it needs and keep it shaped but most of all; let it flow.

When you have achieved this, continue reading.

It took Izuku weeks to visualize and 'gather the wood' and longer still to gather the chaotic maelstrom of his thoughts into a ball. He thought, at first, that he was meant to seize the water and force it into shape, but it was water. It slipped through his fingers faster than he could grab it, and that stalled him for a good few days.

It was as he was staring at the creek, lamenting his lack of progress that he dug a small hole in the ground and scratched a small channel leading to the water itself that he realized why he had failed. Water was liquid. It could not be seized by hand alone. It had to flow.

But it could be directed.

With that in mind, he delved into his meditative state and stood in the eye of the whirlpool. He stepped outside of it and laid a hand on the surface. With his will, he coaxed it to spin down and around. It splashed and thrashed, but with patience and time, it began to spin. It lifted from the ground and became an orb. Glassy smooth on the outside, clear all the way through, but the water flowed swift and sure.

And then he had a ball of water and a bundle of sticks. Yay him.

The next stalling point came at attempting to 'burn the wood.' Izuku had visualized it as wood, yes, but the supple young branches were still green beneath the bark. They didn't want to 'catch fire.'

How the hell do I spark it? He wondered to himself, idly flipping a pair of rocks, one a chunk of onyx and the other a piece of marble. The clicking of the rocks as they bounced in his hand soothed him as the problem continued to vex him.

And then an idea struck.

The wood sat near his heart, where blood flowed the most, where the heat was. Thump thump.

Like a flint striking steel, he imagined.

Thump-thump.

There were no sparks, only the slightest smoke. Faster.

Thump-thump.

Faster.

Thumpthump.

Faster.

Thumpthump.

The wood caught alight and a fire roared to life in Izuku's chest. He screamed internally, hands clenching around the rocks as sweat beaded on his forehead. The pain was horrifying, he could feel his veins shriveling and curling in the heat. Water! He cried, and the orb of his mental energy began to spill outward, flooding down his throat to his chest and dousing the flames.

But that wasn't the end.

The flames smoldered weakly, and weakness seeped into every inch of his body. He felt like tipping over and falling asleep, but somehow he knew that if he did, he wouldn't wake up.

He sparked the fire again and the warmth gave him comfort, but it was only seconds later that it burned too hot, too bright. He knew dousing the fire wouldn't save him, and letting it burn wasn't an option.

Balance was needed. Izuku allowed a thin stream to spill from his water. The fire flared and rose in response, but didn't die, though the heat was still too much. A little more water poured forth, the flames reached higher.

The water fell, the fire rose and then they touched. The tongue of flame brushed the orb of water and it hissed. The stream of water spilled onto the sun and it crackled. Then they began to pull at each other, and Izuku felt dread. He knew that if they collided, they would snuff each other out and he would suffer for it.

His hands clamped around both spheres, one searing hot and the other burning cold and tried to push them apart. But they refused to move away and pulled ever closer. His muscles stood out like steel cables as he held them back, his teeth clenched in a rictus grin.

I…won't let this happen! He screamed mentally, the veins bulging in his neck. He recalled The Deep, the succor it offered…and the thread that pulled him back. His determination was brighter than the fire, heavier than water and it was his! I will not die! I WILL NOT DIE.

And that was the catalyst that pierced through the two warring energies. The fire pulled in the water through the gold cord of his determination, but gently, evenly. The water soothed the fire and fed it at the same time. Then they pulled together again, but in harmony, spinning around and around the golden center until they finally met.

And then they exploded. Energy flooded through his veins in the form of glowing golden water, filling him from his toes to his hair with life.

Izuku's eyes snapped open and he sucked in a deep breath, every limb from fingers to toes tingling. He clenched his hands and gasped as pain shot up his arm. Looking, he saw why. He hadn't let go of the rocks he'd been holding and they'd cut into his palm, with thin streams of blood dripping down the gaps of his fingers. Grimacing, he pried his fingers open, then paused in shock.

There, sitting innocently in his blood-stained palm where two rocks should be, was a puddle. Not of blood or sweat, but liquid rock. It was pleasantly warm against his wounds and flowed like syrup, thick but smooth. With a flex of his field, the liquid flowed together and mixed, becoming something other than onyx and marble alone.

He pressed down on the field, willing it to become solid, and let it go. It collapsed to sand in his hand. His still bleeding hand.

Izuku hissed in pain, but couldn't suppress his energy and jumped to his feet. "Mom!" He shouted, belatedly remembering the fact that she was a few miles away. He took off running and even with his resistance bands still tight around body, he felt lighter and more energetic than before, even after his morning run and workout.

It took him no time at all to reach home, but he was still so bubbly with energy that he sprinted around the block a couple times more. And then he burst into the living room waving a bloody hand around and calling for his mother.

Naturally, chaos ensued.

After his hand was bandaged, Izuku showed her how he had liquified rock without melting it by tapping into the combined energies, turning a chunk of red and beige sandstone into orange sand. That inadvertently showed her that fact that he couldn't change it back, but she hugged him and told him she believed he could do it.

He'd come that far, after all.

It was a few minutes later when the energy faded and the hunger struck. It was sated with a few apples, two bananas, an orange, a quick salad and three packets of instant ramen, but even after he'd consumed the last drop, Izuku felt his stomach growl. Though he desired to help his mother cook, he left for his room when he realized he had been seriously considering eating uncooked noodles. And, more importantly, the book was waiting.

If you are reading this, that means you survived the process through which, with a core of determination, you have successfully fused your mental and physical energies. That means you have been upgraded from raw ore to a purified ingot. Congratulations. For that, as well surviving the numerous ways you could've died horribly! Let me list a few:

Drifting into The Deep: permanent coma, followed by death.

Extinguishing your Physical Energy: your heart would've stopped beating and you would've died. Also brain hemorrhage, asphyxia or an aneurysm.

Being consumed by your Physical Energy: an immediate blood-boiling fever, followed by death. Also burst heart, ventricles, veins, aorta and such.

Not balancing your energies: permanent enfeeblement/spontaneous combustion.

Again, congratulations. You may now scream internally and desperately hug a loved one.

Izuku did just that. And then he sat in the shower, letting the water rain onto his body as he rocked on the tile floor in the fetal position, sharp mind and imagination very clearly depicting the various ways he could've died.

When that was finally over with, he sat down at his desk and began to read again.

Now that you are done, it is time to reveal the reason behind the tasks you have performed. With your physical and mental energies combined, they have become what is known in many parts of the world as 'Ki,' 'Chi,' 'Chakra,' or simply 'Life Energy.'

Yes, you read that right. You are now a wielder of the legendary inner power of which only very few have ever come close. Ultimate power is at your fingertips. Soon you will learn to enhance your body, to fly, to walk on walls and water, to tap into the very elements themselves through specific hand-seals, to gather them into your very palms and fire them as a devastating beam while yelling very loudly!

Just kidding.

Izuku slammed his head into his desk, groaning painfully. For a second there, he'd actually believed what the book had described to be possible and had felt anxious, incredulous and astounded all at once!...Only for that to get cut off abruptly. Peering at the last two characters, there was an annotation in brackets, written in English. His class had only just begun learning it that year, and he was no expert, so he turned to the internet. "What is this?" He muttered to himself, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he slowly hunted-and-pecked to spell the sentence out. "'G-E-T, space, B-A-I-T-E-D, space, L-O-L.'" He pressed enter, and the translation came back in seconds.

And then he proceeded to throw the book across the room.

It was a few weeks later that his irritation with the book had cooled down sufficiently for him to not feel, as the book had so kindly stated, 'baited.' Still growling to himself, he cracked it open and found the page he'd been reading last while skipping over the last section. He wasn't sure he'd be able to keep his temper if he read it again.

None of those previous things are achievable with Life Energy. It is, quite simply, a method by which you can use to recover quickly to expand the results of training, or in a lull in a life-or-death battle for an edge. If you would prefer a pseudo-scientific explanation, it is directing the attention of the unconscious brain away from unnecessary things to very necessary things. This comes at a cost, as do all things. If the attention is directed away for too long, those unnecessary things will overwhelm you and you will die. Quickly if you are lucky.

Returning to the more metaphorical, imagine your Life Energy as a gallon jug of extremely high-proof alcohol. If you chug it all at once, you're dead. But a sip every once in a while will serve you well. Responsible use comes with a cost. What was taken must be returned, and you will not regenerate Life Energy forever on your own.

You will get hungry. A lot. Have a secure source of food always on hand.

Izuku frowned and set the book down, feeling guilt as well as hunger gnawing at his stomach. He had indeed been tapping into his chakra to replenish himself after a few particularly grueling runs as caused by his increasing the weight on his resistance bands. While the hunger that followed hadn't been as bad as the one following the unlocking, he'd still demolished more than three servings of katsudon. He had seen his mother fretting over the state of the fridge and had vowed to slow down, but that too made him guilty. What right did he have to be a hero if he wouldn't give his all, even in training?

He rapped his fingers on his desk and stared at the pile of glittering sand that diligently refused to come together as a rock. A light tap into his chakra would turn rock into liquid, but it refused to hold shape out of his field and quickly became sand; and even in his field, it still felt off…unstable, almost. Izuku grunted and pulled the sand into his field. There had to be some way of making money using his Quirk beyond either Hero work (as he was too young) or Villainy (because no shit).

The answer would continue to elude him for weeks further, as would the ability to make what had been liquid back into solid. He had come up with a way to continue his efforts to train with his chakra, by sneaking food from the cafeteria when no one was looking, but even that caused his guts to twist with anxiety.

There was one night, after once more failing to accomplish his goals, that Izuku crept out of his room to find a snack, something small to tide him over until the next day. But he paused near the kitchen, his mother's voice drifting down the hall. "-I know, Hisashi, but the expenses…I know. I've been trying but…I don't think there's any other way. Mitsuki offered to help, and-yes. What?! No! Why would you say that?! I…"

He didn't feel hungry after hearing that snippet of conversation, and slunk back to his room feeling like nothing more than a burden. Like a failure.

Izuku sat at his desk and thumped his head on the surface, trying not to let his feelings of inadequacy get the better of him, but the tears still gathered. Then he yelped in pain as something hit the back of his head and clattered to the floor.

Rubbing the back of his head, he looked down to find an action figure of All Might, wide plastic smile and heroically upraised thumb only adding insult to injury. He sighed as he picked it up and replaced it on his shelf next to the others. Looking at them all, which didn't entirely consist of All Might, just mostly, he felt his stomach churn further. He hadn't always gotten what he had asked for, but his mother, his sweet, kind-hearted mother had done her best to gift him the hero whose ideals he wanted to represent and build as his own. In action figures, posters, lunch boxes, a bedspread, shirts and even a backpack. She had sacrificed much in the way of yen to make him happy, and still it seemed he only took from her.

Like a useless little parasite.

Izuku felt his heart burn with fury; at himself, at his training, at the cost it put on himself and most importantly his mom. His eyes darted around the room and he realized something. Heroes, even ones with little popularity or very heroic ideals, still had egos. It was needed to be on camera, give speeches or taunt an enemy.

…How much would they pay for a very high quality figurine or statuette of themselves? How much would their biggest fans? While he was loath to use his Quirk to profit off the ego and admiration of others…there were more important things than his loathing. Like giving back to the woman who had raised him, loved him, and asked for nothing in return.

Determination burning within, Izuku sat at his desk and pulled the sandstone block to the front of his desk.

It was only days later that he ran into a stumbling block. The statuette of the number two Hero, Endeavor, carved from warm sandstone into his likeness, was very good in his opinion. His field was controlled by his mind, after all, and it was nearing razor sharp.

He just didn't know how to sell shit on the internet.

Sitting at his computer and tapping his fingers in frustration, Izuku sighed explosively. Simply taking a picture, posting it on a message board and asking 'any offers?' wouldn't work. But he had no idea how to do it.

"Izuku!" He heard his mom call, and he felt a thrill of anxiety run down his spine. Had Aldera noticed the missing food and figured it out? Had his mother noticed the small snacks he had taken from the kitchen? All those thoughts and more raced through his head even as he stood from his chair and went to the living room, but what he saw there he had no words for.

His mother stood by the coffee table, arms behind her back with her cheeks red. She wore the sweater he'd seen in Mitsuki's sketches and while it had looked great then…in person, it was an entirely different story.

In that sweater, which comfortably hugged her body while subtly hinting at some things, with her pink face and shy expression, his mother was absolutely adorable. "H-how do I look?" She asked nervously, peering up at him through her lashes with watery emerald eyes.

IT'S TOO CUTE. His mind thundered as his heart seized. MUST. HUG. MOM! "You look amazing, mom!" He gushed, swooping in to hug her tightly and discovered to his delight that she was even more cuddly and huggable than she looked. He pulled back after a mere five minutes and blinked, trying to focus. "But, uh…where'd you get that?"

"Well," she folded her hands behind her back and swayed in place, drawing on the floor with the tip of her slipper, completely unaware that such actions were only causing a conniption within her son as he mightily resisted the urge to hug the stuffing out of her once again. "Our budgets been a little tight lately-" Izuku felt like he'd been stabbed. "-I guess I forgot to account just much all the training you were doing would make you hungry…I'm sorry, Izuku, I know you've been trying to cut back for my sake…" She sniffed and wiped an errant tear away, and her son wished that he could tear his beating heart from his chest and offer it to her, if only it would remove that sadness from her expression. Then she puffed up and held her arms out, displaying the sweater. "Mitsuki-chan's been trying for years to get me to model for her, and…so I am! I'm trying, anyways…"

"Mom…" He asked painfully, feeling tears well in his eyes. "I thought you were uncomfortable with it…?" And she would still do it for my sake? How many sacrifices can one woman make?!

Inko took a steadying breath and rubbed her hands together, the slightly-too long sleeves flapping. "I am," she admitted, before adding, "And Hisashi isn't a fan of the idea, either. He feels he should be able to support us by himself, but…" She drew up, gaze firming. "I'm your mother, dammit. A little discomfort shouldn't get in the way of providing for my family. And, really, I remembered that's just part of working. I'd forgotten it after being just a mom for so long, I guess."

Izuku sniffed, tears of love pouring from his eyes. "…Mom…"

"D-don't you cry, Izuku," she warned even as her eyes watered and her voice wavered, "I'll start c-crying too and Mitsuki's coming over to do makeup and…" She swallowed thickly and brushed at her eyes with her sleeves. "I-I'm not sure if I'll get picked up because…you know," she gestured at herself as if she hadn't spent years jogging with her best friend and son, as if she wasn't currently in the best shape of her life, as if she wasn't possibly the cutest thing on the Earth right then. "B-but I'll still get paid for my time even if I don't get picked up, so it's not all bad…"

"Mom," Izuku stated firmly, causing her to look up in surprise. "If they don't pick you up, they must be blind. You're the most beautiful person in the whole world to me, and if they can't see it…they don't deserve to." Inko let out a shocked gasp and he stepped forward to hug her once again, his mother throwing her arms around him in return.

"Midoriya!" The front door opened and Mitsuki came in, bearing a thick case in one hand. She paused upon seeing the two of them, and Izuku had to admit that she looked good in a sharp black business jacket with a light pink blouse and a pencil skirt, her hair styled into a neat bun. "Ah, Izuku-kun, you're here already, too."

The lack of a teasing nickname made the two verdant hair-havers arch an eyebrow in question. "You wanted to see Izuku?" Inko asked, eyeing the armored-looking case with trepidation. "Is that…the makeup?"

Mitsuki set the heavy case on the table and shook her head. "Nope, I realized you'd probably stress out and then the waterworks would turn on and…well, you know. So I figured we'd just do that at the office. This, on the other hand," she tapped the case with her fingernails and fixed Izuku with a look. "Your Quirk…it's more than just controlling rocks with telekinesis, isn't it?"

Izuku nodded, inwardly gulping as he hoped she wouldn't spill too much about him to her daughter, even if what he would show was much less than he was capable of. He held a hand out and let his glass collect in his palm, forming into a gauntlet. "It's absolute control of any rock and mineral in my field," he admitted, not liking the way her eyes suddenly sharpened and followed the glass sand as it flowed up his sleeve. "Why do you ask?"

The blonde woman reached into her coat and pulled out the quartz heart Izuku made for her, explaining even as the boy in question felt his heart (the real one) jump with glee that she kept his gift on her. "It was like, a month ago when I was in bed…"

Like, A Month Ago…

Mitsuki was lying in her bed, a book forgotten in her lap as she played with the crystal heart her lil' Bonsai-chan had gifted her after his little incident, spinning it in her palm and watching the crystal catch the light and send arcs dancing around the darkened room. After receiving it, she'd kept it on her at all times, occasionally pulling it out to fidget with it when her mind wandered. Something about it struck her, but she didn't know what or why.

It wasn't that it was a bad gift- it was a great one from a genuinely remorseful, sweet boy who turned just the right shade of red with the right teasing who, if he continued on his path, would grow into sweet, cute man with the shape of an athlete; the kind she'd look after and sigh longingly while drinking wine and feeling old.

It was just something about the circumstances that struck her, and she couldn't think of why. She thought back to the afternoon, when she'd been badgering Inko about modeling again. Izuku had seemed strangely detached at first glance, but he'd hugged her like she was a steady buoy in a sea of storms and she couldn't help but smile even in remembrance. Just like the crystal he'd given her, he was a pure-hearted boy who'd be good for her violent, no-good…

Pure.

Mitsuki shot up in bed, eyes wide, distantly glad there was no one to disturb as she held the crystal up to the light and peered through it. She wasn't the most experienced when it came to precious rocks, but finding crystals that were entirely pure rarely if ever happened. And she remembered seeing little specks of dirt on Izuku's desk when he'd given it to her…if he was capable as she thought, then perhaps she could help them.

But first, she needed to make a call.

After the call ended, Mitsuki looked at the mirror in her room, and the sharp, satisfied smile on her face was reflected back. "Two birds with one stone," she crowed triumphantly, kissing the crystal heart and winking at herself, "Tsuki-chan, you are a damn genius!" She turned to admire her figure and slapped her hip. "A damn sexy genius!"

Presently, As It Were…

"-But even geniuses can't just borrow precious stones, especially raw ones, without some collateral," Mitsuku admitted, unlatching the case to throw it open and reveal the stones within. Only a few were shiny and cut; the rest were clean, if mired in rock. She leveled a serious look at Izuku, who gulped. "If you break these, or somehow ruin them…that'll be on me, okay? I took a risk, for myself, for your mother, and for you. But no pressure."

Izuku giggled shrilly as he rubbed his hand together nervously, visibly sweating. "Yeah, no pressure," his voice cracked, "It's only a case of gems that if I mess up will cost Mitsuki-ba-chan her career and lively-hood and possibly friendship with my mother…yeah! Nothing to be nervous about!" He shrilly laughed again then stopped suddenly, staring at the stones as if they would jump out of the case and bite him if he looked away.

"I didn't say I wagered my career or anything, Bonsai-chan," the blonde clarified with a smirk. "Just a few pieces from my Fall collection…damn bitch Kurenai just doesn't know how friggin' sweaters work…"

"Izuku," Inko laid a hand on his arm, getting his attention. "Whatever you decide," she stated seriously, her emerald eyes gazing into his own, "I believe in you, okay?"

"Okay…" He sighed sharply and nodded. "Okay."

With trembling fingers he reached into the case and paused above an uncut ruby, then reached over to the sparkling cut gem next to it. Holding it between his hands, Izuku closed his eyes and mentally mapped out the structure within, running his thumb along a facet and feeling it split into two pieces. Nodding to himself, he pressed the halves back together and made them whole, setting the stone in the case and taking the uncut rock.

Now that he recognized the structure, he could map it out easily and did so, reducing the other, non-ruby rock into sand and gathering it into a small stone that he set aside. That done, he took the stone and the small bits that had been scattered throughout the rest and melded it into one stone, filling in structures and refining until he held a perfectly round, perfectly smooth ruby in his hand. He offered it to Mitsuki, who took a jeweler's magnifying glass and peered through it.

"Perfect clarity," she muttered, weighing it on a small scale, "More carats than expected…" The blonde plucked the cut example from the case and offered both to him. "Can you make them look the same?"

Izuku nodded and held the uncut stone in his hand for a few seconds before presenting it back to her, the two rocks matching perfectly. Shaping the rock was easy once he knew the structure.

Mitsuki smiled and bounced it in her palm. "And it was shaped with zero loss…" She turned her eyes on the two of them and gestured at the case. "Izuku, if you can do the same thing with all the other uncut stones…I think you might find your skills in very high demand."

"B-but if people find out about this," Inko interjected nervously, waving a hand at the case and her son, "W-won't they try to find him? W-would that put him in danger?!"

Her best friend waved her concern off. "There are ways around that, NDAs and such…plus, the firm I contacted would pay through the nose for exclusive retainership. That's something for us to discuss, though, since Izuku's still a kid. We can hash it out later." She turned to Izuku and paused upon seeing him set one of the last gems, an emerald, back in the case. "Woah. You're quick, huh?"

Izuku grabbed the last one, a sparkling diamond, and shrugged. "Once I memorize the structure it's easy," he muttered, focusing on the structures within. Even while mentally mapping them out, he could feel that they were strong and with the materials making it up, he could see why diamonds were considered unbreakable. He grabbed the uncut diamond and did his thing, putting it back and pausing. Structure…stability…His eyes went wide and he froze, thinking rapidly.

Mitsuki examined them all, her smile becoming wider and more toothy with every look. "Well, I'm impressed and I know they will be, too." She grinned and elbowed Inko in the side. "Looks like you're both getting jobs, huh? Lazy bunch of slackers."

Inko's cheeks puffed out and became red with embarrassment, but whatever she was going to say was cut off as Izuku suddenly shouted, "That's it!" snatched the diamond up and dashed to his room, calling over his shoulder, "One second!"

"Izuku!" His mother called, frowning. "Don't we have to g-go soon?"

Mitsuki wasn't worried. Izuku was too much of a good boy to just steal a diamond, especially not in front of someone. And unless he was planning on throwing himself out of a window, there was nowhere for him to go. "Go? Nah, the shoot's not for another couple hours. I just wanted to get there early so I can deal with your freakout and still be on top of things. And have enough time to deal with the secondary breakdown before makeup." She said bluntly, leaning back on the couch.

Inko pouted and crossed her arms. "Mou, Tsuki-chan," she moaned, covering her face with her sleeves, making her best friend grin, "You don't have to say it like that…"

Mitsuki arched an eyebrow. "What, factually?"

Inko pouted again. Then she dropped her arms. "How'd you get those?" She asked seriously, gesturing at the case with her chin. "I know you work with clothes…"

"Fashion is more than just clothes, you know," Mitsuki griped, "There's the hair, makeup, and necklaces, earrings to tie it all together. Jewelry is important. It's part of the job. I know people, y'know."

"YES! IT WORKS!"

Mitsuki hummed as the shout echoed through the home and possibly the building. "So your son's a screamer, huh?"

"…please never say that again."

"Yup, regretted it as soon as it came out of my mouth."

Izuku came running back to the living room with something clenched in his hand. "Mitsuki-ba-chan, you're willing to act as a go-between so we can maintain some level of anonymity, right?" He asked in a rush, before remembering he had the diamond in his hand.

"Uh, yeah…your mom doesn't have a negotiating bone in her body," The blonde blinked, reaching over to poke the other mother in the side.

"Hey!" she squealed, covering her stomach. "I held out this long, didn't I?"

"And how much of that was shyness and Hisashi?" Mitsuki shot back, closing the case. "Yeah, I'm willing to be the 'middle woman' as it were. Why?"

"Would you be willing to do the same for things like this?" Izuku held out his hand, showing a ten-inch statuette of the Number Two Hero, Endeavor. It was made of what looked like sandstone, but matte and orange, red and yellow stone, like living flame had been petrified and sculpted.

Mitsuki's eyebrows went up as she took it. "I mean, there's always a market for stuff like this…it's not my forte, but I can ask around." She set it on the coffee table and slapped her thighs. "Alright! Bonsai-chan, I think we might have a very profitable deal coming your way soon, and I gotta get your momma on her way to international super stardom!"

Inko squealed in fear and clapped her hands over her face. Izuku excitedly hopped forward and gave Mitsuki a big hug. "Thank you so much, Mitsuki-ba-chan…you didn't have to do this…"

She heard him sniffle and ruffled his hair. "You better not stain my clothes, brat," she murmured fondly, "Yeah, maybe I didn't have to but hey, sometimes people need a little push to realize their potential. Besides, I couldn't just let my best friend and her cute lil' Bonsai-chan go broke, could I? Once they become rich as hell, they'll owe me all the food I could ever eat, Mwahahaha!" She kissed his cheek and pushed him away. "But seriously, don't mess up my lines."

Izuku then turned to his mother and hugged her, too. "You'll be great, mom! They'll love you!"

Inko squeaked out a, "Thanks!" Before Mitsuki picked up the case o' jewels and steered the shorter woman to the door.

"Don't worry, Bonsai-chan! Your momma's gonna come back in one piece!" She called, "Get ready for a fancy-schmancy dinner around seven, too! My treat!"

Izuku waved and watched them go, his cheeks hurting from smiling so much. Not only had he discovered a way to use the liquid rock, he'd also been shown another method of supporting his family besides the one he'd been trying to use!

It had been a very good day.

Pepped up on happiness, Izuku skipped to his room and got ready for a run, his eyes falling on the book. Pulling up his socks, he cracked it open and read.

Now that you've purified yourself, it is time to begin the forging process. This means training.

Luckily for you, everything can be training.

Shall we begin?

Izuku took a deep breath and felt the glass in his field shiver, whether in glee or trepidation he couldn't tell. But he was ready.

IZUKU, AGE 14

Two years on, and life had changed for the Midoriya family. Though not in any major way. They lived in the same apartment, they wore the same clothes, if newer, and ate the same food, made of better ingredients. If an appliance needed replacing, it was bought. And that was it.

Neither Izuku nor Inko were the type to flaunt what they had, nor eat out every meal or wear the most expensive things. They had what made them comfortable and they were happy with that.

Though Izuku did splurge a bit. Weights for working out at home, a dummy for practicing what he knew of Wing Chun, and dyes for his statuettes. Also a new phone with a larger music library.

Izuku was currently in the third hour of his Saturday run, occasionally sipping from the gallon of chakra inside of him when he felt himself flagging, while listening to classic American Rock. English was a complicated, sometimes contradictory and all the time frustrating language to learn, which was why after two years of learning the basics, he was still only passable at it.

But translating it as he ran made for good mental exercise.

He let go of his chakra and began his sprint, feeling his muscles and lungs burn as they pumped, the music pounding in his skull. Sweaty, thirsty and hungry, he stopped near his creek and began to stretch, translating the lyrics as the song ended.

"I've spent a lifetime…planning out your destruction…you are never going to witness another day…a lonely lifetime planning out your destruction, with no other function…"

Izuku blinked and frowned, looking down at his phone. A song about planning out someone's destruction…by the Classic Rock Band Disturbed. And it was called Run. He couldn't help but chuckle at the irony as he gulped down some water and tore into a protein bar. Then he carefully positioned his arms under his head and lifted his feet into the air.

He closed his eyes and started listing the Periodic Table of Elements in his head, letting the sounds of nature and the mindful task combine as he tried to keep his balance.

Izuku distantly heard a rustling noise, but it didn't penetrate his mind. His nose pricked with a new scent; sweet like honeyed strawberries with a bitter copper tang for a finish. That was enough to break his concentration.

Izuku opened his eyes.

His green met a pair of honey gold eyes, the pupil slit like a cat's. "Whatcha doin'?" A feminine voice asked him.

His eyes went wide as he realized that not only was someone also balancing on their head to look at him…that person was a girl.

GIRL! His mind shrieked.

Izuku wobbled and fell over with a yelp.

There is another truth, one proven when the tribal humanity grouped together, and further proven by internet communities the world over:

Birds of a feather, flock together.

A/N: …Well. Can you tell I've been motivated? After I posted the first one I immediately got started on this one and it's all I've been able to think about for the last week or so. Funnily enough, this was supposed to be a much shorter chapter, around eight to nine thousand, but…as readers of Console might be aware, character interactions can get away from me. And as a chapter in excess of fifteen thousand, it really got away from me this time.

NS: Well, I don't think anyone will really complain too much, since it's with Mitsuki.

Something I've hated for a long time is when characters call other characters 'aunt' or 'uncle' yet they never seem to actually interact in any meaningful way. So, as you can see, I've decided to expand upon certain characters and to create an actual, hopefully realistic friendship and such because it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Plus I think as Izuku and Bakugou are like opposites but similar, so too are their mothers.

Plus Inko gets teased and I think it's adorable.

NS: Mitsuki and Inko have never interacted in canon.

I tried, tried to balance the chapter between character interactions, training and timeskips so we can get along right to the action, while also charting out the most important moments during six years. And also establish relationships for future interactions!

Next chapter: Less timeskips, more of that chick (who could it be?!) more training, and then!

Stuff.

I hope you've enjoyed this monster of a chapter, and if you did I'm glad I could give you a moment of distraction in this busy life of ours. Big thanks, as always, to the usual suspects but bigger thanks to NorthSouthGorem. Once more his knowledge has come in handy for a lot of things.

The weeb.

NS: You're welcome.

Check him out, why don't you?

Stay Safe, Stay Awesome.

~Soleneus

P.S.: I will reiterate that no, the chakra that Izuku can tap into isn't like Naruto or Dragon Ball Z or whatever, it's not entirely magical but it isn't shooting fireballs out of the mouth or whatever.

Also, the book will be explained eventually.

But not until it's too late…

Stay Awesome Some More.

~still Soleneus