Tiger & Might – Chapter 6: Divergence
“NNNRRRRAAAHH!!” A roar that shook the nearby windows was how Izuku’s day started.
He’d been walking the path he’d taken nearly every day to school when it reached his ears. Something that grabbed his attention and left him taking notice of the full situation far ahead. The direction of the roar was the same as the build-up of traffic and the cacophony honking, cause and effect bundled into one. The roads must’ve been closed further ahead, forcing the cars to be diverted, yet there were piles of people on the sidewalks heading in that direction.
“Excuse me! Sorry! Coming through!” Those words flowed out of Izuku’s mouth like a river as he wove through the swelling crowd. There were few things Izuku could think of that would get this many people to assemble. But the primary reason he suspected was more than enough to draw him in too.
Eyes fixed ahead, he maneuvered around the eel-like tail of one person while reaching into his pocket for his phone. He pulled it out and then squeezed his lean frame past a couple to reach the barrier had been put into place to keep them from going any further. It was there he could see what was happening clearly.
There was someone under the effects of a gigantification quirk smashing the side of overhead train passage, tearing out chunks of concrete and glass and steel in the process of trying to apprehend a smaller figure that flipped agilely out of his reach. The wanton level of destruction left Izuku to assume that he was a villain… well, that and the fact that he recognized the hero facing him.
Dressed in a minimalistic design that was deep shade of blui, reminiscent of shinobi of the past, and a mask, helmet, belt, and near-shoulder length gloves made of wood, Kamui Woods deftly landed on roof of the train station. His movements were quite polished from what Izuku noticed, someone skilled at navigating the air through the use of his quirk in a manner similar to grappling lines. Izuku had been studying to do the same, so he was a great reference point.
And he’d done all that while keeping the villain’s attention on him. He’d constantly placed himself to where, even if the villain lashed out, it would likely be focused in a direction where the debris wouldn’t be hurdled towards the civilians nearby. However, before the damage escalated further, he needed to finish this up soon.
Before that happened, Izuku began recording to with his phone. “Morning, 7:55 AM. A battle between an unknown villain and hero Kamui Woods is underway. His acrobatic motions without signs of nausea or disorientation are in line with previous video clips. It’s likely he has some level of zero-g training to compensate for his fighting style. Also of note, he has used his Quirk to latch onto surfaces even after they’ve left his field of view, likely indicating that he’s able to perceive his surroundings intuitively even if his position changes—”
“What are you, some kind of hero fanboy?” asked a man standing next to him, cutting off his ramble.
“Ah, sorry,” Izuku told the man. “I’m an aspiring hero, so I’m taking notes.”
“Well then, aspiring hero, what do you think’ll happen next?” he asked as Kamui Woods began to announce the villain’s crimes and then ask him to stand down.
“He’ll used his Lacquered Chains Prison technique to stop his movements and bind him.” Izuku pointed to Kamui Wood’s arm that had begun to swell to the point of rattling as the sylvian bindings began to form. “For people with quirks that enlarge their sizes to that extent, they usually need to maintain their focus since it’s not their natural form and the strength of his wood can easily support several thousand pounds, so he’ll be forced to return to his normal size and then be restrained—”
“CANYON CANNON!!” His words died when a large figure came crashing in to deliver a drop kick that caught the unaware villain in the face with an impact hard enough Izuku could feel it. His flew off the train platform, through the wall behind him, and fell down to the other side of the street.
“—or that,” Izuku finished, unable to keep the surprised look off his face at the appearance of new heroine clad in a tight bodysuit that managed to account for her larger size. Then he found himself being crushed by several other men who produced cameras of their own and began snapping photos of the heroine as she introduced herself as Mt. Lady.
He squeezed himself out of the crowd and then he stuck around for a bit longer to see the police arriving and getting restraints onto the villain. Then he noticed the time and realized he would be late if he didn’t hurry. That was unacceptable as things stood. It was his final year in Junior High after all.
So he raced all the way to Aldera to get Homeroom in time, coming to a sliding stop through the doorway and fixing his gaze up at the clock to see that he made it just in time. Good. Breathing a sigh of relief as he took his seat near the back, he then pulled out one his notebooks to add the new entry to it as the teacher spoke.
“…You’re all at the point where you should be thinking about what you want to do with your lives…”
Mt. Lady—Gigantification Quirk. A New Heroine. Quirk strong but useless in narrow spaces if no intermediate stage or forced into confrontation on surface that can’t support her weight. A bit reckless…
He erased that last part over the cheering of his classmates as the teacher brought up how everyone wanted to be a hero when he considered how she had kicked the villain through the side of the train passage and onto the road below that had been kept evacuated. It was true that it was a bit excessive in terms of property damage, especially when Kamui Woods was able to capture him without it. And, if that hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out, two people with Gigantification Quirks fighting could cause some real damage to their surroundings.
But, if she had gone through hero training and had an agency employing her, then she had to know that specific kind of quirk was difficult to use as a hero. She was stronger and larger in that state, but her weight and size increase meant that she absolutely couldn’t operate in closed spaces without damaging the buildings and the people within it. That was way it was among the flashiest when used by a villain in combat.
“…I’m the real deal. These losers will be lucky enough to end up as a side-kick to some busted D-Lister. Heh!”
D-Lister… of course. Bakugo’s words clicked with Izuku, a missing link in a chain he hadn’t considered as his former friend went on about being more popular than All Might. Most likely it was all calculated to ensure that she gained the most amount of attention for her debut. In fact, given her size, the fact that no one heard her footsteps meant she had likely been waiting for an opportunity while Kamui Woods was acting as a distraction.
He had thought that the age of heroes undercutting one another for the sake of getting ahead had died during Mister Kaburagi’s time, given the chaos that followed before the new age settled in. But, when he thought about it, that was exactly what she did. By undercutting Kamui Woods the moment that she was in the right position, she got around the difficulties of her quirk while getting the most benefits for the least amount of work. Not to mention her outfit and mannerisms could grab a lot of attention for the sake of merchandising.
Izuku wasn’t sure how he felt about that as he finished entering that into his journal. He wanted to be a hero like All Might, who brought comfort to people with a smile and saved them. The thought of doing so for money never really crossed his mind, but not everyone had that same mindset and heroes had to make a living as well. Then again, I may just be making assumptions—
“Midoriya.” His head snapped up at hearing his named being called. “You wanted to go to U.A. High School too, right?”
“That’s right,” he said, closing his notebook. He would get back to it after class. “The Hero Track, specifically. I figured there wasn’t any harm in applying for the chance to go and they repealed that rule against needing a quirk, so it’d establish a precedence.”
His admission was met with laughter by most of the class. The exception was Bakugo, who took offense to that instead. He leapt out of his seat to slam his hand on Izuku’s desk.
“You think you can get into the same school as me!” he said, insulted. “You’re even worse than the rest of these losers, you quirkless wannabe! You’d die during the exams like the helpless lamb you are!”
“I don’t think they’d actually let students die during the exams, but I still want to at least say that I tried so that I don’t have any regrets,” Izuku said in turn, meeting his gaze. “There’s no shame in that.”
“Now, now. Settle down,” the teacher said before anything could happen as the two began to leer at one another, neither backing down. “Midoriya, I would suggest applying for the General Education track. It’s more realistic given your circumstances and grades.”
“…I’ll consider it,” Izuku told the teacher as Bakugo gave him a final, dismissive glare before going back to his seat. If only to move things along before they escalated.
The rest of Izuku’s day at school was marred by that morning. The laughter gnawed at him on the inside even as the hours passed to some extent, even if he didn’t show it. No one liked having their dream laughed at, much less because he was born lacking something that they had.
For that reason, he wasn’t exactly eager to stick around when class was over. The only reason he didn’t run out the door was because his phone abruptly began to vibrate, indicating that he had a text. He pulled out his phone and checked to see that it was Mei.
[-I put the finishing touches on my new baby! I need you to try it on, so I’ll be coming over to your house today, Partner!-]
Oh, she’s already managed to finish. He shouldn’t be surprised. Since she was going to try for U.A. High School’s Support Department this year, it was natural that she would put in as much effort as possible. It was only fair that he’d help her with it, so he sent a message back stating he’d be on the way when Bakugo made himself known by plucking for his notebook right out from underneath him. “Give that back, Katsuki!”
“Hero Analysis Journal #13. Looks like you didn’t learn from the last time.” He looked at it, then out the window. Then he placed it between his palms and then let loose his quirk, a localized explosion tearing through it before he flicked over the balcony and into the koi pond with perfect accuracy. “You—”
Izuku didn’t bother listening to whatever he had to say, instead going for the door to get down to it. The longer he waited the more time the water had to soak into the notebook. Unfortunately, by the time he’d gotten there the water had soaked the pages enough that they sloughed in his hand as Izuku made for the school’s gate, where Bakugo stood with the other two he hung around with.
“Are you going to go crying to your Mommy this time too?” he asked, mockingly.
Izuku’s response was to meet his eyes and say, “You’ll never be a Hero with an attitude like this.”
Bakugo’s response was swift. He grabbed Izuku by the collar with one hand, and then brought their faces close enough that he could smell the nitroglycerin. “Say that again. I dare you.”
Izuku looked over Bakugo’s shoulder to the two hang-ons watching with grins. Then he sighed and said in a strained voice, “Let me go, Katsuki.”
“That’s what I thought.” He dropped Izuku like a garbage bag on the curve. “You talk big, but a coward like you freezes up the moment you get in over your head and all that bravado goes with it. Weaklings and cowards like you are the ones who will never be heroes.”
Izuku got to his feet and dusted himself off before turning and walking away. Because, whether he liked it or not, he knew Bakugo well enough to guess how he’d respond to overt resistance. His pride would end up costing not only him, but their mothers more than a notebook’s worth of damage.
“Listen here, you’d better not bother applying to U.A. at all!” Bakugo said as he kept walking away. “I don’t care if it’s the General Track or not. After this year is done, I don’t want to see your face ever again. And you’d better keep your mouth shut about today, or else!”
One of these days he’ll learn the world doesn’t revolve around him, Izuku thought to himself as he walked while looking down at the ruined notebook. More proof that the Kacchan he knew was long gone.
Bakugo was blessed with a Quirk that was great for offense and was enamored with All Might’s power and prowess, so he failed to see being a hero was more than that. Heroes had to be role models and save the weak. Not use them as the foundation for the pedestal he stood on.
Not that Izuku wasn’t to blame as well. If he’d said something earlier, then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten that far, and their parents wouldn’t have gotten involved. Maybe they both would have been able to salvage what friendship they’d had before, but…
No. Last year made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. Bakugo’s dream came first and anyone who opposed that was an enemy or an irritant. He’d just gone from the latter to the former since then and only the threat of losing his chances at U.A. High School stopped him from going further when Izuku didn’t directly challenge him.
Lost in thought, Izuku only came out of it when he heard a slippery, goopy sound coming from behind him and a rancid scent reached his nose. He turned to find there was now a wall of slime behind him, a stemming from the openings in a manhole cover. Then he met the eyes of the one who it belonged to, staring down at him.
“What luck,” it said, despite lacking a mouth. Sapient. A mutant-type quirk. “You’ll make a perfect skinsuit for me to hide in, kid!”
That last line Izuku’s mind caught and registered the underlying threat, but his body wouldn’t move. Fear had nailed down his feet to the asphalt as he tried to reason out why and how a villain was attacking him here and now, of all times. Unfortunately, fight or flight only kicked in when it lunged for him, and he made the biggest mistake he could by turning his back on the villain.
All at once he was buried in the sludge that was viscous enough that he couldn’t escape. He could only hold his breath as the villain then tried to force itself into his mouth and nose. Thee rancid and sewer-tainted mass squirmed to get inside of the orifices and smother him from the inside out.
I have to get out of here! Izuku wriggled to try and get himself free, grasping with his free hand to try and pull it off. But, being a mutant-type quirk able to control the viscosity of itself, Izuku’s fingers couldn’t pull it away from sticking to him and he couldn’t get leverage while he was hoisted off the ground. If I could reach my backpack, then maybe…
“Don’t make this harder than it needs to be,” the mass of sludge vibrated to imitate speech as the force bearing down on him grew tighter. It was compacted tighter, crushing the middle-schooler in its grasp to try. “Open wide and it’ll be over!”
Somebody… help… were Izuku’s final thoughts as the villain went on about someone being here before his mouth opened involuntarily when the squeeze became too much. The goop plunged its way into his throat while he flailed about, worming itself down his esophagus. “Khgnngghhh!?”
“There we go.” The sludge tainted his mouth with a nauseating, torrid goop that made its way into his lungs. “It’ll be a bit of a tight squeeze, but—”
The mass of sludge froze in place as the sound of metal hitting the ceiling of the underpass rang out. Even the sludge that had been squirming its way down his narrow windpipe stalled as a presence made itself known with familiar words that reverberated even as Izuku’s consciousness flittered on the edge of darkness. “Have no fear. You are safe, now that I am here!”
“H-Hey!” the slimy mass vibrated. “I’ve got a hostage, so—”
There was a great force of pressure and wind that followed. Ripping away the mass that kept him bound its in disgusting and torrid embrace. His tear-stained eyes strained against the great force to see the silhouette of a figure he recognized. Ah… is that…All Might…
Though his body was weak, and his consciousness was fleeting, the thought of the hero of his childhood being right in front of him was enough to move it involuntarily. His hand reached out as thought to grab that of his hero. Like he’d done for those people and with a smile on his face, All Might had had come to save him…
“You talk big, but a coward like you freezes up the moment you get in over your head and all that bravado goes with it. Weaklings and cowards like you are the ones who will never be heroes.”
Yet, he could only feel a sense of shame when his thoughts trailed to that. He’d been training to be a hero for almost two years now. And yet, he froze up in the end. How could he save others when he couldn’t even save himself?
He felt the hot streak of tears running down the side of his face as he then he lost consciousness…
Inko Midoriya had tears in her eyes as she hugged her son, sitting in a hospital bed. When Izuku woke up again, he was already in the hospital. There was mask was fixed over his face, an intravenous drop to his arm, and a heart monitor measuring his vitals.
They were all done out of precaution, according to what the doctor told her when she arrived. Apparently, the police had an ambulance bring him there after he was dropped off by All Might when he delivered the villain to the police. Given the nature of the villain’s quirk and the fact that he’d traveled through a sewer, they were taking precautions. So, on top of the medicine, they were set to do a bronchoalveolar lavage later on to detect any life-threatening bacteria that needed to be treated.
Izuku just stared at the ceiling while deep in thought, listening to his mother talk with monitor’s beeping as background noise. He felt tired, but he didn’t dare close his eyes since if he did he would recall the pressing, vicious hold and how he struggled to no avail. Waking up to his mother hugging him had nearly left him on the verge of tearing out the intravenous drip until he recognized her voice, so he was afraid to let that happen again.
A little while ago, a police detective named Tsukauchi came by and told them that the Sludge Villain who had attempted to… to kill him, in order to use his body, would be processed to the fullest extent of the law. He didn’t say it outright while his mother was there and already looking like she was on the verge of having a panic attack, but Izuku knew there had to have been others who that had happened to. There were some things you could only do if you had experience with, and the villain was too methodical and deliberate in his actions, immediately trying to smother him and confident he could use his body to escape.
Some mutant-type quirks provided malformations that made them difficult to deal with. By virtue of the composition of the villain’s body, there was no way Izuku would have be able to escape him under his own power. If he had his grappling watch on, then he could have pulled himself free, but it was in his backpack at the time and so there was nothing he could’ve done.
He could accept that he’d been caught off-guard and thus rendered helpless. But what he couldn’t accept was that he froze up right before the attack. That Bakugo had been right. That he froze up in fear and it left him helpless, unable to do anything, until All Might had arrived.
If the positions had been reversed, if he’d frozen up like that when he was the one who was supposed to be the hero, then someone would have died. That thought hurt more than anything else. Despite everything he’d been working towards, despite all the knowledge he’d gained, despite all the effort and time others had given him, he froze up and made everything they’d done meaningless in the end.
A shuddering breath left his mouth and he felt tears prickling the corners of his eyes when there was a light knock on the door. “Pardon me, but is this Izuku Midoriya’s room?”
“It is.” Inko stated.
“Ah, good…” The door opened to reveal a rather thin man with sunken eyes, blond hair, and angular features on his face. He wore a shirt that seemed to hang off his frame loosely and was carrying an arrangement of flowers. “These are for the young Midoriya.”
Inko accepted them on Izuku’s behalf since he was still in bed. “Thank you very much. But who sent them?”
“They’re part of our condolences and reparations for this incident.” He reached into his pocket and then pulled free a business card that he extended to her with both hands. “My name is Toshinori Yagi. I’m part of The Might’s Productions Second Secretarial Office in the Roppongi district of the Minato Ward, which handles All Might’s personal affairs.”
“Really?” She looked at the card incredulously, unable to fathom a hero like All Might would be involved.
Toshinori nodded. “Yes. Given the nature of the incident, he felt that he should extend his apology for the circumstances in which the young man here was targeted. To that end, we will cover any expenses related to the hospitalization and provide whatever is needed to ensure that he recovers.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Inko said. “Izuku’s been a big fan of All Might since he was a little boy. He’s watched the video of his first appearance so many times he has it memorized, and he even decided to attend U.A. in hopes of being a hero like him. I’m sure knowing that he cares even now will help Izuku get right back on his feet.”
The man smiled slightly. “Well, he can’t be here personally due to other affairs right now. However, it might be possible to arrange a visit before his hospitalization—”
“…Please don’t,” Izuku said, looking down at his hands. He couldn’t bear the thought of his hero seeing him in this state, after failing to even keep to up with the dream he’d sought to fulfill. “I don’t have the right to face All Might right now. Or claim to try and be a hero after I froze up like that.”
“Izuku…” His mother’s lips pulled down into a sad frown before she tried to smile. “It’s okay. You didn’t have any way of knowing that you’d be in trouble. It was just bad luck.”
“But I always told myself I would be able to do something when the time came if I was going to be a hero,” Izuku said, curling his hands into fists. “Yet, I froze up the moment I was in danger. What kind of hero would do that?”
“…In this age of peace, people don’t expect to be attacked because of the security that the heroes provide,” Mister Yagi said, drawing their attention to him. “Every hero strives for that feeling of security, so that people can live without fear in their day-to-day lives. So they condition themselves and gain the mindset required to be able to act in a crisis through practical experience. The fact that you experienced such a thing today is a failure on our part, and for that you have my apology, young man.”
“Ah… that’s…” His mind froze and his eyes widened as a realization washed over him while those words resonated within him. “I see… I see now…”
“Izuku…” He looked to his mother, staring at him with those eyes of worry that weighed on his heart. “Are you okay? You got quiet.”
“I’m fine, Mom.” He put on a smile for her and then turned to Mister Yagi. “Thank you, Yagi-san. Those words, they put me at ease and helped me realize something I wouldn’t have before. Thank you.”
“Is that so…” He lightly coughed into his hand. “Ah, forgive me. I should be going, but if you need anything, feel free to call that number.”
“We will,” Inko said. “Thank you very much, Yagi-san.”
As he left, Izuku’s revelation was complete. Knowledge and training wasn’t enough without the mindset to put it to use. The mindset could only be obtained by practical experience. Practical experience could only be obtained by acting. It was like that time when he first jumped off a building with Mei’s equipment. The fear of death and terror that came with it lessened the moment after he’d taken that first jump.
This had been a lesson. He couldn’t truly understand the depths of helplessness that came from being the victim of a villain, or the abruptness at which one’s life could be so easily interrupted and cruelly shortened. He couldn’t even fathom the thought that he would be attacked before he obtained his Hero License or attended U.A.
He’d been fooling himself and thinking that he was getting closer to his goal, applauding himself when he was still only at the starting line. But it was now all clear on how naïve he’d been because of this cruel lesson that nearly cost him his life. It was the price he had to pay for that hubris, but now he had learned from it.
All of the things he was lacking could be gained through practical experience. But he couldn’t wait until he was going to enter into U.A. High School to get it. After all, villains could attack at any time and if it happened again when someone else was next to him, they would suffer for his weakness of heart and lack of preparation.
Toshinori Yagi left the mother and son to their business with a frown on his face. He had been too slow to catch that villain, allowing him to escape long enough to find a youngster to use as a hostage. His time had nearly run out in the process, meaning that if he had been a few seconds late that mother would be left to grieve the young life that had been snuffed out.
He had seen eyes like Midoriya’s before. Of people who became victims and were shaken because of it. As the Symbol of Peace that opposed Ouroboros and the one behind the organization, he wore a smile as he fought so that people would feel reassured and safe.
But the fact that the boy felt ashamed of his own weakness and dream of being a hero to where he didn’t want to meet someone he considered his idol weighed on Toshinori’s shoulders heavily. Because if he was in his prime it wouldn’t have happened. He would’ve caught that villain before he managed to get into the sewer to begin with if not for his injuries.
He couldn’t delay what he had come to this city to do any longer.
He had to find his successor.