Filtered, yellow light lit the principal’s office of Aldera Junior High. Shouta sat safe in the cold shadow of the back corner and waited, half-asleep, half-coiled.
He was here on school—and state—business. UA protected its students from media mongering as a matter of course, a a service backed by the government as an equal matter of course. Everyone knew the damage one scandalizing interview could cause to hero careers and UA’s reputation alike, and that was something both school and state took seriously.
One such interview had taken place over the past week. An old Aldera classmate of Izuku Midoriya had somehow got ahold of the press and released such scandalizing details as accusations of Quirklessness and cheating. Hence, Shouta’s presence.
He had already visited this principal once before, soon after Bakugo and Midoriya’s enrollment at UA processed. He had laid out UA’s strict policy of preventing interviews from former classmates, and laid out the legal consequences of failing to enforce the policy among the students.
Once was usually enough, in his experience. The principals were dazzled by the promise of a UA student from their junior high, and eager to promise strict policy compliance. The promises tended to stick, half because of the threat of legal action and half because no principal wanted to be the one to endanger their star student’s prospects.
This school had been different. The awed look in all the staff’s eyes had been nothing new, but the undercurrent—hungry and satisfied whenever Bakugo was mentioned, uncomfortable wherever Midoriya came up—flaunted red flags. The difference between the two boys was evident once Shouta met them. Bakugo was a classic example of a favored student, all skill and arrogance. Midoriya, though. Midoriya was a timid wreck of determination.
It could be nerves, Shouta had thought initially, but no. The boy startled whenever he was praised, and hid his face at the mildest compliment. This was a child unused to care. It might have been his Quirk, Shouta thought. Midoriya clearly had little practice with it before entering UA, and people might have shunned him for his poor Quirk control. It might have been an awkward personality. It might have been anything, but Shouta remembered the looks of masked dismay on the Aldera staff’s faces when informed that Midoriya ranked seventh in UA’s entrance exam.
Something was wrong at this school, and he was going to get to the bottom of it.
The secretary finished her phone call, nested the phone back in its receiver, and cleared her throat. “The principal will see you now, Aizawa-san.”
Shouta flowed to his feet, extending stiff muscles. People’s first reactions to UA representatives were telling, and accordingly, Shouta wanted the reaction to happen in front of him, not behind closed doors. He had therefore failed to mention his job posting, or the reason for his visit, and had been made to wait well over half an hour for this appointment as a result.
“If you will follow me,” the secretary said, holding open a side door. He followed, taking in the wall hangings as he passed. Art projects. Certificates. One plaque read honored graduates. Bakugo’s name was last on the plaque, shiny with newness. Midoriya’s name was nowhere to be found.
The secretary opened the door, bowed, and left. Shouta walked in, feet padding on worn carpeting.
He saw the moment Principal Himura recognized him as the UA representative that had visited Aldera once before, soon after Bakugo and Midoriya’s acceptance into UA. Faint horror filled the man’s eyes, quickly hidden.
“Welcome, Aizawa-san, was it? Sit down, sit down. You should have informed my staff who you were, and I would not have kept you waiting.”
The faint horror was understandable, Shouta thought, sitting. The hidden note of unease, though—that was something to keep an eye on.
“I am sure a man such as yourself has many pressing appointments,” Himura was saying, settling into his seat with a grunt. “Tell me how I can be of assistance.”
That was a polite overstatement, Shouta thought with grim amusement. He knew full well that his appearance leaned more toward “lazy, underdressed man” than “overbusy government official,” even if both were true. He leaned forward.
“I’m here on official business about Izuku Midoriya,” he said, and—there. A flash of fear and contempt in Himura’s eyes. The lack of Midoriya’s name on the plaque was no oversight, then.
He filed the information away.
He had wondered and observed, previously. Now he knew. This was not a building Midoriya was welcome in.
He settled further into the chair.
“I am here to inform you that a student of yours, Yasuda Yin, broke the nondisclosure policy surrounding Midoriya Izuku. I am here to address that error.”
Himura relaxed. That wasn’t the accusation the man had been expecting. “I apologize profusely,” Himura said, crossing his legs and leaning back in his chair, “but the school cannot monitor what every student says at every moment of the day.”
“Of course not,” Shouta agreed, watching the man relax further. “But you are expected to take appropriate action afterward,” he added, words snapping shut like a trap. Himura flinched. “I think you fail to understand the national threat Yasuda has caused.”
Himura was sitting upright, now, face paling. “Please explain.”
“The government substantially backs UA’s funding and reputation,” Shouta drawled. “Surely, you know this. Problems at UA are therefore problems of state.”
Himura nodded, cautious.
“UA’s media presence has been negative the past four months,” Shouta continued. “The attack at the USJ, the kidnapping of your former student by the League of Villains, the media criticism of both events. The government won’t allow another hit at UA. That includes scandalizing interviews of one of our first year students. Do you understand your position?”
Himura nodded, slow.
Reluctant? Hard to tell. Maybe.
“You are responsible for containing a major threat to public confidence of UA, and by extension, the government,” Shouta stressed. “I cannot overstate your role.”
Himura was still slow to respond. It could be shock, it could be anything, but Shouta wondered, slumping down further in his chair—the picture of indifference.
“If I may be frank,” Himura said at length.
Shouta waved a lazy hand, watching keenly. “Please do.”
“The public image of UA shouldn’t be entrusted to a boy such as Midoriya Izuku,” Himura said. “The boy is a cheat and a liar.”
There it was.
Shouta closed his eyes to mask his fury.
“The child is Quirkless,” Himura continued, unaware or unafraid of the slow simmer of anger building in Shouta. “He’s clever, I’ll give you that. I don’t know how he faked a Quirk, but I can tell you he most assuredly did.”
“Why didn’t you inform UA of this fact?” Shouta asked tonelessly.
“I did,” Himura said, voice near-distressed. “I did, but the school contacted me almost immediately to say that—“ the man’s voice dropped “—All Might himself endorsed Midoriya’s claim of a Quirk.”
That caught Shouta’s attention. Anyone with eyes knew All Might was closely tied to Midoriya Izuku, but this was confirmation that the relationship started well before school was in session. Good to know.
“I would never claim that the Symbol of Peace intentionally lied,” Himura went on, “but I can state with confidence that Midoriya was utterly Quirkless throughout middle school. Furthermore, he was always causing trouble, disrupting class and disturbing his classmates. He doesn’t deserve a place at UA.”
Midoriya, Aizawa knew, was quiet in class—almost to a fault—unless he got excited, at which point he would do nothing more harmful than mumble to himself. Disruptive? A disturbance? Problem Child had many flaws, but those occurred almost solely because of his self-destructive streak. It had nothing to do with any classroom management issues. And the boy certainly, painfully had a Quirk. It was hard to miss.
There were many types of lava. Some types exploded, creating a deadly splash zone. Hizashi had a explosive-lava temper.
Some types of lava were slow and steady, creeping along with no particular rush until they encompassed entire fields. Shouta had a creeping-lava temper, and the heat was lapping at his shoes.
“Midoriya,” he started, low and slow, “has every place at UA. He is an analyst and a strategist, and your own star student, Bakugo Katsuki, would not have got off Kamino without him.”
That was the reason he had not expelled the lot of them, ultimately. Had they broken the law? Yes. Had they broken his trust? Yes. Could All Might have successfully got Bakugo out of Kamino Ward alone? Arguably, no.
It was the role of a hero to save people who needed saving.
“And regardless of what you think of him,” Shouta said, standing, “who are you to tell a child he is no hero?”
Himura flinched, a full body thing.
“Heroes come in many forms, professional and personal,” Shouta spat. “Who are you to tell a child he is not one?”
“That’s enough,” Himura snapped, standing to face Shouta. “I know who you are, Eraserhead. You tell UA children they aren’t heroes every year.”
“I tell them,” Shouto said, stepping forward, “they are not capable of surviving on the field. I never tell them they don’t deserve to be a hero. Heroes die. That’s why I expel the ones that will fail. I don’t tell a child he is worthless because he has no Quirk.”
He drew a breath, drew all his suspicions together, and regretted every moment he had viewed Midoriya as Bakugo’s rival instead of Bakugo’s victim. “And I have never. Ever. Taught one child he ought to mock another child on the basis of Quirklessness.”
Himura stilled, sat. Shouta loomed. “I’ve worked with Bakugo and Midoriya for months, now. I see how Bakugo thinks he’s entitled to hurt anyone, so long as it gets him his goal. I see how Midoriya thinks he’s entitled to nothing, not even basic decency. You did your students no favors. You crippled them both, just because you thought Quirkless meant worthless.”
Himura wouldn’t meet his eyes. Shouta’s assumptions were right, then.
The thought brought no relief.
“By the way,” Shouta said, stepping back, “this has no bearing on Midoriya’s worth as a person, despite your prejudiced opinion, but Midoriya has a Quirk, one of the strongest I’ve ever seen. I suspect he didn’t use it because he ran the risk of blowing himself up every time he touched it.”
“Right,” Shouta said briskly. Lava poured out of him, swamping the entirety of Aldera Junior High. “I’ll be running a formal investigation on the former abuse of one UA student, Midoriya Izuku. I expect your full cooperation, unless you want your school shut down for obstruction of justice.”
Nothing from Himura.
“I’ll start with video footage of every classroom Midoriya was in, cross-referenced with every school incident report.”
“Surely a man such as yourself doesn’t have the time to check so many hours of video,” the man said weakly. “Allow me to offer myself as an assistant—“
“No.” Shouta wondered how the man thought he would get away with such a blatant attempt to mask data. “And before we use up more of my precious time, allow me to inform you that I know the signs of edited footage in my sleep. Don’t attempt anything, or I’ll have you in jail.”
Himura nodded, and went back to not meeting his eyes.
“If you excuse me, I have some calls to make.” He strode out of the room, leaned against the wall, and speed dialed Nedzu.
Nedzu answered on the fourth ring. “Aizawa. What a pleasant surprise, I—“
“I have a new school for you to rake across the coals for ethical misconduct,” Shouta cut in.
“Excellent,” Nedzu breathed, delighted. “Which school?”
“Aldera Junior High. Bakugo and Midoriya’s middle school.”
A pause. “Oh.” The glee faded from Nedzu’s voice, replaced with grim understanding. Shouta could almost hear the puzzle pieces clicking together in the principal’s mind. “I see. This is about Midoriya’s Quirklessness?”
Shouta gripped the phone tight enough to make the phone case groan. “So it’s true. He was Quirkless.”
“Until soon before the entrance exam,” Nedzu confirmed. “That’s not relevant now, though, because—”
“Relevant?” Shouta hissed. “Midoriya is barely functional, socially. He doesn’t trust any adult. He thinks the whole world hates him. He apologizes for everything except breaking the law, and I’m sure I can trace every single one of those things back to his Quirklessness. You call that irrelevant? I needed to know this, Nedzu.”
“I didn’t want to bias your judgement,” came the far more meek reply.