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"Sometimes we need to lose small battles

in order to win the war."

-Sun Tzu


The applause was deafening, although it seemed like Shouto couldn't hear it. They were all cheering for him, not the cheers of 'don't mind' that were used in earlier matches. Probably because this resembled an actual struggle, rather than a one-handed takedown. It was a short match, but it could have gone either way. Despite that, he was more preoccupied with him, oddly enough.

Yet it didn't look like he was suspicious of him either. It seemed to be a case of sympathy, more than anything else. He must have unknowingly taken off his mask and Shouto just so happened to see it. He had no reason to look at him that way if all he saw was his projected persona, after all.

'That said... Why was he paying so much attention to me in the first place? It could be because I'm a foreign exchange student, but he doesn't really seem like the type to care. But he also noticed the drawback of using my quirk in my current style and seemed to care for my wellbeing... Heroes are just weird in general, I suppose. In the end, it doesn't look like I can get an answer that easily, but it doesn't seem like he harbors any suspicion right now either. Whatever, let's just say my luck is turning around. There's no use dwelling on it.'

He was awoken from his spiraling torrent of thoughts by the heat of Shouto's left side and almost felt as uncomfortable as when he had to restrain himself from breaking out of the ice with a lightning bolt. The entire duration of his captivity in the ice was spent waging war against his instincts. Intellectually, he knew that a wannabe hero would never finish him off on live tv, but it was easier said than done.

Even now, he couldn't help but fantasize about all the different and myriad ways he could be killed in this position alone.  Roasted like a chicken fellate, losing his limbs from frostbite from the chunks of ice that still enslaved his body, or maybe just frying his brain with the fiery brimstones of hell. The temptation was even harder to refute considering he could mess with his brain a bit to actually make him do it.

The feelings of uncomfortable fell away, as he waged yet another stupid war inside of his head. It lasted up until Shouto drew his fire away, leaving him free from his cage of ice. His hand held out to help him up, seeing as he was lost in thought. At least he had manners, and was just avoiding contact with an unknown before. He's pretty street smart.

"...It's nice to actually shake your hand, instead of settling for your head, I suppose. It was a good match."

He walked out of the arena not waiting for a reply, for a bigger problem had just fallen on his lap.

'...So it wasn't just my imagination. I purposefully thought up some suicidal thoughts in the middle of it all, and low and behold, my hand was incredibly hard to raise up. So I wouldn't activate my quirk on Todoroki... It could have just been the ice, but my hand worked perfectly fine when I was shaking his hand.'

He shook his head faintly.

'No, I can't come to a conclusion that quickly. Perhaps, they just unthawed at that moment, or maybe the air was warmer around Shouto-san. He did use his left hand when he helped me up. Although, I can't dismiss my quirk acting up as a possibility. I'll avoid using it for the time being.'

His attention was seized in the next moment by the squealing and shrieking of his cell phone. More specifically, the one only All for One knew the number of. His gut felt like it was made of steel, as a queasy feeling made a home for itself in his stomach. He had known that he would have to face this eventually, but it didn't stop him from feeling slight unease at the prospect. He forced his fingers to unlock the phone and respond to the call, taking a few seconds to breathe. He needed to be calm, and negotiate a good outcome to the best of his ability.

He pushed down on the green button harshly.

"Hello, Father. What might you be calling me for?"

He could picture his demonic facial features from his tone of voice alone.

"Hmm, we were just kind of disappointed, those of us back home. We expected you to get 1st place, after all."

'So that was what you expected... I don't know if I can get out of this, but I'll have to try.'

"Haha, it's not that easy. I'm happy you all have such high expectations of me, but it's not that easy to get 1st place with my quirk. I did make it to the semi-finals, though. Surely that's good enough for you to brag to the neighbors with?"

There was a brief and abrupt pause that Deku was sure was supposed to make him nervous, and lose his composure. To some degree it was effective, but it made much less of an impact when you knew that it was there for that specific purpose. It wasn't that he was worried about; it was the fact that he 'failed'. It didn't matter that All for One wasn't very specific when he told him to win. Nor did it matter that his quirk was severely restricted.

He still failed an order.

"Ah, but you could have won, couldn't you? What a shame, this is the treatment you get for being a good person these days, huh? It makes me wonder why people bother. You've really grown up while you've been away, haven't you? Helping your enemies..."

'It's like he can read my mind. This is one of the things I was worried that he would latch onto the most.'

"Well, I am a hero, aren't I? I've got to act the part, and besides, who would have thought that they would have continued the match? The whole thing stinks of politics. I even explained that I wasn't the cause of the panic attack and that it was child abuse, yet they still didn't-"

He was interrupted.

"-call it off? Honesty, you should have just avoided the whole thing in the first place. You know I don't enjoy excuses, Allen."

'Damn it, so I'm just supposed to suck it up and obediently accept my punishment? Is that it?'

"...I'm sorry, sir. I got ahead of myself-," He heard the sound of footsteps coming closer, and he knew that his lucky break was coming. "I'm sorry, father, but one of my classmates has a favor to ask of me. I'll call you back later."

He jabbed his finger onto the end call button as fast as humanely possible, before quickly turning to survey who exactly was coming towards him. He had purposefully chosen a location that was out in the open but secluded enough that people rarely came through. Nothing screamed guilt more than being panicky in a suspicious location. And so, he slowly and calmly turned around, even through the slimy, sinking feeling in his gut. It wasn't as bad as when he was at the mercy of All for One, but he definitely had a bad feeling.

It was proven true seconds later when he turned around to find none other than Bakugo Katsuki himself.

"...I want to talk to you, later. Don't be in a hurry to leave the school."

With those two sentences said and spoken, he turned and walked away. And the bad feeling in his gut increased with each step he took.

'I jumped out of the boiling water only to find myself trapped in a fire, didn't I?'

AN: Stuff is about to happen, my friends. Stuff is about to happen. ;)

Will All for One give out present punishments? What does Bakugo want to talk about? What is up with the whole tournament's layout? Find out next time on Dragon Ba-. Nah I've used that joke a bit too much. In all seriousness, please hit those hearts and comment! See ya next time!

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