The alarm on his phone made Koichi blink a bit as he moved to stretch, and remembered why he couldn’t. Sighing, he turned his head to look at the weight holding him in place on the ground.
He couldn’t say he knew what to expect when he agreed to let the small girl with no parents stay with him, but it didn’t honestly occur to him that this would happen. She was a very nervous, somewhat blunt girl, who when awake avoided physical contact whenever possible. He saw more than a few attempts to touch or comfort rebuffed and pushed aside. Which was why he was surprised with how clingy she was when she slept.
It started at the ramen restaurant. After the third bowl of ramen she started to doze at the table. By the time Koichi had finished and paid she was sleeping soundly. When he picked her up her arms clenched around him and stayed that way the entire way back to his rooftop apartment. It wasn’t until he got into the apartment that he realized he couldn’t actually get her off. Despite being incredibly slight her grip was really strong and he didn’t think he could have broken the hold without hurting her. He tried to wake her, but she was in a deep sleep and unless he wanted to put the both of them into the shower and soak their clothing he decided he’d just deal.
Though it had made getting the covers on him awkward. At least the cat had helped a bit with that, it’d been weird that the cat had helped, but he’d take what he could get.
Now, after sleeping with what felt like eighty kilos of dead weight wrapped around him, he was a bit sore. His alarm was going off and he needed to get up for his morning run. Still, he whispered as he looked down at the girl and shifted awkwardly.
“Hey.” He said quietly. “Hey, Ume-san, Ume-san, I need to get up.”
There was no response and as he tried to move she redoubled her grip. Ah geez, how was he supposed to…
Something furry brushed past his foot. Turning his head down he saw Ume’s black and white cat, the tom looking at him and giving him a long yawn as it stretched at his feet.
“Hey” He whispered to the cat. “Can you… do something?”
The cat blinked at him for a moment and made it turn. No, wait, it was just turning in place before it walked up next to him. The cat moved down towards Ume, who was still hugging Koichi’s midsection, before jumping on her shoulder. He then positioned himself a bit before sitting down, directly on her face.
Koichi blinked as the cat just looked at him and waited. It was only a few seconds before the grip on Koichi lessened and broke as the sleeping girl rolled onto her back and used her hand to bat away the cat. Danny the cat moved off her face as the girl spoke in a tired voice.
“Alright, alright, I’ll feed you.”
She shifted a bit, putting an arm under her to push herself though in doing so accidentally pushed into Koichi’s side. He backed up to get out from under the pressure when she paused. Koichi watched her open her eyes and look around in confusion before she looked over at Koichi and their position.
He might have expected her to jump, or blush or something like that. Instead she just blinked a few times before saying in a small voice.
“Oh.” She backed away from him slowly, though she had to pull some stray cloth from her strange kimono out from under him. “I, um.” She looked down. “Sorry.”
“Ah, it’s fine. You were just tired. Did you not sleep last night?” He asked as he pulled himself into a kneeling position. Ompth, his back was sore.
“Well, no, not really. I mean, I didn’t feel like sleeping after… well, I was unconscious. So I just stayed up. For like, I guess 22 hours. Probably not a great idea.” She said, turning away. “So yeah.”
“Right, you want to take a shower?” Koichi asked.
“You should go first, it’s your house.” She said, not looking at him.
“Well, I was actually going to go running, no point showering beforehand.” Koichi looked down at his rumpled suit. “After I change.”
“Running?” Ume seemed to perk up at that, turning to look at him.
“Do you like running?” Koichi said, looking at her.
“Well, yeah. It’s a good way to stay fit. Plus, I’m a bit stiff, so…” She rubbed her head.
“Okay, well I’ll see if I have anything that fits you, and we’ll head out together.” He said, placing his hands on his knees as he rose. He heard something pop as he did.
“That won’t be necessary.” Ume said as she did the same.
“Really? You should probably change out of those clothes.” He replied.
“I will, I don’t only have one set of clothes.” She said as she started to stretch out her back.
“Really?” He looked around. “Where?” She didn’t have much but the cat and the clothes on her back when they left the police department. Except, what was that she was pulling out of her sleeve? A canvas bag.
“I’ll explain while we run.” She said as she pulled a new outfit from the bag.
There was a chill in the air as he started his morning jog. It was late in the year so it didn’t surprise him, he had been shivering when he was still in his apartment. After getting through the initial warm ups though his body was starting to heat up with each stride as he made his way towards his normal route. In this part of the city there wasn’t much foot traffic early in the morning, it was a district that housed mostly office buildings and the occasional side bar. All places that would have closed hours ago and wouldn’t reopen for a few more hours at least. There were no major roads, no nearby residential areas, so overall it was pretty out of the way.
There was however a great ledge overlooking the city of Naruhata as a whole.
Landscapes varied city by city, some cities had towering structures that were pushed into neat blocks and rows. Some cities were squat and older in build. Naruhata was a mix of both, with overpasses and structures giving it several different levels and areas of height. Free runners loved Naruhata because of it, there were all different types of terrain to go over, but from there this place was just high enough that you could just look out over the city. See the dips and bends, and new buildings and old buildings, train tracks, and highways all from the backdrop of the rising sun and you could see the city wake up. Slowly but gradually, as people trickled out and the day began. It was his favorite place to run because he could just glance to the side and see the place he was supposed to protect.
Tensei Iida took a deep breath of air as he started his stride down the long stretch of road that overlooked the city. It was quiet and brisk, but as he kept his pace he kept an eye over his shoulder. Usually he would be joined by now, but sometimes it took a little while for his running buddy to make his way over the bend. Not that it would take too long but, oh there it was.
He saw, turning a corner behind a building, a familiar figure in a light blue tracksuit, a mess of brown hair trekking at a good pace. Though as he moved he saw just a little behind him was what looked like… a child? Bright red hair tied back into a ponytail, a faded long sleeved purple shirt as well as work blue slacks going into sandals. The girl didn’t look much older than ten, but she kept pace with Koichi despite the fact that every one of his strides took three of hers.
From the distance he could see them talking and keeping his stride he saw them coming closer as the conversation started to become clearer.
“-ister’s quirk lets you hold stuff.” Koichi’s voice came into clarity, there was a slight huff there as he spoke in his stride.
“Basically.” The girl’s voice was high. “Sorry I didn’t tell you earlier.”
“It’s okay, there was a lot of stuff happening. Probably just slipped your mind.” Koichi said as he got closer. Tensei turned his head at this point and held up a hand. He didn’t want to simply eavesdrop on the two of them.
“Morning!” He slowed his pace just a bit so he pulled back next to them. As he did he noticed that he put the girl between him and Koichi. “I see you found a new running partner.”
“Good morning Tensei-san.” Koichi said.
“Good morning.” The girl said, looking up at him. Her pace didn’t falter as she ran between the two of them. Her cheeks weren’t even red from moving in the cold air. Still, her words were a bit more clipped as her increased stride caused her to bounce between the two of them much less smoothly to keep her pace. “I didn’t know we’d be meeting anyone here.”
“Sorry.” Koichi said, rubbing his head even as he kept his run. “Slipped my mind, you want to do your own introductions?”
“Sure.” The girl said, she held out her right hand which, now that he was looking, Tensei noted was wrapped in bandages. Or where they hand wraps? “My name’s Ume, what’s yours?”
Tensei grabbed the hand and shook it. It wasn’t like he didn’t know the Western gesture, even if bowing was more common, besides it was probably just easier for her to do while running.
“Tensei Iida, it’s nice to meet you Ume-san. Must I say you’ve got an impressive pace there to keep up with myself and Koichi-san.”
She blinked for a moment before looking at them as they turned the corner together.
“Really? I thought we were going at an easy pace.” She looked towards Koichi.
“Well yeah, I didn’t want to go too fast considering your age.” Koichi confirmed with a nod.
“It is a good starting pace, did you do so coming from Koichi-san’s place?” Tensei asked.
“Where else would we come from?” Ume seemed a bit confused.
“Well, I just thought it was impressive since his place is over two kilometers away walking and you don’t even seem winded.” Tensei smiled as he said that, though as he looked at her, she saw her visibly falter as the two of them paced away. Her stride breaking even as she trailed back a bit even as she kept running.
Tensei looked back at her, then at Koichi, who seemed a bit surprised and actually stopped to turn back to see her.
“Ume-san are you okay?” As she moved forward she slowed and stopped before looking up at him. Her eyes looking to the side.
“Sorry, I was surprised.” She said with her voice a little more smooth now that she wasn’t running as she looked around and winced. “I wasn’t thinking, I run all the time back home. I didn’t think it might have been unusual.”
“Unusual? It’s impressive.” Tensei said from his position. He kept his feet moving to keep his steps up. “It must have taken a long time to build up that type of endurance.”
“Um, yeah.” Ume turned away. “I’ve been running since I was five, so, yeah, it’s been about eight years.”
“Huh, that’s almost as long as I’ve been running.” Koichi said as he put a hand on his face. “Though I suppose I should have guessed when you said you liked to do so you’d been doing it for a while. Maybe though, you want to take a break?”
Ume shook her head.
“No, I broke up your steps. We should keep going. I wouldn’t want to break your routine.” She started running ahead, Koichi following and Tensei matching the steps. “Anyway, I didn’t know Koichi-san had a running partner. Also I think I heard your name before, though I don’t remember where.”
“You don’t remember? You were the night before last at his agency.” Koichi said, keeping his pace up.
Tensei thought about this. At his agency? He thought, oh right, they had diverted some of the less injured people from the black hole incident to the infirmary because the hospitals were full. She must have been one of them. They were all minor injuries and a lot of people checked out the next day after they were examined. She must have been one of them.
“I see, you were at the Ingenium agency. I hope you enjoyed your stay there.”
“It was okay.” She said, keeping her step up as she seemed to pause to think of what to say next. “They were nice at least, I liked that they had a nice breakfast ready in the morning.”
“We do try to be courteous to our guests. Heroes are supposed to make civilians feel safe and welcome, and everything feels better on a full stomach.” He said as they kept the pace up. “Well, other than running, I suppose.”
“I couldn’t run yesterday because of the police. It’s nice that we could now.” Ume said as they turned another corner. “What do you do at the Ingenium agency? Are you one of the staff?”
Koichi faltered a bit before looking at Tensei with a sheepish look.
“Sorry, Ume-san’s from another country, I don’t think she meant anything by that.”
“It’s alright.” Even though Tensei was slightly surprised it wasn’t the first time he hadn’t been recognized. It’s not like he was one of the top ten heroes, or even the top thirty. While recognition was nice, it wasn’t the point of the hero agency. “I’m actually the pro hero Ingenium.”
“Oh, okay.” Ume said as they continued to run.
Honestly, he wasn’t sure what he expected. He knew a good few other heroes whose egos might have been hurt by not being recognized out of costume, he knew a good few more who would be offended at such a blasé reaction to realizing that a pro hero was nearby. If he admitted it to himself he was a little surprised, but if she was from another country it might not have been that big a deal to her. While the hero system existed in several different countries, not every country used it, or if they did had quite the same level of reverence as the Japanese to it. Given that might have had to do with the presence of one particular Japanese hero.
Though Koichi seemed a bit more offended on his behalf.
“Ume-san, you should really be more respectful. Tensei-san is a professional who’s been working in the industry for a decade.”
“So?” Ume asked as they walked. “It’s just a job, isn’t it? Like a police officer, a fireman, a doctor or any other emergency response person. Those are all heroes too, why is a pro hero any more special?”
Tensei actually laughed out loud at this, which startled Koichi, who was still running. What a blunt thing to say, but he couldn’t fault the logic.
“That is right.” He said with a chuckle. “All those jobs are heroes, so why all the focus on pro heroes? I suppose it’s just the way the media packages us. We are after all the only profession that allows free use of our quirks in the job. I suppose it just looks more visibly appealing than an officer taking down a criminal or a doctor in surgery.”
“Not sure why. Those make good shows too. They have tv shows about that, don’t they?” Ume responded.
“They do.” Tensei said. “I like a few of them, so I usually only get to watch in my designated downtime. Still, it is a specialist occupation. We work very hard to help deal with people who use their quirks to do harm as well as help out with natural disasters. Not everyone has the time to devote to develop their quirks for fighting or search and rescue.”
“That’s true. Your agency is especially the best when it comes to response time. No other pro heroes arrive on the scene as fast as you do.” Koichi added.
“Well, not unless you happen to be on the scene already. You have the devil’s luck when it comes to finding trouble on your own.” Tensei ribbed lightly.
“I don’t exactly look for trouble.” Koichi said. “I mean, at least when I’m working. I just happened to be on the way home the other day.”
“The other day.” Tensei said teasingly. “Last week with Sunshine Republic, the week before last when you took out that speedster hitting jewelry stores. Then there was all the trouble with Villain Factory.”
“It’s just a hobby. Besides, Villain Factory started picking fights with me after Knuckleduster disappeared. It was self defense.” Koichi said, though Tensei just smiled. Same defense every time.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Koichi-san does this a lot. He got into a fight the other day with a transformation quirk and he was really good at avoiding them even though he had a passenger on his back.” Ume added this time. “That was self defense too though. So he shouldn’t get in trouble, right?”
“Trouble?” Tensei asked, looking at Ume. “Why would he get into trouble?”
“Isn’t using your quirk in public illegal?” She said, looking between the two of them.
Koichi didn’t immediately answer and looked away as he rubbed his head. Not really answering anything there, huh? Guess it didn’t come up. Though that did raise another question.
“How do you know Koichi-san? I don’t mean to pry, just curious.”
“I don’t have any parents, and I refused to be taken by social services, at least, not until I can talk to the police chief. Koichi-san offered to be a temporary guardian.” Ume replied.
Tensei smiled, that sounded like Koichi. He had that sort of instinct, he loved helping people however he could.
“Well, I’m surprised he didn’t tell you already.”
“It never came up.” Koichi said. “I mean, we’ve only known each other for a day or two.”
“And you still let a stranger stay with you to make her more comfortable.” Tensei said with a snort.
“Well, she couldn’t very well just stay at your agency. Isn’t the infirmary for your staff when they get hurt?” Koichi said.
“I wouldn’t have minded, but then the decision might not have gotten to me. It was pretty busy.” Tensei said. “Still, this doesn’t seem too unusual.”
“So what didn’t Koichi-san tell me?” Ume broke the train of vagueness.
“Oh, it’s not a big deal.” Koichi said. “I just have a pro hero’s license like Tensei-san, so it’s not a problem for me to use my quirk.”
Ume seemed to blink and slow down before looking at Tensei then Koichi. She then turned and looked over her shoulder. They’d done a full loop around and were back to the area that overlooked the city. In the distance her eyes traced back towards the horizon over to the Ingenium agency.
Tensei looked and stopped looking at her. The girl was breathing slightly, you wouldn’t think they spent the last several minutes running, but there she stood, wheels turning. He had some inkling about what was coming, about the question. It was a question he’d had to get an answer himself and even then it still didn’t satisfy him. When she turned back to look at Koichi she opened her mouth.
“Then why isn’t Koichi-san a pro hero?”
This was such utter bullshit.
I stood in the shower and let the warm water flow over me even as I simmered slowly under the tap. I hadn’t had enough context earlier to really put it together, but in hindsight it was pretty obvious Koichi wasn’t normal, at least for this world’s level of normal. As much as he tried to underplay his part in everything, he broke his arm to save me from a fall in the middle of a zone that was being ravaged by a black hole. Never mind that when he was expertly maneuvering and avoiding the transformed animal quirk user with very little trouble. He probably would have been able to take them if he hadn’t had a passenger during the entire time. When I gave a distraction he didn’t stop and gawk, nor did he hesitate to take the opening I’d given him and end the fight. The fact that he did so in front of a police officer and nothing came from it should have been a hint that he was perfectly allowed to do so.
There were other things of course. He had a perfectly calm demeanor no matter what he witnessed or was privy to. The detective was more emotional when he was questioning me about my past, Koichi just seemed more there to help move things along. He hadn’t shouted or panicked when he was running from a criminal either, why should he, he apparently did this sort of thing all the time. He was experienced, he had a great handle on his quirk moving quickly and easily, he had a calming demeanor that made him approachable. I’d seen lots of things about heroes on the internet when I was looking around, lots of fan websites, lots of forum posts, articles, some of them were more flashy but I couldn’t see why Koichi couldn’t be one of them.
Except he wasn’t allowed to because of politics and public opinion.
Koichi before getting all his stuff registered had been a vigilante, or more specifically someone who just happened to like using his quirk in public. Maybe I’d understand their hesitation if he’d actually hurt people, but from what they told me it wasn’t even for bad things, at least to start. Heck, he didn’t even engage criminals, he just liked to help people do mundane things like pick up trash and give directions. But then he got mixed up with some criminal organization called Villain Factory and they started increasing the amount of serious criminals in the area and Koichi just stepped up to try and help.
And he was being punished for it.
Apparently after the entire affair was over he tested for and got a probationary license, then a year ago after he passed some other requirements got a full license, but because he was previously a vigilante, no hero agency would hire him. They were afraid that it would set a precedent, that other people would become vigilantes in hopes of getting the skill and attention to become heroes. That things would escalate if people tried to emulate him and it would cause destruction.
And the problem was, that was likely exactly what would fucking happen.
I leaned my head back against the tile wall behind me and bumped my head against it. I was angry, angry at this system but I fucking knew if they did this someone else would want to try. Last night hammered it home pretty easily.
Koichi loved heroes, he wanted to be just like them, and he loved helping people. That wasn’t strange, because apparently a good fucking majority of people did the same. There was an amount of madness that could come with just how excited everyone was. It startled me at first because shinobi weren’t treated that way back home. Sure, some people admired shinobi, but most common people didn’t just decide that they wanted to be a shinobi when they grew up. Most civilians didn’t see it as glamourous or anything like the heroes were.
Except, of course, at home.
The last year of restoration had been rough in Kiri, that much was true. It had taken a few months to get anything resembling a proper ninja program set up again. There had been a lot of paperwork, budget meetings, assigning teachers and roles, that sort of thing. A lot of the teachers were shinobi who had been crippled during the war. No need to let anyone go to waste when they couldn’t be active duty. It had been a lot of work, but it wasn’t as surprising as when we finally opened up the program what happened.
I won’t say there wasn’t some expectation we’d get people, despite the dangers shinobi were always given a lifetime of steady work no matter if they passed the program or not. We added some extra benefits, funds and privileges because despite how much I loathed the fact that the program existed as it did, we still desperately needed them if we were going to be competitive again with other countries. It was cold math, we could either continue creating child soldiers who might die in battle or on missions, or we could stop doing so and they would DEFINITELY die as soon as other countries figured out how utterly crippled we were and decided to move in to claim our land and resources. Fucking hated how damn self sustaining the system was in that regard, but I had accepted it as a current necessity. We did what we could to entice a good amount of people to rebuild our forces, but what I didn’t account for was the other factors.
Namely we got WAY more kids to show up than we expected and unlike before a little more than half of them were female. The other things were a factor, the benefits and such, but apparently there was also a wow factor. The same factor that caused an upsurge in certain naming trends. A rumor that trended a bit because of my involvement in almost everything to do with reconstruction. This wasn’t the normal ninja academy, this was the ninja academy the Red Rabbit built. The place where you could become like the girl who fought the Mizukage to aj standstill.
My reputation at home was admittedly stupidly high. People would romanticize the shit out of the things that I did or things that were done in my proximity. It didn’t help that the new government liked to highlight my involvement in projects to help get public approval and backing. I was a figure for morale and people got a bit too involved in it. So much so that for at least a good number of people an occupation that previously invoked fear and mistrust was suddenly very attractive because it was my occupation. Also because there were a ton of rumors that I was in charge of the school program and would personally be there to help teach the students.
Really, it didn’t help that I was literally the last person to be told any of this was the case and I had to be pulled from a mission to do an opening speech for all this.
And despite everything with that, I don’t think the fervor for my reputation was anything to scale with this world’s fervor for heroes. I only saw a little bit of it the other night, but considering how long this has been going on here I didn’t think it was that much of a stretch to think it was pretty far reaching.
So I could see people looking at Koichi’s path to this point and if he made it as a popular hero then trying to imitate it despite the risks.
Turning off the water, I grabbed the towel off the sink in the small bathroom. I did the usual thing and quickly brought the towel up to the naked blade on my arm, absently drying off any slight excess water that dripped onto it. I ran chakra through it when I bathed to repel the water, but some droplets still clung to it. I grabbed the seal on the side and popped out the mark six, clicking it in place. Looking at the arm I tested the responsiveness before I finished drying myself and got dressed.
It was early December and apparently a bit cold. Honestly I needed to be more conscious of the weather and how it might look for me to walk around in my normal clothing. It took something drastic for me to feel hot or cold in my clothing even though I technically only wore two layers because I’d instinctively warm or cool myself after years of living in the Land of Water. I knew how to dress for the weather if only so I could avoid notice or obviously give away being a shinobi, but at home it was pretty pointless to hide that fact when I did local missions. Still, I had warmer clothing than my wrap dress, which was the weather equivalent to a yukata if you couldn’t use chakra. After I wrapped up my hands and neck, I pulled out the unpatterned beige kimono and the padded underlayer with an obi of a slightly darker beige and the other wraps and bits. Pulling it over my shoulder, I reached around with my chakra and started to manipulate the fastenings and ties so that it wrapped itself snuggly around my form. Because of how complicated actual kimonos were to put on, especially in comparison to my normal clothes, it was a great exercise in control to just use my chakra to pull it up and around my body. By the time I was done I’d tied my obi into a nice little bow and only had to do a few adjustments when a knock came on the bathroom door.
“Ume-san? Are you done in there?”
“Almost.” I said as I reached down onto the counter and picked up a comb. Pushing it through my hair I walked forward and opened the door to the small single room apartment, only to pause when I saw that there was an extra person in the doorway.
There was a thump as bags were dropped in the doorway and an older woman with a sharp face and short brown hair in a tan sweater and slacks moved through the apartment. Her hands to her side as she ran up to me stopping short and leaning down.
“Oh Koichi, she’s so cute.”
I backed up a few steps in surprise and she straightened up a bit.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. You’re Ume, right?”
I blinked, looked at her and nodded.
“Well, I’m Shoko Haimawari, Koichi’s mom. It’s nice to meet you.” The woman straightened up and turned to Koichi. “Goodness, she looks so proper all dressed up. You didn’t say she had her own clothes.”
“Well, there’s a bit to explain with that, mom.” Koichi said.
“Um, Koichi-san, why is your mom here?” I leaned to the side to catch him rubbing his head.
He didn’t look at me directly but said. “Well before, when I signed the paperwork, I texted my fiance about what was happening and I guess she, you know, called my mom who then decided….”
“As soon as I heard I packed up my things and took the first morning train. Honestly, I’m not surprised he’d do something like this, but with how busy Koichi gets with his job and his hobbies there’s no doubt he wouldn’t be able to give you the proper attention you need.” Shoko cut Koichi off before looking at me before she looked at her bags. “Now, why don’t I go ahead and start on making breakfast and we can plan what we’re going to do today? How does that sound Ume-ch….”
“San.” The attempt at the honorific broke me out of my trance.
The woman paused to look at me. “Pardon?”
“Ume-san, or just Ume, I don’t like being called Ume-chan. Sorry.” Only one person was allowed to do that, and they were dead.
“I see, alright Ume-san, well why don’t you sit down and I’ll make us a nice big breakfast while Koichi gets ready for work?”
I nodded absently as I sat down and glanced at Koichi, biting my lip. I’d gotten dressed so I could just come with him to his office and sit in a corner to do research, but apparently fate decided to laugh at me by throwing an overbearing housewife at me.
Maybe if I really did tell them I’ve killed people before they’ll throw me in a nice quiet cell with a computer for good behavior. It certainly sounded preferable.
Don’t know about you, but noodles make me sleepy. Also, you’re generally tired regardless of activity level if you’ve been up for twenty hours (Ume didn’t go back to sleep after Koichi woke her the previous night).
Didn’t feel like conversation expositioning the plot of Illegals, this is set near the beginning of My Hero Academia proper, so six years after Illegals and since that series isn’t done I’ll be vague on that. This whole set up is what I think would happen following a logical progression of where the series last left off when I was reading it. Which may or may not be noncanon now, but meh.
As for Ume, she has a few outfits she wears. Usually she prefers to wear her wrap dress which looks like a kimono or yukata the way she wears it. But she still has work out wear (the outfit she would wear while running when she found out about the bullshit the garrison was pulling), winter gear, and in general two bland nondescript kimonos for blending in with crowds. They’re still WAY better quality than normal civilian clothing, being high in khakri count, but still looks normal.
Ume’s picture outfit, I.E. her wrap dress is mostly just her preference for general wear because it’s the easiest to fight in, being easy to adjust, easy to remove and easy to manipulate for combat purposes.