It was taking some time to get out of the small apartment with the girl so they could go shopping. Not the breakfast itself, Shoko had already premade a lot of the meal before arriving since Koichi’s kitchen was absolutely tiny and the girl in front of her positively inhaled her food, even if she somehow did so neatly. No, the reason it had taken so long to leave was because of how adamantly the girl refused to go.
Promises of toys, clothing and fast food did nothing. The last one actually made her look a bit queasy. She was basically glued to Koichi’s laptop on which there were a dozen different tabs. Shoko was tempted to use her quirk to swat it closed, but she resisted because of how the situation had been explained by her future daughter in law. It was no good to startle children who’d been through so much, but still she was annoyed.
It really was such a shame, but this couldn’t be avoided. While the girl looked about average it would waste time to guess especially about her size. Even if she looked absolutely adorable wrapped up in the multiple layers of her very plain colored winter kimono she’d need other clothing. Plus you couldn’t guess sizes with shoes, especially since the girl only had one set which meant she had no outdoor or indoor shoes to switch. Still the girl didn’t seem to want to budge, being very content sitting in Koichi’s tiny apartment surfing the internet all day while she watched. The cat the girl had with her seemed more willing to budge as it rubbed up against her and Shoko rubbed it’s head absently.
Still she wasn’t out of tricks yet. “You know, it’s a shame you don’t want to come out. There’s a new cake buffet that came up.”
“If they sell cakes, you can grab me some and bring it home.” The girl reacted automatically as she typed with her flesh and blood hand and clicked the mouse with her false one.
“That’s not how it works.” The woman leaned over, “You pay a fee and you get to eat as much as you like. They have quite a selection, strawberry, chocolate, caramel, shortcake,” There was a twitch from the girl’s eyes looking up as she slowed down typing. “I suppose I’ll just have to go by myself.”
“Considering your age, figure and general metabolism, you probably wouldn’t since it would mess with your figure.” The girl continued typing more the blunt reply startling the girl as she called Shoko’s bluff.
“How do you know I simply don’t have a quirk that accounts for that?” Shoko said.
“Haimawari Shoko, age 49, quirk Fly Swatter, able to do small bursts of energy at a distance with the power of a smack.” The girl rattled off from the screen which she turned to face Shoko.
She looked at the screen then up at the girl, “You looked me up?”
“I’ve been looking you up since breakfast. I also know where you went to high school and university, and that you dropped out of said university after only one year. Considering the marriage date you did so shortly before marrying your husband.” Ume glanced up from the screen, “By the way, could you demonstrate your quirk for me?”
“Why?” Shoko said, a little bit put off.
“To assure me that you are, in fact, who you say you are. All of this information I got on you in a public forum with a quick search of your name. Which I think would be enough for anyone with a quirk that allows them to change form or someone with prominent skill in makeup to fake.” Ume said simply.
She was getting a bit offended, “You think I’m some sort of imposter? Or that my son wouldn’t recognize me as his mother.”
“Koichi-san is exceptionally easy going and was clearly in a hurry this morning on his way out. He didn’t even stop for breakfast.” Ume looked up at her, “Everyone I’ve dealt with up until this point was either in a position of power that required uniforms and rigorous identification or was someone I dealt with in the presence of Koichi who could easily take me to safety if something was amiss. It is much harder to pass for a police officer or a doctor than a civilian. So I say this again, please show me your quirk, as while I have seen that copy quirks exist they are rare and often have a time limit. Things like physical identification can all be faked especially since I’m not entirely sure how they’re supposed to be verified by anyone.”
Shoko stared at her before looking over at a small empty bottle she hadn’t cleaned up yet. Flicking her hand forward the bottle flew down the side and onto a futon where it lay. “Thank you for confirming that.” Ume did seem to relax a bit after the demonstration as she continued to type. She looked at the time then looked up at Shoko who was just looking at her now.
What an odd girl to be so suspicious of adults, but then she thought back to what she was told, it was probably adults who had harmed it in the first place. Of course she’d be suspicious. It was remarkable that the girl trusted her son, but maybe that was because of the way Koichi was. He wasn’t an aggressive person even though he could fight if he had too. Did that put her at ease? Still it presented a problem.
“You need more things than a few sets of clothing.” She glanced around and rested her eyes on the cat, “Like pet food for one thing. Koichi doesn’t have anything like that.”
“Danny can kill and find his own food.” Ume said, “Though I suppose that’d be harder in an urban environment. Though honestly, you can just go without me. I won’t leave the apartment.”
That was the problem though, they couldn’t just leave her alone, she was a young girl. “I can’t leave without you. How will I know what size to buy?”
“I’m a hundred and thirty one centimeters tall, my wingspan is ninety six centimeters, my shoulder width is fifty four centimeters, my legs are sixty two centimeters long, my torso is fifty seven centimeters long, my feet are sixteen centimeters long. I prefer neutral colors and soft durable fabrics, I also weigh ninety two kilos so sturdier fabrics are preferred so I don’t tear them.” Ume continued typing.
“You know that off the top of your head?” Shoko asked.
“Nope, I went to a doctor yesterday and they measured me.” She looked over, “Honestly can’t we just order the clothing online.”
Just because that was the option didn’t mean it missed the point. Shopping was supposed to be fun, why was she being so stubborn. “Why are you so insistent to stay in?”
“Research.” Ume said as she continued to type, “I’ve only been in this country for a few days, so I’m researching everything I need to know to live here.”
“Would it not be better to just see it?” Shoko said, “There’s a lot to learn out there in the world.”
“At a mall?” Ume looked over, “All I’d learn is how they want to best advertise furniture.”
“There’s more information than just that.” Shoko said exasperated. “What about books, we could go to a library?”
This caused Ume to pause midtype before glancing up, “I suppose.” She tapped a finger, “But how would I check anything out? I don’t have an ID, how would I get a library card?”
“You can use mine.” This was something, “So long as you have Koichi return them in a timely manner I don’t mind.”
Ume looked up from the computer and clicked a few keys before closing the laptop, “Okay,” She looked over at Shoko. “We can go, but while we go, can I use your phone?”
“Yes, let me confirm my stops first.” The woman stood and let out a sigh. What a stubborn child, but at least there was something that could be leveraged.
Oh how the fates had turned.
Though by this point I’d basically accepted it, it still annoyed me I couldn’t be given free reign. But that was the price I paid for being in a place that cared. Being cared for as a child meant being treated as a child, and being treated as a child meant, well I’d need supervision. At least Koichi’s mom let me play on her phone inbetween dragging me through different shops to try on clothing, which weren’t too bad.
As it turned out, I was right, this world did in fact have fantastic tailors.
Every store we went to had the trappings of a normal clothing store with standized sizes, but they also had separate sections which were essentially miniature tailor shops. I saw a woman who’s head brushed the ceiling she was so tall pulling on a jacket that was probably as long as I was tall, next to a boy with legs like a goat getting his legs measured for trousers. There were also sections called specialty wear that were divided by different special properties.
One section was fireproof clothing with an advertisement of a large muscular hero with a scowl and mask that seemed to be made of flame. Another was extra stretchy clothing that was advertised with a slim woman next to a dragon which considering the label was also her. Clothing with grips inside to prevent it from sliding off extra slick skin, extremely well insulated clothing for people who were sensitive to the cold, clothing held together with magnets and clips for people who’s quirks gave them unusual or non humanoid hands, clothing with rubber linings to prevent people from shocking others accidentally. Almost any and all mutations imaginable was lined up in neat rows in a range of sizes and styles, and if something wasn’t covered, they had a little button you could press to get special help.
“They must pay people a bundle to make all this stuff.” I said pulling out the fabric for the cloth of a backless piece advertised for anyone with wings or back sprouting extremities.
“The quirk fashion industry is a very competitive field. I heard lots of people from the support programs from the hero high schools enter it if they decide designing just for heroes isn’t their thing.” Shoko replied as she moved through a rack with some clothing that was standard that boasted extra durability overall and showed a picture of a man with a weird mask and bands on his wrists that had the yellow and black warning stripes on them.
“Hero high school?” I said as I moved from the clothing to see what Shoko was trying to pull out. “They have specialized schools?”
“No, it’s more like only certain high schools have a hero program. They also have general education tracks as a standard. Though some of the more famous ones also have specialized courses for hero support programs and hero business programs.” Shoko said.
“But high school? They’d start that early for training like that? They have their own special track? Why not college?”
“I’m not sure, but hero work is dangerous, so getting the training in a safe environment at that age seems the best.” The woman pulled out a sundress and held it out to me. I pushed it away, I didn’t want something that flimsy.
“If there’s a special program for heroes, why didn’t Koichi go to a hero school then?” I asked as I went to the rack.
“He tried.” Shoko confirmed as she pulled out another dress. This one covered the arms a bit more but I rejected it out of hand again. “But he missed the entrance exam. Apparently a little boy fell into the river and he almost got swept away himself pulling him out.”
“Wait,” I turned to look at her, “Let me get this straight, they didn’t let him join the hero program for the hero school, because he was late to the entrance exam, doing something heroic.”
Shoko’s face pinched, “He used his quirk to get down to them, technically he was doing vigilantism even then.” She lowered a t-shirt and looked at me, “The rules are very strict. Entry into the school is very competitive, it doesn’t matter the reason, if you can’t make it on time they can’t let you in.”
“But that’s absolute bullshit.”
“Language,” Shoko’s tone was sharp, “You’re a young lady, you shouldn’t talk like that.”
“And they should have just let him try. If they can’t make exceptions for someone doing what’s right what’s the point?”
Shoko let out a breath, “The point is, he missed the exam. He missed the exam and all the other exams for the other hero schools were closed by that point. My husband wasn’t willing to have him just laze about our house for a year to try again and start high school late and his grandparents wouldn’t allow us to have him take a part time job in the meantime, it’s just, it’s complicated.” Holding out the shirt with some pants, “Go try this on.”
I gave her a sour look but took the clothing and went to the dressing room. She tried to come in with me but I turned her away and put on the clothes. The pants were too long and the shirt was just a touch too small, I pushed them back over and spoke through the door about what was wrong. She returned a few minutes later with a few different sizes and entered with me in just my outer kimono. I spoke softly when she entered. “Is that really the reason? Was it really that simple? He just missed the time? Or did he miss the time and you didn’t try to push it through.”
“I’m not sure what yo-”
“Because it’s dangerous right, and Koichi’s quirk, it’s not offensive, at least not at first glance.” I turned my gaze onto her. “You didn’t want him to do it, so when he missed the first try, you didn’t help him try again.”
Shoko stared at me for a moment, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure.” I said simply, “How can I know anything? I’m just a kid right.” With the door closed I shrugged off the too small shirt. Pulling it up over my head exposed my bare back to Shoko, “What do I know about how badly people can fuck you over with the pretense of good intentions?”
She went silent at that as I pulled on a new shirt then the pants. It took a few tries to find one that fit me right but they were in the pile she brought with her. As I walked around with clothing I looked down at them, “Who’s paying for all this?”
“Naomasa-san gave me a stipend from the recovery fund from which victims of villain attacks can draw.” Shoko spoke again before looking down at her hands, her voice became very soft, “How did that happen?”
“Did what happen?” I asked as I shrugged off the shirt. She only glanced up for a second before looking back down. “Oh, I’ll tell you if you tell me why you didn’t help Koichi join the hero program after he missed the exam.”
“That’s not really fair.” Shoko said.
I turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow.
She turned away and closed her eyes for a second, “He, he was never a fighter. Heroes, even rescue heroes, they have to be willing to fight, be willing to hurt other people. But that wasn’t Koichi. Especially when he was young. One time he got bit by a dog and he wasn’t even angry, he just wondered if we could call a shelter because he’d seen the dog had hurt it’s leg somehow. Even in school, he’d always run away, that’s what his quirk was best for. He loves helping people with his quirk, but that is only half the job, the other half is fighting and honestly, I didn’t think he could do it. Or if he could, because he quirk wasn’t offensive, he’d get hurt.”
I closed my eyes as well, even though I’d seen Koichi fighting, I could see that. He was a nice guy, even when someone was chasing him he tried to talk them down. I could see why he wouldn’t resort to conflict, why when compared to heroes who could belt out fire or turn into dragons he probably seemed to have a weak quirk, unsuited to fighting. It was a real possibility he would have been hurt, but it probably hurt him too, just a bit, that she hadn’t tried.
“I was lashed about two years ago.” I spoke softly as I turned to Shoko, “They did it when I had two arms, they hung me up, just like this,” I held the arms up and put my wrists together, “And they lashed me.”
She held a hand on her mouth, eyes wide with horror as she seemed to imagine it, probably seemed to link together the pieces of the truth with the scars on my back. “What a horrible thing to do.”
“Yeah, it was.” I said as I walked over and grabbed my padded inner kimono. “They paid for it though. They’re gone now.”
There was silence as I redressed myself in my kimono. It took more time since I didn’t use my chakra to do it, and Shoko offered to help with my obi. She finished the tie and looked at the two of us in the mirror. “You’re really good at this, you aren’t from Japan, but you wear a kimono very well.”
“My caretakers were very fond of Japan, they imported a lot of things, taught me a few things, like Japanese.” I lied smoothly.
“You do speak it well, though the dialect is a bit odd.” She replied.
“How so?” I asked as I started to pull out some shirts in the right size from the pile.
“It’s antiquated, like you learned the speech from a period drama.”
“Like that, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so young use such a formal phrasing.”
“That’s peculiar,” It hadn’t occurred to me that my way of speaking was any different. I mean I noticed sometimes certain terms or slang was used differently, but this was a whole different culture, that was inevitable. “Well it doesn’t matter so long as you understand me.”
“Are you sure, maybe you should learn some local slang so you won’t stand out as much when you start attending school next week.”
“Well, I’m sure it won’t, I’m sorry what?” The clothing dropped out of my fingers.
“School, I got your age from the doctors, you should be near the end of your second year of middle school.”
The voice on the other end of the line was so high pitched it nearly squealed his cell phone as Tsukauchi held it to his ear. The call number had been from Haimawari Shoko, she had assumed it was to report something to do with her charge. What he didn’t expect was said charge cursing him out about having to attend school the next week.
“Ume-san you should watch your language.”
“The hell I should! You’re going to force me into a civilian school against my will. I’m not going and you can’t make me.” She proposed with far more emotion than she showed when speaking about her scars. How odd that this is the point that made her so upset.
“You’re thirteen, you have to go to school up until the third year of junior high. It’s the law.” The compulsory school age was common knowledge so he wasn’t sure why this caught her off guard.
“Can’t I just be homeschooled?”
“Homeschooling is a western concept. Kids are mandated to go to school from ages six to fourteen.” He closed the file he was working on and started tapping his pen on his desk.
“I’ll be fourteen at the end of the month, can’t I just skip it.”
“No, you can’t. You aren’t from this country Ume and we have no formal measure of your current education.”
“Bitch please,” Those words caught him off guard, “I have college level skills in linguistics, public speaking, cartography and what could probably be half a year of pre med. I can calculate distance using only the stars. I’m fluent in English. I don’t need to sit in a classroom and be taught regirgitate dates and facts about history no one cares about and skills I’ll never use!”
“Even if all of that is true, you have to be socialized by interacting with your peers.” If it was true, from what his quirk was doing, she believed every word she said. That didn’t mean it was actually accurate. She seemed intelligent for a young girl, but college level was a bit much.
“My peers? A bunch of unstable preteens with random ass super powers aren’t my peers. They aren’t even close to being peers. I don’t need to interact with a bunch of hormonal kids running around trying to learn their multiplication tables. If I have to go to school, let me skip grades, I’ll do university stuff.”
“Who would pay for that Ume-san?” His voice came out a little more tired.
“Who will pay for me to go to junior high school?”
“There are public state schools that are free for all mandatory education.” He put a fist on the table and knocked a few times. “Why are you so resistant to this?”
“Because it’s a waste of time. I’m just going to be sitting in a classroom, bored out of my skull, while a bunch of kids ask me uncomfortable questions about where I’m from, what happened to my arm, why I’m covered in scars, and all that. When I shut them down, they’ll either avoid me, or some will actually try and bully me. Which no teacher will ACTUALLY address if they don’t catch it, heaven forbid I report anything, because that’s shameful right. If I have a bully I should just take care of it, but if I take care of it wrong, then I’ve assaulted someone or I’m the bully. Never mind the fact that I’d have my quirk on public record in a school.”
“Your quirk is already on public record.” He replied. Though he paused as he heard the truth in her words, less because of his quirk, and more because either scenario was incredibly plausible. He usually wasn’t put on such cases, but there were often reports of kids with villainious quirks being bullied or being pushed to retaliation or otherwise.
“That’s different and you know it. Just because I’m in the public record doesn’t mean anyone will think to look me up. I’m one file in millions. That changes when I’m in school. The kids want to know my quirk, I can lie, but the teachers will know what it is. What if one of them tells someone else what I can do? What if they want me to use my quirk to help with some injury of someone they know? What if they sell that information to someone?”
“Schools and teachers sign non disclosure agreements in regards…”
“Like that’s stopped ANYONE if enough money is involved! You’re telling me there are gangs that poach strong quirk users finding them through school records? Or that organized crime doesn’t do anything similar? Or the government?”
“Ume-san, calm down, they aren’t…”
“Bullshit!” He should have expected the curse. But she was getting more frantic. “I know I’m being watched okay! I know how this works! The government monitors everything and most people just ignore it! Anything you buy, they know! Anything you watch online, they know! Health records, mailing lists, shopping trends, internet history, travel records, dietary needs, we’re being watched, ALL THE TIME. And normally that’s fine, because the most they use that information for is to send a targetted ad, but I’m not normal. I KNOW I’m not normal. The less exposure I have to EVERYONE, the better!”
He didn’t speak for several seconds, partially because he was waiting for more and partially because he was astounded at how much she knew about the system. There were safeguards in place of course, not just anyone could access that information, but it didn’t mean it didn’t go on file. That was just a part of modern life. When no more words came he spoke again, this time more calmly. “Ume-san, is you not going to school because you don’t actually feel safe.”
The next words came out so softly he barely heard it, “I never feel safe, I can’t. Not here. Everything is too much.”
He breathed out, “We can, delay for a bit. The second semester will be over in two weeks anyway so you can start attending school in January for the final semester.”
“I don’t want to.”
“What you want, doesn’t matter. You have to. Your circumstances are unusual but they don’t warrant truancy.”
There was silence on the other line before a breath came out with the voice. “I have PTSD.”
He stiffened at the words. Not a lie. “The school can account for…”
“No, they can’t. Because I can’t. I don’t know what’ll trigger me, but I do know that if fight or flight triggers, I have an enhanced fight reaction. I’ll hurt someone.”
She believed every word, which was heartbreaking. “We can get you into therapy soon.”
“I don’t, it won’t matter. Please, don’t make me go to school.” The words came out and he looked at the phone.
“You have a month to get used to the idea. Plus we’ll use that time to get you some counciling as well.”
“Ume-san, we’re already bending some rules here, but you can’t stay with Haimawari-san or her mother full time, and even if you could, you can’t stay out of school. They don’t have the time to properly care for you and if you skip school they’ll be fined as a result.”
“Can’t I just test out? I’ll study the materials, test out, skip grades.”
“You can’t skip grades until you finish at least two years of high school.” It was a pretty old system, but it was something copied from records of what worked before everything went to hell when quirks first emerged.
“I’m smarter than that though.”
“Then you can test for a better school than. Maybe get a scholarship and work with students you do consider peers.” He let out a sigh.
There was silence on the line. “You’re going to force me to go to school.”
“It’s part of my job.”
There was another few seconds of silence before the line cut out. Setting the phone down he leaned back in chair. Ume had been pretty cooperative through this entire process, it’s a little strange that this is the hill she was willing to die on. Clicking on his laptop he woke up the screen and clicked to the file for the councilors they had on hand. He probably should have done this earlier but things had been busy.
Picking up his phone he texted Haimawari-san about the appointment and set the phone down before closing his eyes and leaning forward. The whole situation was a mess, but hopefully it’ll get better once the girl gets some counseling.
And that’s it, that’s ALL I have written for A Quirk In Space. This isn’t a fanfiction I’ve planned much for the future, and when I post about it again, will depend I suppose on demand and other things. I know most of my readers don’t actually come here especially since I haven’t updated the main fic in a while. But, it’s been a rough few months.
Seriously, fuck 2021 so far.
Anyway, if you really want more of this particular fic, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll be creating more content, though what I haven’t decided yet.