Chapter 5: Obstacles
“Koichi-san, is something the matter?” Izuku stared at his volunteer big brother and for a few moments it looked like he was blanking out but he blinked a few times before looking down and seeing him again.
“What, oh why do you think so?” Koichi got some more attention returning to his features.
“The movie ended and the post credits scene already rolled and you didn’t make any comments.” The scheduled event for the day wasn’t as interactive as the other ones. They’d been essentially all taken to the same theatre to watch a movie expansion of some popular shonen anime. He’d liked it and was still sniffling a little bit from the big heroic sacrifice near the end, but Koichi had been a bit blank through most of it.
“Sorry Izuku-kun, just distracted.” Rubbing his head, Koichi stood up and winced. Shaking out his leg he looked around the empty theatre. “Well, we should head back down then. I think I need to hit the bathroom.”
“Okay.” Izuku said as he rubbed his slightly runny nose on his sleeve and picked up the empty bag of popcorn Koichi had bought for him. Really Koichi had seemed distracted since they arrived, they’d talked a bit about recent hero news but his eyes seemed to be darting about and he looked at his phone a lot until the movie started. As they moved down the movie steps a tiny seed of worry wiggled in his mind.
Had Koichi not wanted to come to the movie? What was he looking at his phone for? Was he sick? Or did he expect something to pull him out? Or was he disappointed that he didn’t get something that pulled him out?
Was he sick of doing the volunteer work with Izuku?
The thought almost made him stumble as he hit the last step and only Koichi’s steadying hand kept him upright. “Woah, careful there Izuku-kun.”
Looking back Izuku felt more tears forming even as Koichi stepped down beside him. “Are you feeling alright? Did you drink too much soda?”
“N-no, it’s not.” He sucked in and wiped his eyes, “I, it’s just.” Izuku glanced at the phone. “Do you need to call someone? It’s okay if you need to. I can go to the bathroom by myself.”
“Oh,” Koichi’s hand went to his pocket as he pulled out his phone. “Huh, actually I got a text. But, that’s not important right now.” He tucked the phone away and smiled.
Nodding, Izuku walked out of the theatre to the bathroom yet still his thoughts started to circle. He’d really wanted to ask Koichi today if he could see him use his quirk some more, maybe they could go to a park and he’d do a demonstration. But if Koichi had something better to do with his time, or something else going on he really didn’t want to impose. He was a real life hero, he probably had lots of important things he could be doing. Really he was only here with Izuku because it was part of community service he had to participate in.
When that ended, would Izuku ever see him again?
The thought brought back the tears and after using the restroom he caught his face in the mirror. He really looked a mess, his nose still runny and cheeks still red. Grabbing a few paper towels he rubbed away the tears. It was going to be okay, they still had another meeting, he could still ask him later. Even if Koichi didn’t see him again, that would be okay, right, because he had better things to do than just to hang out with someone like, someone like…
“Hey Izuku-kun, are you doing okay?”
The voice brought him out of his thoughts and he quickly washed his hands. He shouldn’t take up more of Koichi’s time than necessary. Koichi had already been so kind so it’d be rude if he just…
When he got back out he saw Koichi on his phone again looking at a text then up at him. “Hey Izuku, a friend of mine is actually nearby. I was wondering if you wanted to meet them?”
“Oh, um, okay, if that’s alright. Who is it?”
He rubbed his head and smiled, “Well you know how I said I knew Ingenium?”
Koichi’s mind still buzzed about the email he’d gotten and what it meant. He’d contacted Tensei immediately after about it, but got the message on his phone that signaled he was away. So he’d left a message in about all the mediums he could while going through his options trying to find what in the world the email could be referring to. But he couldn’t find anything. No announcement for new developments on forums, no press conferences, no newsletter from the sites he subscribed to that covered such things.
Neither Makoto nor her brother had any answers on their end either. Though Captain Celebrity worked in both Japan and America, their agency hadn’t gotten any updates. Naomasa’s work as a liaison for heroes didn’t give him any info either. So there was just so much confusion.
Now he felt a bit bad because his own issues distracted him from his volunteer time with Izuku, and that wasn’t really fair to his volunteer little brother. So when he told Tensei he was out with a younger friend he suggested they meet and surprisingly the engine hero thought it was a great idea. Izuku apparently agreed, he was bouncing as they moved through the mall they were walking towards and speaking the entire time.
“-rk is so efficient, he covers almost an entire city! It’s so rare to see him outside the armor, do you think he has it? Would I be able to get a picture? Or an autograph, wait, do I have a pen?” He dug furiously through the pockets, “I emptied it out to bring the card sets, I don’t have anything to write with. Wait, did I bring his trading card? Could he sign that? But I don’t have a…”
“Izuku, breathe.” Koichi held his arm and kneeled down to meet his eyes as the boy started to calm just a little. While his enthusiasm was both adorable and contagious, the boy could speak at a good clip and his required medical training showed that sometimes he approached hyper ventilation with how much air he was using.
The boy took two more breaths before looking up, “I just, it’s a pro hero, I mean, another pro hero, but I, there’s never any time when you see them on the streets. You can get maybe a few words before they have to leave.”
“Well, lucky us that he’s off today. So I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to get an autograph and a picture. Though maybe don’t post it, while it isn’t exactly a secret, Tensei likes to keep his actual face out of the media for the sake of privacy.” Though according to him it was less for his sake and more his family, because the men in his family tended to be strikingly similar in appearance. A fact which was readily apparent when they met him alongside another very similar looking figure.
Raising a hand he greeted his friend, “Hey Tensei-san.”
“Koichi-san, nice to see you.” The taller man smiled warmly at the two of them before glancing down, “And you must be Midoriya-san, Koichi-san mentioned you in our texts. He also mentioned you were the same age as my brother here.”
Koichi couldn’t suppress his surprise, “Is that really Tenya-kun?” Last time Koichi had seen him, the boy was a head shorter and much less broad, now he was past his eye level, only a few centimeters short of his brother’s height, and almost as broad. He was only Izuku’s age, but so tall.
“It has been two years, though it was quite a growth spurt. Why don’t you introduce yourself?” Tensei prompted.
“Iida Tenya, It is an honor to meet you, Haimawari-san, my brother has told me much about your exploits. I hope to one day be a hero of such caliber.” Tenya bowed as he spoke.
“Loosen up Tenya, you’ve met Koichi before even if it was briefly. Now, how about your little brother, Koichi?” He gestured to Izuku who seemed to be stunned during the conversation but jolted.
“Wh, wha, no, I’m not,” He held up his hands, “It’s just volunteer, I didn’t, I’m not, Koichi-san is great, but it’s not.”
“He’s teasing you Izuku-kun, it’s okay. He likes to do that.” Koichi kneeled down, “Besides, didn’t you want something?” Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his own pen and handed it to Izuku.
The boy grasped it and breathed in, “Ca-can I pl-please get your autograph?”
“Oh, of course.” Tensei kept his smile as Izuku pulled out the matching card. The man looked impressed, “Wow, this is one of my original ones. I didn’t think these were still in print.”
“What? You got one of the originals?” Tenya moved immediately to Izuku’s side.
“It was in an online lot I won only, no-not that I wouldn’t have bought it new. Just, this was such a find.”
“Indeed, most of the original plates got lost in the scramble to find the new building.” Tenya said, his voice stiff, “Could I, take a picture of it?”
“Oh, um, sure.”
The two boys leaned over the card as Koichi saddled up to Tensei. “He’s really growing up.”
Tensei spoke softly, “Yes, ever since we started matching heights though he’s gotten much stiffer about appearing more proper in public. Afraid that he might reflect badly on the family because of our strong resemblance to be mistaken for me.”
“Sounds rough.” Koichi said, “At least he can talk to Izuku a bit.”
“It’s the merchandise, we get a few copies of it for free, but he likes to collect our family stuff on his own. Anyway, about the email, I’m doing what I can on my end, but…”
“What is it?”
“There’s been some stirs within the council about a new hero debuting soon who skipped the system. They’re not entirely sure what to make about it, but they’re trying to push in some new rules and legislation to get it blocked.”
“What? But I’ve already debuted technically, they can’t…”
“It’s not you.” He whispered, “I got that much, it’s someone who trained outside the cities because apparently the school system couldn’t handle their quirk. It’s hush hush right now, but they aren’t doing the standard processes. Apparently some private interests are funding the push through and it’s causing some friction, the council doesn’t want it to seem like people can just train on their own then buy their way into hero work.”
“And your agency?” Koichi asked.
Frustration creased his face, “Nothing’s official yet, and I’m trying to get the paperwork down but I’m not my agency. There are people there dragging their feet because if this hero gets pushed through and then causes problems, we’ll be accused of enabling similar behavior by having a former vigilante attached to the agency.”
“Oh…” The word fell flat from his lips as the two watched the middle schoolers talk about hero cards as Izuku pulled out his collection to show the taller boy. “So it’s a precaution.”
“It’s politics.” Tensei said, “That I’m fighting. I’m half tempted to just put my foot down and pull you in, but there’s been a lot of press and dust ups lately about cronyism and nepotism in the industry. Especially with Tenya taking the same path.”
“And that’s, what, unusual?” He knew lots of companies that did the exact same thing. Hire friends, promote families.
“For normal people no, but heroes are held to a bit of an unrealistic standard. It’s both good and bad. You can’t get to this level without real hard work, no matter who your relatives or friends are, but well, you’ve heard of the fad heroes, right?”
Koichi grimaced. It was a term Makoto tossed around a few times which meant heroes that only joined the industry for fame and prestige. Technically it was what Captain Celebrity had been considered during his time when he had to leave the states, but Makoto’s careful handling of his image and his own drive and good work helped him lose the label, even if his hero name didn’t help terribly. Everyone wanted to be a hero, but those who came in because they thought it was just a fad, caused problems, sometimes minor ones like clogging up resources from other agencies. Sometimes major, like getting people killed.
“They think the new hero is one of those? Or that I’m…”
“No one thinks that about you, but it’s been a while since people really heard of you. Memories can be really short and even if you did good, there’s existing stigmas. But, keep pushing and I’ll help. If it really needs to help it I can force the issue.”
“No,” Koichi shook his head. “We do this the right way, so they can’t make any accusations otherwise.”
“I’m sorry this happened Koichi-san.”
“Well, whatever comes next, I’ll keep doing good. Nothing has stopped me before.”
Tenya was a bit stiff, but oddly nice to talk to. While the tone was formal, he was very interested in Izuku’s collection, especially how meticulously he sorted and stored them. When they finished chatting Tensei signed the cards for him and Koichi even used his phone to get a picture of the two of them.
Staring at the picture as they walked to the train station he could feel his smile from ear to ear, he’d got a picture with Ingenium! That was a superhero, well a second super hero. Koichi was one too. Which made him pause as they went to the station.
“Hey Koichi-san.” Izuku asked as they waited at the terminal.
“Yes?” He said.
“I know we did a few group photos, but I was wondering. Could we take some photos together? I mean, if you want. I know this is temporary, but it’s just we’ve been doing this program and I want something to remember this all by when…”
“Huh, when what?” Koichi turned from Izuku.
“You know, when it’s,” His voice went soft, “over.”
“Oh, sure.” Pulling out his phone he put a hand around Izuku’s shoulder, not even hesitating to take a few shots. “Honestly I saw some of the other brothers doing it too, it just didn’t occur to me since we were busy talking. Given, I don’t have your number, do I, Izuku-kun?”
“I mean, no, that would be, it’s kind of…”
“Well I need it so I can send you the photos, and also for after.” Koichi smiled.
“After?” Izuku asked.
“I like you Izuku-kun, it’s really fun to talk to you. So when this is all done, we should stay in touch.” He clicked his phone on, “So why don’t you give me your number?”
“Re-really, I mean, okay!” He immediately pulled out his phone and gave the number to which Koichi immediately shot the text with the pictures too. He stared at it for a few seconds before clicking the contacts lists and adding Koichi to the admittedly short amount of numbers listed.
Koichi held up his phone to show the same contact, “There you go.”
“Thank you, I,” He looked down, “it’s good to have a number. Though I promise I won’t bother you too much too…”
“What?” Koichi interrupted, “You could never bother me Izuku-kun.” He patted him on the shoulder, “You’re my little brother after all. Call or text me whenever you need me, or if you want to talk. It’s fine.”
“Yo-you, you mean it?” His face started to heat up as tears started to form.
“Of course.” His smile was still wide, “Now let’s get you home. It’s getting late.”
Just so you know, I know how canon MHA: Vigilantes ends, so like all good fanfic writers who did a story before a series ended, I’m just ignoring that.