Tiger & Might – Chapter 4: Mei Hatsume
“I probably should have brought an umbrella,” Izuku mused as he looked up at the curtain of dark-grey clouds in the autumn sky, running with weights tied around his wrists and ankles. It was morning and winter was on the horizon, so the chilled air stung his lungs as every breath that he took left a plume of frost in his wake. Fortunately, he was dressed in his tracksuit and it was well-insulated enough that he remained warm as he made his way to Mister Kaburagi’s place, to get ready for the day’s training.
It had been a few months now since he started training under the veteran hero, and the results were evident to an extent. He could run longer and his upper-body strength was enough to easily support his own weight. Getting around was so much easier, but he didn’t have as much free time as he did before he’d started.
Then again, that was just as well. His extra studies were helpful and training now was better than sitting around and just recording facts that he noticed. He was actually doing something with that knowledge, and that was likely to be the key to his success. Though, he still had some reservations around working with his granddaughter, Miss Kasumi.
She had introduced herself as a relatively new hero called Myriad, stationed at Hosu City at the moment. Her Quirk was a variation of a Power Copy that allowed her to take on the powers of others one at a time—which apparently ran in their family. Normally she had to maintain contact with someone to use it, but there was a slot built into her forearm bracer that allowed her to slip a card into it that let her swap out her powers. Miss Kasumi never said what exactly those cards were made of, but given how she had access to her grandfather’s ability and how Mister Kaburagi rubbed his arm when she mentioned it, Izuku had a vague idea.
He was at the final stretch when the rain had begun to pour, cold and fat drops splashing down against his sweat-laden face. He redoubled his efforts, shielding his eyes until he arrived at Mister Kaburagi’s place and knocked on the door. His granddaughter answered.
“Hey, Junior.” That was her nickname for him, for some reason. “Gramps will be with you in a minute. He’s a bit—”
“I just want to take a little look at them,” an unfamiliar voice said. “I’ll put them back together. I promise.”
“—occupied,” she finished in an annoyed tone as she opened the door wider for him to enter. “Come on in and get dried off.”
Curious at the source of the young, feminine voice, Izuku peeked around the corner to see that there was a girl who looked around his age. She had goggles on her bed of pink hair that was woven into dreadlocks, and wore cargo pants, an oversized winter coat, and a backpack by her feet.
“Now that you’re here, maybe Gramps will finally kick her out,” Miss Kasumi said as she closed the door. “The girl’s annoying.”
The girl glared over in their direction at that, revealing she had yellow eyes with pupils that were like crosshairs. Miss Kasumi, standing with her hands on her hips, sent the same look right back at her. For a moment, Izuku could swear that he could see bolt of lightning between them.
“What’s going on exactly?” he asked cautiously, taking a step back to be safe.
“This girl just popped up and told Gramps she wanted to take his suits,” she said, pointing to the Hero Suits that were placed on a stand, in an alcove with lights above them, almost as though they were a shrine to times gone by.
“I just want to take them apart to see if I can reverse-engineer them,” the girl said. “They’re wasted sitting here like this!”
“That’s not for you to decide.”
“Kasumi, calm down,” Mister Kaburagi said as he entered the living room and set a cup of tea down on the table for the girl. “As for you, Young Miss, you should probably start by introducing yourself and telling me how you learned that I had these suits in the first place. That’s something only a few people know given what happened and their history.”
“My name’s Mei Hatsume,” she said as she reached into her backpack and pulled out a tablet. “I’m planning on getting into U.A. and becoming an engineer in Hero Support, since I’ve always been good with my hands and designing things since I was young. I stayed with my grandmother a lot, who was a fan of the old-time heroes like Sky High, so she had a lot of memorabilia from your age. I noticed the suits in one of the posters she had and did some research into the person who made them—Doctor Saito Mekanicu.”
Izuku moved closer as she set the tablet on the table for them to view. There was a video playing, with a younger Mister Kaburagi standing in broken armor to reveal a toned figure. He’d seen that footage before as well.
Kasumi let out a sound of recognition at it too. “I remember that. Mom told me about that being the time when that Memory-Manipulator framed you and then tried to replace all of you with robots.”
Mei ignored her. “It’s because of this incident that your identity as Wild Tiger isn’t all that much of a secret, it’s just been so long that it’s basically like history—just before things got really bad. Only someone really interested would do the work involved in finding you. When I came across this footage and the post-interview about it, I decided to do some calculations based on the damage to the structure. The output of that blast should have been enough to obliterate you if it could cause that sort of damage from the explosion when you were directly in the path of it and soaked up most of the initial force. Even taking into account most of the protective gear for heroes today and materials used in their manufacturing process, that would have still cut through them like a hot knife through butter.”
Despite that horrifying news, Mister Kaburagi merely nodded. “They always did say he was a genius ahead of his time.”
“I know right!” Her enthusiasm was briefly lived before her expression grew somber. “But when Sternbild sank he died, and all his work went with him. So I took a gamble and tried to find anyone involved in his work to see if there was anything left, and I looked up your address. The armored suits that were developed for yourself and your partner are possibly the last traces of his work left. I want to analyze them so that I can possibly recreate them with enough time and materials.”
“What are you, like twelve?” Kasumi asked, a layer of condescension wrapped around her words. “If he was really that skilled, what makes you think that you can replicate his work?”
Mister Kaburagi gave her a side-glance. “Kasumi, behave.”
“I’m fourteen!” Mei shot back, rising from her seat as she glared at the older woman. “And I’ll have you know I’ve already made a bunch of babies!”
The turn of phrase gave them all pause until she pulled her equipment out of her bag, revealing that was how she referred to them. One looked like a set of gloves that had streaks running along the front and a battery on the back. Another looked like a short-metal rod with spheres on the end. There was also some kind of visor with grid screen on it.
“What exactly do they do?” Izuku asked. It wasn’t like they could tell at a glance after all.
She hovered her hands over the gloves and rod. “The gloves can be used to take electricity from the battery and then channel it through them to deliver a shock. And this is a telescopic baton that releases a pulse of pure kinetic force on impact.” Then she picked up the visor, pressed a spot on the side of the frame that caused a low hum to be heard as the lenses were tinted, and held them out towards Izuku. “The visor works through AR and can be programmed to allow the user to see things in different perspectives. Try them for yourself.”
He put them over his eyes to see that the others were outlined in red. “They allow you to identify people?”
She nodded. “Using a compatible device, you can program them to recognize a number of things like heat signatures or x-ray, or outline a path for the user to take.”
Izuku took them off and handed them to Mister Kaburagi. The veteran hero put them over his eyes for a moment to check for himself. “Impressive.”
“I know, right?”
Miss Kasumi was the next to check them out. “Okay, maybe you’ve got some talent. But that doesn’t mean Gramps is obligated to give up his suits. They have sentimental value to him.”
“…Actually, I might be willing to allow her to the look over the White Tiger suit under one condition,” he said after staring down at his watch for a moment. “But first I need to test you for myself.”
“If it’ll get me the chance to take the suit, I’ll do it.”
“Straightforward to a point, I see.” He set down his watch onto the table. “Then see if you can improve the design and functionality of this. It was also made by Saito, so it should be of some interest to you.”
She picked it up and fixed her eyes over it inquisitively. “Isn’t this the grappling system you used while you were being chased? It must be over a half-a-century old. Does it still work?”
“It does, but it was made specifically for my use.” He tilted his head over to Izuku. “I need for you to make it so that my young friend over here can use it. Once you’re finished developing it, I’ll have a friend at Helios Energy take a look at the workmanship. If they deem it’s passable then we’ll discuss letting you look over the Wild Tiger suit in exchange for putting that engineering talent of yours to work in helping him accomplish his dream. He wants to be a hero and plans on attending U.A. as well, and he could use some support.”
“You got it!” She ran over to Izuku’s side eagerly, seeing him as her ticket to getting what she desired no doubt. “What’s your Quirk? Are there Limitations? Drawbacks you need balanced out?”
“I… don’t have one,” he said with a hint of shame.
Her brows folded in, crinkling. “Normally tools and support devices are used to diversify a hero’s abilities or give them qualities they didn’t have before—range, mobility, and so on. Not having anything means there’s no immediate direction for me work on improving.”
“I’d think of it as more of an opportunity,” Mister Kaburagi said. “Because he has no Quirk, it simply means that he’s a blank canvas that can be made to adapt to the circumstances he faces. So if there’s a tool he needs for a job then you’ll need to create it.”
“Well, necessity and failures are the mothers of all invention.” She nodded to herself. “And anything I make for you will likely be capable of supporting other heroes with a little tweaking, since it’s not specialized in the first place. I’ll have a more babies to show off for the Support Department ahead of time.”
Then she eyed the watch carefully, looking it up and down. “Plus, I’ve never had a chance to make an effective grappling system this compact. The force of an abrupt stop should pull your arm out of the socket or snap the line entirely… You don’t mind if I take whatever I develop from it for other uses do you?”
“Not at all,” the veteran hero said. “As long as you promise that it won’t end up in villainous hands, you have the right to use them however you see fit.”
She smiled brightly at that and nodded. Then she rose to her feet and grabbed Izuku by the hand. “Come on. I want to take some measurements for the sake of our new baby, so I need you to strip down in the bathroom.”
He was left stuttering as she dragged him off in surprise.
“Gramps, is that really okay?” Kasumi asked her grandfather. “Aren’t those suits important to you?”
“Talent and drive should be nurtured, and all good heroes need support,” he said, looking over to the Hero Suits of his former partner and career. “Besides, I don’t need my suit as a reminder of the past anymore. If letting her tinker with it can ensure that the world gains more heroes and tools they need to make their jobs easier and safer, then that’s more than enough. Better to let Saito’s work be part of a new legacy than sit here and gather dust.”
“That’s cheesy, Gramps.” Though touching, she’d admit to herself. He was really placing a lot on Izuku’s shoulders.
“Perhaps so, but this is how I choose to leave the world a better place than it is.”
“Do you really need to strip me!?” they heard Izuku say through the door.
“I need to take a good measure of the muscle mass in your arms and legs for the adjustments, and you were taking too long,” Mei said, a casual tone to an awkward question. “Are those All Might boxers?”
Ignoring Izuku’s timid, nonsensical series of sounds to that question, Kasumi shook her head. “That girl still rubs me the wrong way.”
“She does need to work on her social skills,” he agreed. “In fact, she reminds me of you when you were her age with Karina’s granddaughter.”
Kasumi’s brows folded in offended at that. “I was never like that with her. You sure you’re not going senile?”
“My memories are just fine.” He could almost put Fuyumi in Izuku’s place and Kasumi in Mei’s. The only real difference was instead of technology and gadgets; she was all about the Quirks. “Anyway, I’m also hoping that working with him might help her there. As someone who will work with heroes in support, she’ll need to be able to hold a rapport with them. Izuku-kun should be friendly enough to help her with that, so it’s for the best.”
She sighed in resignation. “If you say so, Gramps. I’ll put up with her for yours and Junior’s sake.”
[-CHAPTER 4 END-]