Tiger & Might – Chapter 5: Partners
Izuku’s palms were sweaty. His heart was racing. Blood was pounding at his ears. The mere fact that a simple winter breeze could spell his death left a primal fear in his heart as every thought in his mind told him one thing:
You will die if you take another step.
Izuku was six stories in the air at least, standing at the ledge of a building. The average height of a fall that would be fatal was about five stories, with eight stories having a near 100% rate of death for the average person. Those who had Quirks that made them especially resilient were a different story, but for Izuku those statistics were accurate.
‘Quit being so scared and get ready to jump.’ ordered a voice through the earpiece. Mei, no doubt monitoring his vitals.
‘Don’t say it like that!’ a second reprimanded. Miss Kasumi. ‘It’s natural for him to be afraid when he has to try jumping from that height for the first time.’
Looking down he could spot the three people who had accompanied him to this near-abandoned neighborhood of buildings and complex roads. The construction of the expressway nearby had reduced the amount of traffic and a lot of businesses either relocated or closed, leaving plenty of old buildings for them to use. Less of a chance of someone calling the police also meant less time trying to explain everything.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Mei insisted. ‘If the sensor reads that he’s falling close to the ground it’ll deploy the airbag to cushion him. And Mister Kaburagi is holding the manual trigger as a backup.’
‘Well, assuming your gear doesn’t work—and I don’t—that’s why I have Hundred Power active right now. I can speed up my reaction time and movements a hundred-fold and catch him before he gets hurt.’
Why did she have to say that out loud? Izuku fought a shudder as he checked over the equipment on him now. The AR visor that Mei had made were fixed firmly on his face, information being fed into it from the tablet she had on-hand, such as his current height.
Next, he ran his fingers over the protective pads meant to shield his body from a collision, light but firm, and the airbag belt around his waist that would detect when he was falling and deploy from both sides to cushion him from an impact. That he’d seen her test as she nonchalantly pushed a crash test dummy (he didn’t ask why she had one) she had over the edge of a taller building twice and showed the results with and without using one.
He only wished she hadn’t put an image of his face on it. Both times. That did not help.
‘Are you calling my babies shabby!?’
‘Last time I checked, that watch of yours nearly took off the arm of a practice dummy.’
His fingers then drifted to the wrist-watch grappling hook model she had been urged to make and test, ensuring it was firmly in its place. The modified version prior had been cleared by whoever it was Mister Kaburagi knew that had the proper means to test it before they even conceived doing this. And Izuku knew it would on the smaller buildings already. But their argument was not helping.
‘I adjusted that flaw three iterations ago!’
‘That meant you needed three times to get it close to working right!’
‘You’re supposed to test and building things like that—it’s a process!’
Izuku closed his eyes and let out a sigh as they began to squabble in his ears. It had been about a month since they’d met Mei, and all that entailed. Her drive to invent and improve herself was somewhat akin to his drive to be a hero, but she couldn’t really find it in her to focus all that strongly on the person using it so much as she was focused on getting the optimal result. With any luck, that would get better with time, but she and Miss Kasumi were like oil and vinegar.
‘That’s enough, you two.’ Finally, a voice of reason in Mister Kaburagi. ‘Izuku-kun, if you’re uncomfortable we can stop. The first step is always the hardest, but the idea is to get you over the primal fears so you don’t freeze up in the event you do run into them.’
He swallowed before responding. “No,” he said as he exhaled deeply through his nose. “I’ll do it now. I can’t let my fears slow me down.”
‘Then let’s get started.’ Mei again. ‘I’m activating the auto-assist program now.’
No sooner than she said a crosshair appeared on the screen of his visor, set to move along with the watch through whatever monitoring system she had place into it. As Izuku moved his hand, it moved as well, no doubt predicting where the line would connect based on the length and force of the wire. On the inside of the crosshairs there was a checkmark that turned into an ‘x’ as it passed from the building to the glass, signifying whether or not it would latch.
“Firing now,” Izuku said as he took aim and confirmed it would connect before he triggered it. The moment the end of the grappling line shot out, a number displayed on the screen that displayed both the total length of the wire as well as how much was in use. The moment the end touched the building, an electric current flowed through the wire and magnetized the tip.
‘It’s connected,’ Mei said. ‘I’ll set the reeling system to automatic rather than manual control to minimize human error. Jump now.’
She put real effort into it, and they’ve all taken safety measures, so it should be okay. Izuku took a deep breath before steeling his resolve and staking it down into his fears for a single moment of courage. Then he jumped, separating from the building that had been holding gravity at bay. He plunged like a stone immediately, a scream falling out of his mouth.
Then the line began to reel in.
In an instant, everything changed as he crossed the gap in a single fluid motion, momentum and the pull of the wire carrying him across the distance. His descent transformed into an ascension. The sensation of falling was turned into one of flight. And his scream of fear turned into one of surprise as an exhilarating sensation coursed through his body as Izuku defied gravity for the first time.
It was a cross between the adrenaline-fueled thrill and the satisfaction of overcoming the limitations of his body. The realization of the impossible becoming possible. Was this what it was like for heroes like All Might as they leapt towards the rescue?
Izuku didn’t have a chance to dwell on the line of thought for too long as he was propelled over the ledge of the building he’d jumped towards. Unprepared for the landing given the unexpected rush, he ended up stumbling into a roll until the connected line snagged him. That left him flat on his back, eyes fixed to the sky.
‘Izuku-kun, are you okay?’ Mister Kaburagi asked, concerned.
“Ye…Yes…” He took heavy and hurried breaths, chest rising and falling even with a smile spread on his face. “I never… felt better…”
Kotetsu watched as Izuku was swinging through the air with relative ease. Now that his fear had been largely minimized, he was getting used to it and steadily growing more accustomed to using it. Even smiling as he gave chase after Kasumi, who had gotten bored sitting around and decided to test him as she leapt from one building to another with Hundred Power.
The veteran hero knew the feeling of excitement very well, starting out. He’d originally used the watch in order to get to locations that were normally inaccessible for him when he needed to save on using Hundred Power—even before his powers began to wane. Of course, with his age now he couldn’t indulge in that sort of behavior.
“Don’t go out of the area I designated!” Mei shouted into the earpiece as she continued tapping the tablet she was using to keep track of Izuku’s progress. “You’ll mess up the baseline I’m working on here!”
‘Quit being a stick-in-the-mud,’ Kasumi said. ‘How often does Junior get a chance like this? Let him have some fun with it before you start slapping limitations onto it and making it boring.’
“I don’t want there to be a malfunction because you’re pushing him to go faster than he can manage when he’s had it for less than three hours,” she shot back. “There’s an order to things, which I would expect someone who’s supposed to be a hero to know.”
“Calm down you two,” Kotetsu said before they started fighting one another again. “Just slow down for a bit, Izuku-kun. We’ve got time.”
He then turned to Mei. “You should be a little gentler. I can understand how important data is for your engineering, but for him this is something new and exciting.”
“I don’t want there to be any mistakes for when I present this version to that engineer from the Helios Energy company again,” Mei said, annoyance in her voice. It wasn’t directed at him of course, but rather in response to the feedback of the previous model he’d gotten analyzed—keeping with his word.
She had done an adequate job on modifying the watch he’d given her. It met all the criteria that he had set out for Izuku, so he couldn’t complain. But it clearly wasn’t her best given the functionality of her new model, so most likely she was simply trying to get to his Wild Tiger suit as quickly as possible. The engineer had likely seen that on some level, and it had stricken her pride when he rejected it.
“Even so, you should try to understand that since it’s important for you to better understand the people you’re working with,” Kotetsu told her. “Otherwise, it’ll be a little difficult for you to get along with the heroes you’ll be making the equipment for, and that might make your future plans a lot more difficult. A bad reference from one can ruin a lot of future prospects, even if the equipment you provide is top-notch.”
She opened her mouth to respond but words only came out after a pause. “…It’s easier said than done. Especially when around people who don’t see things the same way as I do.”
“Which is why you should get in practice now,” he said gently, nodding his head towards Izuku as he swung from one building to the next. “If there’s anyone here who will understand you, it will be him.”
Hours later, the practice came to an end. They had all arrived back at Mister Kaburagi’s home, the sun setting over the horizon. The veteran hero quickly retired to his home to get some rest, leaving Kasumi to get ready to drive Izuku back home, while Mei sat on her scooter and went over the footage of the day’s practice on her tablet.
Already she could see improvements that could be made. The way the grappling system’s design worked at the moment only allowed for it to attach to buildings that had metals that could be attached to by a magnet. That was sufficient for most modern buildings, but it wouldn’t be for those that were made of some sort of natural material.
She could add in a secondary attachment component. Hooks that fired off once they received the electrical charge and then dug into the building material. But the problem was that she would have to compensate for the additional weight—which also meant recalibrating the launching system, using a thicker wire, and a wider compartment to store it in—and then have a secondary system to release the hook with enough force to penetrate whatever it needed to attach to.
Her lips slightly pursed as she considered the resources she had at hand and how much harder it would be. But, before she could think on it much further, Kasumi’s phone began to ring.
“What’s up, Mom?” she answered. Mei couldn’t hear the other end from her perch, but from the way the expression on Kasumi’s face shifted, one brow raised, whatever it was must’ve been intriguing to the woman. “How did they get up there?”
Mei turned her attention away from the conversation and focused back on the footage. It was none of her business, concern, or interest after all. That was, until a shout came over the line that even she could hear, nearly causing her to fumble it.
She turned back to see Kasumi holding the phone away from her ear, wincing as the voice continued for a bit. “Okay, okay. I’ll come get them down now!”
Then she sighed and hung up, before turning to Izuku. “Sorry, Junior. I won’t be able to give you a ride home. I’ve got to go get my nephews since they managed to get themselves into some trouble.”
“It’s fine,” Izuku said. “I can walk home.”
“I really think you shouldn’t. We were going at it for a while up there, so you’d probably pass out the moment you got home…” Her eyes drifted over to Mei. “She’ll give you a ride on her scooter.”
Mei blinked. “I will?”
Kasumi gave her an insistent look at that. “You’re the only one who can drive him. It’s not that far on a set of wheels, compared to having to walk in the dark. And besides, you’re not that busy at the moment.”
Mei frowned at the presumption that she’d have free time. It was almost insulting considering how much work she had to do. She would have to rework the design of the watch, find a material that was hard and light enough to not make it cumbersome to act as a hook, and somehow maintain the discreet appearance that it being a watch entailed. Anything more fitting, like a gauntlet, would stand-out and elude the purpose of having it in that form to begin with.
The worst part was that trying to explain that to her would be an exercise in futility. People usually just didn’t get it unless they were more inclined to the engineering side of things. She turned her cross-haired gaze towards Izuku. “Come on then.”
“I really don’t want to be a bother,” Izuku said defensively, hands raised to pacify her. “Really, it’s no trouble for me to walk.”
“Just give me your address and we’ll go,” Mei insisted as she set the tablet into a slot on the front and brought up the GPS. Once the boy did and she entered the information into it, she inched forward so that he could get onto the seat behind her. “Hold onto me.”
“Wrap your arms around my waist and sit against my back,” Mei clarified as she placed her goggles over her eyes. Her Quirk may have enhanced her vision, but having the wind blow in her face tended to throw her off. “I don’t have a second helmet with me, so it’ll be bad if you fall off.”
“O-okay.” He visibly and audibly swallowed before he held his arms out towards her waist. They were shaking for some reason, even before she started the scooter up. And his grip was rather loose as he inched forward until she felt the warmth of his trembling body.
Mei looked over her shoulder to see that he was sweating lightly too. She supposed he really might have been too tired to walk back home at that rate. It really couldn’t be helped then. She turned her attention back forward and pressed down on the pedal, taking off from the residence of Mister Kaburagi.
The evening air brushed against her face, its sting more tolerable due to having a passenger behind her. Her focus was on the road, but traffic was light and so her thoughts turned back to her project. At least until she looked in her side-mirror and saw Izuku’s mouth opening and closing, as if he wanted to say something. “What is it?”
“Sorry about this and earlier,” he said with his eyes turned down and lips downturned at the corners. “I… didn’t mean to throw your calculations off when we were testing out the equipment. I know you’re working hard, so that probably didn’t help.”
Mei realized he must have been thinking about that for some time now. Had she sounded that upset with him? “…Under normal circumstances I’d be excited to see someone happy with what I’ve made like that. I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately to get this right after what the engineer said to me. since this is a big chance for me to get an ‘in’ with a major company.”
She’d been spent weeks of testing and refining it after her classes, and it had been eating up the majority of her focus. That meant she also had to ignore her other projects, which was easier said than done. New ideas came to her mind as often as she thought about a problem in need of a solution, yet she was restricted to a single one for an undefined period of time.
“Umm… can I ask why you want to get into a major company?” he asked.
She indulged his curiosity. “Because it’ll give me access to everything I need—space, equipment, resources. I mean, have you tried making half of the equipment I do in what amounts to a garage?”
He shook his head. “I live in an apartment, so I can imagine that all the noise would at least would cause a disturbance. Not to mention the safety hazards.”
“Tell me about it…” she muttered under her breath. The noise bothered the neighbors and her parents, and she could only get so much tools and materials to work with due to costs and safety regulations. “That’s why I want to get into U.A. Their Support Department is among the best. Then, once I’ve established myself, I’ll be able to get my own workshop and make whatever I want, whenever I want.”
“Still, you managed to make all of this equipment on your own, despite not having access to everything you’d want,” Izuku said, an earnest tone in his voice. “You’re amazing, Hatsume-san.”
She couldn’t help but feel a little happy when he said that, all things considered. Her babies were the product of her love of engineering, despite having so little to work with, and she had worked up from failure before—every time being a chance to improve. It was being rejected from her first major company that had pushed her out of enjoying it, but if she didn’t enjoy it… what was the point?
“You’re pretty amazing yourself, Izuku-kun,” she told him sincerely, smiling as she felt a weight lifting from her. Mister Kaburagi was right about him after all. “With you as my partner, I get the feeling we’ll make lots of great babies together.”
An awkward laugh followed from Izuku’s mouth, but he smiled as well. “I wish you’d phrase that a different way, but I’ll look forward to it, partner.”
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-]
Tiger & Might – Chapter 3: Keep it Going
“Izuku-kun, your grades are slipping,” Mister Kaburagi said from his perch on the rooftop of a two-story building. It was a month into their training at this point. After weeks spent going through different stamina-building and strength-building exercises, the veteran hero brought him here and told him his objective was to reach the top.
Given his advanced age, Mister Kaburagi had used his grappling-hook wrist-watch to get that high. But Izuku didn’t have that luxury. He had to use his own two hands and feet.
“Ah, I’ve been busy trying to work on reorganizing my notes on heroes and villains,” he said. The notebooks he had complied didn’t have a specific order to them so he had to transfer the information he had on them onto individual sheets and place them in expanding file folders. He had roughly six of them at the moment, with the majority being dedicated to heroes and only one being dedicated to villains. Between that, spending his nights doing research, and waking early to get in an early morning workout, his grades may have slipped a few points.
“That may be the case, but you still need to keep your grades up,” Mister Kaburagi said. “As things stand, if you get into the Hero Courses without a Quirk at U.A. you’ll be setting a precedence for those who come after you. Everything you do will reflect on that, so you need to set high standards and live up to them.”
“Okay,” Izuku said, thoughts briefly contemplating his time-table. He would have to squeeze in the time spent studying somehow.
“And don’t try and rush climbing up here,” the veteran hero added. “You’ve already tried four times and you’re getting tired and sore with every failure. Take a moment to assess the situation and consider your body’s current condition before trying again.”
Izuku did that while wiping the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his track-suit. Standing at two-stories high, the brick-laden structure had a sign on the outside that marked it as once being a corner-store that had fallen into ruin. It was rectangular lengthwise, with eight windows divided into two rows and four columns, with a decorative band made of stone between them above the doorway. The upper windows had decorative hoods on top, feeding into water tables that were maybe two inches outwards, and the sills were inwards rather than outwards by three or so inches.
His body was sore somewhat from failed attempts, a few falls that he rolled out of safely, but his muscles still ached. It would limit the movement he could make and how long they would last under stress to only seconds at best before they gave out. Taking all that into consideration, he took a deep breath and just visualized how he could go through with climbing it safely.
It played out in front of his eyes like a simulation, each attempt and failure taking into account his limitations. The revelation made him grimace as he looked down to his fingers, where some of the flesh had been scraped against the concrete and brick. They tightened into a fist. As things stood, he wouldn’t be able to climb the building no matter how hard he tried. He was too tired and his body needed to rest.
“I won’t be able to scale it before it gets dark,” he admitted. “The muscles in my hands are too worn out to support my own weight.”
Mister Kaburagi looked up to the sky for a moment in thought before leaping over the edge. The line attached to his wire went taut and then gradually lowered him until he touched down. He then pressed a button on the watch and the line detached from the building and retracted into itself.
“That’s a good call,” he said. “In your current state, there was only one way you would have made it.”
Izuku frowned. He’d spent minutes just now going over every conceivable way he could climb the building with his own two and hands and feet. “How?”
The older man grinned slightly. “By using the fire escape on the back of the building, of course. I didn’t restrict you to climbing just the front, now did I? I only said your objective was to get to the top and you jumped straight into it the first way you saw that you could.”
Izuku’s shoulders went slack at that. He should’ve checked the rear of the building as well. “That… was a mistake on my part.”
“You weren’t wrong in how you approached it,” he assured him. “Had your body been at its strongest and you had more experience in climbing, you would have gotten up there in seconds at best. It is experience through failure and success alike that builds on the foundation and keeps pushing you into going higher and higher. Take into account your mistakes and the obstacles you faced for the next time, and you’ll become a better hero for it.”
Izuku thought about what experience he gained through this failure in particular. He supposed the points where his body was the sorest were the ones that needed the most improvement. And he learned how to assess his condition, so that was a positive as well.
Mister Kaburagi stretched his aged arms and sighed. “For now, let’s call it a day. I have to leave for one of my granddaughters’ performances in a few hours or my daughter will be upset.”
Karina sighed as she stood outside the Todoroki Manor, a traditional Japanese structure that stood separate from the surrounding buildings. It was a magnificent place in the grand scheme of things. At one point she thought it was perfect for raising her grandchildren, only for her to realize too late that this beautiful place was owned by a man whose ambition cast a shadow over everything around it.
She strode forward towards the entrance and knocked on the door. It opened seconds later to reveal her eldest granddaughter, Fuyumi. She was a diligent girl who loved music as much as Karina, a contrast to how her mother was at that age.
Fuyumi was dressed to attend the performance as well, her white hair with streaks of black in a short ponytail while wearing a white dress-shirt and black pants. However, Karina noticed the concern in her eyes behind her glasses and the way her lips were turned up slightly in worry. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Shouto. Dad just finished training with him in the Training Hall before he left a few minutes ago, but—” Her words fell on deaf ears since Karina had already stepped inside and left her heels by the door, heading down the hallway to the Training Hall. Fuyumi followed after her.
The moment she opened the door, a wind bellowed out from the room that was covered in ice. Shouto was on the ground, back against the wall to remain upright, panting and shivering. The stubborn boy wasn’t using the other-half of his power, and unlike her or her other grandchildren, his resistance to the cold was weaker because he had his pyrokinetic ability to compensate and warm him up.
Karina stepped foot on the ice that crackled under her weight, only for her youngest grandson to scream in panicked alarm and then raise his hand while he shone with a thin cerulean glow. The luminescent glow of her powers as a NEXT kicked in and she met his wedge of ice with a bulwark that caused them both to shatter with a surprising amount of force. The crashing of ice and resulting spray of frost left her staggering back a few steps as she used her arms to prevent any stray fragments from hitting her or Fuyumi, who let out a short cry of surprise.
When it settled, Shouto was struggling to his feet and had returned to his senses. Recognition and regret quickly covered his trembling face as he belatedly took notice of who it was he attacked. “Gr-Grandmother, I—”
“Warm yourself up this instant,” she ordered as she walked in the room towards him. “Honestly, it’s one thing to spite your fool of a father, but to leave yourself in a condition where you can’t even recognize us is simply shameful.”
He looked away and released a haze of heat from the pores on the left side of his body, warming the air around him. The shivering stopped as the ice around him began to run, pooling on the floor around him as he rose to his feet and formally bowed to apologize. “I’m sorry. I thought you were him.”
“I figured as much.” She huffed as she looked around the room. The ice was thick and layered. “How long have you been in here training?”
He looked up towards the clock on the wall to see where the hands were frozen in place. “About six hours.”
“Six hours is too long for a boy of your age to be training without rest.” Her tone grew softer as she brought her hands to his head and brushed his hair out of his eyes so that she could look into them. “You know you don’t have to try and be a hero if you don’t want to. You and Fuyumi can come live with me if you want. I don’t care what those lawyers say.”
Shouto looked down as he slowly shook his head. “I don’t want to cause you anymore trouble. Besides, I need to be stronger to become a hero like All Might and you were. I’ll do it with just the power that I inherited from you, without using the power I got from him.”
Her lips pursed. She… well, she wasn’t proud of her early work as a hero. Who would be when one of the things they were famous for was ‘Cutie Escape?’ Back then she felt like glorified model, wearing that revealing outfit when everyone else was bulletproof in some aspect. Thank goodness heroes these days had more practical outfits and the sponsor companies had less of a say in what they wore.
“That’s fine, but don’t put yourself in that sort of condition again,” she told him. “…You’re as stubborn as your mother was around that age.”
Her daughter had been rebellious when she was younger, likely because Karina hadn’t been there as much as she should have. Her career as a respectable pianist and musician left her traveling a lot after her old home fell. Perhaps if she had been around more, her daughter would have had better taste in men?
Then again, Todoroki had even her fooled when they first met. He seemed like a respectable sort of man back when she was introduced to him, but either he changed over the years or he had always been the sort who coveted glory above all else and hid it well. By the time Karina understood everything, it was too late.
She huffed as she made her decision. “You’re coming with Fuyumi and me to my star pupil’s performance and then dinner afterwards. The more time you two spend away from here and your father, the better it will be.”
Kotetsu sighed as he stepped out of the passenger’s seat of his daughter’s car, having ridden in it with his daughter to the performance hall. The formal clothes he wore felt tight on his aged body as he stretched out his arms and legs to remove the stiffness. He would have preferred more casual clothes, but Kaede had insisted that he wear it because she wanted the family to fully support Tomoe while her father was away.
Kaede herself stepped out of the door on the opposite side and compulsively ran her hands along her clothes to make sure they were neat before looking at the performance hall. A small smile came across her face, no doubt feeling a sense of pride that one of her children had reached a point where they could stand on a stage and perform for others with pride. It probably reminded her of the time that she herself had been an ice skater, doing the same thing.
Further down the parking lot, two small figures were darting around in a circle while a larger one waved. Kotetsu had to strain his eyes to make out the details at that distance while Kaede waved towards them and then started walking forward. Once close he could identify that it was his grandson and the twins.
“Mother, you made it,” Masahiro said as they approached, trying futilely to rein in his kids. He was the oldest of Kaede’s children, the firstborn. He then turned to Kotetsu. “Grandfather, it’s been a while. I’m glad to see you’re in good health.”
“There’s no need to worry about me, boy. I’ve got another decade or two in me,” Kotetsu said before one of the twins, Minoru, darted for him and then touched his hand. A second later, the child was covered in a thin shroud of cerulean as he activated Hundred Power.
“That’s not fair!” Minori, the other twin, said as he came to a stop in front of his brother. “We said no powers!”
“Yes, we did—”
Before they could argue further, Kaede cleared her throat. They turned to see that she was standing there with an annoyed expression and was tapping her foot on the ground. They knew what that meant, having been watched by her enough to know when she was reaching her limit.
“Turn it off,” she said firmly. Minoru immediately stopped shining, signaling he had deactivated his power. Kaede huffed. “I told you two that you should be on your best behavior when we go out, didn’t I?”
“Yes, Grandma,” they said in unison as they settled in for another lecture.
“And what did I tell you about playing with your Great-Grandpa’s powers?”
“Not to because we don’t want to hurt someone by accident.”
Masahiro looked somewhat relieved as he stood next to Kotetsu and watched Kaede continue her lecture to them. “They are quite a handful sometimes. It’s amazing how easily she can reel them in.”
“They’re young and full of energy,” Kotetsu said with a smile. They had no idea how lucky they were to be born in this age compared to when he was a child their age and with his power. Things were nowhere near as peaceful as they were now and, with a majority of the new generation having Quirks or being descended from NEXTs, they rarely got more than a passing glance. “Actually, they remind me of your youngest sister when she was that age actually.”
“Kasumi is like that every time we see her.” Masahiro sighed, massaging his forehead at the thought. “I swear, when she comes over the lawn ends up being torn apart as they play heroes and villains. Doesn’t she know how embarrassing it is to ask our neighbor if I can borrow his Quirk to fix it?”
“You’ve got it tough.” He couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. All of Kaede’s children had inherited her power, but raising them had been a different affair compared to her.
Tomoe was always reserved and often stayed under her mother’s shadow, so she rarely used her power and chose to be an aspiring pianist and student under Karina’s tutelage. Masahiro had been the more troublesome as a boy and got into scraps, but he settled into running a bar like his other Granduncle and had gotten married. Their twins were young and playful with a deviation of their father’s Power Copy ability, allowing Minori to copy Emitter-class powers while Minoru could use Transformation-class powers.
Kasumi was the only one who used her powers to the fullest extent to become a hero and she had been the most… enthusiastic, though for different reasons than Kotetsu. Of course, no sooner than he thought that did the sound of a motorcycle engine reached their collective ears. Kaede stopped her lecture and turned towards the source as the sleek, black bike slowed to a stop and parked opposite of Masahiro. Pulling off the helmet, Kasumi hung it on the handle as she hopped off the bike.
“Auntie Kasumi!” cried the twins in glee as they ran towards her.
She crouched and gave them a hug. “How are my favorite little troublemakers?”
“Fine,” Minori said. “When will you come visit us again?”
“Did you beat up some new villains?” Minoru asked instead. “Did you get some new powers?”
“Yeah, I got to beat down this guy who could turn himself into stone. It was awesome, but my overseer got mad about the property damage. I’ll tell you more later on when I visit this weekend, I promise.” She rose to her full height and then turned to her mother. “Mom, how’ve you been holding up since I moved out?”
“Just fine.” Kaede held a hand to her cheek and sighed as she looked over her daughter. Kasumi’s hair was done in a ponytail and she wore leather pants with a matching jacket. “Couldn’t you dress in something more appropriate?”
“I’m not the one of the stage tonight,” Kasumi said, before turning to Kotetsu. “I see she pulled you out of your cave, Gramps. How’ve you been?”
“Good, good,” he said, giving her a hug. “And how’s things for you?”
She grinned. “I’m getting there. Just keep listening out, one of these days Myriad’s going to be a big-name hero.”
Kaede pressed her lips thin but didn’t say anything, having made her peace with the girl’s decision. It had taken a lot of convincing from Kasumi, Kotetsu, and even Karina to get her to agree to let Kasumi follow her own path and attend the hero course of the school closest to where they lived. Now she had graduated and moved out to a location where she could begin working under a more established hero.
“That’s good,” Kotetsu said, moving his head close to her ear to whisper to her. “I may have something to talk to you about later on. Best if your mother doesn’t hear. I don’t want her to worry over me.”
Kasumi gave a brief nod before pulling away and then going with them as they walked into the building and towards their seats, where they found Karina and two of her grandchildren. Kasumi grew excited when she saw Fuyumi. “Fuyu!”
“Kasumi, you came too!” Fuyumi stood up in time for Kasumi to give her a hug, with Shouto leaning back to not be caught between them while looking nonplussed. The two had been playmates when they were younger, with Karina bringing Fuyumi along to watch her lessons with Tomoe. Though that was mostly Kasumi dragging her around to go play and get into trouble, they were the oldest of friends and it had been Kasumi who gave her the name she used as a hero and her primary power.
When Kasumi finally broke the hug, she turned to Shouto. “And if it isn’t her little brother. What have you been up to kid?”
“Just training,” he said, turning his head away from her. From a glance, it was clear he wasn’t sure on how to handle Kasumi from the few times that he’d seen them together. But he probably didn’t appreciate being called a kid.
“I brought Shouto-kun because he needs a break,” Karina said. “He was working really hard training to be a hero and needed a night out.”
Kotetsu caught the underlying message. “You’re not working too hard, are you? A boy your age should be enjoying himself.”
“It’s fine,” Shouto said. “I want to carry on Grandmother’s legacy as a hero, so it’s merely another step toward doing that.”
Hearing that, Kotetsu smiled slightly. “There are a lot of ambitious youngsters these days.”
“I could give him some tips,” Kasumi offered, leaning uncomfortably close to him. “I’ll even give them to you for free since you’re Fuyu’s little brother. What do you want to know first?”
“Kasumi, give the boy breathing room,” Kaede said as she took a seat next to the twins, with Masahiro on the end. That way they could keep them both in check and they couldn’t borrow any of the others powers to play around with.
She thrust her lips out in a pout at her mother and then settled down in her seat next to Fuyumi, who she turned her attention towards until the lights dimmed. Tomoe came out along with the other performers for the customary introduction. She would have the fourth performance of the evening, so Kotetsu settled in for a long night while surrounded by his family as silence enveloped the room…
[-CHAPTER 3 END-]
Tiger & Might – Chapter 2: Shaping Up
Izuku Midoriya felt like his muscles burning beneath his heated flesh as he slowed his pace to a crawl, after passing by Mister Kaburagi. It was the weekend and they had come out early in the morning for him to assess the boy’s physical condition. To that end, the older man had gotten himself a clipboard and stopwatch to time how long he could run, after seeing how many pull-ups, sit-ups, and squats he could do with a break between them each.
His leg muscles finally gave out and he fell to his knees on the grass. A stinging, acrid heat bubbled up in his stomach. It surged up from there into his chest, and through his throat to force itself out of his mouth.
“There, there,” the veteran hero said as he patted Izuku on the back while the boy vomited. “Take a deep breath and then take a drink of water afterwards.”
Once he finished vomiting, Izuku moved his aching body to the bench. There he took a seat and drank from the bottle. The ice-cold liquid soothed his throat while Mister Kaburagi gave him an overview of his performance.
“Overall, you aren’t in too bad a shape for a boy your age,” he said. “However, it isn’t exemplary. More than strength or speed, you lack the endurance and stamina needed to be a hero. It’s no good if you’re out of breath by the time that you arrive at the site of an incident. By working on that first, we can increase how much you can do at any given point of time.”
“So I need to run more?” he guessed.
“Among other things to improve your cardio, you need to balance out strength-building and stamina-building,” he explained. “And while that covers the physical aspect of your training, you’ll also need to work on improving the way you move as well.”
“You run with your heels instead of the balls of your feet, which is detrimental and puts unnecessary stress on your body. Over time that stress will build up and then break-down your body. We’ll cover that once you’ve recovered, so simply rest for now.”
“Will that be enough to help me test into U.A.?” The school had revised the entrance conditions that stated you needed to have a Quirk to enter the Hero Course, which was what he was aiming for. And, as the national school, several of the greatest heroes got their start at those sacred grounds of learning.
“Aiming high, huh?” Izuku nodded to the question. “That’s good. Dedication to helping others, critical thinking to solve problems, having a belief in yourself, and loving what you do—these are four things you need above all else if you want to succeed in being a hero. You need to strive for it without reservation and aim as high as you can, while putting your talents towards that goal as well.”
“Talents?” Izuku’s eyes closed partway as he tried to think on that. “But I’m not really talented in anything—ow!”
“Everyone’s talented in something,” Mister Kaburagi said, after he lightly tapped his clipboard against Izuku’s head and gave him a reassuring smile. “There’s something that you’ve worked on because it was something you loved to do, right?”
“I like observing heroes and taking down notes,” he offered.
“Then simply hone and dedicate that towards being a hero as well,” the veteran hero continued. “It’s not something I can tell you how to do, but you’ll figure it out somehow. Just use everything at your disposal to save the lives of those in need of help, understand?”
“Understood,” Izuku said.
With that said, Mister Kaburagi took a look at his rather large wrist-watch. “Then keep resting up for another ten minutes. After that, we’re correcting your running on the concrete path. Leave your shoes behind.”
Inko Midoriya stared in slight surprise as Izuku used the thin chopsticks to scoop up every last grain of rice in his bowl, to the point that the sound of chopsticks scraping ceramic filled the air. Her son hadn’t exactly been the most reserved when it came to eating, but it was the first time she had seen him so ravenous. He finished the bowl in record time and then asked her for another one.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you so hungry, Izuku,” she said, filling the bowl again with a smile. “Then again, you are a growing boy.”
“I’ve been working out more so that I can apply to U.A. in two years,” he said. “I had to do a lot of running in the park today, and I’m going to have to start building up my muscles. I’ll probably have to start putting my allowance towards getting weights too.”
“Is that so?” Inko’s smile fractured a bit as she handed back the bowl. It went unnoticed as he began to eat again with the same zeal as before.
She could still recall that day with the doctor and the night that came afterwards. Her son had been told that he didn’t have a Quirk, despite the fact that she and her husband had both had Quirks that had been passed down from their families.
When Izuku had been born, Inko and her husband had wondered which of their gifts he would inherit. While telekinesis over small objects and breathing fire weren’t amazing by most standards, there were a lot of risks involved for a child. Doubly so if he had somehow gotten a power from them both by chance—thermal movement could cause no shortage of problems.
It was good that he had no other medical complications, but being born without a Quirk was a rarity these days; in fact it was mostly the older generation that lacked them among the 80%. If everyone having a Quirk was “healthy” for lack of a better term… then what did it say for him not to have one?
Inko could only imagine the teasing that he would go through at his age for not having one, especially when all his friends had them. It would make him stand out from the others, but she was hopeful that as he got older it wouldn’t matter.
Not all careers were reliant on Quirks, since they were too varied for that. He could be a fireman, or a police officer, or even a salary-man. But…then he asked if he could be a hero like All Might, a figure who he admired above all else.
At that moment, her grief and guilt all came rushing out of her and tears flooded from her face. She apologized to Izuku over and over again, sorry that the gift that was supposed to be passed from parent to child was nowhere to be found.
Since then the stress hadn’t been good on her or the marriage. But Izuku seemingly bounced back. That was what mattered.
So Inko forced her smile back into place and continued eating her with child.
After dinner was over, Izuku returned to his room to finish his homework. It proved a bit challenging with how his legs were throbbing. They were still sore from all the running, but he supposed there would be no gain without pain.
He recalled Mister Kaburagi’s words from earlier as he turned on the computer. If he does have a talent then it would be his observation skills when it came to heroes. He just needed to think about how to apply to heroics on his end and refine that to the utmost limit of his ability. The most obvious step would be to relate it to what he was doing at the moment—movements.
Opening the drawer of the table that his computer sat upon, he pulled out the other notebooks that he had compiled over the years. There wasn’t much order to it since he began jotting down what he noticed about the heroes whenever he could, so it took him a minute to flip through the different pages before he drafted a list of heroes to look for videos online—specifically heroes who had a focus on agility.
If he noticed a pattern between movements then he could learn to emulate them, as long as their Quirk didn’t bolster that specific power to a higher degree than what he was capable of. Even if he couldn’t emulate them, he could at least recognize them should the need arise.
Observe everything, he thought to himself. No detail is meaningless, no matter how small.
Those would become words he’d live by from that night on.
Kotetsu leaned forward at the table meant for two as he basked in the subdued atmosphere and dimmed light of the bar that doubled as a Jazz club. He was awaiting an old friend, having already ordered their drinks. He closed his eyes to just listen to the soft music playing until he heard her take a seat.
“You’ll fall asleep if you close your eyes for long in a place like this, Old Man” the familiar voice said.
“I’ll have you know I’m still spry for a man of my advanced years,” Kotetsu said as he opened his eyes. Sitting opposite him was Karina Lyle, a former hero-turned-music teacher. She’d aged gracefully over the decades, with her light brown hair now white to match that of her children and grandchildren, who inherited the color from her late husband and their powers from her. Every so often they met like this, sometimes with Nathan. “I’m in peak health in fact.”
“Is that right?” She smiled just slightly enough to say that she knew something. “Then why did Kaede tell me that your doctor contacted her about how you’ve been showing signs of nutrient deficiency?”
He grimaced lightly. “I just need more Vitamin E and C. It’s nothing she needs to worry about.”
“You should take better care of yourself, Old Man,” she said with a note of kind mirth in her voice. “Kaede worries about you living alone as is. You rejected her offer to move in again, didn’t you?”
“Mmm…” She was a good girl, wanting to look after her father after all the times he couldn’t be there for her growing up. But he didn’t want to intrude in her life to that extent. “No sense in burdening her by forcing her to look after an old-timer like me. Not when I can look after myself.”
She didn’t press him further on it. “Just don’t forget about Tomoe-chan’s piano performance. Her sister and brother are all coming, as well as her nephews. It’ll be a family event and Kaede wants her grandfather to be there too.”
“I have it marked on my calendar.” It was still hard to believe his little girl had little girls of her own, one of whom had twin boys. Oh how time flew. Clearing his throat, Kotetsu’s voice lowered to a more serious tone. “How have things been going with your daughter and grandchildren? Have you had any luck?”
Karina froze for a moment. Then her lips slowly pursed into a slight frown and she gently shook her head. “She still hasn’t forgiven herself for what she did to Shouto. And he hasn’t visited her once since then, despite my efforts. As for the legal issues… no, it’s not going well.”
Her hands balled into fists on the table so tightly that they were shaking. She had been trying to gain custody of her grandchildren after her daughter’s marriage turned sour. But the lawyers were very blunt about the hurdles she would face trying to take custody away from their father.
Enji Todoroki had both his reputation and legal team as armor. Her word against the Number 2 Ranked Hero would be a losing battle and bring her daughter’s actions to light, a mistake that she made in a moment of weakness. Plus, she was trying to keep things quiet to spare the children from any more exposure than necessary—it would only make things worse to no avail, and they didn’t need that.
Kotetsu placed his hands over hers. She looked up and met his eyes. “Getting angry won’t help the situation. Just do what you can for all of them right now. An opportunity will surface in time.”
The shaking stopped as she took a deep breath and then put on a soft, if fragile smile, just for him. “Let’s drop the unpleasant topics for now and talk about something else.” She slipped her hands from beneath his and reached for her glass. “How have you been keeping yourself busy these days?”
He leaned back at the question and gave her a wry smile. “I met an interesting kid that asked me to teach him how to be a hero, despite not having a Quirk. He managed to convince me to help him shape up, so I spend most of my days doing that instead of staying cooped up in my room.”
“He must be quite the child then,” Karina said, grabbing the neck of her glass with one hand and holding it up. “If it’s something you’ve decided then I’m sure you’ve thought it out as much as you could have. Just don’t push yourself too hard. I remember Kaede mentioning you threw your back out playing with your nephews a few years ago.”
Kotetsu grumbled under his breath at that. But he didn’t dispute it. The twins had been the ones to get Kaede’s ability from their father, to copy different powers for a limited amount of time—one could copy Emitter powers and the other could use Transformations.
He quickly shifted the conversation to a different set of topics and, like that, the two former heroes spent the night catching up with one another….
[-CHAPTER 2 END-]
Tiger & Might – Chapter 1: I’m Going To Be A Hero
Izuku Midoriya sucked in a sharp breath of air as he gently prodded his forearm with the tip of his ninth notebook on hero facts. It was bruised, courtesy of Katsuki Bakugo. That was the price he’d paid for just pointing out that he should be more careful with his Quirk. All it would take was someone getting seriously hurt because of it and his goal of being a hero would go up in flames from a black-mark on his records.
They’d both wanted to be heroes as children, and it was one of the only careers that allowed for the use of Quirks like his in public—being able to generate explosions from his sweat had very limited uses outside of combat. As prideful and egotistical as Katsuki had gotten after getting his powers, Izuku still didn’t want him to lose his chances of being a hero because it.
If he did, then there was no telling how badly he’d take it.
Unfortunately, Katsuki’s temper was as explosive as his Quirk. Not only had he’d hit him in the arm hard enough to knock him onto the ground for it, but he’d told him that he was the last person on the planet who had to right to tell him that. After all, without a Quirk what could he do?
As he walked the solitary path through the park, a winding stretch of concrete surrounded on both sides by a sea of viridian-green grass, Izuku’s mind drifted back to that day when the doctor said that he would never get his Quirk. He had the extra joint in his toe that indicated that he didn’t likely have the capacity for powers like Quirk-users after the Third generation, and none of his family had the luminescent glow present when they used their powers to show they had a heritage power that might have a delayed awakening.
Out of all the people he knew, he was Quirk-less. He was the only one who wasn’t special. He was the only one who was worthless, like Katsuki said.
The thought made his body shake as he tried to hold back the tears. He could still remember his mother crying that day, apologizing for bringing him into this world without a gift. Without a means to be a hero like All Might—the man who inspired him to become one himself.
Those weren’t the words I wanted to hear, Izuku thought as he clamped his eyes shut to stop the stinging tears and clenched his teeth. Mom, those weren’t the words I wanted to hear.
It was a moment of weakness that moved his arm, spurred on by the lingering resentment of his mother’s tearful apologies and the taunting of his oldest friend-turned-bully. Without a thought, Izuku flung the notebook—the culmination of his efforts at becoming a hero, filled with facts and details about others heroes—as far as he could away. No sooner than he had done so did he regret doubting his dream even for a moment, despite what he told himself.
It was only compounded when he heard the sound of someone letting out a surprised sound. Izuku’s eyes snapped open to see that he had accidentally hit an older gentleman. He was dressed in a white vest and black pants, with gray hair and a goatee to match that was split down the middle.
“Now what’s this…?” the older man wondered aloud as his aged fingers rubbed his head. The black-and-white newsy cap that had presumably been on it was on the ground. In his other hand was the notebook, which he turned back-and-forth.
“I’m so sorry!” Izuku said as he ran over and picked up the hat. Frantic fingers dusted it off as he apologized over and over, chastising himself inwardly for doing that. “I’m really sorry! I didn’t know you were there!”
“No harm done. Everyone makes mistakes.” The man placed the hat upon his head before opening the notebook and taking a look inside. “You’ve got an eye for details. You must really like heroes huh?”
“I do….” His right hand nervously rubbed his left forearm. “I wanted to be one when I got older… but I can’t.”
“Oh?” The older man closed the notebook and titled his hat up with the edge, revealing pale-golden eyes that had lost their luster due to age. “And why’s that?”
Izuku looked down to the ground as he spoke. “I don’t… have a Quirk.”
A moment of silence passed between them at that. It was filled by the ambient sounds of the rustling grass that swayed with the passing breeze. Then the man laughed softly, a gentle rumble in his throat from it.
“It’s not that funny…” Izuku mumbled when he felt a light tap on his head. He looked up to see the older man was handing back his notebook with a gentle smile.
“Since when does having powers determine if you’re a hero or not?” he asked the younger boy. “The powers are only a tool that makes the job easier. They don’t define what it means to be a hero.”
“Do… do you really think that?” Izuku asked cautiously as he accepted his notebook back. There was a fleeting feeling of hope in his chest. Even if they were the words of a stranger, they had been among the first that weren’t belittling him or decrying it as impossible.
“Are powers really what the word ‘Hero’ has boiled down to today?” The older man ruminated as he dug into his pocket. “Back in my day, things were different. Powers didn’t define you, but the values that you upheld them with. Even when my powers began to decline, I remained a hero until the end.”
His words left Izuku wondering just how old the man was. He was definitely older than his mother, so he couldn’t be part of the Fourth generation of Quirk-users. And if he was talking about “power-decline”, that was a condition that usually happened to the First and Second generation Quirk-users, with a scant few cases in the descendants who inherited their powers. That made him in his mid-60s… or older.
“Ah, here we are.” Aged fingers pulled out a card of some kind and held it out for him to take. “Here you go.”
Izuku took it cautiously and took note of the details on the card. The picture had a man in a white and blue costume and the words ‘Wild Tiger’ on it. On the back were stats and a brief summary of him. “I don’t think I’ve heard of this hero before.”
“Then it gives you something to look up later and add to your notes.” The old man gave him a pat on the shoulder and then started walking down the path. “Do your best, kid.”
Izuku watched the older man depart down the path before looking back to the card. He… supposed it couldn’t hurt to look it up, could it? It wasn’t like he had anything else to do at the moment.
Plus, the man’s words gave him a fleeting feeling of hope that he wanted to hold onto.
It turned out that the reason he hadn’t heard of Wild Tiger was because he was a hero from just after the Second generation of Quirk-users were born, over half-a-century ago. Back then powers weren’t commonplace among the population. Those who had them were called NEXTs—Noted Entities with eXtraordinary Talents.
It was only after the Third generation that more people started developing powers, whereupon the mutation found in the left-toe became clear. Legislation passed and, rather than the term NEXT being used, they were simply listed as “Quirks”. The fact that the card was in near-mint condition meant the old man had obviously cared for it over that time period.
Then again, watching the vintage footage of the man standing in his broken suit as the mind-manipulator threatened a girl, made it clear why. Though he had drastically shrunken due to his advanced age, without a doubt the older man he had run across was Wild Tiger himself back when he was in his prime. He was Kotetsu T. Kaburagi, a veteran hero of Sternbild City.
Back then heroes were the stars of a reality television series program. They were somewhat famous until roughly two years after the revelation that the person who established the system had been orchestrating crimes to bolster its popularity. Sternbild City had been stricken by a massive tidal wave and sank into the sea shortly around that time, with the death-count in the tens of thousands.
Wild Tiger, the ‘Crusher for Justice,’ was quoted stating that saving lives above all else was the duty of the hero. To that end, he ultimately drove the first sponsor he had bankrupt. Yet, despite being seen as a laughingstock, framed for murder, chased down by his friends, and becoming the first public case of “power-decline” to be recorded after he’d been reduced to nothing but a minute, he’d continued to dedicate himself to being a hero.
He proudly declared he would do so even if his powers died out entirely.
If that was the case… then, could he teach Izuku how to be a hero too?
The thought left him shaking in anticipation and hope. If someone who lost his power could continue to be a hero until the collapse of the previous hero system, then could someone who was Quirk-less be a hero? He had to know.
So Izuku made up his mind to ask him as soon as possible.
Since Izuku didn’t know how to find the veteran hero, he went back to the park every day. Arriving at the same time each day, he waited for hours on end in the hopes that he visited it again. It was only after a week that they crossed paths again.
“Oh, if it isn’t the boy from last week,” Mister Kaburagi said jovially as he approached. “How have you been…”
“Izuku Midoriya,” he offered as he brushed his palms against his pants. His heart was starting to pound from how nervous he was now, leaving them sweaty as a result. “You were the hero on that card you gave me, weren’t you? Wild Tiger of Sternbild City?”
The older man nodded. “Been decades since someone’s called me that, but you guessed it. I guess that means you looked me up after all.”
“Yes, I did.” His body went rigid as he stood up straight, chest out from steeling himself. “I went over all the footage I could find of you and the other heroes of Sternbild. I was moved by your comments on being a hero and I wanted to know if….”
He took a deep breath and then bowed his head in supplication. “I was hoping you could teach me how to be a hero despite not having a Quirk!”
The veteran hero blinked in mild surprise silently for a moment. Then he rubbed his chin in thought before looking around. His eyes came to a stop on a nearby bench and he gestured to it.
“Let’s sit down for a bit,” he said. “I’m not as spry as I used to be, and this seems like it could be a long talk.”
Izuku followed him over to the bench. The wood creaked as he sat down with his hands in his laps. Mister Kaburagi sighed as he sat down next to him and then cleared his throat.
“Now then,” he started. “Why do you want to be a hero? When did you make that decision?”
He took a moment to gather his thoughts, while the older man simply sat there patiently. It was as if he had all of the time in the world. “When I was a little boy, there was a video that I loved to watch online. It was All Might’s debut to the world, where he saved over a hundred people. I couldn’t help but think that I wanted to be a hero just like him.”
“What was it about him that made you come to that conclusion?” he asked.
“It was how cool he looked,” Izuku explained. “Going through the fire without fear and a smile on his face, he helped others without worrying what would happen to himself. I told myself that once I got my Quirk, I was just going to be just like him. Then I learned that I wouldn’t and…”
Mister Kaburagi lowered his hat over his eyes as Izuku trailed off. “Mmm…” A low rumble bubbled in his throat before he exhaled and spoke. “Honestly, the issue isn’t whether or not I can train you to be a hero. It’s whether or not you’re trying to be one for the right reason. If you’re willing to hear an old man’s woes for a bit, let me tell you a story?”
Izuku nodded silently and shifted his posture slightly forward, to listen better.
“When I was 10, back when I couldn’t control my powers properly and hated them, a hero once told me that my powers existed to help others,” Mister Kaburagi said. “As the years went by, I came to believe that and thought the best way I could do that was by becoming a hero. The ‘Crusher for Justice’ they called me, because if it meant saving lives I would crush whatever was in my way.”
That much Izuku knew. Of all of the heroes, he had the highest overall property damage total. It literally drove his former sponsor into bankruptcy.
“As time went on, the point-system and sponsorships made it so that the act of being a hero became a spectacle.” A frown appeared on his face at the last word, as if he found it disdainful. “It devolved to a competition among them when they should be focusing on saving lives, and I found myself in a place where my ideals weren’t supported. I wasn’t cool by any stretch, but I still loved the fact that I could be a hero and couldn’t see myself doing anything else….”
He looked up from the grass ahead as he trailed off, towards the sky above. “However, it had a price. My duties as a hero left me unable to witness my wife’s final moments. My daughter grew distant from me because I couldn’t always be there for her. And then, despite our best efforts, Sternbild sank beneath the waves and took just about everyone with it—including most of my friends.”
As he spoke, Izuku noticed he looked so much older than he had before. Or rather, he looked his actual age. The wrinkles become more pronounced, as if his very flesh was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to fall from the bone and collapse.
“To be a hero, I had to give up so much and spent a long time never being respected for it,” he admitted. “It stressed my relationship with my family, it put a strain on my body, and it cost me time that I could never get back. And, in the end, I lost my city and friends whom I miss to this day.”
“I’m… I’m so sorry to hear that,” Izuku said to him, regretting asking him now. The fact that he hadn’t been active after Sternbild City fell could have just as easily have been grief as it was that the former system collapsed. “I had no idea you went through so much when I asked you.”
The veteran hero shook his head slightly. “The thing is, my story isn’t likely to be very special. The times have changed and I may not be a part of the hero community anymore, but I’m sure that the others who have taken that role have also suffered something similar as a result. They put themselves on the line against dangers that others shouldn’t have to face, being the first ones to respond and likely the first ones to die. After hearing all of that, do you still want to be a hero, despite being powerless?”
Izuku looked away as the pale-golden eyes fell onto his green pair. They were deeply tied into the question that was asked, and he didn’t want to show him any doubt or hesitation. Despite the fact that it crawled up his spine the more he listened to him.
“If it’s just helping people, then you would probably do well as a Police Officer or Investigator,” the older man said. “For someone without a Quirk suited to heroics, it’s an option that’s not appreciated nearly enough but necessary. Investigation is often the key to solving cases that can’t be stopped with brute force.”
There was a tense, prolonged period of absolute silence between them as Izuku actually thought about it. Was he really willing to die for this? Was he willing to risk watching as other heroes died next to him, allies and comrades? Even without anything special to back up his wishes, would he still be able to throw himself into danger?
“…When I think about it, being a Police Officer would be a more realistic thing for me,” he admitted after he’d gathered his thoughts a minute later. It would be somewhat safer since when a villain ran amok it was the heroes who rushed into the fray before they did. And since Quirks weren’t allowed to be used as a weapon, he would be on even-grounds with everyone else. “In fact, I could probably do well in that sort of field. My mother would certainly be happier that way.”
Mister Kaburagi closed his eyes and nodded his head sagely. “That would probably be for the best—”
“However, I don’t want to settle for that,” Izuku abruptly added, jumping up to his feet. “Somehow, deep inside, I know that if I don’t pursue my dream of being a hero… if I simply took the closest thing to it, I would regret it.”
That was the crux of it. Izuku didn’t want to simply stand back and say, ‘we need to wait until the heroes arrive’ when someone needed help right away. He didn’t want to stand back and watch as others put their lives on the line first when he could do the same. He wanted to be at the very front to ensure that he could do everything in his power from the start.
“Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a hero,” he continued, looking down to his palms. “Even when the doctor told me I wasn’t likely going to develop a Quirk. Even when my mother cried when I asked her if I could still be a hero without one. Even when my classmates mocked me for aiming so high when there was nothing special about me. I…”
His fists clenched and looked straight into the pale-golden eyes, unflinching in his resolve this time. “I wanted to be just like All Might, a hero who arrives first to help save lives and inspire others with a smile. I wanted to be a hero because it’s the best way I can think of to save lives, even if people laugh at me for trying when I don’t have a Quirk. Even if they say I can’t do it, even if they mock me for chasing something so distant, I won’t waver. I want—no, I’m going to be a hero!”
He was going to become one, without a doubt. He would stake his pride, his dreams, and even his life on it.
“I’m going to be a hero,” he said again. No, not ‘said.’ That was too soft a word.
He declared his intention once more. “I’m going to be a hero, and I’m going to be the best one I can. That’s why I came here every week and waited to find you again. That’s why I’m standing here now. I want you to—ow!”
The aged hero had cut-off his decree with a flick to his forehead. “That’s enough,” he said, a soft smile pinching his lips. “If you had said ‘yes’ right away, I would have walked off right then because you weren’t taking it seriously. But the fact that you put so much conviction into your voice even after all of that means that you’ve decided to act despite the consequences. Nothing I could say would change your mind, so I may as well take responsibility.”
He perked up at that. “Does that mean you’ll train me?”
“I’ll give it a shot.” The older man rose to his feet and stretched his back. “I can’t promise that you’ll be an official hero, but I can train your body to where it’ll be able to match your determination. It’ll be harder than anything you’ve done to this point, and if you give up halfway then that’s that. Can you sacrifice your time and effort into training; even when there’s a chance you’ll still be unable to become a hero because you lack a power?”
“It’s not a sacrifice when that’s what I want,” he said. “It’s an investment towards my dream, nothing less.”
The answer brought a grin to the veteran hero’s face that made him seem a decade younger. “Good. Ambition is the key to success, and you’ve got plenty of that.” He reached up and rustled the boy’s hair. “We’ll start tomorrow, after I’ve come up with a training regimen. I won’t go easy on you either.”
Izuku beamed with a bright smile. “Yes, sir.”
Later that day, as he arrived at his small apartment home, Kotetsu Kaburagi felt a fire burning within him in a way that it hadn’t in a long-time now.
The resolve in the boy’s eyes, the way his voice grew tempered as he made his decree, and the way he kept his back straight and unwavering as he declared that he would be a hero without any doubt—even if for a mere moment, it had been enough to get his heart pounding in a way that it hadn’t in a few decades now.
He flicked on a switch and light illuminated the walls and shelves that housed photos of times that had long since passed. There were pictures of friends and comrades and family that he had outlived when Sternbild City ceased to exist. Remnants from the last time he truly felt alive, when he could help others without reservation.
Kotetsu hadn’t been completely honest with the kid about what happened to Sternbild City and its sinking. What happened wasn’t a natural disaster, but a manufactured one courtesy of Ouroboros. They had been the one to bring their city down, an alliance of villains backed by a NEXT capable of wielding multiple powers—and stealing them.
Nathan had been the only one who had seen it with his own eyes as the man stole their powers and killed them. He had also been stripped of his flames, describing it as having a part of his soul ripped out, and it was only by chance that he had been swept away by the rushing water. That was why he lived to tell about it while Kotetsu and Karina were handling the evacuation.
Finding Barnaby’s body floating in the water, empty and lifeless, had been the breaking point of Kotetsu. Something had died in him that day with his partner, and he’d settled for simply existing and growing old with his memories as the last things that he treasured along with his grandchildren and daughter. But now… he didn’t have to settle for simply housing the memories and values he held dear.
In the end, maybe the reason that he had decided to help the boy was because it was the last chance he would have to do something useful before he died. It was a final chance to impart his ideals on what it means to be a hero to the newest generation. It was a final chance to honor their memory beyond pictures, immortalizing it as a legacy itself.
Izuku Midoriya was going to be a hero with or without his help. That much was clear from the veteran’s point of view. But Kotetsu would ensure that he had all the tools possible to do it.
No matter what.
[-CHAPTER 1 END-]