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The Horsemen

Chapter Text

Heat and plumes of smoke lick the soles of his feet, ash dusting off his blackened uniform lightly. Atsui navigated his way through the rocky terrain, smooth cooled magma leading a straight path towards a stone hobble. It had been a couple of years since he had been here, to say the least. After everything, it seemed the structure had held up quite well against the scorching heat and fire of the forge’s inner dwellings. The only visible deterioration was the soft green paint, peeling and burned away to reveal the cool stone underneath.

Wiping the sweat from his brow, Atsui marched on. It would be too much of a fuss to activate his quirk now, he thought to himself, as if justifying the flipping and turning of his stomach. The building was located on a steep incline into the center of the volcano; a long-dormant giant that slumbered gracefully, snores exhaling plumes of smoke and drooling hot veins of magma. Atsui had realized a few weeks prior when he had left the volcano what he had taken for granted.

In his short journey to the island’s capital, Atsui had realized how used the quiet he had gotten. It was jarring and perhaps even bizarre to not feel the rush of warm air and the ash dusted in his hair. The ash, of which, was probably going to grow into an actual hygienic issue if he didn’t do something about it. Flicking his dreads back and forth, Atsui found himself in the cool shade of the building. Pushing with little effort, the door gave way and he felt the cool air rush past him and into the world.

This was it, he thought, no more stalling.

The shed was his father’s personal storage, and Atsui had only been there once. It had been overwhelming to see it all. Stacks and stacks of magazines “dvd”’s and “cassette tape”s. Really old school stuff, the kind you could only find by avid collector’s of 21st-century paraphernalia. 

Atsui quickly realized that he was once again stalling, and started grabbing the heavy boxes. Pulling his dreads into a totally not nerdy, but teenager-y man bun (Tsuyuki’s comments just had a way of staying with him), he skimmed over the titles of the home films.

There were the basics, the baby videos and short clips of his father and the oh so rare voice of his mother. Atsui took out what he had been working on; a small memory receiver, able to transmute all memory, audio or visual memory stored on any device. He hurried in scanning the memory of the tapes with it, methodically watching the small loading screen of the sound files downloading in. He got through the first 2 boxes/two dozen tapes like this, the only sounds being him breathing and the shuffling of his boots against the ground. 

It took an hour or two to get all the boxes completely done, some of the tapes weren’t compatible and so Atsui resigned himself to carrying them and the players for them. It wasn’t like he had anything more important to pack. 

The last box left on the shelf left him with much trepidation. It felt like swimming over the open ocean, no land or grounding in sight. Balancing on the bottom shelf, he climbed his way to the box, hooking his feet onto the shelf and dragging it down. The box slipped and groaned as he dragged it forward. Hoisting himself and the box down, he stared at it with nothing particular on his mind.

It was a metal container, unusual and sealed. With trembling scarred hands he undid the straps, watching as the box depressurized and felt a drop of fear and or sweat run down his spine. In the box weren’t the odd tapes and recordings his father hoarded, but books. Diaries, journals. 

One of the most forefront and important memories of his childhood resided with these journals. 

He had been around 8 at the time, and had fixed his first radio receiver. His father had given him an old radio, so old it had buttons and dials. Atsui had remembered thinking how cool it was that his dad kept all this old stuff, he was basically archiving technological history. The old thing had been beaten up and sunk under the waves, but Atsui’s dad had recovered it.

He had found his father the day after finding the radio sitting with it long after the sun had set, his nose deep in a small orange journal. 

Atsui had sleepily shuffled up to him, rocking back on his feet trying to look, “Dad?” he asked, peering, “what is that you are doing?”

His father had looked up, smiling softly, putting the radio aside and pulling Atsui up into his lap. “You know, just trying to fix this old radio here,” he knocked on the surface of the radio. “But, you know, your old man’s never been all that good at repair, so I’m looking at these old journals for help.” He gazed over the table and it’s contents, mind far away.

Atsui bit at his lip, “Who’s,” he stumbled, “journal is it?”

A sigh, “It was your mother’s,” he murmured

Until that moment, Atsui had known very little about his mother. His knowledge boiled down to two things, “Dad, where is mom?” “Dead, a little after you were born.” and “Dad, why don’t we look the same?” to which his father would reply, “You look just like your mother.” Atsui had never pressed for details, and his father had always seemed relieved that he didn’t.

But now, he knew something cool; his mom was a Robot Builder. His mom was probably So Cool, she had probably fixed up a million radio’s when she was his age! He was like his mom, they both like fixing broken things!

“Was she a good mechanic?” Atsui turned around to look at his father more closely. He could see the tension building up in his father’s shoulders, but his father’s face remained soft.

“Maa, maa,” his dad laughed, “Don’t you want to be a blacksmith like your dad?” Suddenly airborne, Atsui giggled as his father threw him up without warning.

The next day, Atsui had taken the radio and started tinkering. The orange journal was nowhere to be seen, but that was okay. He didn’t need it. His dad was the best weapon’s maker in the world! And now he knew his mom fixed stuff, it was in his blood to build. 

For two days and a night, Atsui was hyper-focused. His father could barely get him to eat and drink, let alone sleep. It was almost impossible to find the right parts for the old things, and some places were so corroded and destroyed he had to construct the entire thing from scrap.

When he did finally hear the static start of the speaker, he didn’t yell in joy. He clicked through multiple channels, most of the time hearing nothing until he found a woman.

Her voice was drowned out by the static, but despite it being faint he could still make out certain words.

“...Collapsed...dreds insi...death toll…” Atsui was 8 and almost 9, he wasn’t stupid. People were hurt, possibly dead. It happened dozens of times on the island; foolish tourists deciding to play with fire, some forgetting to simply bring water on their hikes and succumbing to the heat and others going to the restricted factions. It wasn’t the first thing he expected from his radio, nonetheless, he listened with rapt attention.

“...ait! -ero… All Might! -out...people...afe! -still smiling!” All Might? A hero? 

The people who had been trapped, they were being saved by a hero. A hero who kept smiling, who kept enduring, and who kept getting better.

There was no doubt about it, Atsui was hooked. 

A month later, on the night of his birthday, his father asked him what he wanted to be.

Atsui gave his best smile, despite his lack of a recently lost tooth.

“A hero!”

Chapter Text

To clarify, it wasn't like Atsui lived inside the volcano or anything. In fact, he lived pointedly on the outside of the volcano. His house, humble and quaint, was more of a second home instead of the norm. It was built on the outside of the volcano, like a growth that had been there longer than the forest surrounding it.

In fact, when he thought about it, it had been a couple of weeks since he’d been home. It was just so cold.

The hike from the storage cell to his second home was far, to say the least. At the end of it, he was forced to activate his quirk. Energy coursed over his skin, salt crystals glistening where water used to be. Despite the added boost, his calves were still trembling at the end of it. Hauling a box full of bulky, heavy tech would do that to a person, he guessed.

The house he was supposed to live in was now sparsely inhabited by his grandparents. Every now and then, whenever he came home, he would catch hints of them. Cold forgotten coffee left on the table, a book flipped open facing down, wet shoes by the door. Very rarely did he ever see them. 

As he got older, his grandparents made themselves scarce. Atsui was fine with it, really, it was better than having to force conversation and physical touch with them. He had always been a loner, he guessed. It was better this way, he was alone and they didn’t have to deal with the heartbreak he dragged around.

This time when he had visited, the door was left a crack open. Shoving it open with his back, Atsui parked the box full of journals and tech onto the nearest table. All he had to do now was grab his suitcases and wait for 6 am.

The flights the island were exclusive to the morning and evening times, and they only went to mainland Japan and back. The reason being was that during the evening heavy mist and fog block pilot’s vision and fog up the navigation. Atsui had offered to upgrade the navigation system, but apparently, the company didn’t feel all that safe having a 14-year-old tinker on their age-old mechanics. Which was fine, but he had to say goodbye to not only the island but a good night’s rest as well.

“Tsui!” a frail voice piped up behind him. He shifted his gaze to the kitchen table, where his grandmother sat with a mug of coffee in his hands. He was partially surprised it had been her who was drinking the coffee, she had always had a distaste for all things hot. It was a wonder she had stayed in Hi-Kasai for so long. “It’s like I barely see you anymore!”

His grandmother was a pale woman, but still gorgeous in her age. Only 65 and running an island, most would consider her a success. Her hair was short and gray, but her skin was marred with wrinkles and sun spots. She looked remarkably like Atsui’s father, but nothing like Atsui. His father had had a long face, a sharp jaw, and short black hair as well as a spindly body. Atsui, however, was dark, had a square jaw and broad shoulders, his dark black hair kept in long dreads.

“You really should stay at home more often,” she scolded, “your grandfather and I worry sick about you!”

She gave an airy laugh, glancing at the box, “You know, you really are like your father.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “He would stay at that forge of his until god knows what time, and come home and act like we were strangers! It’s a shame you don’t look like him, really.”

Atsui knew that, already. From a young age, his father had practiced a philosophy of isolationism. Whenever they were low on supplies, it was Atsui that had to run into town to grab them. The capital was always bustling with people, which had scared Atsui at first. When he had started going to school, he had begged his father to be homeschooled.

“You know, he would be really proud of you,” she gives a tense smile, “only 14 and already heading to the mainland to chase your dreams!”

She stands up, placing her coffee cup down. Walking over to him, she takes the box out of his hands with ease. Her hand brushes his and he thinks that’s probably the most human contact he’s gotten in a month, “I’ll pack this up for you, you’ve already done so much.” and she makes her way up the stairs. 

“All you gotta pack is you're carry on!” she disappears into the upstairs hallway, she takes a moment to look back at him standing in the doorway. 

“You know, your grandfather and I…” she looks like she’s mulling over her words, “we’re so proud of you Atsui, we really think your move is going to be a new chapter in your life!”

Another smile, “Maa, just don’t forget to be a kid, okay?”

He knew that already.

That night he grabbed his suitcase and the box and walked himself to the bus stop, and then walked him off to the airport. The rest of his stuff was already being shipped. Nobody was there to see him off.

Sometimes he felt like an empty husk, a shell of a person. Hollow and cold, the feeling would almost eat him alive. By god, the airport was cold. 

He watched crowds and crowds of bustling people, tourists and residents alike, talking and laughing and crying at 6 am. Like a cloud, Atsui drifted past with no strings attached to the ground. His machinery clinked and clacked as he loaded his suitcases onto the plane, a small string bag the only thing he would be holding on the flight.

The hour ride was quiet, aside from a small baby squalling. As the plane descended over Tokyo, Atsui was freezing his ass off. The lights of the city were blinding even in the early morning, and if he concentrated close enough he could even see the people in mass movement across the streets. When they landed he still couldn't get the image out of his head, but there was no time for pondering and dreams of what could be.

With his suitcase and a box, standing outside in the brisk morning of Tokyo Japan, Atsui was going to become a hero.

Chapter Text

He felt like a tourist in his own country. Everyone spoke his language, but it was all so fluid. The lines moved at a steady pace. The morning brought quiet, the streets were bare and clean. Concrete and cold.

Sometimes he felt like an empty husk, other times he felt like a balloon about to pop. The large ceilings, the crowds and crowds of people, the smells and the sights. Shoulders brushing up against each other, it was suffocating. More suffocating than the heat of the forge, and more suffocating than family dinner with his grandparents. There’s a tight ball of anxiety in his stomach and he wants nothing more than to find somewhere soft and lay down.

He was supposed to meet his aunt here. He hadn’t seen her Oba-san since he was 6, and her parting words were to his father, in anger and rage-

“You can’t just keep him here on this fucking island for the rest of his life!” 

“The hell I can! He’s MY son!”

-she had left Hi-Kasai and never came back.

But when he mentioned moving to the mainland to attend UA to his grandparents, they seemed overjoyed for him to leave, and immediately called Kyoko in order to organize a place for him to stay. He booked his tickets and she told his grandparents that she would pick him up at the airport.

He’s now realized that he forgot to tell her what time. The ball of anxiety winds tighter.

8:02 

TO: OBA-SAN KYOKO

Hi Oba-san, It’s Atsui, I’m waiting at the airport.

It’s 8:30 now and she hasn’t answered or picked up his call. Maybe he would go explore while he waited? His leg jogs incessantly, 

No, no, that seemed like a lot. What would he do with his bags? Leave them here?

Take them with you whispered a small part of his mind. 

Where would I go? He said back.

Anywhere .

Atsui picked up his box and suitcase and started walking. 

To get into the city, he would have to get a cab or take the bus. There was a bus station right outside of Haneda airport, it wouldn’t be hard to grab the first one and go. No, not hard at all. 

And that’s how, at 10:00, Atsui ended up at Saitama prefecture. The bus ride was two hours long, fast and efficient. Atsui wanted to study the frictionless wheels of the bus, but he didn’t want to seem like more of a tourist.

He departed at the very last stop on the bus before it would turn around, electronically sending the money to the bus’s company before hopping off. From what he had shoved into his mind about Japan, Saitama used to be a bit more suburban in this area. It had beautiful cherry blossom trees and traditional Japanese houses. 

Now, the city was bustling. 

The towers did exactly as their name implies they do, casting shadows over him despite the sun bearing down. Screens of different producers yelling at you to buy their product, heroes endorsing different things with smiles and sly smirks.

He didn’t know what to focus on.

 It was as if he were out of place standing his ground against the crowds pushing and pulling every which way, so he just let himself and his luggage be carried.

At 10:11, when he finally stopped walking, he found himself away from the noise and away from the people. The urge to plug his ears was quelled. It was a small dank street splitting off from the main roads, more for residents than or tourists or visitors. Still, there were one or two vendors out on the street, and quite a few hole in the wall restaurants.

When he smelled food wafting through the air it was then Atsui realized he had not eaten all day. 

Walking himself and his luggage down the sidewalk, he let himself drift into the nearest cafe. 

The aroma in the air was that of noodles, a smell he had only been familiar with once when his old friend Tsuyuki had almost beat him when he told her he had never had any-

“You should really come with me, Atsui! The mainland isn’t as luscious and, like, cool as Hi-Kasai but it’s home and there’s so much to do!”

“You know I can’t, Tsuyuki.”

“You always say that, maybe next year, then?”

“Okay, next year.”

He never saw Tsuyuki again-

it was okay.

Walking in, he was greeted by the sight of a man sleeping on the desk. A small jingle of a bell rang through the air as the door closed behind him. 

The man’s body was slouched over the table, arms folded into a pillow and completely dead to the world. The only reason Atsui assumed it was slumber and not death were the twitching and swaying of the bug-like antennas on his head.

In front of the man, a small bell stood, “ring for assistance” was on a sign in front of it. 

...okay?

Atsui rang the bell 4 times, even if by the 2nd time the man was startled awake and clinging to the ceiling. 

The man’s beady eyes, stared down at him. 

“Hi hello! Sorry about that, we weren’t expecting any customers today…” The man crawled four-legged down from the ceiling, standing back on his feet before dusting himself off. He grabbed a menu before walking off. Atsui assumed he was supposed to follow.

He was lead into the back of the restaurant, where a single beam of light showed through the window and into the restaurant. Atsui sat down, pulling his luggage under the table. 

“Sorry about the lights, they got cut off this morning!” The bug-man laughed, “But don’t you worry, our stoves are gas!” this time, the laugh was more to himself when he realized that Atsui wasn’t speaking. 

He paused, “Do you speak Japanese?” his mandibles made audible clicks as he enunciated the words in English.

The words felt heavy on Atsui’s tongue, “Yeah,” his mouth felt like it was full of cotton, “Yeah, I do.”

The man, ‘Kazuo’ by his nametag, made an O with his mouth and nodded, “Your Japanese is very good!” Atsui didn’t feel like telling him he was native, so he just tilted his head in acknowledgment.

“Before I get you started, is there anything you can’t have?” 

It was customary for restaurants and cafes to ask patrons any foods or items that would conflict with their quirks, Atsui knew this, “Uh, justice.” He flicked his hair out of his face, “Anything cold, really.”

“Cool!” Kazuo gave a wink, “I’ll get you some water then I’ll take your order.”

Atsui ended up ordering Miso Ramen, with an ungodly amount of hot sauce. Kazuo ended up watching him take the first bite, as he was so mind-blown as to how he was eating it without cold water. Kazuo was a strange man, but that was okay.

While Atsui ate, Kazuo swept up and cleaned tables in the dark. Atsui thought the lack of light may have not been as much of a problem for him, due to his insect quirk. Kazuo every now and then would strike up a conversation;

“Where are you from?” “Hi-Kasai.” “That lava island?” “Yes.”

and 

“What brings you to Japan?” “School.” “Woah, like, Hero school?” “Yes.”

as well as 

“You don’t talk much, do you?” “I know.” “Man of little words, I like that.”

Overall, it was a very enlightening experience.

When 10:55 rolled around, Atsui’s stomach was full and he had finally gotten a text back from his aunt. 

 

I’ll be there in 30 minutes.

I am no longer at the airport.

Well then where are you

Saitama.

How the 

You’re so lucky My fiancee is over there, I’ll send her to pick you up.

Okay.

 

“You finally got your parents wondering where you are?” If bugs could smile, Atsui thinks Kazuo would always be smiling.

Instead of explaining, Atsui nodded. Kazuo sighed, and Atsui thinks he’s probably done mulling over his thoughts.

“Listen, kid, I like you, so I’m going to do you a favor; Learn to talk to people,” Kazuo clicks his mandibles twice, “Especially if you’re looking to become a hero. Right now, from what I can see, you have the social skills of an agoraphobic lobster. That might be fine if you live life on an isolated island for the rest of your life, but like, you’re gonna be a hero. Being a hero is also part of P.R., and a bad rep is just asking for enemies in bad places. I don’t know if you’re just clueless, or intentionally like this, but I’d really invest in getting some friends. You’ve been here for an hour and you’ve spent the majority of it fidgeting and-” Kazuo tilts his head, “playing with whatever that metal lookin’ thing is.”

He was referring to a piece of scrap metal Atsui was heating up and playing with like clay. Kazuo didn’t stop talking, he just flings the rag he was cleaning with over his shoulder and moved into the back. Atsui couldn’t help the small sliver of annoyance drift past his walls, a ghost of a thought drifting in the back of his mind; who does this guy think he is?

“I can see you like, just got here, but like, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’’s are appreciated. Oh, and bows, learn those too. Nothing too big, you look like the type of person to have to warm up to people first. Sometimes it’s good to be introverted and keep up an indifferent facade, but like, hero work is all about how the public sees you.”

Kazuo pauses, and Atsui is not stupid enough to not see he’s waiting for a response. “How do you know?” a simple question, enough to satiate the bore of a conversation.

Of course, Atsui knew all of this information, vaguely. Growing up in a small town, barely 200 people, it just happened that everybody knew each other even if they didn’t know each other. Tedious traditional greetings and verbal niceties were games only played with tourists, and even then it was very rare Atsui would willingly talk to them. With so much to do, so much to catch up on, there was little time for such nuances.

Kazuo clicks his mandibles, once, then twice. “I took a course in college, wanted to get into the entire scene.”

And that’s it, that’s the conversation. Atsui still feels like he should say something, though? Kazuo is also waiting for Atsui to say something? What else is there to add to this?

“...That’s cool.” Atsui adds lamely. It seems to do the trick, and Kazuo nods and disappears into the back.

“I didn’t mean to sound rude, before, with the talk bout' phrases and traditional greetings, but I don’t think you got anybody to teach you how to. You really remind me of myself when I was younger.” Kazuo makes a little show of sighing dramatically and staring off into the distance, “Listen, I got a niece, I think she’s a little younger than you. We’re really just family friends, but if you’re ever in the area I really think you guys should talk. Nice girl, I know she’d do wonders for your social skills.”

Kazuo paused again, but Atsui knew what to say, “That’d be nice, thank you.”

A bit of a loud-mouth, but Kazuo was looking out for Atsui. It was nice.

The bug-man made several sharp clicks, almost like a trill, before retiring into the back room with a bit of a pep in his step. A short buzz sounded from Atsui’s phone, a message had been received.

FROM: ###-####-####

11:07

(Attachment: 1 location)

Hey Akagawa-kun, It’s Maichie-obasan I’ll wait for you here.

Okay

Thinking about Kazuos’ long rant, Atsui sent another text.

Thank u.

It’s no problem, I just don’t know how you got out here.

I took the bus after waiting for half an hour

Oh my god u just decided to do that, without telling anyone

Great

ur gonna love living with us 

Atsui would count that interaction as a win.

Standing up, Atsui rolls his suitcase and box out from under the table, taking his phone out to send the due amount to the restaurant… What a weird name, “Tallarines”? What language even was that?

Before he could punch in the code for his card Kazuo yelled from the back room.

“Kid! You don’t have to do that, man, consider it on the house!” Kazuo turned his yell into a mumble, but Atsui could still pick up on it, “oh shit I forgot to ask his name.”

“It’s Akagawa Atsui.” He piped in helpfully.

“Yah, Akagawa-kun,” Atsui can hear the clattering of pots and pans and can only imagine he’s stumbling his way through the kitchen to get to the desk, but when Kazuo does he has a certain glow about him. “Here, kid, have my number. Tell me if you’re ever in Nagoya.” 

Atsui feels his phone buzz in his pocket as he’s assumedly airdropped Kazuo’s number. There isn’t anything for Atsui to do but bow and thank him, so that’s what he does. 

His bow is clumsy and unpracticed, but it gets the point across, “Thank you very much, Kazuo-san.”

Kazuo makes a trill again, “Get home safe, kid, it was nice meeting you.” Kazuo pats him on the shoulder.

That’s enough for today, Atsui nods and leaves the shop, following the directions to which his aunt’s fiancee sent him.

As he heads on, mindlessly follows his phone’s directions, Atsui gets to thinking. With how little business the Tallarines is getting, Atsui thinks that it’s probably a front for some sort of illegal misdoings. But honestly, he didn’t have it in him to care. Thinking back on Kazuo’s happy trills and a pat on the shoulder, he feels warmer than he ever did surrounded by fire and magma.

Chapter Text

The walk to find his aunt’s finacee is long, Atsui manages to dodge the flow of the crowds and vendors by ducking through alleyways and shotgun buildings. The humid alleyways are just enough to calm his spinning mind. It’s about a mile and a half away from the noodle shop, Atsui could have made it there in 15 minutes but because of the luggage, it takes him 30. 

The city is still breathtaking, but it’s a lot. It’s a lot more than he’s ever known. To be honest, the entire day has been more than anything Atsui’s ever known. So when he finally finds the old 67’ beat-up Toyota Highlander he’s more than content to simply get in with his stuff, lay down and close his eyes.

Unfortunately, despite the pick up being smooth, the ride there wasn't.

Maichi-obasan was a short woman, with light brown hair and about a dozen piercings. She had snake tattoos crawling up and around her arms. Compared to a literal bug man, seeing her brown eyes was refreshing. 

Atsui had found her sitting on the hood of her car, smoking a cigarette playing some sort of phone game. The exchange between them was, “Yo!” and a nod from Atsui, and then they were off. 

Maichie didn’t seem to want to talk, and neither did Atsui, but it was only their luck when Kyoko-obasan calls. 

Maichie doesn’t even look over at the phone or him before she tosses it over into his lap, “Answer it for me, will yah?” She takes a quick glance over, “Just put it on speaker, I don’t want to be pulled over.” the silent again was a bit nerve-racking. 

Atsui nods and answers the phone. 

“Hey babe!” Maichie nearly yells, “I got yous on speaker, so you’ll know I actually did pick up the kid.”

“Hi, Kyoko-obasan.” Atsui has never felt more awkward in his life.

Kyoko makes a small noise of surprise. “Hi, love! Y’know, I woke up so late today I didn’t see your text, I thought you would be taking one of the flights and 6pm!” Oba-san had an airy voice, a little passionate but overall pleasant to listen to. Atsui realizes that she can’t see any of his nods, so he just answers with small affirming yeah’s. He doesn’t blame her, really, it already happened.

“What time do you guys think you’re gonna get home?” Kyoko asks. Kyoko and Maichie had been together for a couple of years, they had met when Kyoko had left Hi-Kasai. Atsui and his father had never gotten to meet the couple together, but Atsui thinks his dad wouldn’t have liked Maichie all that much. 

Maichie sighs, “Around 4 p.m. if traffic isn’t an asshole,” she sighs before smirking, “Maybe 3 if I break some laws!”

She continues, “Guess what, I asked this kid how the hell he got out to Saitama, and he says,” Maichie looks over at him. He gets the hint. 

“I took the bus.” Atsui doesn’t understand why Maichie barks out a laugh, so he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, fidgeting with the piece of scrap metal, “Then I bought noodles.” he says with a shrug.

Miachie’s laugh sounds like a bulldog. Or some sort of dog, Atsui had only encountered 2 dogs in his life, and both of them were owned by Mr. Yamaguichi on Hi-Kasai. Mr. Yamaguichi was 92, and his dogs would probably outlive him. Atsui would sometimes see them running free on the streets. He would never tell anyone, but Atsui always stopped to pet them and give them a treat.

“D’ya hear this kid, Kyo?” She takes a sharp left, and Atsui’s box falls into the foot space, “‘I took the bus’! I took the bus! We’re gonna have him for four years, Kyoko! Man, if you told me he was gonna be a riot I would’ve visited that weird home of yours and stuck around!”

Atsui flicks his dreads back and forth, no, no and no. The day that Maichie visits Hi-Kasai is the day the place actually goes up in flames and nothing could convince him otherwise. Heating up the metal in his pocket, he jams his thumb into it like it’s playdough. He can vaguely feel the pressure of the heat on the outside of his skin, a phantom sensation that gives him the faint implication that he should be feeling something. 

The phone crackles in his lap and he can hear his aunt saying something in the background, “Yah, I just got Kenju and the boys over here helping me set up his room.” There’s another pause, Kyoko is yelling at somebody, “Y’know, fire proofing and moving. Sorry, we don’t have anything like the forge over here, Tsui.”

Atsui feels a rock in his stomach when he thinks about his family forge. He comes from a line of skilled blacksmiths, each spending their lifetime cultivating their craft. He thinks about how that nearly sacred place will lie untouched until he returns.

He thinks all these things, but he says, “That’s fine.” He’s almost positive the school he’s aiming for would have a forge.

“Okay kids-” Kyoko ignores Maichie’s indignant shout after being called a kid, “- see you at 4, kay?”

Maichie grabs the phone from his lap, “Bye~!” she sing-songs before hanging up.

Coming to a stop at traffic, she looks over at him one more time. 

“It’s crazy.” 

Atsui looks back at her and knows what’s coming next.

“You guys are nothing alike,” Maichie bits his lip and Atsui can’t stop the disappointment flooding his veins. 

“You can tell you’re related just by lookin’ but the personality difference is like, contrast.” She cuts a line through the air with her acrylic nails. “But I guess we just met, huh? Gonna’ have to prove me wrong.” Personality wise? That’s new.

Great, it seems that she also wants to talk. 

Atsui is picking ash out of his nails, (he honestly has no idea where it’s coming from) “You know,” he bites his lip, trying not to wonder what time it is, “it’s been a while.” When he hears himself, he can almost imagine it’s the low rasp of his father.

Maichie gives her bulldog laugh, “At least you guys got that in common.”

Atsui is too busy redoing his bun, loose hair is a hazard when working with heat.

“‘Y’know, y’know, you know!’” She cackles as she parrots them, taking a sharp left turn, “If I had a yen for every time I heard it, I would be a billionaire.”

Atsui nods, pulling down the window a little bit. The wind rushing past his ears was a good distraction, but he was about 90% sure she was far above the speed limit. 

“I don’t know if  you’re mad at us for mixing up the times, but I’ll tell you I’m sure Kyo feels hella bad about it, she just doesn’t know how to apologize,” Her elbow strays to give him an encouraging nudge, “But I’m sure you had a load of fun chatting up them Saitama babes.”

Atsui doesn’t have to look to know she’s jogging her eyebrows. He’s tired, and he’s especially tired with Kazuo’s ‘advice’. Maichie is family, and by the way she talks she’d be the last person to know anything about social etiquette or respect;

“There were no babes, only a man with the head of a bug” he says, looking at her, “he was nice, but I’m going to take a nap now.” before he closes his eyes and tries to become dead to the world, feeling the scrap metal rapidly cooling between his fingers.

When Atsui does open his eyes again, his bun has fallen out and his dreads were splayed out haphazardly, lazily sectioned and everywhere. Atsui briefly wonders if there’s somebody in the mainland who can do his hair for him, so he doesn’t have to spend so much time on it. His runs his hands through his scalp, trying to find his hair-tie, failing and therefore submitting himself to looking half-dead.

Miachie doesn’t seem to notice he’s woken up, she’s too busy nursing a cigarette whilst simultaneously mouthing along to the music blasting from the radio.

It looks like they’ve entered another major city and Atsui is surprised there’s still light coming through the window. His day has been so long, spontaneous, it feels like he’s done enough to encompass an entire week. The smell of smoke wafts towards him, and the sound of the song’s beat rattles his bones.

Miachie glances over at him, briefly letting go of the wheel to turn off the radio. Atsui lets out a small sigh of relief, feeling the quiet and cold invade his bones.

She decides to break the silence, “We’re dropping this car off at my friend’s place, then we’re gonna grab the train to Chikusa,” she pauses, considering, “Me and Kyo got a house over there, it’s like a 10-minute ride.”

Maichie reminds Atsui a lot like Tsuyuki, but then again, everybody does. Tsuyuki just had an... all-around personality, that goes to say if all around means all chaos and no calm. The tattoos snaking up Maichie’s arms reminds him a lot of that nature. He was seven when he’d met Tsuyuki for the first time, he was adventuring a little ways past a restricted area, digging in the damp and bubbling mud. Tsuyuki had shouted out to him, and he had gotten so startled he fell backwards into it. She then proceeded to laugh so hard at him, she fell over and kneed herself in the face. They went back to her hotel room, her with a black eye and him covered in thick mud. 

It takes him a minute to realize Maichie’s talking. 

“-but I don’t want there to be any bad blood between us,” She exhales a deep breath as if she had been thinking about this for a minute, “okay? We’re family” She reaches over to grab his hand.

Atsui has no clue what is going on. 

“Y-Yeah…” He stutters out, still trying to grasp the situation. She takes his hand and runs her thumb over his knuckles in a comforting manner. It is Not Comforting. He’s been touched more times today than he’s been in the past four years and it’s probably one of the reasons that as soon as he gets to the house he’s going to find the closest horizontal surface and lay down. Hell, he’d probably settle for something vertical.

“Sweet!” Atsui has been told by many people (one person, Tsuyuki) that he has no meter for awkwardness. Obviously, while he was blanked out, Maichie and him shared a aunt-nephew bonding moment in which he was not included. But surprisingly Maichie san seemed unaware of his inner turmoil. 

She lets go of his hand, crunches out her cigarette, and turns on the radio in one swift movement. 

Eventually, they pull up to the parking garage where a man who has shoulder-length brown hair. The transaction between them is swift. 

“Thanks, Jirō-kun.” She tosses him the keys.

“You better not have gotten ash all over my car, Akagawa-kun.” 

Maichie grins, a promise behind his teeth. Maichie’s entire aura reminded him of a specific subcategory of tourist he’d sometimes see on Hi-Kasai; the thrill seekers. The type of people who heard about the spitting fire, seeping through the cracks in the earth and grinned. Those were the type of people you would find on bike paths in 45-degree weather jogging, the type of people ignoring the restricted signs and warnings just to get the perfect photo.  

To be honest, it was unsettling. Every time a death occurred on the island, tourism had a significant drop. It would generally last for two weeks to a month, but it would affect island politics and economics greatly. With over 50% of all income generating from vacationers, it meant that all forging and factory work had to ramp up. It meant double work for all forgers on the island, all support workers who aided hero work on the mainland, and Atsui. 

He never complained, though, when his grandmother would silently ask more of him; more weaponry, more armory, talk to the blacksmiths and weaponsmiths and get them working, talk to the miners and push them double time, see how many routes the ships and out could take before the crew went mad. Atsui never complained, but he hoped those thrill-seekers finally found what they were looking for in death. 

Very unsettling how little consideration people had for their lives. But, y’know, he just met Maichie. Maybe she’s just a really eccentric person?

Chapter Text

Maichie was surprised when in the middle of recording her fiancee for a year, girlfriend for 3, had called her in a panic explaining that her nephew was in Saitama and needed to be picked up. Of course, she had known that Kyo’s nephew was going to stay at their place for a while (four years, a while), but she didn’t know that he would be in Saitama, of all the places. Only to find out, no, he wasn’t supposed to be in Saitama, but took a two hour bus ride there and lived it up in the city before getting picked up.

Sure, Kyo had her quirks, but besides them she was still Kyo. Bubbly and adventurous, fierce and sometimes aggressive (not that she ever minded), Maichie was wrong to assume her nephew would be one in the same. Sure, he was adventurous in his little joy ride to the city, but actually talking to the kid proved otherwise.

He was withdrawn, and quiet. Which was fine, Maichie wasn’t really in the mood to talk either, but when talking with Kyoko it was even worse.

 Maichie’s spent a lot of time away from her family, so she can’t be one to judge. Kyoko had told her that her relationship with her family was strained, her home-island was always a touchy subject. Especially talking about her family. The phone call they had was almost one sided, Kyoko had word-vomited her side, Atsui had lent a couple phrases, and it was up to Maichie to keep everything up.

Meh, it wasn’t any of her business. 

The first thought she had Akagawa took a nap in the car was that maybe he had some sort of disorder, autism perhaps? She had never met a teenage boy who spoke and acted with such composure and robotic mannerisms. Nah, she thought, he’s probably just weird. Kyoko would tell her something like that.

Or maybe, she spiraled, he’s mad at them. For leaving him on the island as a 10 year old kid. 

When his dad had com died, there was a brief custody struggle as it was revealed that Akagawa-san had left nothing behind. No papers, no verbal confirmation of anything, zip zilch zero. Kyoko had taken the news calmly, keeping face and cool, but below the surface was bubbling rage and anger. Maichie didn’t know why she was so mad, the kid had grandparents and an entire community of support.

At the time, her and Kyoko couldn’t even afford rent. A lawyer to argue custody? Out of the question. She hadn’t seen him in years, either, the boy didn’t even know her name was on the candidate list. 

Either way, custody went to the grandparents and that rage simmered with the years to come, but even now the stove was still warm. 

    After Atsui woke up, she had had the entire speech planned out in her head. Way to go, Maichie, you’re finally doing this role-model thing right.

    “Hey, Atsui, can I call you that?” Atsui stared blankly at her, which she took for a yes, “Kyoko and I are really excited to have you here, we really are. She’s spent the entire week getting everything ready, and she’s so happy to see you after all these years. When we get home-” home for her, it wasn’t home for him, yet, “- I’ll have a talk with her, see if I can goad her on to talk to you about everything. Is that cool? It’s fine if it isn’t, but I just don’t want there to be any bad blood between us.” Kyoko always liked small affirming touches, maybe..? 

    Maichie gives his hand a couple pats. His eyes zoom back and forth across her face, a little confused, but responsive. He stutters out a confirmation, and Maichie can’t help but being a little pleased with herself.

    Step one of ‘bond with my nephew’ is a-go. Now time to drop this hunk of junk off at Jiro-kun’s and haul ass to the station; she said she would be home at 4, and goddamn it she had an example to set. 


 

HolyShitTheBoxIsHeavy. How did Atsui log this thing around Japan for 6 hour? The damn thing had to be at least- fuck, okay Maichie didn’t know but it was damn heavy.

She briefly considered asking him to take it back, but the kid’s half closed eyes and messed up hair was guilt tripping her. He had woken up at 6 in the morning, and due to a misunderstanding was left until noon in Japan. Alone. 

Maichie and Kyoko had met through a chatroom to talk about music, it was less talking and more of Kyoko asking questions that slowly dissolved into flirting which dissolved into a relationship. Kyoko had mentioned she’d never been to a big city before, growing up on an isolated island before moving to attend an art school in the countryside. Maichie offered to take her, and sparks flew. 

That day in the city, it was rough the first hour. Maichie was astounded, and a little dizzy with everything in Tokyo. The buildings, the lights, the people. They had to sit down at a way over-priced cafe. It was good, though. 

Maichie started thinking about this because of Atsui’s wide-eyed expression. He stared at the amount of people on the train, stared at the signs and stared at the buildings. It was a little worrying to be honest, if Maichie hadn’t experienced the same thing with Kyoko she would have been a little worried. It would wear off in the next couple days, hopefully. Even more hopefully, maybe he would stop brooding everywhere.

Their small apartment was on the top floor of the building, a safety precaution that all fire-related quirk users were forced to take. The apartment had 2 bedrooms, small and quiet. No pets allowed, which wasn’t enforced (exhibit A: Slippers, the friendly neighborhood nomad cat). The best part of the place, in Maichie’s opinion, was the view of Chikusa.

From their apartment, you got a view of the prettier side of the place: the shops and the parks and all that jazz. It really was a great inspiration, she would think with humor, especially for two artististic lesbians living in a city apartment with a cat. 

Walking into the apartment complex, Maichie saw Atsui take a glance at the stairs as if he would prefer it over the perfectly fine and hygienic elevator. Nope, not today kid. 

“So this is the building, we live on the top floor cuz of regulation. It’s small, but I think you’ll like it.” Atsui seems to reconsider the walking the dozen flight of stairs with his luggage, and dutifully follows her into the elevator. 

By the time they reach the top floor Atsui has relaxed his posture, which Maichie takes for a win. The excitement of the day had finally slowed down, and Maichie realized that she’s been looking at the kid almost all day, but not really seeing him. She sees the ash dusting the sleeves of his sweater. His complexion is dark, features strong and set, brows furrowing too easily for a teenage boy. He has dreads, long tied up, well created and maintained. She looks, and she sees a nervous kid, starting a new life. 

Well, he won’t be alone, not this time.

“Why do you guys live on the top floor?” Atsui asks, hands fidgeting with the piece of scrap metal. His voice jars her out of thought. Sweet! An unprompted question, we’re bonding boys!

“Well,” Maichie begins, “It’s because of our quirks.” She steps through the open doors and into the hallway. “I have an empath-type quirk, so legally I don’t need to live on the top floor, but because your family has a heat-resistance quirk it’s mandated that you live on the top floor. The whole idea is that if somebody messes up with their quirk, or a child develops their quirk for the first time, and the place isn’t fire-proof, the fire would catch to the top of the building. 

“I guess that if that rule were not in place, and a fire-based family moved into the first floor and did cause a fire, the whole building would go up in flames instead of just the top floor.” She fumbles with her keys outside of their apartment, A-101. She isn’t looking at him, but she can tell that Atsui is nodding along with her information, looking around. 

“You guys all live so close together.” he comments, watching her open the door finally. 

“Yeah, I actually don’t know any of them but if you see them out and about, don’t be afraid to say hi!” Going off on how he’s been conducting himself, she highly doubted he would.

Leading him into the apartment, she tried her best not to throw the box down onto the floor instead of placing it gently down. She heard Atsui close the door behind her before pausing to take in the apartment.

Kyoko had given away little information about her childhood home, so Maichie had little idea what she was going to do to the place when she said that she was going to, “do some redecorating to make the place a little more comfortable for him.” 

Standing from the doorway looking into the apartment, she could see the changes. To the left was the kitchen and dining area, and it was over flowing with plants. Spending the weekend in Saitama recording sure as hell gave Kyoko a lot of time to do her thing. To the right, the living room was also changed. The sofa was overflowing with what had to be at least 4 extra blankets and a dozen plants, and a large humidifier was spewing mist into the air. She couldn’t see further into the hallway and the bedrooms, but she suspected a couple of the decorations had changed. And of course, the temperature was still ramped up a couple degrees.

Of course, Atsui wouldn’t know all these changes occurred. Either way, she hoped he liked it. Kyoko sure as hell put a lot of effort into all of this. 

“Hey guys!” Speak of the devil and she shall appear, “Welcome home!” Before she could turn her head, Maichie was enveloped in a bear hug of epic-proportions. She felt a couple pecks on her cheek before she was released. 

Kyoko had seemingly re-dyed her hair while she was gone. The fiery red was more vibrant than last week. While Kyoko fussed over and greeted Atsui, Maichie would get herself busy by moving his stuff into his new room and pouring a glass or two of wine. God knows she needs it.


 

The last thing Atsui saw was a flash of red before the life was squeezed out of him through means soon to be known. A high pitched laugh cut through the stagnating silence of the apartment, 

“Oh my GOD!” Kyoko (he had assumed) squealed, “Hi love!” He feels the grip around his neck and chest loosen, and he takes in a good lungful of breaths.

“Uh, Hi Kyoko-oba-san.” Atsui manages to stutter out before his ribs are crushed once more.

“You’ve gotten so tall! And handsome! Not that you weren’t when you were little, but y’know, it was more of a cute-handsome,” she blabbers, “It’s been so long! You look so much like Kiyonao, it’s crazy. I’m so so so SO sorry about the mix up this morning, y’know, if I'd known about the time I would’ve been there hours earlier and I really don’t know much about hosting but I know I’ve already messed it up so if there’s anything-” at this point, she’s moved in front of him, cradling his face and cheeks in her hands.

“-It’s okay, oba-san.” Atsui tries to smoothly interjects, “it’s in the past-”

Kyoko keeps going, “-It’s just that I’ve been trying to get everything set up for the past week and I haven’t been getting enough sleep and I really shouldn’t have but I slept in and now here you are and you’ve grown up so much-” she gives a hard sniffle, stepping away from Atsui with a small smile. 

Kyoko’s fiery red hair came down to her shoulders, her bangs were nicely clipped away by barrettes. She had the same thin face as his father, as was nearly as tall as him too. Her eyes were soft, a little watery, but gentle. As she looked him over, Atsui didn’t feel judged or self conscious. It was… nice. 

“It’s been a while,” he says, just as he had rehearsed. But as the words leave his mouth, he can’t help but feel like his stomach is doing somersaults. Instead of looking at her face, he settles for looking to the far left, “It will be nice to be here with you while I study.” He bows, “I’m looking forward to it.”

There’s silence after he finishes, his nerves had not calmed. His stomach might as well run away and join the circus with how it’s toppling and twisting. He hears another wet sniffle, so he looks up. Kyoko has her hands over her mouth with tears in her eyes, seemingly trying not to cry.

Shit, shit, shit. Did he say something to make her upset? On the first day, too? He’s only been here for less than 10 minutes and he’s already-

“SO MUCH LIKE YOUR DAD!” She wails, engulfing him in another hug. She starts to shake and rock him back and forth.

“YOU REALLY DON’T HAVE TO BE SO FORMAL WITH ME!” She cries, “WE’RE FAMILY-”

“-oba-san, I can’t breathe-”

“KIYONAO WAS THE SAME WAY! I JUST WANT YOU TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH ME-”

“-please-”

“-SO DROP THE BOWS AND HONORIFICS AND PLEASE TREAT ME LIKE A FRIEND! I KNOW IT’S BEEN SO LONG BUT WE’RE NOT STRANGERS!” She gives him a hard squeeze, and Atsui can see spots.

“Okay,” he manages to gasp out, “okay, please let me breathe.” 

“O-Oh!” she pulls herself back and flutters with her hands for a moment before slipping them into eachother, “I’m sorry! Here, here, sit down.” and ushers him to the sofa.

It’s an old looking thing, brown and well-loved looking. There are blankets draping over the arms and back, as well as some folded neatly on the seats. Before he can even sit down there’s a blanket drawn around his shoulders and he’s sufficiently wrapped. Kyoko so far had reminded him of his father. Thinking about him made the back of Atsui’s throat bitter and dry, but it’s times like these he’s reminded he can’t avoid it forever. He could see how they were related, despite the reserved and nature of his father and the boisterous fiery attitude of his aunt. They were both so unbearably gentle, soft in a way he couldn’t quite put into words.

He does not lift his head when he heard her shuffling about, the sharp whistle of a kettle cutting through the short silence. There is still ash underneath his fingernails, so he picks at it nervously. Before he can get past the middle finger, a cup of close to boiling tea is placed in his hands. “Here you go,” She murmurs, patting his head and shifting herself down into the opposing chair, “I was cold when I first came here too.”

“Y-yeah,” he manages back, lifting the cup up just to feel the slight warmth glazing past his face, “Isn’t it like.. a byproduct of our quirk?” 

She looks at him, and suddenly he realizes he can’t stop talking. Word after word pours out of his mouth before he can stop it, “Because, y’know, we have a fire resistant quirk, so we can survive in high temperatures but we’re also susceptible to cold- and, I dunno if you know but like mom supposedly also had a heat quirk so my quirk is a little different, just like the rest of me,” he thumbs at the rims of the mug, praying that something would shut him up, but Kyoko just looks at him with a smile and nods and he keeps going. 

“We figured out that I can control heat and use it to boost my strength which is really cool so either my mom had a strength quirk or a heat quirk and I’m just a mutation but y’know that would be cool too I just-“ He runs out of breath and coughs, and it seems to be enough to knock him out of it. 

Kyoko doesn’t laugh at the hard blush darkening his face, instead she tilts her features and gives a small smile. “Y’know you’re right on the dot about us and the cold!” She crosses and uncrosses her legs, “I wish I could tell you more about your quirk, but that may just be something for the quirk doctor to figure out!” Her eyes soften, again. “We’ll talk about everything and more later tonight, you look exhausted. Drink some tea, I’ll get you something to eat and then you can head to bed. Deal?”

And she’s right, Atsui is exhausted. So fucking exhausted, tired and nervous in a weird stew of anxiety that drives him. He realizes he’s never been like this; Atsui, himself, who’s usually so self assured, so confident, had wanted to break down more times today that in the past 4 years. He nods.

Kyoko is visibly pleased with herself, giving a closed eye smile, and for a second Atsui can almost imagine what his mother would look like. Soft, all warm and rounded edges and looks like him with thick hair, and maybe she’d have the same birthmarks crawling up his back and she would be beautiful and kind in all the ways he could have been. 

“Yeah,” he clears his throat. Jesus, he has to get a hold of himself. “Yeah, that’d be great.”