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Why You Shouldn't Be A Hero


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November 3, 2021

Claremont Academy


Casper hadn't exactly volounteered for the whole meet-a-mentor gig at Claremont. He had sworn that he didn't do well with kids, that he wasn't the mentor type or anything like that, but hey, that was how it went, and as one of the newest members of Freedom League Auxillary, well... he had to put in the hours, somehow.


Sure, he had plenty of experience, but he really wasn't sure it was the kind of experience that he should share with these kids...


But, here he was, hanging around in the middle of it all, looking around Claremont, trying to do his best to seem like the kind of guy that these kids shouldn't go to ask questions.

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It was at that moment Casper realized a cat was looking at him. It was big and fluffy, a jet-black Maine Coon if he was any judge, and after a moment was judged by a slender tiger-striped feline that eyed him with the same yellow-eyed intensity. Nobody in the quad seemed to notice or comment on the cats, which come to think of it were by no means the only cats he could spot moving around among the student body. A third cat joined the first two, this one snow-white with bright blue eyes, this one seemingly of greater boldness. "Nya?" it inquired of him, stepping forward and raising its head curiously. 

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Casper paused, a donut halfway into his mouth as he noticed the cats that were starting to circle him, staring at him.


Oh, great. Now people were gonna start to call him the weird cat-hero. Sure, would probably be an improvement in some ways, but he could do without that, and...


He paused at the sound.




Right, right. He'd read up on the student body. There was supposed to be a couple of students with cat powers or something like that, right? Like, full on cat transformation or something like that? He honestly didn't remember. Something with cats, at least.


"Nice one, kid." 


He took a final bite of his donut, then kneeled by the cat while he pulled his mask down over his mouth.


"Cats go meow here, y'know, but nice one. Wanna come out now?"

Edited by RocketLord
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The cats stared balefully up at Ghost, showing no interest in either departing or revealing themselves to be something else in disguise. They were joined by another, a sleek white Siamese, and a black cat that looked straight from a Halloween decoration. 


Up on the roof, Neko slipped her copy of Kwaidan into the pocket of her sleeve and peered down at the hero below. She was beginning to think that fellow wasn't Foreshadow after all, which meant her plan to approach him and thank him for the excellent collection of Japanese literature in the library here. I should just go, she thought, but he might complain about the cats. Some people, very bad people, did not like cats, she knew, and if this man was troubled by them, he might make trouble for her. 


So she slipped out of her geta, then leaped straight off the dorm roof and landed behind Ghost, her bare feet almost soundless against the dirt. The moment she touched ground, the cats vanished in a faint puff of fish-smelling smoke. "Hello," she said, folding her hands in front of her. She looked like almost any normal Asian girl to Ghost's eyes at the moment, except her yellow and gold kimono looked more like something from a tourist's image of Japan than the real thing. "Who are you, sir?" she asked, her eyes big and head tilted. 

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Poof, the cats were gone and someone spoke behind him. 


Casper suppressed the urge to jump up. A kid sneaking up on him, just great. He looked over his shoulder at the kid. Looked young, wearing some kinda kimono. Casper wasn't big on Japan or anything like that, but he'd been on an adventure once or twice. 


"C'mon, kid, no need to do all that sneaking around stuff. We're all friends here, y'know."


He stood up straight. Well, straight-ish, shaking his head slightly.


"That hurts, y'know. Been doing this for nearly twenty years, y'know." Casper made sure that he didn't sound entirely serious, no need to upset the kid. "Just your friendly neighborhood Ghost, kid. How about you?"

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Neko stepped back, hands folded in front of her, and didn't quite make eyecontact with the strange man. This definitely does not sound like Foreshadow - what is he thinking? Ugh, it is like talking to one of Ryder's machines. No, at least they act like they feel things! "I am sorry, sir," she said, her voice a little high, yellow eyes wide as she looked down at Ghost's feet. Her accent was thick, her English hesitant. "I have been...sleep." She hesitated, not sure if he was angry or not, but having learned from experience that it was better not to take any chances with men like that. And he is definitely not a ghost.  "I do not know very much about America." 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Huh. Casper had tried, but he had managed to upset the kid anyway. Great. These kids were usuall pretty thick skinned. They knew they were the new hotness, all awesome and everything, so this was... kind of unexpected. Casper wasn't sure if she was scared or just didn't like him, but she was uncomfortable either way.


"Oh, hey, there's no need for all that, kid. Sorry about that, it was just a joke, really." 


Sleeping? Didn't know much about America?


"I, uh, I don't know much about Asia either? I mean, I'm guessing you're Japanese or Chinese or something with that getup, right? See, it's completely fine not to know everything and everyone, y'know."

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Neko relaxed, her tail curling around her legs and ears rising above her head like uncurling paper. Ghost was not actually angry with her, and best of all the sight of a big-eyed girl in distress was making him kind. This was a situation she had learned to understand very well in her time in Freedom City. "I am from Iya Valley of Japan, sir," she said, "it is very small." She folded her hands in front of her and said with the air of one reciting a memorized line, "Japan has many superheroes but they do not visit the United States." And no one wanted to be responsible for training someone from the Hinomaru. She knew that fact well enough. "You are here for - mentoring?"

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"No, I don't suppose they do," Casper mused. Ninjas were much more likely to show up, weren't they?


"Sure, I guess I am." 


She did sound like she could use some help, being all withdrawn and everything and... Casper had to, once again, question why he'd been asked to come here. He was not a fan of teens. He'd much prefer if Carrie just stayed a kid forever, but for some reason, he ended up teaming up with kid heroes all the time anyway, and now... now here he was.


Could just as well try to do some good.


"So, what can I do for you, kid?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

How to be a hero?


"Going right for the big questions, huh?"


Casper blew a raspberry, motioned with his head to the side, wanting the kid to follow him.


"Alright, alright. I walked into that one, didn't? C'mon, walk and talk, and we'll see what we'll come up with, but I gotta know somethin' first, alright? Why do you want to be a hero?"

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Copying Ghost's body language automatically, Neko followed the older hero at a respectful distance. It took her a moment to translate his question in her head - and then even longer to answer it in her own mind. What do I tell him? That there is no demand for peasant girls with no schooling, here or in Japan? That if I do not make friends here, I may starve when I am too old to live on charity? But such talk was not the sort of talk she heard among the American students at Claremont, so instead she said "Ohh...to fight for great justice," she said as seriously as possible. "And to right wrongs." There, that was the sort of thing she'd heard some of the other girls say among themselves; the sort of softly whispered prayers to a higher power that belonged more to the provenance of a shrine maiden than a super-agent in her opinion. She gave Ghost an innocent look. 

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Casper continued walking, moving through the crowds.


"Really?" He sounded almost like he didn't even care, before turning to look at her.


"C'mon, kid. Be real with me, yeah? You shouldn't be a hero if you can't be honest about why you're gonna do it. Don't worry, I'm not gonna judge, but I'm not gonna help out if you're gonna lie to me."

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"Your pardon, sir," she said, wide-eyed innocence. "My English is not good." She looked Ghost up and down, wondering what sort of truths he knew. She knew Freedom City had seen its share of battles in the last few years but she still had to wonder. What were even the worst of them like, when you came right down to it? "I have no place," she added, all big eyes as she looked up at him, still holding her cat. "I am here." 

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They were getting somewhere, at least. Slowly, but getting there.


"So... you woke up, got put in Claremont, and now you're trying to be a hero just because that's what they tell you to do? Is that it?"


Ghost shook his head, putting his hands at his sides as he did so.


"Y'know, they might be training you and everything, but nobody's gonna make you go out and fight bad guys. At least, I hope they won't."


He paused for a just a moment. This kid was kinda weird, but culture shock could be a hell of a thing, couldn't it?


"What do you want to do, then?"

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Neko narrowed her eyes at Ghost, folding her hands carefully behind her back. "So they say," she said cooly.


She blinked at the man a few times, her ears pointed on her head and tail thumping back and forth behind her. "Sore wa orokadesu," she muttered, before saying louder, "You do not know me. You do not know-" She blinked her eyes and thought of fire and blood, and the way it soaked the ground so it squelched beneath her boots. "Sōzō dekinai. It - cannot be." 


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Casper didn't know a lot about cats, but the way she was moving her tail and ears, the way she was starting to get agitated... yeah, he probably made a wrong step there.


He knelt down closer to her, quickly putting a hand on her shoulder.


"Hey, kid. Easy. I don't know you, sure. You don't know me either. Sometimes, it's better to talk to someone you don't know."


He smiled behind his mask, which could at least be seen in his yes.


"And I'll freely admit that I got no idea what you just said, but c'mon. I promise I'm not gonna judge or laugh or whatever. I mean, look at me: My whole thing's basically a massive guilt trip. Couldn't stop trying to save people even if I tried to. Trust me, I've tried to stop lots of times, always gets pulled back in when I see somebody in trouble."

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He wants to save people, does he!? thought Neko, her mind whirling with boiling anger and suppressed terror. "I show you!" she hissed suddenly and with great effort took her hand and placed it on the side of Ghost's head, presenting him with an illusion that was meant for him and him alone. 




A man leads you into a room where another man is strapped to a chair. The other man is obviously a victim of torture; his fingers are bloody ruins at the tips, cigarette burns dot his face like markers on a roadmap, his filthy uniform is torn to rags around him. You turn your head and see yourself, a girl in a Japanese sailor suit, a fiery crown burning above your white and brown pointed ears. The first man speaks again; his voice muffled by his mask. On closer inspection he's dressed in a strange hybrid of a ninja's costume and a samurai's, the rising sun of wartime Japan emblazoned across his crimson chest. 


"Our English guest refuses to speak. Loosen his tongue." 


You stare at the man in the chair, who looks at you uncertainly. Then your hands tighten into fists and you do things to him; and he smiles as he stares at nothing, exclaiming "Yes! Yes! Get them, lads! Yes!" Time passes as he is cut free of his bonds and rises to his feet, marching in place. "I thought for sure I'd had it, lads. No, the plans are still safe. Where? Oh, in the compartment of my traveling bag-" 


The man's eyes widen for just a moment before the Crimson Katana draws his blade and with a single strike slices off his head. You watch, mesmerized, as the head falls to the ground, and then feel a wet copper spatter on your face that you realize is the blood pumping freely from the dead man's neck. The Katana's hand is on your shoulder. 


"Yes! Very good - Neko.


When the illusion vanished and Ghost was once again standing in the quad - there was no sign of Neko, save a single Siamese cat that was looking up at him with cool blue eyes. 

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Casper didn't get to finish the word, then he saw everything.


The moment it was all over, he gasped and looked around. He was back. It was... It had been intense. 


That had been the Crimson Katana, right? How old was this kid, anyway? And... Yeah. He could see why she needed to be here.


And she was gone. Of course she was. Just a cat left behind.


Ghost shook his head, trying to make sense of what he just saw, before he knelt down by the cat and held his hand out towards it.


"Alright, kid. I get it. I think. They made you do horrible things." 


Could she even hear him? He kind of thought so? 


"You wanna be better, got lots of guilt for what they made you do? Alright. C'mon out, and we'll talk. But quit the disappearing act, would ya? Don't make me show you up in front of your friends."

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