Mina awoke, again, in a different place from where she fell unconscious, but instead of sucking on cold, wet asphalt, she merely fluttered her eyes open to a blinding light. Her vision came into focus, giving way to the shape of tall windows funneling in the warm, morning light. She could hear bird chirping outside. It was almost too serene. She tried to move, but her limbs weren't quite ready to listen. They were captivated by the softness of the bed she was lying in, covers draped over her up to her neck. It was such a nice bed, much nicer than the one she had in her dorm.
The thought of home brought her a degree of lucidness. Mina wriggled out of the Mina-shaped crater in the soft mattress, pushed the covers out of the way, and sat up. Her damaged hero costume was gone, replaced with a simple linen nightgown. She felt a little dainty, having never worn a nightgown before, and she certainly appreciated the gesture, but she felt a little anxious knowing that the remains of her costume were taken from her.
Mina gauged her new surroundings. It wasn't a very large room, and it was filled with old-fashioned wooden furniture. A table and some chairs occupied one corner. Framed, abstract paintings hung on the plain, white walls. Dressers, nightstands, and even a second bed, which was currently unmade and had a couple large books and a laptop strewn upon it, which told Mina that there was another occupant in this room. There were some modern amenities as well, like the sizable television placed opposite to the bed. It had a game console neatly placed on the shelf underneath. Mina breathed a sigh of relief when she sighted her acid-proof boots sitting next to a dresser near her bed, though her leotard was nowhere to be seen. She supposed it wouldn't have been of any use torn up, anyway, and the boots were the more important part of the costume, after all.
There was a clack as the door swung open. Mina turned her head just as a dark-skinned woman with long, white hair walked in. She was dressed very casually in a loose white shirt and a flowing dark skirt. The woman looked at Mina and smiled, then stepped away from the door as another person entered. Silently rolling on silver wheels, a bald-headed man in a wheelchair came into view. He looked to be in his forties or fifties. He wore a tan suit, red tie, and had a green blanket resting on his lap. Mina said nothing as the two briefly exchanged words, which was strange, because she would usually waste no time confronting people in situations like this, but for some reason, she could not find the urgency within herself. She just felt... really relaxed for some reason.
"We'll walk out together. You should get to your class, Ororo." the bald man said to the woman.
"Alright. I'll look forward to meeting her later." she replied and exited the room, closing the door behind her. The man then maneuvered his wheelchair towards the bedside.
"I trust you slept well?"
"[Yeah, actually. I feel really good!]" Mina blinked. "[Wait, you can speak Japanese?]"
"No, I'm just communicating directly with the language centers of your brain," he replied. "And you can thank me for your restful sleep. You had a pretty rough night, from what I've heard, so I stabilized your sleep cycles."
Mina then noticed that the man's mouth wasn't moving at all as he "spoke." She gasped.
"[You're a telepath?!]"
The outburst seemed to catch the man off-guard as he raised an eyebrow.
"Have you... encountered telepaths before?"
"[Well, no, but I've heard about them. It's a super-rare quirk.]" Mina suddenly reeled and shielded her forehead with her hands. "[P-please don't look for any secret dirty stuff in my head!]"
The man gave a bemused smile. "I'm not interested in reading your mind for secrets, so don't worry.
"My name is Professor Charles Xavier," he continued. "But you can call me Professor X. I run this school for gifted youngsters, like yourself."
"[School? I was brought to a school?]"
"Indeed, this is one of our dorms." he gave a small sweep of the hand. Mina looked around the room once more.
"[It looks way too fancy to be a dorm...]"
Xavier chuckled. "Well, you could say it's a fancy school, too," he leaned forward. "So tell me, Mina, that is your name, correct?"
She nodded. "[Yes, my name is Ashido Mina.]"
"Ashido Mina?" he repeated. "Ah, yes, the family name comes first. Tell me, Miss Ashido, you referred to my mutant ability as a 'quirk.' Why is that?"
She took a moment to adjust her sitting position, unsure how to respond to his strange question.
"[That's just...]" she began. "[That's just what they're called, aren't they? They're your special powers, your 'individuality.' Do you call it something different in America?]"
"Perhaps," Xavier mentally projected as he furrowed his brow. "But I suspect an... incongruence.
"Now, I have no reason to suspect you of lying, Miss Ashido," he clarified. "But there were a lot of questions that came with your appearance. Where are you from, exactly?"
"[Well, right now I'm living in a dorm in Musutafu, Japan because I'm going to U.A. High School, number one hero school in the whole world!]" she grinned broadly, obviously proud of the fact. "[We were all put in dorms because of the villain attacks and the school wants to keep us safe, but that's alright because the dorms are pretty nice! Not as nice as this, though. Is this a hero school, too?]"
The Professor didn't answer immediately, instead he rested his chin on his hand and pondered.
"I'm afraid to say that I don't know of any school that goes by that name."
"[What? You gotta know U.A.! It the school All Might went to! He's the Number One Hero!]"
Mina scoffed. How could anyone in the whole world not know who All Might is?
"[You know, All Might! Plus Ultra! Texas Sumashhu!]" she made a punching motion. She saw no change of expression on Xavier's face. "[Um... How about Number Two Hero: Endeavor! Big fiery man! Really serious all the time!]" Still nothing. "[Best Jeanist? Thirteen? Ingenium? Captain Celebrity?]"
He slowly shook his head. He was sincerely unaware of any of those names, including Captain Celebrity, who was originally based in America. Mina was stunned, so much so that she began to sweat. Something was wrong. Seriously, incredibly wrong. She threw off the covers and sidled out of bed. Her bare feet touched the carpet and she began to pace with aimless urgency.
"[What happened?]" she asked no one in particular as she ran her fingers through her curly hair. "[What happened?! Where did he send me?!]"
"Please, Mina, calm down." The Professor urged as he wheeled closer to the distressed teenager. "Believe me, I'm just as confused as you are. If you can calm down and tell me what happened and how you ended up here, I could probably help."
Mina stopped her pacing. She was still uneasy, but the telepath's gaze was affixed to hers, patient and compassionate. She sighed, knowing that she'd be betraying his hospitality if she went off the rails like that.
"[I'm sorry. We-me and my classmates-we were attacked by villains again. We were doing pretty well, though, but this guy with a portal quirk, he must have injected himself with a quirk-enhancing drug. After that...]" she hesitated. The memories seemed to be really hazy from that point onward. "[I don't know. He must have flung me here with his portals.]"
"I think I'm getting a clearer picture, but I can't be absolutely certain yet." Xavier sighed and adjusted his blanket. "I've borne witness to countless strange occurrences in my line of work, but it is never prudent to jump to conclusions."
"[What do you mean?]"
"I can sense your urgency, Miss Ashido. You want to get back to your school and you fellow classmates, but getting you home won't be as simple as putting you on a plane." he wheeled around and returned to his original position. "This may even have greater implications. I think I have to contact an acquaintance of mine..."
"[Who?]" Mina inquired as she sat on the foot of the bed.
Xavier turned and smiled. "You probably wouldn't know of him. He used to be a medical doctor, but now he goes by a somewhat different title, and contacting him is going to be no easy task. Rest assured, though, you'll be in good hands. In the meantime-" he stopped in mid-sentence and glanced at the door. "Ah, could you please get the door, Miss Ashido?"
Mina nodded and slipped past the professor to reach the door. She turned the handle and opened it just as the familiar person on the other side was about to knock.
"Ack! Mina!" Kurt exclaimed as he lowered his arm. He was wearing very different clothes from when last she saw him. Instead of what she assumed was his hero suit, he was wearing jeans and a pullover hoodie with the hood up. He still wasn't wearing any shoes, though. Mina grinned ear to ear upon seeing last night's savior.
"I see you've gotten some sleep. May I come in?" As soon as the words left his mouth, though, he frowned, remembering that she couldn't understand him.
"It's alright, Mister Wagner." the professor spoke aloud to Kurt from behind Mina. "I've created a mental link. Try it out."
"Guten tag, professor." he furrowed his brow and concentrated. "Can you hear me, Mina.?"
"[I can totally understand you, now!]" she said with glee and turned to Xavier. "[Your quirk is the best!]"
"It certainly comes in handy." he projected. "However, I won't be around all the time to translate for you. You'll have to pick up on some English while you're here."
Mina groaned, once more, at the idea of having to learn English.
"It's not so bad." Kurt projected, seeing Mina's chagrin. "I'm from Germany, so I'm not a native English speaker myself. You just have to remember the exceptions... and the exceptions to those exceptions."
Mina groaned even more audibly and began to deflate. The professor unsuccessfully stifled a chuckle.
"I think a change of scenery is in order." he offered. "Perhaps a tour. Miss Ashido, there are sets of old school uniforms in that drawer over there. See if you can find one that fits you."
One relatively quick change in the dorm bathroom later, and Mina, Kurt, and Professor Xavier were catching some fresh air in the school courtyard. It seemed to be between periods and there were a fair number of other teenagers milling about. She, once again, noticed a distinct lack of people with appearance-altering quirks. There appeared to be some: tiny horns, a few scales on the neck, pointed ears... but none as dramatic as Kurn or herself. A fish-out-of-water sort of feeling began to fill Mina with trepidation, and to add to that, she seemed to be the only one wearing a fancy, tan, English school uniform! Everyone else was wearing street clothes!
"To answer your question," Xavier suddenly projected. "We've relaxed the dress code since the founding of this school. The students seem to be much more content that way, and it has the added benefit of not having to replace as many uniforms when they're scorched, frozen, punctured or, erm, melted."
Mina winced. She knew that she went through more than a few uniforms before UA decided to give her an acid-proof one.
"I don't know if we have the resources to produce acid-proof uniforms, I'm afraid."
Mina suddenly cupped her forehead again and fumed. "[I didn't say anything!]"
"Oh? My apologies. You just have... very loud thoughts."
Kurt, who was still within "earshot" of their telepathic conversation, gave a stifled chuckle, much to Mina's chagrin.
"Don't worry, fraulein, you're far from the only one with zhat problem."
"[What did you call me?]"
"Er..." Kurt stumbled. "It's just a German word that means 'young woman.'"
"Young unmarried woman." The professor added with a not-so-innocent smile. Mina's face turned a darker shade of pink.
"It's not anysing disrespectful, it's just how we addressed young women in Germany!" he mentally projected, looking a little flustered. "It doesn't imply anysink, either."
"I'm just trying to lighten the mood, is all." his smile faded somewhat. "Like you, Miss Ashido, a lot of our students here don't arrive under the best circumstances. A great deal of them have nowhere else to go."
Mina looked at the other students. They seemed to resemble and act like normal school students, but what the professor said about them made her feel a bit... off. She started to notice that a fair number of them seemed reserved in their body language; their faces seemed to carry the look of someone much older than they appeared. Of course, there were a fair share of dour people in UA, but she could just begin to feel the ghost of a hint of an aura of... great sadness. While her eyes wandered, one of the members of a conversing group happened to glance in Mina's direction. The student's eyes widened, and the other students followed in suit, turning their attention to what had caught their fellow classmate's attention. Soon, Mina felt the weight of many pairs of muttering eyes on her, a feeling she was, until yesterday, rather unfamiliar with. It was plain to see why she would attract so much attention in this environment, even among other people with quirks. Besides Kurt, she was the only person who really stood out. She tried to ignore them and turned back to the Professor.
"[Why don't they have anywhere to go?]"
Xavier's face turned solemn. "Many of them have been disowned or abandoned. Some of them were being hunted by the MRD when we found them."
A chill ran down Mina's spine. Disowned? Abandoned? Hunted? Just what kind of place was this?! There was hardly anyone around who looked older than a teenager, and some were even younger than that. It was known in Japan and most of the world over that young people with quirks weren't that much of a danger to anyone because they hadn't developed their quirks to their full potential, but here...
"I thought you said you vher going to lighten the mood, Professor." Kurt projected, interrupting Mina's thoughts. Xavier drew a long sigh.
"Yes. Again, I apologise. I'm afraid I have a very many things on my mind right now, not the least of which is what to do with our impromptu... 'foreign exchange program,' let's call it." he said as he put his hand to his chin. "I dare say, I don't have any material or accomodations ready, and we only have basic English classes at the moment..."
"[I don't want to be a burden, Professor.]" Mina returned, feeling a little overwhelmed by the old man's hospitality. "[I already know a little English, it's just... not very good.]"
Xavier smiled broadly. "We'll certainly make it work, Miss Ashido. It's a challenge we can overcome." He gestured to Kurt. "Mister Wagner will be here on the campus if you need anything. He is our Drama teacher."
Mina's black eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. "[Drama teacher?!]"
"Surprising, ja?" he chuckled. "I may not look like it, but I'm a lifelong performance artist. My class is only three days out of the week, plus after school. Perhaps you're interested?"
"[Is there dancing?]" Mina asked, practically sparkling.
"Ah, a dancer, are we?" he put a two-fingered hand to his chest. "I vhas classically trained in dance with a Munich circus troupe. I sink you'll love vhat we have lined up for our Spring semester."
She was vibrating with excitement now, much to Xavier's relief.
"Miss Munroe is also willing to help you. She was the teacher whom you saw with me earlier. She's currently teaching English and Geography. She's very much looking forward to meeting you."
"Ah, um, Professor?" Kurt interjected.
"Yes? Ah. I nearly forgot to tell you, Miss Ashido. Mister Wagner suggested a shopping trip into the city for some clothes and other items later this week. He told me that you're interested in seeing more of the city."
"[I'd love to!]" she exclaimed, hopping in place.
"Not right away, of course. Kurt and I have to make arrangements with Forge to do something about your... appearance. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but, well, you know how the public reacts to it."
Mina's exuberence fled somewhat upon remembering the previous night and all the faces of contempt she was met with. She remembered the fear of those two girls that tried to help her. She remembered, just as a hint of pain returned to her sprained arm, the killing intent of that man in body armor. Quietly, that feeling in her gut started building up again. The anger. The lividness at such colossal injustice. All these things... they shouldn't be. These students, they have to hide themselves from the world. Why? Why does such a thing exist? Who is responsible? A flash of dark thoughts crossed her and she tightened her fist. She had to do something. She had to-
"Well then," Xavier turned to Kurt one last time. "I'm going to return to my office. I'll sever the mental link and you can show Miss Ashido around the rest of the campus. I'll work on enrolling her in some classes to keep her time occupied. Ororo should be class right now, go ahead and introduce her when it's over."
"Glad to, Professor." He turned his yellow-eyes to Mina and gestured to a door across the courtyard. "Right zhis way, Mina. I can show you zhe auditorium."
Kurt was actually speaking now, but she could make out the word "auditorium," and she had a pretty good idea what it meant. The smile returned on her acid-stained face.
She began bounding after Kurt, when a hand wrapped around her own. Startled, she whipped around to see Professor Xavier clutching her. His visage was stonelike and intense. He stared piercingly into her otherworldly eyes, causing Mina's heart to skip a beat.
"Do not hate them."
He said it sternly and with more conviction of authority than the young hero was prepared for.
"Do not hate them, Mina," he released her hand, but she was fixed in place. "They do what they do out of fear and uncertainty. They commit grave injustices, but it is because they believe what they are doing is the right thing. They are mistaken, of course, but they are not monsters." His face softened into a sort of paternal affection.
"You have a kind, strong heart, Mina, and a strong sense of justice. The people of the MRD, the politicians, and the common citizen doesn't see you the way I see you. They're scared. They're scared of the harm and imbalance that you and gifted people like you could potentially bring. We need to show the world that we're responsible and compassionate, and in time, truth and justice will prevail. For now, I just want you to understand."
Mina had no words. She merely stared, blankly. Her feelings were all mixed up inside her. Weren't they just bad guys? Bad guys just needed to be defeated and put in jail, right? She started to feel a new emotion trickle in. Was it... shame? Was she wrong to despise the kind of man who would want to put her in a cage for no reason?
"Mina!" she heard Kurt yell across the courtyard. Mina turned to the deep blue mutant beckoning her. She started walking toward him, but then hesitated, and turn back to the Professor. He was still there, his aged expression the same. The teen snapped her heels together and bowed.
"[I... I'll try...]"
Without another word, she took her leave and chased after Kurt. Professor Xavier lingered for a silent moment. Then, with a mechanical whirr, he wheeled around his chair and headed back to his office.