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fists forged in neutron stars

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     “Oh!” Saitama glanced behind him to Genos, standing stock still with his mouth still open from his exclamation. A trio of elephant-like monsters were rushing him from behind but he was ignoring them completely. Saitama had just punched one and accidentally taken out a second, a bus, and the building behind all of that. The mist of blood and dust swirled in the air.

     “Oh!” Genos was still frozen with his arm half raised towards Saitama. Eyes wide but ears closed apparently because he was thrown up into the air by the largest of the charging elephant-things.

     “Genos, what are you doing?” Saitama yelled up to Genos before turning back to the dozen or so left rampaging around him. He sighed and thought for a moment how nice it was he didn’t have to clean any of this up before stepping back into the mess. A half charred body flew over his head and he figured Genos must have gotten over his weird moment. Until, of course, the charred body was followed by two cyborg arms, sputtering with dying flames.

 

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     He wasn’t going to look. He wasn’t going to look. He wasn’t going to - he looked. Genos was staring back at him from his position on the floor. This had been going on for at least an hour, ever since he had returned from his doctor’s with a perfunctory, “I’m back, Sensei.” Saitama had endured the staring without saying anything as a matter of pride. He didn’t get uncomfortable. If his so called disciple wanted to learn the best rate of breathing to slouch ratio he wasn’t going to stop him. He didn’t care. Not one bit.

     “What, Genos?” Saitama snapped. “What is it?”

     Genos didn’t waiver. Saitama briefly compared what he was feeling now to being bugged by a mosquito— ha, bugged—but that wasn’t fair to Genos. Saitama wanted him to stop staring. Maybe he even wanted him to just relax. He didn’t want him and all like him to explode into bug bits. Genos ought to blink eventually, right? He couldn’t confidently say he remembered seeing Genos blink but surely he would have noticed before now if it never happened. Oh my god, what kind of person was he that he couldn’t say if his roommate needed to blink or not? Now he needed to blink. Was it rude to blink in the face of someone who can’t? Dumbass, he doesn’t need to. It isn’t that he can’t.

     Saitama blinked and told himself that Genos probably blinked at the same time as he did to test for the source of his power. Maybe he should blink more for the kids sake. Who knows how much cyborgs should blink. What if Saitama wasn’t blinking enough for Genos?

     “Oh my god,” Saitama groaned. “Blink whenever you want Genos.”

     Genos lightly tilted his head back and to the side. “I blink as needed, Sensei. If you were wondering about my corneal lubricant I can give you a pamphlet regarding the...”

     “Nope! No thank you. Why’re you staring so much? More than normal. Is it because of earlier?”

     Genos mimicked a deep breath. “I was wondering Sensei, if you would be willing to participate in some tests with me.” His eyes were wide and earnest.     

     “What, like school stuff? Association homework? No way, man.” Saitama turned back to his manga. Problem solved.

     “No, Sensei. I meant tests to further gauge the limits of your power.”

     “We already spar every second Thursday.” They had chosen that particular time because Genos was always extra geared up and ready to smack down after sparring and second Thursday happened to be the speed sale at the busiest market in City M. Saitama needed Genos at his best for the speed sales. Now that he thought about it, there was only a week left before the second Tuesday. He needed to start putting the coupons in order.

     “— for an approach that didn’t take sheer strength into account. I realized that we, no I, Sensei, had neglected to focus on the other portions of your teachings. We already know of your great and immeasurable strength by witnessing the power of one of your punches. However, calling you the strongest man alive does not sufficiently encompass your stamina, speed, and spatial awareness. For example, by most civilian standards Tank Top Tiger is strong. But he has never shown the capability for speed. He would never be able to stop Sonic’s sword mid swing. Even taking the approximate of your compared...”

     “Twenty words or less.”

     A pause. Genos was probably trying out dozens of sentences all equaling twenty words to find the best fit. He was a perfectionist like that and Saitama was getting used to not being uncomfortable by the intensity of Genos’ behaviors. Barring the staring. Too bad there was always a lot of staring.

     “During battle today, I experienced a revelation. I do not believe your body is the strongest in the world, Sensei.” Twenty words! Exactly as he expected, his disciple was learning how to get to the point and wait a minute! Saitama straightened up and adopted his best serious face, the kind that usually had the kid scrambling for the nearest notebook.

     “Not the strongest? I’m not the strongest? Nothing ever beats me! I punched a meteor out of the sky. I killed thirty giant elephants this morning with only six punches. I haven’t lost a fight in over three years and it hasn’t taken more than one punch in two! I’m so strong I’m bored.” What had started as an indignant rant quickly fizzled out into something more whining. “Unless you mean you think you’ve found someone for me to fight? Someone to give a real challenge?” Hope and curiosity flickered through him. He was a regular mood ring today.

     “Ah, no Sensei, I have not met nor heard of anyone or anything approaching your power.”

     “Then why,” Saitama started before Genos cut back in.

     “I believe your true power is closer to Tatsumaki and Fubuki while being in a class all of it’s own. Sensei, what do you know of space?”

     “Uh, you mean, like the moon?” Maybe Genos thought he was an alien and was also implying that the midget and crime boss wannabe were aliens too. Heh. He imagined that wriggly alien that shot rocks at him on King Moron’s spaceship, rocking a baby with the head of Tatsumaki. That’d be some shit. She did kind of look like an octopus.

     “I was referring to the underlying foundation that connects everything in our universe and supports what we experience as time.” That killed the babysitting comedy he was brewing in his head.

     “I know...none of that.” A flashback of the HA exam and revealing his grand score of twenty one pushed to the forefront of his mind. Surely Genos was not so deluded in his dedication to Saitama that he considered the older man a genius.

     “That is fine. All you really need to know for now is this: I believe you can control the very fabric of space and, in a sense, compress and expand the space around you, triggering enormous releases of energy. I have derived several tests that will test my theory. Will you participate, Sensei?”

     Genos is supposed to be a genius. And Saitama didn’t want to be the kind of guy who just outright dismissed the ideas of people who claimed to care about him. Not because he cared. But because it was only morally right to care for others especially when the particular other in question were ironically emotional cyborgs. He was a hero. He cared about moral rightness. So even if he did believe that his strength came from his training regime, he wouldn’t outright deny Genos anything.

     “Sure.”