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Tornadoes For Sighs

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Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 1-
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"TATSUMAKI-SAMA! I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU, PLEASE MARRY ME!" A stranger declared with the courage of a hero.

Everyone was so charmed, cheering like animals at the sudden nature of the proposal. The set up was so lavish, so undeniably divine. The sidewalks were splashed in soft cucumber greens and placid blacks. It had streamers, banners and everything that would make this public proposal in City Z's residential area sensational and sweet.

These onlookers with delicate feelings, tied hands and hope in their eyes were scum, cheering him on like this. Tatsumaki supposed scum met with scum. Or, they at least crowded each other to form swamps of cesspool-like support.

However, Tatsumaki wasn't happy nor aware of why this stranger proposed to her.

This man was hunched on one knee, spiritless and weak. He was soft in the middle, without a strong moral or social core. He was breaking into old age and his moral sense has withered as well. His chubby cheekbones under thick, unattractive glasses made her wince. He had no traces of presence nor did he have any will or chi.

And he wanted to gain her hand in marriage?

Pffft. As if.

The idiot even had withering flowers, petals falling all over. In a sad halo under his trembling hand was a circle of petals and a beautiful, beautiful ring.

Fireworks set off in the bright, humid sky of azure. Her face was displayed, pixilated, pale on the nearest building— nope, they just broadcasted it to multiple screens now. A budding ache of dread exploded in her forehead.

People were always so happy to squeal, be happy and bright, while she momentarily suffered.

Tatsumaki didn’t listen to the man’s monologue about why he wanted to marry her but he was a stranger, what could he know about her? Flimsy string had more of a spine than him. He forgot about fear today because he didn't mind dying if he wanted to propose like this.

The newest Lover Boy was a corporate worker. Tatsumaki would have considered for half a millisecond if he were a hero, but he wasn't at all. His stiff suit threatened to bust if he shifted much too fast. He wanted to marry her because she was a top— no, the top hero and he loved her strength.

These fanatic fans insisted on marrying her. Their adoration amongst her fanbase was too much like parasites. They were extreme in their affection! They even went to great lengths to know if Tatsumaki wore panties. She did! Not that she would tell anyone.

They always asked for marriage. It was harder to duck these rings nowadays.

These low kneeling idiots all put her through this familiar scenario. Couldn't she have just one good day without some weirdo belittling her status as an S-Class without embarrassing her to this extent?

City Z was so fucking weird.

Proposals never fail to make her want to kill those who think they could ridicule her by doing this.

Tatsumaki wants to be impressed or at the very slightest she wanted to crack his shoulder blade and slam him onto the ground for yet another martial proposal.

She clutched her grocery bag filled with apples and other cabbage products. City Z had a festival yesterday but don’t tell her boss that she went instead of hunting monsters. She came to investigate City Z's increasing rate of Mysterious Beings and their rabid presence of monsters. City Z just happened to have another monster, too.

Maybe it was this blushing bride… And she could beat anything up. Anything.

This blushing bride wasn’t even visually, mentally, or physically appealing. Tatsumaki hated when people put her in these situations!

Tatsumaki hovered down to the man, as a hush consumed the once raging crowd. Tatusmaki impatiently glanced back at the idiots. They all unconsciously leaned in, taking pictures and such.

“So, Tornado of Terror,” Lover Boy shakily commenced, unable to be even-toned or forward. His dark dots for eyes were ripe with fear of rejection. “Will you marry me?”

If there was a particularly strong breeze, Tatsumaki swore this idiot would probably be blown away.

“No,” Tatsumaki grumbled.

A pin could drop in this City Z.

“Listen up everyone!" Tatsumaki shifted, looking at all of these idiots. "And especially you. I am not going to marry this you. No… No. No! I won't marry you." Tatsumaki disclosed curtly.

"Huh?" screeched Lover Boy.

"Are you trying to die?" Tatsumaki inquired impassively. “Listen to me.”

She had no reservations with squashing lives like this. Her power surged, rushing through her veins with a green familiar glow. She aggressively leaned forward, her enormous power straining her voice.

They all seemed way too dismayed, shocked gasps everywhere. They scarcely knew her whatsoever.

"I am a Hero. I save your sorry butts for a living," Tatsumaki seethed, holding onto her grocery bag tighter. "I am completely married to my workplace, my job, and getting the weak out of trouble! I don’t need to be proposed to by small fries who can’t even remember their names. Or better yet, mine !"

“B-B-But Terror of Tornado, I love you! I saw you save all those people and you’re so gracious and strong.” Love Boy stood, the flowers finally falling to the ground. “Please, I would be able to support you and help you!” he gushed with a keen.

Tatsumaki was strong enough not to marry someone weak and misguided! Lover Boy was so STUPID! His shining overbearing eyes had the mental capacity of a green bean. They're so creepy, wanting to get close to S-Class heroes in order to be exposed to their glory.

Everyone’s jaw dropped. The whole atmosphere dulled. The bustling street surrounded by skyscrapers discontinued. The asphalt road burned with a sad, melancholic gleam in the unrelenting midday heat.

As the silence got cold, Tatsumaki took the temperature of the situation. These people were on the weakling's side. Whispering. Why were they on his side?

One dumb-ass murmured through a question, “Why isn't she marrying him? He seems so kind. He spent so much money, too.”

Quiet. Those idiots need to be quiet. They were all so annoying.

“Why is she always so cold? Those heroes are so arrogant.” One person demanded.

Quiet! Tatsumaki heard them too clearly. It annoyed her.

“Tornado of terror never could get married with that body.” Another whisper through the mumbles.

Some other bitch joined the damn train.“Yeah. I heard that she is foul. At least someone wants to marry her—”

“ALL OF YOU SHUT UP!” she thundered, voice raising.

The crowd all jumped two feet in the air. Her fingers flexed. Concrete and their foundation move. Their energy shifted conspicuously, building like an atomic bomb. She dislodged trees and chairs and cars, to make them really pay attention.

"You all disgust me! Who stands around and watches a proposal like this? Get a life!" barked Tatsumaki.

She’s going to drop a galaxy on their stupid heads. Maybe the streets would become red.

“I don’t need to remind you insolent maggots who scuffle at the bottom of the totem pole that am S-Class, an Esper who doesn’t need a man to complete me because I am already whole!” Tatsumaki vowed, acid staining her tone. “Are you all different types of idiots NOT to comprehend that, huh?”

None of them seemed to know it. Tatsumaki lifted herself, glaring at the puny man. She floated even taller, groceries rising as the sky began thundering. A hurricane of winds whipped and snapped their hair, drapes of fabric and lanks of hair.

“Tornado of Terror…” Lover Boy croaked. “Are you really saying no ?”

When her eyes levelled on him, he squeaked, like he’s never fathomed the possibility that she would say no.

Lover Boy was completely heartbroken. His face pouted with red fury and humiliation while his eyes were watery. The fireworks in broad daylight were like bullets in his heart.

Lover Boy continued… Pathetically. “Please say yes. You’re my idol and I- I love yo—”

“Bah! Idolize the dirt when you pass.” Her eyes smarted with killing intent.

“Oh my god! She’s a monster!” Someone gasped.

Tatsumaki flinched. Monster? She looked around and identified their threatened, scared faces had implied just what someone was brave enough to emphasize. She was a hero! A hero!

They thought- oh God. She would be lectured later, she admitted to herself. She wasn’t going to kill Lover Boy— well, yeah, she was but that wasn’t the point. These individuals were supposed to trust her with their lives and she screwed that up.

Amongst the crowd that stopped and stared, there were those who walked past. She flailed around. There was a dull man with a dull expression in a dull outfit.

She didn’t want to make a bad impression. Damn it!

“Don’t worry, public. I don’t want to be married because I am not a monster. It’s just,” she paused and jut her arm in another direction. “That— that man is my beloved!” declared Tatsumaki.

Everyone gasped. She nodded positively, ignoring the bit of vomit on her tongue.

“Yes! See, see all you little fries, I don’t need to be proposed to because I have someone who will already support, cherish and adore me!” she expounded to the world, informing them of her humanity.

Tatsumaki pointed to clarify her “beloved” to those idiots who couldn’t close their gaze on him.

The plain, slender man looked up, noticing the large crowd. He wore beige shorts, legs thin and of average length. He was sort of tanned, in a subtle way, that suggested work in the sun. His clothes hung on him in a way that hinted at nothing chiselled and sculpted as he possessed no fine features.

He didn’t even have hair.

He was a regular, untrained man in his mid-twenties or thirties, with groceries. Green stems of tall vegetables poked out. He did remind her of an octopus, for some reason. Such a shiny, bulbous head.

Everything about him wasn’t detailed or compelling enough for her to appreciate in the long term. He was forgettable and could definitely get lost in a crowd of more interesting people.

“Yes, dear honey, you!” Tatsumaki said like the words were honey and not razor blades sliding down her throat.

“Me?” he seemed nonplused, thin brows twitching. “You are mist—”

Tatsumaki made haste and flew over to him, with all of her terrifying energy, she pulled her face to his. 

“You are my Beloved,” she repeated, surer of herself.

He hesitated.

"Play along,” she growled forcefully. 

She wanted to get these mutts away from her. He was the key. Egghead.

Egghead boldly shook his head. “I am not.” he leaned back. “Really.”

Bold words for someone who doesn’t want to die. "Just play along." Tatsumaki hissed, following his every moment. "Or else!"

"Are you in danger, kid—”

He blinked at her, as he cocked his head to the side. He imitated a dumb, flinching crane when he looked between Tatsumaki and the crowd behind them then the idiot who proposed.

Tatsumaki gracefully spun around, ignoring the intimate personal space she just invaded. The somnolent man just planted his feet in place, clutching his grocery bags tightly. He was unexpectedly complacent to her ploy.

Tatsumaki smiled though she spoke through her teeth. "This man, this…" Tatsumaki checked his idiotic expression, shiny head. "He's the one I will marry."

"What? Why ?" Lover Boy demanded, his nose carmine and eyes teary. "I am strong enough to be at your sid—”

"No! No, this man is the strongest man in the world and he's MINE so I suggest you stop with your proposal." she cleared her throat. "Get lost."

Lover Boy's shoulders scrunched together as his mouth opened and closed. "Tornado of Terr—”

"Get lost or you lose your life." Tatsumaki said obstinately.

The man ran, emotionally flailing away. Lover Boy promised he would become stronger but she didn't care.

God. They were all so annoying. She felt a little sick.

The crowd dispersed after the threats were unleashed. They all grumbled, leaving her in the street. She dodged another unwanted situation. She sighed in relief but the man was standing in place, laughing awkwardly.

"It's not cool to tell people they'll lose their, er, life." An empty voice told her.

He was trying to tell her how to live? What a fool. What place was he to criticize her anyway? He was just some civilian she didn't need anymore.

Tatsumaki ignored his words and came at him with her own barbed ones. "Who do you think you are? Why are you still here?" Tatsumaki interrogated him.

He scratched the back of his head, awkwardly maneuvering around the plastic bags he held. "I'm confused. Why did you do that?"

To escape the public and a marriage proposal but she didn't need to explain herself to anyone, let alone him. Eggshell was surprisingly determined to sleuth to get his answer looking at her in earnest.

Tatsumaki didn't want to be —she internally sneered at this— helped this idiot anymore, so she huffed and looked away. The silence was interrupted by honks, couples walking by and kids laughing across the street.

And wait a minute! The ballsy stranger didn’t even try to answer her question…

Tatsumaki put an unassuming air and dismissed him with a wave. “Some impulsive thing must have spawned it, but it wasn’t intentional. You are not my beloved.”

"Oh. Good. Kids do the strangest things." he sighed in relaxation and relief. “Now that that’s over with…”

He turned away as if he hadn’t made the biggest mistake of his life. Her powers will eat him up! For good!

"Who do you think you are? You have some nerve calling me that!" Tatsumaki seethed, gritting her words out. "Asshole!"

He turned around, slow and steady, a bit afraid. "Nerve?" he blinked dumbly. "Asshole?"

"What? Why are repeating all of my words? You hard of hearing, octopus?"

He seemed affected by her harsh tone. "Kids aren't supposed to use that language." He lectured to her as if he were some scholar. "Someday you will be married. Not to me."

“Don’t you think I know that!” A vein throbbed.

He seemed even more lost. “Then what’s the problem?”

Tatsumaki clenched her fist. "How many times do I have to repeat it? I spent time on a nobody like you. When I look to you and see nothing, and tried to get it through your egg head but your soft-brain can't process that I am not—”

"Twenty words or less per sentence. You talk too much as a sassy, small child.” the bald man expressed with an idle sigh. “Do you even breathe when you talk?”

He was lanky, thin with a despicable aura. His presence was disgustingly indifferent but he wasn’t afraid of her whatsoever.

“I am not a child!” Tatsumaki yelped.

“Huh?” he seemed completely dumbfounded. "Are you lying?" 

He scanned her body, eyes gliding over her thighs and breasts in an inspecting manner. He jumped, groceries in tow.

“Hey! What happened to you? Your lost parents are worried.” he scanned the shocked crowd. “I bet I coul…”

She’s so going to beat this egghead into the dirt.

All she remembered was titanium bars and white padded walls, those were her parents. She ground her teeth, steeling herself. She will kill them. Totally! Him! She will kill him. Why do the people in this world behave like parasites? They’re all uncomfortably stupid.

Especially him.

“I don’t need my parents! I am twenty-eight years old, you blind, dumb imbecile,” she yelled.

The egghead jumped.

“Quit being pretentious and know that I am twenty-eight!” cried Tatsumaki in a spasm of embarrassment.

“Twenty-eight?” he asked blankly. “That doesn’t answer anything.”

She raised her fists, cheeks lighted. He pissed her off so much! “Don’t look at me like something is wrong with me!”

“There is,” he said bluntly, face still smooth.

He was totally convinced. That scoundrel.

Tatsumaki despised when people depreciated her because of her height. She didn’t mean to end up like this. And all those testosterone in the Hero Association left her depressed whenever she dealt with commentary about her height.

Tatsumaki could do anything, beat ANY monster, did it matter if she was under five feet? And it’s not like this egghead was perfect, either!

Tatsumaki reached to point at his head, gesticulating wildly. “What happened to your hair, fucking baldy? You’re dumb and you’re fucking bald, too bald! You must be WAY older than I am.” she shrilly shouted.

This pulled his small provocation through his tone. It was undetectable for the most part. “I have no medical problems, this just happened,” he complained.

He kept on eyeing her, a dry, funny twang to his voice. It was slightly monotone with odd inflections, hidden with emotion, but his face didn’t change whatsoever.

He was so different from her but oh so stupid. 

“It’s not like I could dictate my DNA, egghead, so me being like this HAS, is and will always be normal.” she huffed. “Got it?!”

“You’re suspiciously small, though,” he concluded. He pulled out a banana from his purchased bags of produce. “You must’ve not eaten enough of these. Eat while you wait for your parents. I’ll help you.”

His hand was broad and flat but had a banana he offered. The fresh banana was ripe, beautiful in a sort of its dimensions and dynamics. It was perfect and succulent AND TOTALLY WHAT SHE DIDN’T WANT TO SEE RIGHT NOW.

"I don't need your help, egghead." Tatsumaki huffed.

“But bananas help peop—”

“I don’t need bananas or help and I am not people either!” Tatsumaki shouted.

She pointed her finger, focused on the perfect banana then lifted it up to space, as far away from egghead as possible. The naked eye couldn’t see it. The yellow rocket ship shot into space at the speed of light, separating at its atoms, shredding its lovely flesh into little incinerated hydrocarbon bonds.

Ha.

Tatsumaki smirked, flipping her hair. “I don’t need to eat it. Take that, Baldy.”

He released a deep and low panicked scream. “Hey! Those bananas were on sale! They only do that every few months!” he rubbed his bald head worriedly.

Tatsumaki felt a thrill in her stomach. A tickle.

“What the hell, brat?” he turned to her. “Why’d you do that?”

She puffed her cheeks out. “You don’t deserve anything good in your life, that’s my reasoning.”

He collapsed, sighing. He sounded devastated like he was at a wake or something. Tatsumaki couldn't believe it. This idiot. He was more concerned about his banana than the fact she used telekinesis to send the banana into space. He didn't mind that he could suffer the same fate.

"Oi. That was on sale. You have to respect that." he said, still blubbering like a child.

Tatsumaki stuck out her tongue. "Listen to me, penny pincher! I am not a child who needs help from anyone. Ever. Don't tell me what to do or what to eat."

He mumbled his annoyance. Not anger, which was weird. He forlornly stared at his other remaining groceries, too.

"Besides, apples are superior, traditional and standard. Why would you ever give people bananas as a gift? They’re not coping mechanisms." Tatsumaki grumbled. "I bet you can't ever host people because of them."

"C'mon brat, bananas are good for you. They're cheap and healthy." countered the stranger.

"Don't call me brat !" Tatsumaki shrieked. "Hmph. Candy apples are better. You must have a lazy eye or brain since you don't understand that."

"Those bargain deals are rare." He stood, brushing himself off. "Well, whatever. There are many more bananas left in the world."

"You can buy bananas that aren't of dubious quality when shopping at any normal store! What the hell is your problem, Avocado? Huh? Why are you so pressed about BANANAS! What I did—”

"Oi. Say it in twenty words or less!" he groaned. He was slowly preparing to walk away. His bald head was too shiny and weird. She didn’t like seeing it as he turned away.

"You can’t just walk away when I am talking to you! Stop ordering me around and stop interrupting me, asshole! I am SO going—"

"Why'd she even try to marry me anyway? It was pretty weird," he added, to himself, forgetting that she was there.

He… he just interrupted her again. Treating her like a child. Offering her stuff. He wanted her to momentarily rely on him, which she hated. He kept on ignoring her!

He will die!

He stretched then tapped his chin. "What's the other sale coming up?" he wondered, already off the subject of Tatsumaki.

She was going to rip her hair out. He was so air-headed. And he never listened.

Power welled up, alongside her burning fury at his lack of tact, attention and seriousness when facing her. He really didn't try to cover his disrespect up, either. This albino eggplant was trying to make a fool out of her with bananas and whatever small talk and rules he put on her.

Twenty words or less? It'll take twenty seconds to send his stuff into space. Why wouldn't she just send HIM up there too, huh? She never found this stuff amusing.

"Don’t screw with me! Know your place!" Tatsumaki called out to his back.

He stopped and looked back. "Huh?"

Baldy looked at her then at her aura, then the darkness consuming her face.

A roll of sweat formed. "Brat, you… you okay there?" he gulped.

She lifted her fingers. She couldn’t help but be annoyed that she couldn’t manipulate his chi too much but she made him uncomfortable. That was enough.

“Egghead, you know that fine line between idiocy and insanity, those who try to propose like this rearranged it to play hopscotch. But like lifting a building or even a city is like hopscotch, child’s play,” she informed him,

“City… Child’s play?” he repeated. “What do you mean? You’re not making much sense, brat.”

Her psychokinesis was such a sweet, exalting power to have.

She grasped his grocery bags with little to no effort and sent them up. Up and up into the sky. It made a thick trail of smoke as it raced towards the eternal darkness. Ha. Ha. Ha. Even bananas are good for nothing in space. Healing people her ass!

“Exterminating idiots is child’s play,” she whispered.

Tatsumaki smiled at his pain and realization as it dawned on him. He was shrieking like a monkey, watching his groceries fly away into the atmosphere. She loved it. She loved hearing his cries of pain so much more than if she actually were to kill him.

It made saving him worth it.

Tch. He should be grateful, too.

###

 

The next week, Tatsumaki was involved in flying back to City Z, defeating monsters and spilling guts after finishing her jobs.

Seventeen Mysterious Beings or monsters as the civilians dubbed them all, were shredded, not even a match for Tatsumaki after sending the groceries to space. She loved being fierce and second to none, fighting all of these monsters.

Awesome, right? No. Not good, at all.

Fighting monsters at every turn like this in City Z was mildly disturbing. She loved the bloodshed but City Z has the greatest percentage increase in monster appearings in the last ten years. This was bad for the number of people that will be called in, and take away ALL of her cautious fun.

This part of City Z has led the place to be abandoned, scorned and derelict. It literally was a Ghost Town. This presence of sinister beings wasn't lost on Tatsumaki. She had all the power to release it.

It was enough to keep a city awake at night.

Many civilians are rightly afraid of these highly strong Mysterious Beings appearing so frequently. Civilians migrated away from the east, closer to the centre of the city since it was safer. The condensed population made for high rent prices and more people get hurt once these other lower-class monsters came to attack.

Besides, it was suspicious that such a high Mysterious Beings population flocked towards this place.

What was so great about City Z?

The concrete had stains, so she floated. The sidewalk wasn't bruised whatsoever. Gray bricks with slanted roofs didn't make the contemporary neighbourhood any better. The harmony between rubble and plants exploding in their pots was eerie and unbalanced.

City Z was past its prime.

The roads allowed for a lot of inhabitants but she would hear the whistles of air, the gloom between the narrow alleyways and worn subways.

It was surprisingly such a mass of people were so near to the Ghost Town when Lover Boy proposed.

Many motels, saunas, hotels used to be in this area. City Z was famous for its gorgeous beaches and vacation spots. Now it's known for rumours about Mysterious Beings gathering and their low population of heroes. The modern, central areas were very elegant and sophisticated but this part, the Ghost Town was much too faded and worn.

Tatsumaki came here to find why these Mysterious Beings found Ghost Towns to be a paradise for them, not humans.

Besides, the Hero Association did call her in but she was done with the actual job. She wasn’t being paid but what she lost in dollars she made up in mild interest.

Tatsumaki didn’t need to be paid, Tatsumaki was always up to look for these Mysterious Beings anyway. She fully believed Fubuki would miss her dear sister too. She had to hurry in this unravelling of the mystery.

Tatsumaki passed a gnarled bench, almost black when it's paint flaked off. Her groceries solemnly followed behind her, the brown bag covered in some Mysterious Being's guts.

Ew.

Tatsumaki turned away, getting a phone call. It was Aihara Atlas. She groaned. He never gave up!

Atlas was basically her caretaker, who took care of the orphaned Fubuki and Tatsumaki when they were younger. Atlas didn’t mind the house being destroyed by their little spats, he encouraged her and Fubuki as if he were their father. He liked seeing them grow and train.

Atlas also watched the news, being an unnecessarily strong man for a normal human. He saw her a lot, which upset her.

He was so irritating.

Tatsumaki never liked how he doted on her after she moved out at age seventeen. She was off chasing the million things she wanted but he always found a means or reason to reintegrate himself into her life! Grrr, couldn’t he just leave her be?

She was almost thirty, three decades old, yet he treated her like a scared eleven-year-old. He was too involved in her life, for an old man. Whatever he was calling her, for now, was interrupting her chance to feel again.

The once numb feeling inside of her became a flame of irritation.

His voice had a deep baritone, ripe with satisfaction and affection, which reminded her of a parent’s kindness. “Tatsumaki-san, you missed six of my calls. I was just wondering—”

“Why do you call me when I am working?!” she snapped. “I am not a kid, stop treating me like one. There are six calls, yeah. I chose not to answer six times because I didn’t want to speak with you!”

He didn’t even miss a beat. He never tried to correct her, he only respected, actually admired her gloomy, withdrawn self. She wasn’t easy to take, but he carried a smile over and welcomed her back with open arms. He’s too dumb, trying to trip her up and laugh at her. She won’t fall for it.

“Tatsumaki-san, I was wondering if you would stop by at home, the kids want to see you. They adore their big, strong older sister.” Atlas said amicably, but with a taste of desperation.

Tatsumaki groaned. He was a real mother bear, picking up strays. All the kids he took in had one thing in common; they were orphaned, damaged kids who rebelled without care. They weren’t very good kids but he cared for all of them.

Slowly but all at once, they lose their animosity and accept him as their father. Glory and gore are her parents, her freshest victory was her father that raised her.

“They’re not my siblings. None of them. Only Fubuki belongs to my family.” she hissed. “I’m basically hard at work, fighting a war.”

“Maybe the war’s happening but maybe you’re fighting yourself. You’re tired, yeah? The kids opened a space in the waiting room for you. Come and rest, take a day off.”

He knew about her time waiting by the phone, hoping for a call from the Hero Association. Days off were for the weak. She didn’t need to rest. She needed to fight.

And screw Atlas for seeing.

His concern was just as bad as assault. His caring was choking her. It was the bitter salt of blood in her mouth.

Why’d those little ones care so damned much, too? They’d fight just to talk to her on the phone. They loved her! Loved her. Not to mention they told people that their big sister fought monsters, was so high-up in the Hero world. They went out and said the other kids should be so jealous that she, Tatsumaki and them, the six brats were related.

The only thing she did for those little ones was send money. She had too much, anyway. Why were they like this?

“Did you get the money for the brat’s birthdays?” she rolled her eyes.

“We don’t need the money. We just want you over,” he said humbly.

That’s it! She’s had enough!

She stopped on her heel, her voice growing skeptical and high. “This world only needs money, did you know that? Your little revolving door for orphanages need money, that’s all that parents need from their kin. Or they just use you!” she folded her arms together, sending a small glare to the phone. “Isn’t that right? The kids should eat birthday cake with it, and stuff their faces. Atlas! Isn’t that completely correct?!”

“No, we’d still love to have you over, Tatsumaki-san. I run a home, not an orphanage and all my children are welcome, including you,” he replied, non-judgemental love and temper charging the static.

She face-palmed. Was no one listening to her? A caustic feeling saturated her body, she was repulsed. She held her stomach a little.

“I won’t be there.” she snapped.

He didn’t even falter, entertaining himself with trivial stuff. He couldn’t ever understand her because he never lost someone close to him. He probably was smiling, talking nicely. She wasn’t interested in keeping any relationship.

She couldn’t be crossed when it was humid like this. “Don’t call me. I am not your kid.” She snapped the phone shut, breathing fast.

She felt the subtle taste of her overstayed days at the house press against her skin.

Couldn’t she just be alone with her monster-slaying tendencies? He didn’t need to check up on her! She didn’t need to have friends or family. Those relationships were parasitic, at least, according to Blast.

Blast. Why was he still missing?

Blast said that Tatsumaki couldn’t rely on anyone to save her, which was true. Tatsumaki owed him her life, the least she could do was keep true to his advice of staying away from those parasites.

Why couldn’t Blast return? Everything was troubling her. Couldn’t he just return and save her from this mess of life, too? There has been so many monsters yet he has been missing.

He will come if humanity was in real trouble. She could drink up his movements and be refreshed for life. She looked at the great sky, wondering about her sweetheart Blast.

When would he drift in from a great place, materializing out of the sunlight?

Her phone rang.

She was so out of it, she answered, knowing it was him. “Blast?” she asked hopefully. Her heart tickled.

“Tatsumaki-san, it’s Atlas,” Atlas’ cozy voice rolled into her ear.

Crap. He genuinely never gave up. She was unhappy it wasn’t Blast’s husky, creamlike tenor and supercilious strength.

“Just calling to say I love you, see you later—”

Tatsumaki hung up by crushing the phone. Tatsumaki wanted to be parted from Atlas, who watched her grow up. The bits and pieces crunched to the concrete, plastic and electrically sighing.

Hmph.

He kept on calling in the hopes of seeing her. It kept her up a level, never to care about Atlas. Her skin turned black and blue when she softened up and let people in.

Atlas’s generosity floods her mind with memories and gashes of her family history. Talking to him made her unresponsive and wary but she was pale, unharmed then.

Only Blast carried her through a strange time in her life. He didn't know that he spellbound her. What was wrong with her? Blast wouldn’t ever call her! Just as much as Tatsumaki idolized Blast, Tatsumaki was in love with him. She was an idiot. That’s why she wanted the call…

Blast might just be a myth she built. Did he really exist at all anymore? If she asked him about saving her, would he remember? Even she didn’t remember the blur of faces she saved. Could she really say she stood out in his memory? That he excited—

No! He was real, the number one top hero in the world. What was she doing, doubting Blast?

Tatsumaki dug another apple out of her grocery bag. She stopped by one of City Z's many stores to find her apples. Oh. She loved apples! The sour taste comforted her. She had apples wherever she went. 

She shouldn’t believe that someone would help her eventually, even Blast… Would he ever buy her apples?

That’s when she heard it. A monster.

Her apple rolled onto the ground and she turned, dashing past three blocks just to reach the demonic laughter. Its sheer insane sound would undo those with fair and fragile civilians lives.

She preferred this. She got irked when she didn’t get monsters to kill. It was the only thing she was good at, anyway.

When she peered at the monster, it was triumphantly looking like the reincarnation of a bloody rag. His skin was draped with bloody tentacles in layers over his limbs. It was like an umbrella with droplets of scarlet horror dribbling off its elastic arms.

He plodded down the inert street, beating away dog-sized boulders with the ease of someone kicking a soccer ball. His black eyes were above a sharp smile. He was strong, reeling around with a trail of red like a gory river starting at his feet and flooding the sidewalk.

He didn’t notice her but when he did, he exaggeratedly sighed.

“Oh. It’s a little girl.” he lamented.

Tatsumaki boiled. These idiots always mix her for a child! She has sex-appeal! She can seduce! She has the hips, and— and she may not have so much meat on her bones but she’s still sexy.

“Hey idiot, I’ve come to exterminate you,” Tatsumaki shared simply.

No fear lingered in his heart. Nothing in his character changed. He just seemed even more DEPRESSED! 

The monster was offended. “How dare these puny humans swear that they could send a small, little girl in order to defeat ME?” A shrewd disbelief coloured his tone, twisting his actions.

“I am Inchor Chaos!” he belted out, pointing a crimson tentacle to her.

“So?”

“So?” he repeated, affronted that she didn’t care. “Little girl, I’ve come to enslave the human race for the rivers, oceans and skies will be dyed red. Nobody is safe and the Hero Association dare test this by sending a small, human runt of the litter to surrender to my graciousness?”

Even if she comprehended his story word for word, had all of his reasons, she still wouldn’t care. She ever care much for their monologues. They took so much time preparing to “enslave the human race” and died in seconds. It was a waste, you know?

Tatsumaki cherished playing around with the idiots for a while, just so they understood who owned who. There was supposed to be a tickle at winning, but that was long gone. She never was challenged. She wished to be but wasn’t. She didn’t have a throbbing breath when tears ran down her face in desperation because she wanted to win so badly.

Now, she felt like yawning. She didn’t even need to be awake for this. “You look like a used tampon. You can’t enslave the human race.” Tatsumaki cajoled with her remark.

Inchor Chaos seemed even redder as his fists balled up and his dark eyes howled with anger. “U-Used tampON? You will take that back once you cry and beg for mercy! You will think that death is the only escape!” he bellowed.

She truly yawned.

Inchor Chaos was howling like a wounded dog. “You can’t yawn! I am telling my story and why I hate humanity! You all are rotten! I thought that you’d be at least a bit more interested in my reasoning for killing you!”

She shrugged. “Small fry, your vendetta bores me.”

“BoRES YOU?” Inchor Chaos flailed his arms. “You’re going to die! Time to think about your death! The littlest people are always the ones who bleed out the quickest.” Inchor Chaos licked his sizeable, prehistoric teeth, enthusiastic for a meal.

Why were Mysterious Beings always so hostile towards humanity? They terrorize humans and wreak havoc for cities. They never let up.

The tip of her left hand’s french nail was enough to kill him. “I’m little but I am coming for you! I’ll always win, I don’t even think about death!” she said.

Then, shining light and warmth.

In a calm and cathartic way, Tatsumaki was grateful to her powers and abilities because she could keep people safe… but she wished she could have something to look forward to during these fights.

Before… she had to sweat. Now she never does. Those days, she got to wonder if she was doing well, hard times interspersed in the good times. She often roughened up her mind so she was ready to fight but that was in her pre-teen days.

Tatsumaki’s become soft? If that made sense… It was easy to be soft when nothing touched an untouchable person.

Demon level threats never successfully scared her or forced her to get any better. Dragon level disasters never got her blood running anyway. And now she’s the point of not remembering when she used her powers, when she entered the fight and when she won.

It was all just a flat, flat sensation when she was nothing.

She didn’t even remember feeling strong.

She succumbed to the numb flow. Her head was all mushy inside… and she knew now. She wanted to remember winning…

Did she?

“Damn. That was close. Can’t go to the store looking crazy.” A dopey. A deep and calm voice said.  

Tatsumaki… recognized that voice.

She turned to see the egghead sighing, looking at his hand blankly. He flexed his fingers and shoved them into his pockets. He didn’t act like he just killed a massive twenty-five-foot monster. He didn’t act like anything at all.

Tatsumaki blinked.

She hadn’t moved from her position. She… hadn’t actually used her powers.

It was… the egghead. He… He just punched that monster and defeated it… In one punch. The entire street was flooded in red as he walked, nonchalant and bored.

He wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t covered in any blood.

How was he not celebrating? And how… Was he a hero?

When she collected her wits, she closed her mouth. “Baldy! What the hell was that?” she demanded, flying towards him at an accelerated pace. He was ignoring her until she huffed right into his face. “Baldy! What are you doing here?!"

He took a minute, staring at her face. He must have had affliction because he narrowed his stupid eyes. He must have seen emerald eyes that were open and slightly intimidating. Her hair was bright green, freely curling upwards. She was the most incomparable hero of them all!

Not to mention the cutest.

After a vague, too long and too uncomfortable lapse of him just gazing, he finally reacted.

“Oi! It’s the midget grocery thief!” Baldy jumped back, justly so.

“That’s not the first issue here! You’re an idiot, you know that? This is Ghost Town! Do you want to die at the hands of a cruller, stronger monster?” Tatsumaki asked, lecturing this idiot.

“I’ll beat them,” he said, shrugging coolly.

“Where’s the A-Class hero you called for? Why were they this late?!” she looked at him with wide eyes.

He tilted his head. “I didn’t call anyone.”

“No one?!” Tatsumaki choked on her hysteria. “You’re brilliantly pointless. Normal civilians can’t just galavant in these streets. It’s restricted.”

“Why are you here, then?” he accused.

She wanted to bash his face in. “Hey! Don’t compare me to you. I am way beyond those greenhorns below S-Class! You and I— we’re not even in the same league, you can’t just beat a monster without asking for help.”

He didn’t agree. “I don’t need help. I don't need help from midgets, either," he said, eyeing her suspiciously.

"I am not a midget!" She breathed, refocusing herself. "Everyone needs my help or help in general. There’s nothing wrong with confidence but understand what you can’t do. You know this is an insult of the century. All these damned monsters live here and—"

"I am not a monster but I live here." he rolled on his heels.

Tatsumaki blinked. "Do you have a death wish?"

He scratched the back of his head. "The rent's cheap and you find a lot of free stuff. People leave the cheapest things during monster attacks."

He seemed proud of the last part.

"You really don't know who I am, right?" Tatsumaki eyed the egghead precariously.

He nodded. "I don't wanna know. You'll probably kill all my groceries. Those groceries were expensive, you know that?"

She ground her teeth. "Enough about those groceries!" She halted.

Why does she get so mad when speaking to this guy? Where’s that numb feeling from earlier? What was this guy doing to her?

"Can you tell me about those who live here?" asked Tatsumaki.

He flinched, a worried expression on his dopey face. "Huh? You wanna live some place near here, too?" He seemed troubled by that. 

"No. I want those who live here to not die. Why would I ever want to live in this dump, huh?" She pointed at him. "I am not dumb. Normal civilians can't be here without consequences. Their senses get dulled and they get bogged down. Civilians can't survive here. They need someone like me who could protect them."

He looked at her, eyes widened. "What will you be doing, then?"

"Protecting them!”

“How would you do that?”

“I— oh my fucking god! Were you even listening to me?" she screeched. Men never listen! Ever. Ever!

He scratched the back of his head. "You lost me after fifteen words."

Tatsumaki watched the man. He never listened to anyone! Fifteen words long of an attention span? That’s absurd! Tatsumaki huffed to herself.

“I should have sent you to space!” Tatsumaki sputtered. She forgot just how damned infuriating this idiot could be when he tried. 

Baldy blinked at her. “It’d be cool to go to the moon,” he murmured considerately. He then groaned. “I would miss my workout! Nevermind, I can’t go to space like that.”

He’s got the brain power of a broken can opener. She wasn't inviting him out! Tatsumaki groaned. “You guys, the ones who live in this Ghost Town have… some sort of communal aspect, right? Do you know who else lives here? Can you direct me to them?” she urged.

“I don’t care for neighbours.” he yawned.

“I’d care if they were constantly under the threat of you know, death! Tell me who lives here!”

“Why? I don’t want to be your neighbour. I’d starve. All my groceries would go to space!” he openly fretted.

“I’ll buy you groceries if you just tell me who lives here!” Tatsumaki burst out. She was now desperate! This guy was impossible! It was literally like talking to a damn wall!

“I'll buy you some— carts of produce from the most expensive, high-quality shops and marketplaces if you just answer my one question for once!”

His entire face lit up then emptied. “I’m not sure if a kid like you has that kind of money.” he sighed.

“I’m twenty-eight, egghead!” Her powers surged as she shifted as she displayed a debit card. “Over 100k in spending money. This is an honest business. Just tell me where the hell these other inhabitants are.”

He tapped his chin. “How’d you get all that cash?”

“First, I embodied the natural law of the world," she purred casually, inspecting her nails. “Then I make people go extinct.”

“Huh?” he got nervous again.

Tatsumaki grinned. “I got all this cash by exterminating idiots like you. It pays well. I keep these people safe, too. That’s how I get cash. So don’t test me anymore, alright?”

He nodded twice then hacked a bit, looking in a different direction. “You’d save so much more money if you didn’t shop at the highest quality places. I know where there are sales and such. Good ones.”

Tatsumaki grit her teeth and lifted her chin. “You’ll tell me where everyone lives, yes?”

“I know just the place.” he said. He eyed her once more. "You won't send them up to space, huh?" 

Tatsumaki considered it for a moment. "Yeah," she said neutrally. 

He sighed in relief. Triumphant.  

"I might." she watched him sitffen. "So, Baldy, keep in line because I'll just take you instead," she said evilly. He went green just thinking of it. She walked on ahead, scowling. He was certainly the worst thing to happen to her but hey, those were good stories in the end. 

###

End Chapter

 

A/N- Sooo. what'd you think? Tatsumaki and Saitama are both weird, hard characters to write. Tatsumaki is over-involved and imperious but tries to act distant and modest. It's weird to keep this subconscious battle up. Saitama is just dimwitted but also really smart. Sigh. These two have a long way to go. :) Wait for the ride. It'll be fun. Oh yeah. This begins before season 1- like a month or two before Genos.  

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 2-
Call You Never

 

TATSUMAKI NEVER MUCH FANCIED MONEY LIKE BALDY PROBABLY DID.

The two stood outside of the shabby convenience store called Beano's Store. Baldy used Tatsumaki's shade as she floated beside him. As always, Tatsumaki was slightly above him so everyone knew who was boss.

The egghead was on cloud nine. Tatsumaki couldn't understand the appeal of Beano's Store, the cough, cough 'best store with sales and such. Good ones'.

Beano's Store was a corner property. It was not too far away from the apartment Baldy rented, as loosely as anyone could use the word rent. This place obviously had criminally low prices and quality.

Beano's Store windows overflowed with half-naked models, gaudy colourful signs advertising sales and the shelves chock-filled with numerous items. It was practically in a shoddy state with too many parking spots and no customers. Some suspicious people loitered around the parking lot.

Baldy talked to a homeless person on the way here.

Well, Tatsumaki had the number of the ambulance on her new phone if there was an unhappy accident. Baldy mentally wrote his grocery list with items that might give stomach viruses. And he had coupons. Yeah, because sicknesses should come on sale.

How much of a frugal man was Baldy to have coupons wherever he went?

"How will you carry all the food? I don't want to touch any of their stuff…" Tatsumaki asked Baldy.

"Buckets."

"Excuse me?"

"They use buckets, I like 'em. They're hopeful."

Hopeful? Why? Actually, Tatsumaki never understood idiots, why did she try?

"Anyway, I'm surprised this place got a health certificate. It's dowdy." Tatsumaki commented as the silence went on.

"It's the best store in City Z," Baldy promised with such cool admiration that she was shocked by its sincerity. "I'll share some of the groceries and meat."

Tatsumaki scoffed. Best store? Yeah, right. It's probably the best place to get rabies. She didn't believe in sharing, either.

"I want nothing from you but phone numbers. No meat. What type of meat is sold? Don't buy the rat meat." Tatsumaki looked at the store.

"Brat, there are lots of different types of meat in there." he gave her a side-eye.

Tatsumaki growled, "That's not my name, and I don't believe you! Why'd you even choose this one? I gave you the top one percent's grocery budget and you choose this? Wasted opportunity!"

"There're hot pots, obentos, fried chicken. It's a good place. You'll just have to settle."

Tatsumaki stared at the man. "Who gives a shit about the fried chicken and nikuman? We're here for a damn business deal. If you stopped equivocating, we wouldn't have problems." she pointed to him. "Don't waste my time!"

Hearing her rant, he blinked at her. "You're no fun. You gotta enjoy life more… Who doesn't like chicken?" asked Baldy flatly.

"I don't like chicken!"

"You're not even human." he deduced concretely, nodding to her.

"Bite me." she hissed.

He grimaced. "No thanks. I try to cut fat out of my diet," he said bluntly.

Tatsumaki gasped. "I'm not fat!"

"You are little." he justified.

"That isn't the problem here!"

Tatsumaki's hardly 100 pounds. She's not fat and— and what's wrong with him?! This insolent idiot ping-pong head. Tatsumaki could kill him or send his groceries to space when he buys them! She hates him. She HATES him!

Tatsumaki grabbed his sweater's string, tugging his body and face closer. "I wouldn't let you bite me! You get to buy groceries, whatever you want if you only tell me the names of people who live in your Mysterious Beings infested home. Don't talk to me so I don't have to talk to you!" she yelled in his shiny face.

Baldy didn't seem to be listening, either. Yawning, stretching an arm, Baldy was completely unaffected.

Tatsumaki pushed him away. Confrontation was useless. "Tch. You're honestly so annoying!"

Tatsumaki could call an ambulance to take him away when she broke both of his legs. He seemed to be readying himself to go inside. Well, she'll just wait out here then look into the window from time to time.

Tatsumaki opened her new phone she bought on the way here. Baldy couldn't comprehend buying a phone just like that, even now. She wanted to work instead of being annoyed.

No calls? That's weird. Usually, those people poke into my business by now, Tatsumaki frowned to herself. No calls at all?

Baldy pointed to her face and her furious texting.

"No calls?" he repeated.

He heard her. Shit. She thought he left. He lingered like a plague.

"Why'd you even get phone service if no one talks to you?" he asked, genuinely curious, distracting her.

"Huh?" Tatsumaki's cheeks blazed and her fists shook. "I h-have plenty of friends! I talk to them ALL the TIME! Many people talk to me and I got proposed to! You IDIOT!"

Tatsumaki lifted the phone out of her grip, just so she wouldn't break it. She couldn't! She wouldn't!

"How do they manage to talk if you're occasionally screaming the last words of your sentence?" asked Baldy innocently, loosening his ear canal with a pinkie finger.

This— this man was so annoying! Tatsumaki had friends and no free-time. She had way too many contacts but… still! Who says that?

Tatsumaki shouldn't have broken her old phone. She could have showed Baldy her contacts! Tatsumaki didn't much like hearing the voices of her old contacts but she still had them— and that was enough!

"Just go do your shopping, Baldy," she said, pointing to Beano's Store. She stopped paying attention to him.

Tatsumaki impulsively took a photo of the store. She will so give this place a bad review. Tatsumaki ignored him, huffing and turning away from the lingering Baldy. Anyone would bite me, I'm so sweet. He's just dumb… and peculiar, Tatsumaki grit her teeth.

Tatsumaki decided this man wasn't capable of conversation. She liked it; there were fewer chances of him saying dumb things. Conversely, it was annoying that such a crucial figure to her plan actually didn't have the brains to respond to ANY of her words.

Would she ever remember him? She couldn't even picture him after their strange encounter.

How would she put him down as a reference/correspondent when she made the report on Ghost Town? Would a name be enough? Will she remember his face in two weeks when she inevitably has some free time?

Tatsumaki took a photo of the egghead. Phones never forgot. Tatsumaki had a dumb face on her phone for reference.

Baldy seemed really disturbed. "Wh-What are you doing?"

"Taking photos." Tatsumaki took another one.

"Hey, stop that!"

"No." Tatsumaki took another one, just to annoy him.

"It's creepy," He apathetically frowned at her and she laughed. Messing with him was a highlight.

"Just in case you die here. I want to get your insurance money," she said deviously, voice low and scary. She couldn't include him on top-secret information yet.

Baldy chuckled awkwardly. "That's… That's not how it works." He stepped away, for safety.

Deleting two photos, Tatsumaki snapped her phone shut and glared at him. "You're strange. I'll keep an eye on you."

He was freaked out by the statement but soon moved on.

This guy was peculiar. The plain, ordinary bald man lived in the Ghost Town without problems and defeated some monster with one punch. He witnessed her miraculous powers when she shot his groceries to space and he held no grudges.

It made her feel uneasy. Baldy didn't drop everything he was doing to praise her, fear her or even ignore her. Baldy didn't absorb every ounce of energy Tatsumaki put into her masterpiece attacks in order to become her underling.

People liked swearing their allegiance to her at an unhealthy, abnormal rate yet he wanted nothing to do with her.

Baldy reminded her of those people who fell asleep at night smiling like they didn't know it broke their teeth. Yet he's here, with the preservation instincts of a pigeon.

"Hey… Baldy, how did you survive in the Ghost To…" Tatsumaki faltered.

He wasn't even there!

Baldy shook the nearby vending machine, waiting for treats to fall. What a useless cheapskate. She floated over to him. "I'm so curious. What are you good at?" asked Tatsumaki.

He didn't answer at first, leading to her fume. He put the vending machine down.

The vending machine jostled into place, green and tall and a bit crumpled where he grabbed it. What was wrong with him, picking up a vending machine and not only that, leaving dents in the box-like metal structure?

"I guess I have no luck," hummed Baldy certainly as the doors whooshed closed.

Idiots never have luck. He's such a damn ape! And even apes could still TALK!

Tatsumaki ambled through her omnipresent annoyance to realize he… He… He literally picked up a vending machine as a civilian. Most of her fellow S-Class heroes did that, it was a normal sight but he was a civilian, nothing special but he wasn't…

Baldy didn't break a sweat, and acted as if it were completely normal… as if this weren't the first time. Lifting vending machines wasn't something civilians were supposed to be good at, anyway.

Tatsumaki lifted the vending machine subtly, ignoring how people watched with interest, ignoring how they both broke stranger's tiny brains.

Amongst the dark dust and dead things, there were coins.

Baldy nearly killed himself to get the coins. He said he was unlucky but he lived… and lived. If she took her eyes off of him, he'd just fade away… But now she believed that this guy would be in her memory for too long.

When looking at Baldy holistically, his skin and bones, Tatsumaki wondered, why was he so peculiar, if he were just a normal guy?

How'd he catch her— take her with a glance, anyhow?

###

Just as Tatsumaki thought, it was worse inside of the damn store.

Outside, Tatsumaki got bored and hot. Wearing all black was a dumb, stylish idea. If she stayed in the parking lot for longer, a massacre would occur and she didn't feel like doing the paperwork for that.

She was the princess of the Association, they would forgive her for anything.

The whole store site was coloured with shiny artificial wrappers, an overstuffed front counter and bells that constantly flashed sound. Bright blue buckets with obnoxious smiley faces in yellow watched her.

The reek of freezer burn and plastic made her dizzy. The compact aisles more claustrophobic and people who spoke risked swallowing fruit flies.

But this wasn't the worst thing!

Tatsumaki heard the textile fluttering of a mat.

Apparently, a red carpet was laid down for Baldy. Baldy seriously was a local celebrity?

Simultaneous shrieks of joy and awe erupted. Three loud employees clapped, treating Baldy with dignified respect. They outright not-so-surreptitiously worshipped Baldy like she was supposed to be liked!

Why was he so special?

Baldy indifferently accepted their flaunting praises.

Baldy continued to walk the laid red-carpet, not bothering to wave. He seemed eager to shop and waste money on chicken— everything she hated.

Tatsumaki's brain bubbled over. For such an unattractive person, he attracted a lot of trouble…

A giant mass of muscle with a hard mouth stared down at Baldy. A death gaze.

A man blocked Baldy's crimson path like a fellow thoroughbred hero on her radar. He could kill the coltish Baldy! Tatsumaki was sure it was over for Baldy with thrilling scorn.

Tatsumaki was about to hit Superalloy Darkshine's rip-off with a building, telekinetically yanking it towards Beano's Store.

Seconds before impact, an octaves lower voice said, "Welcome back, Beano's saviour!"

The words were bent with tenderness. She dropped the concrete building with tenderness too, a rumble that everyone but Baldy and the man noticed vibrating their feet.

Baldy worked here?!

The big man clapped Baldy on the small shoulder, his hand bigger than Baldy's shoulder blade.

The showdown ended with Baldy's battle inertia.

"Hatch? Can you move now?" Baldy asked, removing Hatch's huge hand.

"I just wanna know when you're gonna drop your resume, yeah?" Hatch asked, patting Baldy's shoulder again.

Baldy looked traumatized by the expectation on Hatch's muscular face. Hatch's smile changed his whole appearance.

"I only ask respectable people to join my team of Beano's Store employees. Please join our group!" Hatch beamed.

The redwood-high, long-shanked Hatch was strong. He had a melon head and bok choy textured hair and respected Baldy? Tatsumaki recoiled. What the hell was going on?!

"Paper's expensive." Baldy deadpanned. "No thanks, I'm busy," he added as an afterthought.

Hatch chuckled. "Tch, c'mon, Saviour-sama! It's most people's dream to be apart of our legume family!" Hatch pressed.

Baldy looked annoyed now. "You know my dream," he said shortly then passed by.

Soon, Baldy was booking it down the aisles, picking up what he wanted. He weighed heavy melons and knocked on them. He inspected some sugary snacks and things that seemed interesting. He only veered towards things that had sales with tacky stickers displaying things like:

50% OFF!

Buy 2 Get 1 Free!

Only For A Limited Time!

Ugh! This store was always yelling at Tatsumaki. The bright colours and bolded words annoyed her. Like, who cared? Baldy asking the manager about limited offers was a soundtrack for her utter contemplation. Why was she the only normal person she knew?

The thieving haggler was like a strange hawk for deals, scavaging desperately. Unwilling to pay, Baldy ate off of a grapevine, swiping taste samples of fruit when everyone noticed.

"Hey! That isn't sanitary! You don't know who's touched your food!" Tatsumaki flinched to smack the grape out of his hand.

Baldy dodged her hand, unusually agile. Him sharply moving his arm away had the temporary air-power of a hurricane. Products went flying, tomatoes smashing on the windows.

How…

No one's fast enough to dodge her at her full strength. Not even Fubuki was that advanced. And he was still putting the unwashed grape in his mouth!

"I'm not greedy, want one?" He offered the grape.

She shuddered. "Don't make me throw up!"

Baldy waved away her shrieks of bewilderment. "I do this all the time." he chewed on more. "Don't worry, it's all safe."

Worrying about him? That wasn't what she was doing! "Convenience stores aren't sanctuaries of health! That type of thinking will kill you!"

Baldy suddenly had a timely, timely strange expression she couldn't decipher. It made the smell of coffee and wheat and fruit around them bitter. He had a slight smile that was drenched in presence but felt simultaneously far away.

"You can't kill me. Nothing can." Baldy shrugged.

That tone didn't have the usual arrogance of S-Class heroes who died moments later. That tone had fact… well, the confidence accompanied by telling facts.

"W-Will breathing the same air as you will make me sick?" Tatsumaki wondered aloud, teasing and awkward because she wasn't sure whether or not to take his words seriously.

Tatsumaki's chest hurt for a moment, a small sliver of time, where something pierced her with a needle. She absolutely hated needles.

Tatsumaki shook off her emotions. It's painful to think about her past. Why was she was drawn to those who made her think about it? All emptiness and loneliness shouldn't be brought up when she was around people.

Even those without a presence like… egghead made Tatsumaki think too much. Tatsumaki turned away from wondering about him. She didn't care about him. Whatsoever.

"I'll get your groceries since we're slacking off by doing nothing. Every moment we waste is someone who needs help," she said sternly.

He eyed her dubiously. "I thought you didn't care about those people. It was just for appearances." She faced him with a glower yet he continued. "People… in general."

His brain was loose and stupid, he shouldn't make deductions about anything. Tatsumaki ignored him when he tried to speak.

"Come on, bean-heads like being with other bean-heads. You need to belong with the dregs of your crop." Tatsumaki floated away. Tatsumaki internally laughed at her pun. She's a genius. Genius!

Looking back when she didn't notice a dead vine latching onto her in earnest, Tatsumaki met Baldy's confusion.

Baldy tilted his head. "But I didn't buy beans." He looked at his bucket. "I don't eat beans. Or bean heads."

Tatsumaki groaned. He didn't understand that he was a Beano employee to be? And her pun was so great! He's a dork for not laughing.

When Baldy put in all of the items in his bucket, Tatsumaki assumed would be worth well over 50 bucks but that didn't matter. Tatsumaki made bank with her paychecks.

Tatsumaki did have to go shopping for Fubuki's snacks. Fubuki was an eating, sleeping ghost at their apartment (that Tatsumaki generously paid for). However. Fubuki and Tatsumaki lacked the contact needed to be roommates… or even sisters.

It bothered Tatsumaki. Spiritually, of course. Shivers crawled against her brain. She hated ghosts!

Soon, Tatsumaki and Baldy reeled down the aisles with nothing good to say when he stopped to stare at this cactus he put in his bucket. Cacti were useless to modern society, no wonder he wanted one.

They stopped at the cash register. The man there was Hatch. An air of competition and testosterone made her annoyed when Baldy and Hatch stared each other down.

"Did you remember all the prices?" Hatch challenged.

Baldy looked determined. "Everything."

"Then it's another half-off Friday!"

Half-off Fridays?

All the employees cheered. Granted there were 3 of them, it shouldn't have been as loud or enthusiastic. But it was.

Tatsumaki was missing something when Baldy listed off ALL the prices of everything. They kept on quizzing each other in this macho way she hated.

"What's the price of these sandals?" Hatch asked.

"300 yen!" Baldy yelled back, equal in his stare and vigour. He really wanted those sales.

"These two chicken breasts?"

"126 yen each!"

Tatsumaki groaned. Baldy was quietly complacent and self-important. Notwithstanding her eternal horror, the two continued on with their idiot spiels.

"These avocados!"

"44 yen each!"

"This Romanian cabbage!"

"85 yen!"

Hatch kept on pulling out items and more items in rapid succession. The whole team egged on egghead's winning streak, abandoning their tasks in order to watch. Hatch actually scanned and put into the blue bucket, he accidentally pulled out an unexpected bottle.

Baldy froze, a bit tense when the plastic bottle was revealed. "Crap. That wasn't supposed to be in there…"

The store held its breath. Tatsumaki thought it'd be worse, like lube or something but it wasn't!

"And you even got shampoo!" Tatsumaki breathed.

It said, "Dr. Gray's Shampoo with a hint of rosewood and argan-oil. Can be used on beards too!"

"And you… Your beard! HAGH!" she laughed.

Tatsumaki couldn't handle it anymore. She died laughing, floating in the air with multiple mini-heart attacks of joy breaking her chest. She couldn't breathe with how much her ribs hurt.

What does he need shampoo for?! "O-Oh my god! You literally bought shampoo! Ha! HA! Ha! Ha! I've gotta tell Fubuki."

Later, Tatsumaki calmed down with panting breaths. She never laughed. What a new development. She blinked to see Hatch patting a downtrodden, dark-faced Baldy murmuring nonsensically.

"It's okay to have hope!" Hatch grinned, clumsily soothing the man from afar.

Hope was for parasites! Tatsumaki started laughing again.

Baldy pushed away from Hatch and gave her a slow look. "Be quiet. I just wanted to remember what it feels like to have hair." snapped Baldy.

"You'll feel nothing! No hair!" Tatsumaki guffawed. Aw. He really gave her another laugh. Ha. Ha.

His eye-twitched. "It's an old habit."

"For your medical conditions?" Tatsumaki taunted. "Do you think Dr. Gray Hair Growth and Replacement will help your case? Ridiculous!" She wiped away a tear.

That set Baldy off. "Be quiet! You're mad because you can't get medicine for height."

"Oh yeah, for surgery, maybe I'll just break both of your legs and use them as walking sticks!" she hissed.

"You'd still be shorter than me," he countered, his bald head still gleaming.

"You think you're such a smartass, a real Dr. Gray who could fix problems, huh! You're not. At all!"

The mood turned sour. Baldy glared at her for a moment or two, overreacting too much. He was sensitive about that. It was a weakness. And he made this personal!

Tatsumaki flicked her wrist. "Want your groceries to get help in space, huh? They can't get a dose of your stupidity there!"

Tatsumaki lifted all of the groceries. Green energy silking around them, parading them in the air like a child's carousel.

Two of the other employees were mildly unimpressed, one whispering, "Don't mistreat the produce!" but was too coward to say it to her face.

Baldy looked at Hatch. "Is the shampoo about 500 yen?" he asked, all irritated and bent out of shape.

He was still buying it? All the employees sighed, just like her.

"You were on a twenty item streak. All of these will go for 1878 yen." Hatch grinned. "Soon enough, you'll have all the prices down. And you'll work here."

"I lost because of you." Baldy blamed Tatsumaki petulantly. Baldy lost all the time, what's the big deal about this one?

"Hey, all of the groceries are for Baizou. He'll appreciate this. We all win." Hatch smiled, handing the bucket back.

Baldy seemed mildly appeased by those words. Tatsumaki was still lost. Why did he play all these games with these people and who was Baizou?

Hatch caught her confused expression. "We're tryna snatch Saviour-sama here to be our employee. Our bases need to be covered and he's pretty good."

"Do you really think he's got that potential? I don't think he could read labels." Tatsumaki remarked innocently. "Especially shampoo labels."

"Yeah, we want him. He's having trouble as a hero while I'm successful as a store manager. I wanna help people!"

Tatsumaki looked at the skinny, weak Baldy, who wanted to be a hero and knew too much about sales. Then she looked at the muscular Hatch, who was built like a hero but wanted to be a store manager.

"I am an average hero who doesn't want to work as anything else. I want to be a hero." Baldy declared with as much enthusiasm a funeral possessed.

Hatch shrugged. "When it doesn't work out— er, I mean… if it doesn't work out you have a family and a home here." he gestured to the

Baldy didn't seem too thrilled by the comment. He didn't seem bothered by it either.

"As a top hero, I want to welcome…" Tatsumaki paused for a moment then studied Baldy. She… She doesn't know his name. "What is… your name?" Tatsumaki asked lowly.

"Saitama," he said quietly.

Oh. Okay. Whatever. Tatsumaki took out her debit card from her bra then reverted to full volume.

"As your senior hero in the top tier, I welcome you to the pariah's den of my humble abode with the payment of the 1878 yen," she smirked.

"I'll be paying now," Baldy said, dropping all of the 2000 yen onto the counter in coins.

Him? He didn't have money and the deal was that she paid for him telling her where the residents where! What type of fresh hell was this?!

He couldn't just do that! He had money the entire time? Why wasn't he using the coupons?

Baldy didn't give Tatsumaki much time to process when they all looked at her expectantly.

"What?" barked Tatsumaki.

Baldy was the only one not scared shitless by her cute question. "You're not supposed to play with your food, kid."

Tatsumaki glared at him, a cute smile on her face. "You're looking into the eyes of Armageddon, tread carefully whilst cheating death," she said quietly.

"Yo, kid," He got pale again. "Y-You haven't put set down all the products in the store." he pointed behind her.

Oh. Tatsumaki minorly returned everything in its place. Nitpicky and annoying, everyone fussed over their "bad" placement.

Fuck this.

"We will talk," she said without looking back. It was quiet with confusion. "You know who you are. What you've done." Tatsumaki hovered out of the store.

Tatsumaki wanted to rant to someone special and who cared. Tatsumaki called Fubuki, expecting her not to answer. Fubuki jumped to answer which was weird.

"Hello?" A husky voice said statically.

Fubuki hadn't answered Tatsumaki when she knew Tatsumaki's number? It took Tatsumaki by surprise. Not really.

Tatsumaki was like clockwork, calling in the mornings at 7 because most respectable people woke up then. Tatsumaki also called at 7 in the evenings when most respectable people settled down, drank wine and talked to family members.

Fubuki was darling but she wasn't very respectable because she never answered. Ever.

As baby Fubuki's mentor, Tatsumaki tutored her sister every Friday; in commemoration of the day they escaped the crazy lab with Blast. Fubuki didn't care about the weekly holiday nor did she like celebrating their lives when together.

Fubuki blew Tatsumaki off the past two Fridays during noon practices.

Tatsumaki never got stood up until Fubuki made it a trend. A trend Tatsumaki hated! To blow off steam and cheer herself up, Tatsumaki went hunting for monsters and purged on candy apples or just apples when she got really hung up.

And Fubuki answers to a stranger rather than her own sister?!

The prolonged silence led Fubuki to be a spitfire of coldness in her next words. "This is Fubuki. I will call Tatsumaki, you know, Tornado of Terror. Both of us will come for you if you call me like this!" Fubuki threatened, all frosty and emotional.

"It's rude not to see the person you talk about, Buki," she whispered.

People who talked behind her back usually kissed her ass but this was Fubuki using her as a shield. She didn't mind but she never wanted her help, only her name. Huh.

"Buki…?" Fubuki gasped in sharp recognition. "T-Tatsumaki? Why do you have a new phone? Why are you calling?"

A sister can't check up on her younger, trampling sister?

Tatsumaki was unimpressed by her whims being ignored her all the way. Tatsumaki's dear, dear sister could pay attention to her. However, Fubuki was distraught. There was something wrong, Tatsumaki could hear it in Fubuki's voice.

"Why do you sound like you've lost a battle? I told you not to talk to me rudely when you lose like this." Tatsumaki said lowly. "Why didn't you ask for my help?"

"Can't you be normal and ask me about my day?" Fubuki grumbled with a hidden tremulous waver. She really lost hard, huh.

"People who are normal are the same. Why haven't you come to training on Friday? Actually, pardon me, I didn't mention how you skipped both of them!" Tatsumaki looked at the phone. "What's up with you answering an unknown number rather than me? I paid for your phone to have Caller ID."

Fubuki groaned, seeming inferior and with a dilatory, begrudging answer. "I got defeated by some monsters during an earthquake in City F. Many of all of them came out, agitated by the earthquake someone started."

"What happened to you? Why'd you cause an earthquake? Can you even do that?"

"Tatsumaki! You caused ALL of these earthquakes in City F! People don't know it's you but I know because only YOU would do this to me! My men got hu—"

"They're spineless, how do you expect them to walk, let alone fight? Of course, they got hurt! Ditch those losers."

"It's still your fault," amended Fubuki. "We have to pray for them."

Tatsumaki shook. "I wouldn't cause an earthquake! Get out of here with your ridiculous accusations! If I could cause an earthquake there, I wouldn't leave any dumbasses standing. I don't want the innocent hurt," Tatsumaki bristled. "Aaand I taught you better. Stop praying to God, put some holy water on your knuckles and punch all of your enemies. Couldn't you keep up with Sneck and some of the other heroes? I taught you bett—"

"I am not like you," Fubuki interrupted her, voice calm.

"I should be what you aspire to be! All you need is me and all I need is me. Can't you not trample on yourself? You should have come to practice on Fubuki Fridays!"

Fubuki sighed on the other end of the phone. "Only you would say that…"

"Fubuki, your tears get longer and longer! You vanish your enemies into the flame of psychic power, how hard is that?" Tatsumaki hissed.

Fubuki sighed again in the wilderness of their apartment. Or not, she didn't come home very often.

"What have I told you, huh? You can't die in the living room, it would be ironic. Ironic and embarrassing! I don't have a sister who is weak!" Tatsumaki said.

"All your life lessons tell me that everything turns out to be my fault. Why are you being so harsh, huh? I almost died."

"Usually, I can sense when you're in danger. I sensed nothing. You couldn't manage a small fry that didn't put your life in danger?" Tatsumaki sighed. A benefit of her psychic powers, she was able to monitor Fubuki's life force.

Fubuki didn't answer.

"You wanna live?" demanded Tatsumaki.

"What type of question is that?"

"If you want to live, why are you so weak? I'd rather die than lose. Falling short is the worst thing to do, aside from being a parasite."

After a total silence, Fubuki hung up.

Tatsumaki glared at the phone.

Fubuki ran around in her little B-Class failure group but she needed to learn to trust Tatsumaki! Tatsumaki could make a literal impact. Fubuki's disinterest with Tatsumaki was cruel. Those A-Class rejects can't help Fubuki. They make her lose any notion of success!

How could they help Fubuki if the B-Class group can't help themselves—

"Who was on the phone?" Baldy asked like he had some right to know, worming into her brain.

And he scared her. How did he sneak up on her?! The last person to do that was Blast! Her heart raged, feeling preyed on. Tatsumaki was still too numb to speak.

Baldy took her with that glance, being too concerned. Was he peculiar?

Tatsumaki looked at him steadily, hiding her phone. "It doesn't matter to you, right?" Tatsumaki asked with dragon teeth.

Baldy still looked steadily at Tatsumaki with bewildering condescension. "You're a moron. Is that how you talk to people you care about?" asked Baldy without judgement.

Baldy's cactus looked especially prickly, though. A certain tension was in the drawn up line of his shoulders.

"You know nothing about me! Nothing is wrong with what I do." Tatsumaki said, acting as if that conversation didn't knock her off her feet. "You're perfectly out of place. How much did you hear?"

He tilted his head. "Enough."

Tatsumaki straightened her spine. After the pause, she composed herself. "I used my good graces and we had a deal you didn't honour." she narrowed her eyes.

"You're a hero. You should spend your own hero-earned money." he shrugged.

Tatsumaki shifted a bit. "What about my phone numbers and help?"

"If you want help, you could buy it. You got enough money." Baldy looked at his cactus. "Besides, you're against succulents."

"All this stress for this response? I watched you get your stupid cactus and chicken! And not to mention getting Dr. Gray hair shampoo!" Tatsumaki's tone was sour.

Baldy scanned the mostly empty parking lot. Most people were shrieking at the building in a heap of concrete and mortar in the distance.

"Oi…That last one didn't happen," he said quietly.

"It did!" she shrilled.

"If I could live without remembering that, you could too!" he said loudly.

"You won't be able to help others in your Ghost Town without help from me!" she said.

"I don't want your help. I don't want to walk a bit slower because you need to catch up."

That one really annoyed her. He keeps on hitting on the fact that she was short.

"Damn, talking to small people make my neck hurt." he winced.

"I know a good chiropractor," Tatsumaki muttered in a raging blurb.

"Do the people who talk to you get this problem a lot?" Baldy rubbed his neck concernedly.

"Shut up! In ten years after ALL of the doctor's bills, the tips and tricks and you'll appreciate me. As Tatsumaki, your S-Class senior Esper with abilities second to none. You'll think, 'I'll miss that Tatsumaki-sama since I was a dumb person with chicken. I'll miss her.' And me, as a hero would have taught you how to feel, defend yourself and act."

With unflagging talent, Tatsumaki was better than everyone. This welp couldn't even try to disrespect her without consequences! They're not even in the same league.

Looking at her with mild distaste, Baldy stepped back. "If this is how heroes act, I don't want it," he said.

"I act in a way that provides myself." Tatsumaki was confused. "You can't be different from those who grovel for a chance at being better. You won't win if you don't say yes to me. You don't want to help people?"

"I do." He surrendered. "Call me at 81-9012345677."

This was a real phone number, yeah. He didn't just play keyboard bongo. She put the phone number in her phone.

"As long as you leave me alone, you're welcome as a fellow hero," he said congenially and stalked away.

"Fellow hero? You're not a hero!" Tatsumaki yelled loudly, she went off and followed him. "You really don't try to fulfill your dreams, huh? I catch a glimpse of what I want and I continue going after it no matter what. Why didn't you just become a Beano's Store employee if you weren't going to do what it takes to become a hero?"

"Because I don't want to become an employee. I don't lose." he looked at his cactus. "Nothing will change that."

"Cacti are useless to modern society. What are you doing to contribute to this society?" Tatsumaki yelled.

There was a standoff, eyes staring at each other. None of them blinked. It was some kind of invitation to danger. What would he say?

"I am a hero for fun, that's enough," he smiled then walked off.

For fun? Tatsumaki didn't care. thought he was useless. Until she saw him disappear into the inverted oasis that was the nearby derelict road. Under the blue lid for a sky, Baldy gave all of his coupons to a homeless person. All of his bucketed groceries, too.

She watched that for a long time.

Beside her, she felt someone shift closer. It was Hatch, huge, long-legged Hatch. It felt like standing beside a familiar ally Pig God with the sleek stealth of Atomic Samurai.

Hatch felt… nicer? He looked like the vain Darkshine, just with fair skin and a well-filled, tight red uniform with Beano's logo. Hatch's attention was outwardly bolted on Tatsumaki, not on himself… Which was a change from Darkshine?

Hatch's low voice vibrated her chest but she didn't listen to his small murmurs. "We just put out the newly updated magazines. I didn't know you guys were a thing… Tornado of Terror-sama…"

Tatsumaki ignored him. "Why does Baldy give away his groceries to that homeless person? It makes no sense. He's poor, too!" she snapped.

Hatch, an easy-going guy, took her prickly words in stride. "Saitama knew Baizou from high school. They just happen to loiter around each other but Baizou was a bully. Saitama Savour-sama just happened to become a hero while… Baizou fell once his family was attacked by a monster."

Tatsumaki looked at Hatch dubiously. "Who… who saved him?"

"It was about four years back? It wasn't Saitama who saved him but Saitama wished he could have done something."

How does he… take responsibility for something he couldn't have prevented. Why him now?

"'Leave something for someone but don't leave someone for something.' is what Saitama would always say when he got stronger than his bully and did acts like this." Hatch chirped.

"Stronger? Don't make me laugh," Tatsumaki grit her teeth.

Hatch looked uncomfortable, speaking in a low voice. "At least that's what he says. He probably is C-Class or something. I want him to have a safety net if things don't work out like they often don't. Being a hero is thankless."

That's not true. If someone was useless to the hero business, they were rightfully thanked less... if not at all. They should be grateful for the opportunities and not screw it up. She remained quiet as Hatch looked on at Baldy.

"He gets half-off on stuff, special allowances from Beano's because being a hero is thankless towards him. A hobby or a dream, but it didn't reward him with glory." Hatch got a little sentimental, catching himself. He shrugged, looking at Tatsumaki with wide, deep-set eyes. "Saitama's not a bad guy, he's just a guy. Not a hero. That's why it's nice that you're with him."

Tatsumaki gave Hatch a side-eye. Hatch didn't believe in Saitama, either. Aside from that last comment, that made Tatsumaki question whether Hatch deserved to sleep forever.

Hatch bounced a fist off of his chest. "My father thinks Saitama thinks like a hero. This era isn't ready for him yet. Saitama thinks like a hero, too. You know, he thinks deep down, everyone should get along. Anyone could be saved."

Maybe Baldy helped people. He was a real Dr. Gray but for more than just hair. He was a small time thing but he helped Baizou, a common enemy which is dumb. It was understandable but dumb.

"Everyone should get along, ridiculous! You only make friends with the people who bring you more work then you dump them. It's a perfect comedy. But he's being dumb." Tatsumaki said quietly.

"Huh? You're really an S-Class hero?" Hatch jumped, nervously staring at her then at Baldy talking with Baizou.

A green aura surrounded her palm as she pointed at Hatch. He sweat buckets, hair curls unfurling with the amount of sweat.

Smiling primely, Tatsumaki rolled the sweat off of his temple and collected it into a scintillating ball of death. The teaspoon of perspiration was a tough diamond when controlled by her, mixing it with glass and dirt and concrete.

Tatsumaki launched the torpedo weapon at a concrete wall. The cracks were instantaneous, crawling up the wall with crunching screams. Patches of spider web-shaped debris fell out, eventually crumbling under its weight.

The building was the sound of chaos when collapsing because of Hatch, who stood browbeaten beside her.

"Want me to show you what S-Class power does to blood?" she asked quietly, smirking a bit.

"No— no, er, that's fine. I know your power." he waved his arms. Looking at the hole in the city line, he gulped. "You… play with blood?"

"I am allowed to have hobbies," Tatsumaki shrugged.

Hatch held his chest, face white. "That was terrifying, Terror of Tornado-sama!"

"Don't be a baby." she snapped. Tatsumaki eyed the man for a little. "Speaking of infantile matters, why'd you use buckets? They cheaper or hopeful?"

"People usually come back with the buckets, that's why we let 'em go through our front door. They trust us and we trust them. It works." Hatch got red cheeks. "I just wanted to give our customers buckets of hope so they never run out."

Tatsumaki just opened her mouth a bit in shock then closed it. "Have you told anyone this?" she asked clearly.

"Aside from you?" he asked.

Tatsumaki shifted a bit, nodding once. "Yeah, who else knows about your "hope"?"

"No." he shook his head.

How the hell does Baldy know? Tatsumaki folded her arms, an annoying throb of pain in her head.

He was too annoying and smart… Baldy— no, Dr. Gray doesn't want to learn how to be like me. It's stupid! So stupid, Tatsumaki huffed, glaring at Baldy in the distance.

"I didn't know ruts went this deep," Hatch ran a nervous hand through his green hair. "You know, I didn't know hero's spats went this far."

Tatsumaki turned away.

This was enough for today. She flew down the street, past Baizou and the crumbled building to find Baldy. He seemed pleasantly uncaring of anything, even the fact he walked back to Ghost Town without a single damn.

"Dr. Gray's rip-off!" she called out, furious at this fool but needed to communicate. "Baldy!"

Baldy turned around to her. She wanted to smack his face, dull as it was. And he was empty-handed too.

Why was he such a good guy? Damn it.

"Your insolent self still has a link to me. I have your phone number. I am busy for the next week, the company's chief needs me for a bunch of safety missions in City A through F. Earthquakes occurred because of someone. You'll see me on the Disaster Channel." she pulled out her phone. "Don't forget to update me if you're a real hero saving people."

He waved his hands in front of his chest. "We're not working together—"

"Negative."

Baldy blinked. "Huh? N-Negative to what?"

"We're still working on saving people. Heroes always work together when they're weak."

"But I said—"

"Yeah, whatever. Heroes always work together when they're weak. I am an exception but most others are weak."

"Weak?" he asked.

"You qualify in that weak box thus far. I know others have a personality defect where they can't handle me but I don't mind. I don't care if you like me or if you don't. I. Don't. Care. In Ghost Town and even in the residential area, if your weak comrades of the human race are going to survive, you work with me! Not against me. If there's a damn problem with a monster, that's what you should dislike more than me," Tatsumaki pointed to herself. "Got it?"

He began stretching again. Seemingly defeated, he slumped, hands in his pockets. "Call me all you want." His tone was monotone and creepy. It was as if he felt nothing when holding her gaze.

Tatsumaki rolled her eyes then turned away. "You seem pretty dead and you have the survival instincts of a capybara but if you really want to make it to your next meal, don't tell ANYONE that we know each other!"

"You know, you speak novels sometimes." he groaned, yawning.

She gave him one last look. He was all too strange.

He suddenly paid attention once again. "What?"

Tatsumaki came close to his face, observing him. "To me, you're either a parasite or a survivor. Choose when you're around me. Act accordingly." she narrowed her eyes. "Dr. Gray, call me when you decide how you contribute to me."

Tatsumaki shot off before his inevitable dumb response.

Thick trails of white streaked the air. She needed to get to City F and sort out this business. The commute was boring, as boring as Tatsumaki's mind made flying… Sometimes she hated herself for making these fun things boring.

Mostly, she wanted to get away from what Dr. Gray Baldy meant. He would have rather not known her, a trend in her days. And why was he a hero? He wasn't even successful! Only the strong survived.

And Fubuki was being annoying again.

Fuck her life.

###

-End Chapter-

 

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 3-
Work Stuffs

 

TATSUMAKI WAS MAD AT ZOMBIEMAN FOR BEING SO BRAIN-DEAD.

For all the saving and sleuthing away, Zombieman was the only person Tatsumaki cared to think about during the rescue session in City F. He was loosely a working partner that also had a loose brain… He didn't check in with her for three fucking days!

Bearded Worker told her to look after Zombieman. She's losing sleep. Not that Tatsumaki slept much over the past 48 hours. She's never slept very much. But this was ridiculous.

The populous City F was mildly ensnared by the violence of the natural disaster. The disaster was unprecedented, covered as a strange phenomenon. It wasn't really the scene for random but destructive earthquakes.

City F was under the protection of Sneck but the A-Class, rank 38 hero was useless to anything that required any skill. And she didn't like his suit or his snakes. Creepy.

Zombieman volunteered to oversee City F with her as he understood Tatsumaki would be there. Zombieman was dedicated to doing the job, fighting fatigue, curiously keen on serving others and had the durability of some immortal being.

Zombieman was infinitely trying. Tatsumaki liked that, not that she would admit it.

With some praise from Tatsumaki, Zombieman knew how to kill monsters.

Zombieman was incapable of really fixing the city, so Tatsumaki left the dangerous monsters to him, which was a mistake. Tatsumaki tasked him with the fun, blood-curdling and taxing killing of monsters.

Tatsumaki assiduously helped civilians from under the rubble while crushing the small fries she came across. She cleaned up the wreckage and cleared the roads with monster guts. She nearly fell asleep restoring a highway and that didn't end favourably. She was usually diligent and she didn't cause more devastation than necessary.

Tatsumaki wasn't a damn architect or anything— she was a hero! Tatsumaki liked obliterating monsters to sate her boredom. Still… the lives of the harmed civilians were more important and the buildings were heavy.

12:57 A.M

She huffed at her telephone then at the note.

Just about when everything was just going back to orderly, Zombieman left a note on a dead monster. He said to meet her near the multi-millionaire Zeniru's turd building. The feces-shaped gold statue on its rooftop didn't get ruined, much to her chagrin.

Zombieman wasn't dumb, in fact, he was remarkably intelligent, but monsters saw the note too. He purposefully did that to make Tatsumaki a little more festive, since she got to annihilate the monsters who showed up.

Everything bad in life, I hope happens to Zombieman, Tatsumaki cursed.

Zombieman was still so late!

Tatsumaki liked to make sure Zombieman was alive but he didn't care since he regenerated. Zombieman was a nihilistic tick at times then he was some free butterfly, unwilling to flutter back on her terms.

Why were all S-Class heroes constantly late?

The cell phone screen glow had her distracted from the reeling figure a block away.

"Green Eyes! What's up?" Zombieman called out into the nighttime. "I wasn't late. My dog buried my Volvo in my backyard."

"You don't have a dog or a Volvo or good excuses!" Tatsumaki crossed her arms, shutting her flip phone. He was slow and gave excuses as to why he was always late. At this point, he told ridiculous lies.

"Green Eyes—"

"I told you to stop calling me that!" Tatsumaki yelled with flinted anger. "I told you to check in every midnight and your bright self thinks you're some higher power and you don't bother contacting me for the last three days!"

"I was busy." Zombieman stretched.

"For three days?" Tatsumaki growled.

"Hey… Green Army Eyes, on a scale of 1 to 10… how much do you want to kill me—"

"Yes."

He audibly gulped. "Will I assume room temperature if I get closer?"

"Positive."

"Damn."

"That's all you have to say? Damn. Give your report from there, about twenty metres away or I won't even allow you to work with me ever again." she snapped. "I can't deal with you if you're like this. I will cut off all ties if you can't contribute to me."

"That would kill me for real," he called out glumly.

She rolled her eyes at him while he gave the report.

Amongst other details of how safe the civilians were, where they would dispose of the monster corps and just how many people were at the hospital… it was the usual news. There were a reported 16 Wolf level threats, 3 Tiger and 1 Demon over the past few days. Tatsumaki defeated around 5 wolf level threats, on the mildest of days she would defeat at least 10 tigers.

Everything was stupid.

Amai Mask was dumb too! He went to City F only for publicity. He didn't even help ANY of the noncombatant civilians.

Zombieman was more concerned about being closer to Tatsumaki than the fact that all these monsters — who aren't usually intelligent enough to work in an assemblage— planned this oddly small but fated attack.

Then Zomebieman was an airhead. He wasn't replying. "Hey, want me to dig up your ears or you listening?" she asked, in the middle of putting statistics out about how monsters were getting stronger.

"I was just listening to the sound of your voice," he said, cool and smooth.

Tatsumaki launched a rock at him. "Asshole! You really like to risk your immortality around me!"

He dodged it. "We've been discussing for about forty minutes of things I already knew. Can I see your face and if you're alright?" he requested, again, cool and smooth.

He came closer.

Tatsumaki groaned.

There was stupid and then there was Zombieman! Why couldn't Zombieman clean himself up in front of her? Of course, Zombieman was disgustingly bloody, drenched in red and green blood. His ragged body had deep scars, festering wounds with soot and sod.

"Sometimes you look like a suspicious intruder of human society, you goddamn alien! You're also not healing fast enough. What the hell is wrong with you? Clean up around me, around a woman." she said quietly.

Despite his missing mass of skull and the bone marrow, the most romantic smile spread across his face, trying to make her soft and warm in the middle. On most women, it would, but she wasn't like that. She mentally located a river with clean water.

He wiped away some of the gore, though he was leaking all over the street. "Hey, did you miss me?"

"The hell kind of conspiracy is that?" Tatsumaki shrieked. "You are just really dumb, you know! Your inability to listen to me is impressive. In the future, you better not slack off! If you die, it'll make me look so bad especially if I'm looking after you."

"I'll take that as a convoluted yes." he stretched, cracking a stiff neck. "Under all those insults, you're thanking me for being alive during my absence. I was just busy. I was coming to see you. You are the highlight of my day."

That's exactly what she wasn't saying but he can't just say things like that with a straight face and mean it.

She glared at him. "You are so dead for saying that!" she ignored the radioactivity on her cheeks.

An obnoxious mumbled laugh blackened his pretty eyes. "Are you blush—"

Hardly concentrating, she dropped three gallons of lake water on him for an impromptu shower. The pool of watered blood hurried to the manhole. He gulped large volumes of water, yelling like a swamped cat.

Coughing up his lungs and rubbing the water out of his eyes, he frowned at her. "I hate when you do that."

"I don't care about your rights. You were late and bloody, a burglar stealing my time. Now you get a shower. Now you will have a clean getaway," she said quickly, calming her cheeks.

He should repent and shut up. He's lucky he didn't catch a fish in his big mouth.

Zombieman's normally ivory features, sculpted chin, and the dark precipice eyes retained all physical handsomeness. He was naked— that was a penis. And it was Zombieman's!

She held a hand to her forehead. "Put on some clothes!" Tatsumaki turned around.

Tatsumaki forgot.

Every time she saw him rambling about to headquarters, he was naked! Disgusting. No matter how familiar she was with a man, she couldn't have a normal conversation with a nude man. Fellow S-Class heroes stripped constantly like Puri-Puri Prisoner, Darkshine and at times, Zomebieman.

"I have no shame. You shouldn't either." He murmured. "All human bodies decay into non-beings where nothing is everything. I want to die like this."

"I am ashamed of you and your nothingness. So put your shit on around me!"

"We were born naked, our souls die naked. I don't know why you get overwhelmed by it. You barely wear clothes." Zombieman pointed out.

"You're barely going to have a life to live, wanna keep on talking?" she threatened.

"You normally don't mind." Zombieman lamented. "Scavenging for clothes is too much energy at the moment."

Normally Tatsumaki didn't care or mind.

Tatsumaki was aware that her dress was… quite scandalous contrasted to the other women in the corporation. However, she admired her dress. Fubuki approved it and based her outfits on it too. Therefore, Tatsumaki detected nothing awkward with it.

She peeked over her shoulder. He was still naked! Doing nothing.

Due to his corpse-like inaction, Tatsumaki dragged a totalled car in front of his body with a thought. She tried picturing his long, tattered trench coat, dark shirts and his two machetes and scruffy dark hair. He liked using antiquated, conventional weapons. Tatsumaki never much liked those items that men play around with.

"I know why the association puts us together on team exercises." Zombieman tapped his chin. "They do anything to make you happy."

The company liked when Tatsumaki suffers, that's why.

"Don't change the subject, where are your stuff and clothing?" she hissed.

"Centre street." he lamented. "Killed some monsters. I forgot the baggage. My clothes always come off. You know this. It hadn't bothered you for two years. Why do you—"

She hit his head with his pack, to make him shut up. She didn't answer as he groaned.

Zombieman picked up his pack during some rustles. "It's heavy," he noted.

"You can't lift that up? You'll have trouble lifting your I.Q." quipped Tatsumaki.

"It must be the Hero Association's favouritism towards you." He laughed, the sound coming out like silk, with the brightness of a nova and the impassioned heat of the sun.

Tatsumaki glared at him then turned around. "The only reason we work together is that you don't die whenever I try to kill you."

It was a good two tries. He was immortal. Besides, Fubuki would have literally disowned Tatsumaki. Tatsumaki would rather have Buki in her life with an exposed cyst like Zombieman if it meant keeping Fubuki happy.

Too bad both of them got tricked. Tatsumaki sighed. Well, yeah. Fubuki did trick them both. Zombieman and Fubuki dated for four months and Tatsumaki witnessed the bloom of new love. Or so she thought.

Fubuki used Zombieman's S-Class status and training regiment to help her B-Class rejects. He was used but he didn't care much. He said, 'As long as we're friends, Green Eyes. I don't care about the rest'. Tatsumaki was shocked by his loyalty when she disliked him so much.

"I am reluctant to admit anything intelligent requiring forethought since most can't process information but you seem to be above average. Yet you almost die horribly excessive deaths when around me, it's kinda gross."

"The meaning of life is death," he hummed. "Amai Mask recently has a drama out about demons. His co-worker played a zombie. They got it all wrong."

"Oh, be quiet. The dead can't get offended."

"We can. Amai Mask had two shirtless scenes the company had to pay big money for—"

"Don't continue. You'll make me throw up." She turned to him.

He walked around the car, wholly clothed and she faced him fully, still frowning.

"I only want to make people smile," he said wonderingly.

"Smiling is for the weak. Happiness comes with the smell of blood." Tatsumaki hissed then looked at the moon.

The night was still young. There were monsters to kill.

"Have a night. I'll send in the report when I write it up," she said.

Zomebieman sat on the nearby car, not minding the broken glass and crumpled metal. He looked at her, all stagnant and death still. "Can't you relax? There are none left to kill, nothing left to report."

How did he know that she would… go and kill monsters? He didn't bat an eye at all at knowing her.

"Don't tell me what to do." she snapped. "Besides, there are always monsters to kill. Don't think to kill all the monsters in City F, my fun, would be considerate. All of them are dead."

"Talk to me a while. I'm helping you relax."

"I don't care for conversation. Relaxing is for the weak."

"Well, Amai Mask smiles a lot and is weak. I wonder who let that creature exist. He can't breathe and smile at the same time. I swear he's going to die like that. I am going to kill him." Zombieman rambled on quietly.

Tatsumaki stared at his face. He usually wasn't bold enough to disobey her and start conversations. Her headache served to do nothing when squinting at him. He was a noisy mess of options and confusion.

"He sings everywhere. He sang one of Fubuki's favourite songs. He wasn't terrible. I didn't feel like dying." Zombieman gave her a sunny look. "That's high praise coming from me."

Tatsumaki stared at him. Why does he always infinitely try to involve her?

"You don't hate Amai Mask? Talk about him if you won't talk to me," he said laconically.

She considered him for a moment, reading his lips. "Humans spent two hundred thousand years to reach the present day society's momentum and technological advances. He wasted it all by regressing. Then he became a degenerate loser on stage! Amai Mask makes me want to start smoking cigarettes so I die slowly." she shuddered.

He laughed, a bit bitter and unhumorous. He kept on staring at her. "What?" asked Tatsumaki.

He eyed her carefully, scarcely blinking. "I want to meet your guy," he tilted his head, crimson eyes gleaming, "and kill him."

Huh? Her guy? Tatsumaki floated right up to his face, slightly above him. "I know you don't have the zest for life or saying extremely dumb things. What's wrong with you?"

"You," he grumbled lowly. "Why do you have a Beloved? You're in a serious relationship with some nobody in a nobody city. He proposes to you, and you didn't even tell me—"

"What do you mean a serious relationship? And a 'nobody' proposed to me?" Tatsumaki's voice got higher and higher. "Wait. How do YOU know about my Beloved?" she demanded.

"You and he were televised, everyone knows."

Tatsumaki stopped time for a moment. Something was amiss. Oh. Shit. He wasn't lying at all. What the hell. What the hell! When Lover Boy proposed, it was being televised. Then she announced Baldy was hers on television… Ten days ago.

"You started this chain of earthquakes when speaking to him, right? It's a casual feat. This is the first time I've seen you take responsibility for it, though." Zombieman shrugged.

Tatsimmaki grabbed his arm then went to the TV store on the other side of town. Miraculously, none of them were broken. They stared, watching the screens through the window. Using her psychic remote, she changed the channel to find the one talking about Baldy.

News Channels made their stupidity three dimensional by writing out the headlines and also having the clips. Assholes.

Headline after headline was about her. The news reporters usually gushed about her and men were terrified, so it was a good balance. She hated this.

Beloved Of Tornado Of Terror An Unknown, Unsafe Man?

Tornado Of Terror Losing Her Edge Since Getting Into A Relationship?

Why Did Tatsumaki Destroy City F In Order To Spend Time With Her Fiance?

Here Are The Details AboutTornado of Terror's Engagement.

Terror Of Tornado Not Suited To Be Hero…

Tatsumaki's going to murder that Lover Boy and all those reporters. She totally will. What do they mean she lost her edge? Why the hell would the public think that personal relationships affect her work-ethic? And what the hell is this sexist stuff?

People have been less friendly since it's accepted fact that she caused this earthquake. With that, people refused her help after she spent time fixing their city. Made sense.

And they were playing Baldy and Tatsumaki's interactions, editing it to make it seem like Tatsumaki kissed him. She got Dr. Gray Baldy mixed up in this news hurricane of idiots, too. His dull face wasn't very clear but his bald head was there… She basically besmirched his image more than genetics did.

Tatsumaki didn't mean to include him in this storm. The public has been confused about her and how to feel. The Princess of the Association has gotten into a relationship, acts erratically and also caused a natural disaster.

They stared, the colours straining her eyes. Zombieman, unknowing of the circumstance, didn't realize she saw him watching her.

I'm not really in a serious relationship. Why does ANYONE care about what I'm doing? Was Zombieman looking out for the day he was close to me? Tatsumaki thought, gazing back at him. No. Impossible.

Zombieman was perplexed, looking at how smoothly Tatsumaki jostled Dr. Gray Baldy all over the screen. "Why'd you choose someone you could kill? He's fragile. He probably will die." he winced. "Not that I mind. I just wanted that pleasure."

"As opposed to him, I would choose you, a tardy detective?" Tatsumaki drawled.

"Don't cheapen my existence. My face is quite desirable," he protested.

"I can find plenty of pictures of dumpsters on the internet. I can't do the impossible and like you either," she smirked.

Zombieman sighed, deeply troubled by her words. "I don't understand how he could tolerate your attitude. How did you ever find someone who would tolerate it?"

"Hey, the word "love" is lighter than air. It's a dirty lie people tell themselves, a demand at the end of conversations but I am capable of it. Lots of it. How dare you say that I'm not ready enough, huh?" she questioned furiously.

He stepped back, raising his arms up. "That's not what I mean—"

"Huh? What do you mean? My attitude is something any beloved of my seeks and accepts and adores—"

"You can't pretend it's desirable."

"I am totally desirable! Anyone who is mine, my beloved, they get anything that I have, which is everything. You don't get to say that I'll find anything. You wanna die knowing that I am in a relationship with someone who loves me?"

Zombieman waved his arms, quietly panicking. He looked extremely uncomfortable. "Green Eyes— I am just trying to say… that I am surprised. You don't wear a ring and you haven't said his name yet… I'm just surprised."

"Why? You don't get to judge me or anything I do. We're not familiar enough to be like that and what's wrong with me having someone I care about?" she pointed at his dumb mug. "You're so damn annoying. If I had known you'd bring all this personal shit into work, I'd have to educate you on professional etiquette and what have you."

She floated up, annoyed and tired. Stupid Zombieman. Insinuating that she couldn't be in a relationship. She knew this was a problem. People got irked by her, fairly easily, and that wasn't a problem. She built walls instead of bridges, which was okay. She just… it got lonely but no one was a match for her.

Especially not Zomebieman.

He looked angry and half fascinated with her. "That's not what I meant—"

"Does it matter? I don't want any rosy light with words." She turned around. "We're no longer working together!"

She flew off, prowling the streets for monsters for a while.

Anyway, Fubuki wasn't home. Tatsumaki didn't get texts or notifications. She decided to leave a message that she was coming home. when she passed through the city, lights tinted green. It was calm and the city lights reminded her of fireflies.

She ignored the crumbled bridges and the dusted city-scape. She can't believe she caused that earthquake. The throb in her head reminded her of a hollowed out piano, playing notes of pain no one could hear but her.

That earthquake. She couldn't have done it, right?

But she did. She was unkempt, flyaway hairs everywhere and mind spinning with adrenaline and disappointment. She was working on keeping her dry eyes open. She just wanted to settle down and sleep but nightmares plagued her. She hated sleeping when there was something interesting to do like killing monsters but she couldn't find any monsters. Zombieman, that prick.

Her apartment was nothing special. Boring, wealthy, cold. Fubuki didn't like staying over and was gone most of the time. Tatsumaki's bedroom was quite empty, having the vanity mirror, the one plastic tree in the corner and her king-sized bed, nothing caught the eye.

She didn't have much to tarry at home for, really.

Tatsumaki didn't have very many things she cherished. Aside from the all-black kitchen she specifically designed with a huge bowl just for candy apples, Tatsumaki didn't care much for the home.

However, when she got to her apartment, it was a breath of relief. She felt like a cat walking in the rain, out of place and uncomfortable. Everything was hot in City A, and it was too vexatious.

She pressed the keypad password but was too annoyed and exhausted to get it right. She pressed her forehead to the french doors. What was it? Argh.

2334?

Wrong.

2343?

Wrong.

Argh! Tatsumaki narrowed her eyes. She was caught within a walking sleep, weight on her shoulders and sweat cloaking her whole body.

2678?

The door clicked open. Using muscle memory, all Tatsumaki did was trudge past the living room, contemplating the day's work. It didn't take her down a road she believed in. Sounds stopped.

Something brushed her foot filled with pinpricks. She lowered her eyes. A crushed beer can?

"Tornado of Terror-sama?" Someone's hushed whimper brought her out of her trance.

All of those crowded in her living room shot alertness to her eyes. She summoned all of the kitchen knives nearby, shielding herself. Someone shrieked. When she absorbed the situation, it had the worst taste!

She knew these intruders! All of them were there. Here, infesting her home with B-Class pant-suit parasites. She pointed the knives at the B-Class.

Balloons drifted aimlessly. Coloured cups and stacks of presents littered the floor like happy garbage. The room was categorically stained with iron reds, river blues and streamers and cake. Cake!

What the hell? It's three A.M in the morning and they're still having a damn birthday party. Why? The night bore down on her and these idiots were throwing a party.

"It's hot and all of you guys are here? I guess the amount of idiots increases with the temperature." Tatsumaki sighed, using her index nail to pop a floating balloon.

All of the B-Class flinched at the unexpected sound.

Most of Fubuki's idiot members seemed like they were holding a business meeting; all suits, chiffon shirts, chinos and stiff shoulders. Someone will barf a patterned wool jacket, all looking scared sick of Tatsumaki, crowding each other on her expensive chairs with supple black leather.

The only one who wasn't afraid was Fubuki, who normally brightened Tatsumaki's days, but only succeeded in making her darkly irritated.

Fubuki announced her presence. "Welcome home," Fubuki said sweetly, standing before all of her cowering goons.

Fubuki looked really adult and classy with a wine glass in hand.

Her dark green form-fitting dress spilled like a dark waterfall, leaving her normally huge fur coat lounging on the chair with prestige. Tatsumaki normally didn't get jealous of her sister's curvaceous figure but today was an exception! Fubuki looked so radiant with her hair styled in a sleek alternative bob. Fubuki was so developed! Everything about her had womanly charm.

Damn it. Damn it. And Fubuki had so many people around her. All the time. Tatsumaki hasn't seen her sister in a week and the first thing Fubuki does is this?!

Fubuki's goons —Eyelash and some other mountain gorilla— stood along with her, defensively. "Can you put the knows back? It's Lily-chan's birthday," Fubuki informed Tatsumaki's glower.

"Hmph." Tatsumaki did.

Lily? Which one was she? She never remembered the faces of these B-Class idiots from Fubuki Group. They were all losers who were unbelievably loyal to Fubuki.

Tatsumaki interrupted at inopportune moments, huh? The candles on the icing with small white littlies were lit, small bowls of finger foods laid on the table. There was alcohol since the teen girl, Lily, was turning fourteen but everyone else was over twenty.

Lily was glowing with happiness, surrounded by her pseudo-family.

Ah. Lily hoarded Fubuki, spending almost every day with Fubuki since she was her personal assistant. Of course, Fubuki would host Lily's birthday party here.

Lily was unremarkable as a hero but pretty damn good as a secretary. "You, pipsqueak, why didn't you call me ahead to tell me of this party?" Tatsumaki asked the birthday girl. "Why didn't you tell me? Whenever you guys have these weekly parties, you guys hold it in other places."

Lily's long dark hair was strange beside the ice-blue bangs hiding her left eye.

Fubuki noted her wary fear then stepped in. "We did, multiple times. You didn't answer. We wanted to do something nice for her, and also plan on getting a car. Everyone wanted to relax." Fubuki smiled. "We thought you would be at City F for another day, too. It's too late to be travelling."

"True. Even so, don't throw parties like this without a missive." Tatsumaki watched her sister stick her chin up defensively. She held up her phone. There were no messages. "Nothing was told to me! See!" she pointed to the screen.

"We sent the message at the end of March and again on Friday."

Tatsumaki broke her phone two Fridays ago when meeting Baldy. That was when Lily had her old number. Today was Tuesday, albeit the wee hours. Still.

"I have to endure this damn party when you guys constantly throw up at these get-togethers. Puking on my damn floors." Tatsumaki sighed.

One of Fubuki's goons, brave but stupid, took offence. The papery sound of his suit made her cringe. "This apartment belongs to Fubuki-sama. 50% of it. Besides, Excuse me, Tornado of Terror-sama, it's natural for people of our calibre to a party like this. You do know what fun is, yeah?" he jeered.

"I might kill you and that'll be my copacetic fun," Tatsumaki told him. "As for the puking, maybe you have that effect on people. You're untenable." Tatsumaki pointed to Eyelash. "It is my home. Therefore, I have total control over how you overstay, low-ranking B-Class."

The guy Eyelash got mighty pissed by Tatsumaki's way of discoursing. He strained his muscles, the whole air of the party interrupted. Everyone held their breath, the weight of their inferiority and their grudges against her was heavy on their shoulders.

"N-Not all of us B-Class are losers! We're not useless. We have Boss Fubuki-sama." he spat frustratedly, his sunglasses shining. "We deserve to stay."

"Oh, you mad? Do you want to stay in my house, weakling? Why the hell are you giving me attitude? B-Class are in no position to order me around! Don't make me beat you in front of your teen fairy girl."

"Fairy girl?" Lily asked awkwardly.

All of them got uncomfortable. Deep frowns, cold-eyes unwavering and sweats. Fubuki took offence, arms folded, a cup of wine held so tight, her knuckles were white. She looked beautifully angry. Fubuki's emerald gaze and sleek dress reminded Tatsumaki of an enemy.

"Eyelash," Fubuki said, stopping the one she argued with.

Eyelash acted with instant deference. "Okay, Fubuki-sama."

Fubuki avoided Tatsumaki's glare. "They're not a detriment. Not a dead weight. They're everything I've worked for. They makes sense." Fubuki said to Tatsumaki. "We're going steady to kill Dragon-level threats. We're strong. You'll see."

Tatsumaki gave a bleary sigh. Fubuki, you'll go steady to your graves if you don't ditch them, Tatsumaki sighed. Fubuki won't let go of her dumb mafia group.

For all of Fubuki's high-class necklaces and fur coats, why would Fubuki think that these idiots were worth her time? Talking to these little philistine fries was like going through a meat grinder. Low-ranking mafia idiots.

"Stop bullying my group." Fubuki finished quietly.

Fubuki always spoke quietly to Tatsumaki. No power, no passion, no courage in her words. But she ruled with authority when speaking to others.

"Buki, don't tell me how to spend my free time." Tatsumaki looked at the idiots having their birthday party. The puffy teen had a red ear and shiny eyes.

"They should know their place outside of my house at 3 am." Tatsumaki huffed.

"Their place is with me. With the strong and the worthy." Fubuki groused with truculent eyes, daring Tatsumaki to argue.

Tatsumaki dared.

"I will purposefully bash my skull against a rock just to forget what stupidity you just exposed to me," Tatsumaki said. "Just because you're the leader of these idiots doesn't mean you could throw these parties when people should be sleeping. Don't you guys have an apartment where you all assemble?"

Lily nodded, eyes shining in admiration. Fubuki gave a tender, crinkly-eyed smile. Every smile between the two were concussive hits on Tatsumaki's skull.

"We got kicked out. We have no choice but to celebrate here." Fubuki said, implying their low funds.

"You did! If you got stronger, got to A-Class like you are capable of then you would have afforded to have the world. Hell, even this apartment on your own."

Fubuki shook her head. "Can we have a nice day without you tearing people apart? But Eyelash is right, this is my apartment. You shouldn't monopolize what happens during these celebratory times. Lily deserves a party and I don't think you should ruin it."

"Ruin it? I just want to sleep! The day was exceptionally upsetting." Tatsumaki said emphatically. "I've been fighting nonstop for three days. Why the hell should I sleep in another perfunctory hotel?"

Their glares met together. "You shouldn't be here," Fubuki announced firmly. She nodded to herself then became iced in her gaze. "Go for the night." she urged.

"Why shouldn't I be here?" Tatsumaki demanded fiercely.

"Because you're not invited!" Lily erupted, bursting like a volcanic mass of dyed hair on her feet. Her shifty eyes, slender arms waving around and terribly scared.

Tatsumaki turned to the bratty half-pint fairy challengingly. "You're kicking me out of my house?"

Lily nodded. "You're stressing Lady Fubuki-sama out and your attitude super-sucks! It's my special day and I don't want any non-Fubuki group membres ruining it. If you didn't get the message or forgot since we reminded you many times, it's your fault. Besides, B-Class are invited. Only."

Tatsumaki observed all of the people then remembered she wanted to sleep. Sleep. Their laughter would nauseate Tatsumaki. She didn't want to hear their poor stories.

Tatsumaki turned to the party plates, the confetti and the idiot smile curling on Fubuki's lips. It was the longest of days and starriest nights, why was she trying to do this? She wasn't taking worthless answers. They didn't avert disaster.

"Eyelash, Fairy, your memory of disrespecting me will become your tears," Tatsumaki said, teeth grid together so hard that her teeth pulsated. "Fight in your pond. Train for the next couple thousand years, before you come to my sea, B-Class, and fight monsters."

All of them were alarmed. A breeze stirred the grey haze of Fubuki's fur coat.

Tatsumaki turned away. "If any of you B-Class idiots come to S-Class, you won't be able to sleep in my school."

Tatsumaki left, ignoring the gasps and Fubuki's annoyed yell. When Tatsumaki finally found a suitable place to be, the affluent hotel was conspicuously tall and operated on privilege.

Tatsumaki went through the shiny glass through revolving doors. Newspapers and stands with magazines of Amai Mask's face were there. Tatsumaki couldn't help but look around in dead wonder. Gold. Brightness. Marble floors. Chandeliers. Business. Suits—

And paparazzi? What the hell?

Despite the picture flashes and coos of love, Tatsumaki managed to avoid the paparazzi enough by stapling them in place with her psychic ability.

Tatsumaki's yawn drew her attention to the zany screen with a handsome face. A commercial showing Amai Mask helping people in the clip disturbed her. He was in City F? He didn't even kill any of the monsters! He went there for the press! She hated him!

Amai Mask was the single most popular hero, a teen-pop sensation with artistic flair. All of his concerts and shows built up some monetary reliance on him though funding for the association was large, Amai Mask was a breadwinner.

He was also the figurehead of the Hero Association. Popularity alone keeps him around the office. The higher-ups valued him. Be that as it may, Amai Mask was in the A-class, rank 1 position, he wasn't completely useless. Sadly, he didn't fight monsters unless it threatened his existence only.

What sucked was he could easily be S-Class but chose the life of hedonistic pleasures and pretty faces. Amai Mask was so annoying and pretty. He wore more makeup than Tatsumaki.

Not that Tatsumaki wanted him around, it was a waste that he didn't apply himself.

When Tatsumaki got to the front desk, the hotel receptionist woman was in a trance. With wide bright eyes, a professional uniform fitting her minced waist and cheeks red. She was starstruck.

The woman's perkiness just couldn't be dulled, even though it was nearing close to four a.m? Tatsumaki couldn't care less. At least she couldn't overreact to Tatsumaki's presence.

"Give me your nicest room," Tatsumaki grumbled, sliding her card over. "I don't care about the price or the bed size or your frilly recommendations, give me your nicest room. With apples and wine.."

"That's already taken for Amai Mask but we could give you another suite close to his. That way, you could tell me ALL about what he looks like in the morning—"

Whatever. Tatsumaki paid attention. "Wait— did you say he was here?" Tatsumaki sucked in a breath. She was so unlucky! Unlucky!

The woman nodded, moved and emotional when she gave the info; "He's staying here. Would you like the floor below his for better access? That's for less charge—"

"Don't put me anywhere near him. At all." Tatsumaki slammed a hand on the front desk. "Nowhere near his existence."

Tatsumaki's psychic powers splayed for a moment. The woman recognized the green luminosity and regrettably Tatsumaki's identity. Her already wide eyes almost popped out of her skull. Tatsumaki mitigated the incoming shrill scream of adoration by covering her ear.

"Oh my god! You're Tornado of Terror! Amai Mask is totally staying here for the night. I didn't know you'd show up, too, Tornado of Terror!" she spoke quickly.

"I am me. I know. He is him. We are there, together, but it isn't like some planned premeditated murder scene. I didn't want to come here. This is completely a coincidence." Tatsumaki frowned deeply, giving the woman mean eyes.

The front desk woman took Tatsumaki's card. "Is the Prince of the organization going to talk to the Princess? Is that why you guys met?"

Tatsumaki wasn't a stranger to how people wanted Amai Mask to be romantically involved with Tatsumaki. It seemed like the "perfect" couple in the tabloids.

Tatsumaki gave a smile that wasn't too acrimonious. "No. I just wanted to spend the night here without distractions—"

"That's alright," The woman winked companionably, her sing-song voice a nuisance. "Your secret is safe with me."

"There is no secret. Just don't tell him where my suite is, okay! That's a promise—" Tatsumaki cut herself off before a death threat bled through her lips.

"Okay," she drawled, voice high and unconvinced. "You're his girlfriend but you're not his girlfriend. You're just a friend for the night."

Every time Tatsumaki argued with this woman, she squandered napping time.

Tatsumaki was dour and unmistakingly murderous but her face softened up and she released laugh. She smiled in a tight, rigid way. How Atlas forced her to smile during portraits.

"Whatever. Just give me a room on the 16th floor." Tatsumaki said through her teeth. "Now."

The woman nodded, handing her the key card. "Tell me everything when you check out. I want all the details. You will enjoy your stay." she slid over her number. "Tell me everything."

"Okay." Tatsumaki turned away, marching to the elevator. She absolutely loathed everything about hotels and people.

###

 

The dark sunrise was harsh on her blood red dry eyes. The city slept, a minute. Tatsumaki hadn't fallen asleep since every embarrassment and mistake played through her mind on repeat. The guilt was worse, though.

Tatsumaki created that earthquake and Fubuki was such an asshole at times. Fubuki prioritized the Fubuki Group over spending time with Tatsumaki. It was so rude.

Tatsumaki threw apple cores off of the balcony, watching it fall, watching it confuse those walking about.

Tatsumaki hasn't slept in 20 hours. This headache was a dagger pressing into her skull and eyes. Damn it. Maybe that's why she hadn't noticed the person settling beside her on the balcony as quickly as she should have.

She spat the apple seeds into the concrete jungle below. She needed about 3000 apple seeds in order for cyanide poisoning to kick in and she'd escape her new company.

"What? Your date cancelled and you want to die, Amai Mask? I would happily take that offer." Tatsumaki groused, looking over. Why did he have to stand so close?

Amai Mask leaned on the railing, easygoing. "For the date?" Amai Mask's embers for eyes burned for a moment.

Some people would die just to stand here, near the Amai Mask with his golden eyes and muted cerulean hair.

People wanted this intimate closeness, a brush of skin and the smell of his hair because he was beautiful. His eyes sang songs to people. Eyes don't have to meet to know he's special, he demanded to be seen.

She bet all of the stars in the universe came together to illuminate his presence. Breezes wanted to touch him or maybe he put that breeze in his hair, in his face. His hair was forever tousled. Tatsumaki swore she'd make him go extinct him one day, starting with his hair.

"No. To kill you," Tatsumaki tilted her head, biting her green apple menacingly.

Did that receptionist tell where Tatsumaki was staying? Or was it those pathetic paparazzi? Legions of his fans told him anything, even going as far to leak information about companies just to get his attention.

Or… being the A-Class monster she knew, Amai Mask probably found out and climbed up the build or conversely jumped down to her balcony.

"Why the hell are you here on my balcony? This isn't Romeo and Juliet. Spoiler alert, Romeo dies. Juliet kills him." Tatsumaki continued, spitting three apple seeds he dodged. Easily. He might as well dodge bullets without fret.

"That isn't how it ends." Amai Mask gave a gentle, practiced laugh.

Tatsumaki feigned incomprehension. "Well, I would kill Romeo." Tatsumaki inspected him closely. "I would kill you, too since you found my room like some stalker." She took another big bite, waving her apple in his face. "Stalker."

Amai Mask blinked and took her apple forcefully but her hand was unsteady, limp. 

Her jaw dropped.

Spotting where her mouth made contact with it, he bit it, looking straight into her eyes. He even ate beautifully and tossed her apple over the edge beautifully. He spotted her bag of apples on the chair beside him and hauled them over.

Tatsumaki was too exhausted and superior to do anything, watching them smash down below. "Hey— what gives?" she shrilled, a window shattering nearby.

"Pay attention." The sun made his eyes a pale red colour. Blood filled. "Is that a way to talk to your senior, Princess of the Hero Association, my association?" Amai Mask smiled, assuming a power position by staring down at her.

Most people would be charmed, letting that smile choose for them but all Tatsumaki saw was a veiny, creepy boss. Amai Mask was the association's spokesperson though he sucked at talking to people, civilian or hero.

Tatsumaki squared her shoulders, glaring at him. "Why the hell are you even in City A? You might be late for another promotion commercial. You know, no one wants to join because of your face." Tatsumaki quipped, though… she couldn't help but feel she was in the presence of a monster. 

"Not according to the statistics, Princess Tatsumaki," he reminded her, using her pet name.

Tatsumaki grimaced.  

"City A has clean and organized streets. Headquarters is right there. There's lively nightlife. Beautiful environment. No restrictions. It's a nice place. I'm sure that you won't cause an earthquake here?" he said sweetly.

"I don't follow your words or songs as easily as your brainwashed fans. Don't say dumb lyrics." she snapped. She seriously didn't like him.

"It's a serious question. I am considering you a threat to the justice of the world." Amai Mask narrowed his eyes.

"You were a threat to my apples." Tatsumaki narrowed her eyes.

"Don't be childish. You know what I'm talking about."

She grit her teeth. "It'll be justice for me if you go have a fucking pasta party and leave me alone. You might be the PR of the Hero Association but even Puri-Puri Prisoner doesn't like you. He hasn't hit on you, what makes you think you're human? I don't think you're allowed to criticize me. I am not a threat. I am talent."

"I could get you locked in a tower because your talent, Princess," Amai Mask said squarely. "Don't do it again."

A cold northern chill settled on her body. People in the association bowed down to Amai Mask. She normally had messages conveyed to her by Bearded Worker but sometimes, Amai Mask would order her around. It's weird when bosses take orders from their employees. Or it's the other way around. Either way, he had too much power in that curled grin of his.

Pretty boy Amai couldn't do anything but hold a mirror up compared to her. What the hell was he talking about?

"Your A-Class lackeys would lock me up?" Tatsumaki chuckled. "None of them of the range and versatility of my powers. You aren't on my level of my psychic powers. You and the other A-Class idiots sweat profusely when you see those Dragon-Level threats."

"What's with that glare?" He seemed mildly disgusted by her yelling and tilted his head. He leaned back. "Your psychically charged ego is your worst enemy. It destroys more than it creates. It can't create at all. Your ego won't handle not being separated from the company. You are hard-working and disciplined but you can't meander while ruining the company's image. You know what the industry expects from you."

Tatsumaki stopped laughing. Suddenly. Worriedly.

"Your dependence on the Hero Association, I know your reliance on killing. Your job, your ranking is everything you have meaning in. I could take it away, maybe put you on suspension. You'll lose points."

Tatsumaki got defensive, fist ready to hit and powers charged. Amai Mask can't take my job. He doesn't have that much pull. The people need me, she thought. She couldn't help but just listen, held in his glare. 

"Separated from her group, Fubuki does have talent and potential. I would be willing to train Fubuki as a new Princesse if it meant you wouldn't ruin the industry's image." he proposed casually.

And now he's done it. 

"Don't touch Fubuki or I'll make you go extinct," she said, pointing debris, cars and everything at the building, despite the chaos below.

"I won't." he smoothed out his face, laughing. "You're cute when you're terrified. Fubuki is developed but not as a proficient Esper. Don't think I won't give out consequences if you're too reckless."

"Hmph. As if you could do anything." she let down all the items she controlled in an orderly fashion. 

"All the Hero Association's social functions, meetings and everything pass through me. You are called the Princess of the Hero Association, but nothing you do is lady-like. The only language you speak is yell and your adolescent face is marred by your social ineptitude. You are a mess. You made the association a mess after causing this indescribable disaster. Why did you do that?"

Tatsumaki, her making a mess, huh? There's going to be a better mess after she killed Amai Mask.  "Hmph. I don't care if you're bothered. Cry me a river and drown in it, little flipper." Tatsumaki shifted. 

He almost reached out, to caress her face but she dodged him. "You're not beautiful but you are strong. I allowed you into the S-Class. Don't take that for granted." Amai Mask warned.

"Stop acting like a young God and taking the credit for my feats. You haven't audaciously learned lip service, parasite. You didn't allow me anything."

He was amused, chuckling while pleased. "I let all of you into S-Class. Remember that, Princess."

"A-Class, wanna meet the S-Class member who will let you keep your life? I'll sign my autograph on your grave." she threatened. "I despise all of them but the S-Class aren't beneath you. Remember that!" 

"Even your threats are cute." He shook his head. "I will train you to have all the beautiful tactics I have. You know I like when bodies collide, face and fit. I like testing limits and setting people straight. Especially after your subpar performances and acts like yours. So unrefined."

"Huh?" Tatsumaki got taller, eye-level with him. "Unrefined?"

"You must be the only good-looking thing on disaster sites. I will teach you that." 

So many frosty words called inside. Mostly disgust. Amai Mask thought being a hero was about looking nice. People don't ever look attractive throughout conflicts. He's so fucked in the head. 

"You're so fucked up. I saw you in City F. Several monsters were in your area but there was a photo shoot and you didn't bother to help because of that stupid philosophy. The real reason you were in City F is because of publicity. I didn't see you helping anyone but other fake flimsy paid actors! You suck! You're the disaster at those sites that could have been good-looking."

That ruthless shine in his eyes returned, the one where he looked like a monster. Amai Mask flashed his fangs with the smiling come hither eyes of his. "The people needed to be reassured after the stunt you pulled, Princess, don't forget that. Besides, no one got hurt. It was taken care of."

"I'm surprised that you didn't spit on me. I don't believe you, Amai Mask. Guess what, I don't get tricked by lying smiles." she said quietly. "And it's not your association. If Blast were here, he'd fuck you up. It's his association. His."

"Blast isn't here. Come into the office this morning. We have a lot to discuss."

Tatsumaki shook her head. "I'm not going. I'm not taking orders from a guy who shows up at my balcony and threatens my job. You're all too shady and I don't want to." She stamped her foot once.

Amai Mask craned his neck. "Anything I say is for the betterment of the Hero Association. You are in no position to deny my words." He spellbound her by leaning in, lips beside her ear. "Be there or there will be consequences on Fubuki and everything else you care for. We'll go to lunch to discuss the consequences."

"Oh sorry, I'm full." Tatsumaki snarled.

"It's mandatory." he snarled back.

"To me, I deem it optional," she smirked, shrugging. "What I say is, therefore will be."

"You're going." he insisted.

Tatsumaki stuck her tongue out. "That's not my problem."

"Princess, it will be if you don't show up," He tipped his head as if he were a gentleman. "See you there."

Bathing under sodium light, his smooth skin had the milky fluorescence of an angel. Maybe his dewy skin was enticing in a crass way. His regeneration always restored his muscles without a scar. It sculpted his abdomen's shape and duvets through his shirt.

He had the body of a star. One star. But looking up, to the dark part of the sky, Blast was the universe.

Tatsumaki glared at the man when he suddenly jumped off of the balcony and went up, to his master's suite.

Amai Mask represented perseverance, strength and nobility, the epitome of heroes. Like he talked stars down from the sky. He was an idol, a star, a performer— not a fucking moral person. He managed heroes and killed monsters if his day job didn't fill in his time, which wasn't even the point of being a hero.

He wasn't a hero, he was a narcissistic asshole who took part in the Hero Association. And whoop-di-do, he was at the top… where Tatsumaki was apparently at. She wasn't too sure anymore. 

Tatsumaki looked down to her hand. Trembling.

He's the prettiest monster she's ever seen. It's rare Tatsumaki felt unsafe around other humans but some monsters were intimidating.  He wasn't a monster but why did she feel like getting rid of him? 

And how was a monster inside of the association?

Actually, who was? 

###

-End Chapter-

 

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 4-
Yugen (You Again?)

 

PFFT, TATSUMAKI DIDN'T MUCH LIKE ANSWERING TO ANYONE BUT HERSELF. So, she never did.

Lunch was better spent in solitude. Tatsumaki was an uncomplicated woman, she enjoyed being alone. Of course, Tatsumaki didn't go to Amai Mask's meeting. Tatsumaki soon left the hotel minutes after he went back to his suite. He couldn't locate her too easily.

Stupid Zombieman calling. Stupid Fubuki. Stupid world.

Coffee in hand, Tatsumaki finally marched home, five hours of sleep on her mind.

Morning light leaked onto the grey-flecked walls as she scowled into her living room, a poisonous vibration rumbling through the floor. Those B-Class idiots snored, tangled on top of each other like family in the morning white.

Fubuki wasn't there. Her psychic school called her.

Tatsumaki selfishly looked forward to talking to Fubuki, a second coffee in her left hand. Tatsumaki wanted to be awake while she confronted her baby sister.

Tatsumaki settled on the marble island counter, finishing apple pudding and toast. Tatsumaki watched the smoke waves of grey over the latte Fubuki would love.

Fubuki's favourite stuff and expensive taste were everywhere but no Fubuki. Who needed decorative towels?

The compulsive shopper Fubuki used satin and cashmere to fill that endless void of hers. Tatsumaki didn't care about materialism or Fubuki's materialism. It would be nice to see Tatsumaki's blood sister instead of her latest shopping spree.

The second coffee cup got cold. Only then did Tatsumaki realize her sister was avoiding her. Fubuki used to play with Tatsumaki ALL the time. Tatsumaki was so popular and great, Fubuki thought. Whatever happened?

The sole message from Amai Mask was: "Princess, consequences will be executed. Excuses won't save you," was the fine, tender voicemail from Amai Mask.

It was warmer than any sweet nothing Amai Mask could have left, no glitter or eye makeup. Tatsumaki loved ruining people's mornings with toes were snug in her bunny slippers.

Smirking, Tatsumaki turned on the squatting TV on the dining table. The explosions were loud, bothering them. Those freeloading B-Class could go deaf for all she cared.

Humbly swilling coffee, watching the latest devastation and burning city was a nice way to start the day.

City S, City G, City J and City N had some small scale attacks that were taken care of. Nothing exciting but the street punk Metal Bat talking rudely on TV.

Tatsumaki wanted to steal the attention from Metal Bat and his ridiculous hairstyle, though. She hated baseball and weird street kids like him. That pillbug head, his skinny baseball bat and his sister were so irritating.

Bearded Worker hasn't called Tatsumaki in for anything… Tatsumaki cleared her life's schedule and dedicated her next few hours into irritating Metal Bat.

Then a glasses-wearing reporter introduced this monster in City Z she couldn't help but want to kill.

Tatsumaki was mildly sympathetic for the pale, shrivelling reporter giving info, risking his life for the public. The reporter in City Z must have seventeen thousand heart attacks if he typically remained in City Z to record these demons. Tatsumaki might give him a candy apple if he perseveres.

"BREAKING NEWS! DEMON-LEVEL MONSTER SEEN IN PARK AREA OF CITY Z! NO HEROES ON THE SITE. MONSTER BURNING TREES AND HOMES ALIKE. SELF-IDENTIFIES AS  ABBADON.  HERO'S ASSOCIATION HAS NOT DEPLOYED A-CLASS OR S-CLASS HEROES."

Footage of a huge skeleton with flames for hair, bare-bones swayed about on her screen. Abbadon had a vendetta against the living, as it tried to burn down City Z. Abbadon targeted non-burning things and frightened people with its phalange fists of flames.

People were fearful of its charred footprints. Abbadon demonically laughed, heart beating like some unfortunate time bomb.

Tatsumaki had battle attacks, thinking of ways to kill it and have fun, expecting the call from HQ and Bearded Worker. Oh, this was gonna be exhilarating.

The TV twitched and the fraught journalist unwound. He clumsily dodged white shards of something falling.

No one was scared, running for their lives in the background. Firefighters rushed to the scene, literally grinning. Tatsumaki frowned into her cup, sipping a large gulp for caffeine. The fun's over?

"Thank God! Coming in now, Abbadon was taken care of. By whom, only an anonymous hero with one punch." The blabbering reporter articulated.

Tatsumaki spat out her coffee, slippers flying across the room. "One punch?" roared Tatsumaki with a hyper-rage.

Tatsumaki's coffee cup exploded in her hand as she growled. That was Dr. Gray's damn M.O!

"Its bones ribs are raining all throughout the city. We cannot find the body but one witness says it was defeated in one punch. It might be an exaggeration through the shock but we all are thankful for that hit. Abbadon is dead." The reporter laughed.

It was Dr. Gray. Maybe. Argh! Tatsumaki wasn't seventeen thousand percent sure but it should be him. Tatsumaki screamed. What the hell was going on?

Dr. Gray Baldy didn't call her!

Tatsumaki went onto the Disaster website, where they listed monsters seen in the cities. 4 cases of monsters with 2 Tiger-Level threats in the past four days!

Has Dr. Gray even thought of calling? That idiot! Dr. Gray killed Abbadon without Tatsumaki! How the fuck did he do that? And how long has he been doing it? Was she going crazy?

It was raining bones like some apocalypse. It was all Dr. Gray Baldy's fault! Was Dr. Gray capable and strong? Dr. Gray lifted a vending machine and did all those heroic deeds… But could he do that?

Why do I care so much? Tatsumaki paused, glaring at his picture. Am I really this bored? Was it something else?

Tatsumaki will never depend on someone. Ever. Walls. Walls. She'll build more walls instead of bridges. Tatsumaki always went bed one day knowing nobody was screwing her over.

But she never slept.

###

81-9012345677…

81-9012345677?

81-9012345677?!

That number was burned into the back of Tatsumaki's eyelids. Tatsumaki's called it so many times, she might as well change it to her last name and marry it. Out of the two-hundred times Tatsumaki called, left messages or texted… no one responded. Tatsumaki will kill Dr. Gray for every missed call, left message and text times infinity.

People normally caved now. Tatsumaki was irresistible. Well, not anymore.

Amai Mask leaked Tatsumaki was supposed to work closely with him (whatever that meant) to the press. The media tore Tatsumaki apart because she wasn't being their princess. They alleged Tatsumaki slacked off, failing her heroine duties. Maybe Tatsumaki neglected her normal patrols but this hunt was necessary! Tatsumaki wanted her bloodsport caught.

City Z was a pleasant city, monster-ridden— exactly the scene for heroes to show their strength and grow famous. When heroes get promoted, they customarily chose a city to protect and build a fanbase. Self-serving heroes cared about the later. Monster populations declined substantially.

Yet City Z didn't have a hero who claimed it.

Maybe because it was too damn big. Tatsumaki couldn't find that bastard in this inordinately large city! Dumbly, Tatsumaki had no inkling where Dr. Gray lived!

Interestingly, over the next two days, she found forty fresh monster corpses of varying threat levels killed with one punch. One powerful, calamitous attack that abolished the monster in forests, streets, and highways— restricted areas, where no one was.

Did… Dr. Gray do this? Probably not… but Tatsumaki wanted to know who possibly could.

Bearded Worker —Tatsumaki didn't know his real name, she forgot— was genuinely trying to help her. Evidently, he didn't trust her very much when he provided no straight answers. Tatsumaki wasn't supposed to go poke around Ghost Town but screw about company protocols.

Bearded Worker groaned after the five minutes of heckling and pressing. "I can't tell you all the happenings of the company and classified information!" he parroted, for the millionth time. "If I tell you who supervises the city, you will bully them."

"And?" Tatsumaki asked.

"Oh, Terror of Tornado-sama, all due respect… but… but I bet you bullied other kids when you were young and bulldozed people. A lot."

"I stole their lunches too." Tatsumaki deadpanned. "Don't destroy the coherency of your answer and avoid telling me. Tell me!"

"Are you are in City Z again?" he mumbled tensely. Tatsumaki confirmed it. "Why? Why do you frequent that City? The investigation into Ghost Town wasn't apart of S-Class affairs or concerns." ranted Bearded Worker.

"You telling me I'm not good enough to roam the city?" she theorized.

"No—"

"Then don't worry and push the line." Tatsumaki scoffed. "City Z homes many monsters to fight and win against. I'm afraid I'm the last line of defence, too."

"Last line? You haven't claimed a city." Bearded Worker disclosed wonderingly. "Are you interested in City Z, when you have City A—"

"Don't make assumptions." Tatsumaki snapped.

Tatsumaki was needed everywhere hence why Tatsumaki was never in one city at a time, though City H or City A were exceptions.

Tatsumaki's never had loyalty to City H. However, City H possessed Atlas with his brats. Tatsumaki lingered in City A because of headquarters. The occasionally homeless Fubuki trained her psychic school and the Fubuki group there. Wanting to shelter Fubuki and work drove Tatsumaki to rent an estate. But Tatsumaki doesn't like protecting the innocuous, monotonous and rich City A.

"Enough lies! Want me to send a meteor to HQ so you could tell me? No pressure." she added casually.

"Hey! So many people would die and Metal Knight would send hundreds of missiles to your bedroom if you did." Bearded Worker grit his teeth. "You wouldn't!"

"Don't make false assumptions," Tatsumaki instructed, all steely.

"Fine. No one has claimed City Z due to its substantial amount of Mysterious Beings. C-Class heroes avoid it, too, or rather… die when trying to. Some A-Class heroes move away to calmer cities. We don't send in our men very often," he declared, "or women, either like you Terror of Tornado-sama, not to suggest that women aren't apart of the organization—"

"I get it." Tatsumaki cut him off.

Cowards.

A-Class heroes who left chickened out. Great! Just GREAT. That just meant someone claimed City Z and hasn't told HQ! They don't know how to write so they have no reports, either. Tatsumaki gasped. Like a certain hero for fun…

"Tell me who works in this city and died. The heroes and villains, of course. Give me the reports of everyone who's done a job here. Send it to my laptop or if the file's too large, send it in fragments to my phone." Tatsumaki explained.

"No. The information is sensitive. I don't like being liberal with information like this, especially under strenuous situations. Who does that?" he croaked.

"Hmph. I like disturbing the comfortable. Besides, your beard would've survived the attack." she shrugged.

"I shaved this morning." he groaned, presumably sweating buckets, head on his desk. "I'm on it."

"Good boy."

Tatsumaki policed a deserted alleyway with a monster husk. It had a cylindrical wound where his heart should have been. One attack. One punch mustered. She cautiously took the photo of the weird dolphin monster.

"Is this monster in our database?" Tatsumaki forwarded the photo to Bearded Worker.

"Nope. He isn't registered," he responded.

60% of the monsters Tatsumaki took pictures of weren't in the company's database nor were they reported. Sometimes, there were bloodstains with monster-like outlines and no remains. She only took photos of the dead monsters' heads with general descriptions of its features. She didn't report the cause of death, though she knew why.

"Tornado of Terror, you don't have to busy yourself with small matters like this. I am looking over this." Bearded Worker seemed moderately offended by her actions. "City Z has some destructive monsters. In fact, Amai Mask is looking into City Z to assign new heroes and he wants you out of there, too— he's considering visiting City Z—"

"Huh? No! Don't bring him into the City Z! I won't ever forgive you or him. I deny his access. There."

"Err, Tornado of Terror— denying Amai Mask doesn't work like that. In fact, here's the message he passed along to you. "Consequences will be executed," he said. What are these consequences? Didn't you have a meeting with Amai Mask?" he questioned.

"Nope. Negative." Tatsumaki crossed her arms to further affirm that. "Keep him away from what's mine! City Z's mine. I claim this territory! It's mine. Mine." Tatsumaki stomped her foot.

"Yours? Do you want to claim City Z after those earthquakes? Good move. I'll confirm it with Amai Mask." he began.

Bearded Worker idiot wasn't using his seasonal intelligence to say smart things! She kinda tolerated his advice but this was intolerable and off-base!

"It's nice to see him involved in monster work, frankly. City Z needs a guardian and he's pretty equipped to give media attention to the problem within the area." Bearded Worker proclaimed. "And it's good to work on team-building, Tornado of Terror. It's like eating at a new restaurant. You don't know the menu but the person you're with helps with recommendations and company. Go to the meeting later today."

"Fat chance. Eating at a new restaurant? Finish eating the crumbs out of your beard before telling me what restaurants to go to," she mumbled.

"I'm not asking you to get personally involved with him, having a partnership in the Hero Association is good. You need the people skills," he assured. "Why don't you lend him an ear and solve this problem together?"

"I'll lend him both of mine if it means I don't have to listen to him."

"He said it would be exciting." he urged.

"Welp, oops, I'm boring and I don't want to meet him. There's nothing charming in him." Tatsumaki thundered. "I am tired of him. I don't want to see him."

"Wait—" Bearded Worker inhaled sharply. "You skipped the previous meeting? You didn't reschedule? You weren't killing a monster?"

"Nope. I walked away from the meeting. There's a difference. I don't ever skip. That's for children!"

"Tornado of Terror-sama… that isn't how you treat Amai Mask. You have to spe—"

"Sorry. I can't understand you. Goodbye." She hung up and swayed her head.

Amai Mask was weaselling into her life like a damn worm. She despised worms. And Bearded Worker was acting like a larva. What was Amai Mask doing, breastfeeding Bearded Worker? Why did he tell Amai Mask everything? Why was he answering to Amai Mask? Bearded Worker was Amai Mask's boss, not his fucking intern.

Amai Mask talked too much while Dr. Gray talked too little. Tatsumaki held her forehead. She had a migraine.

In City Q, Watchdog Man stayed in one place and completely gained his status through others reporting his feats. He habitually claimed there's nothing to report. Everything's dead, he killed them, and he had no more living enemies to report…

City Q was a hot zone for monster activity, even more so than City Z. Maybe the people who defended City Z controlled the monster population so City Z wouldn't become like City Q. Hm.

Tatsumaki didn't think this Dr. Gray man was on the savage Watchdog Man's level but killing advanced monsters deserved some recognition. The world would rejoice at someone seeing this slew of slain atrocities but no one saw.

Dr. Gray had time to massacre a small city of monsters but not to call? She got lunch, a meatball sandwich that Atlas usually made for dinner. Food tasted bland when she didn't eat at Atlas' home. She denied that it had anything to do with him raising her.

She went back to searching. After a couple more hours of no luck, she called the number of Bearded Worker.

"Any mouth-breathing heroes not doing their job lingering around here?" she pressed. Someone should take responsibility for this mess in the city. "Tell me the heroes in the city now."

Maybe Dr. Gray was a registered shitty doctor, hero and dumbass.

"There is Mumen Rider," Bearded Worker revealed quite easily. She wore him down.

So, Baldy was Mumen Rider? "Is his name Saitama?"

"No."

"Let me talk to him," she said. Tatsumaki wanted to lecture this Mumen Rider for not being present like Blast. She had two speeches ready for Blast. Three if children are present.

"Mumen Rider will give you tips about the road and maybe the small-time crooks but I don't think he'll help with Dragon-Level threats." Bearded Worker said, office sounds interrupting him.

Pfft. Yeah. Anyone who isn't me won't help much but I need to have a word with him! Tatsumaki rolled her eyes.

Bearded Worker began listing off facts. "He's C-Class, rank 1. His weapon is a bicycle and gauntlets. Nicknamed "Justice", he is very diligent and has been described to never overlook any crime or criminal, no matter who he's facing. He had remained the top C-Class hero for half a year but denied the promotion to B-Class due to other stronger heroes deserving the spot."

"So… Mumen Rider, he's a useless jackass to this city." Tatsumaki sighed.

Well, Dr. Gray's (Saitama?) work wasn't C-Class… So, Mumen Rider was different from Baldy. If Tatsumaki lectured every weak hero, her vocal cords would snap.

"No. It's honourable. He does patrols during Christmastime. Very popular with the public." Bearded Worker added, kindly charmed.

"Yeah, me too. I work. Hard. He clearly hasn't, stuck in C-Class! People in C-Class are embarrassing to humankind." she groaned.

"Hey, I'm C-Class level in strength!" protested Bearded Worker.

"Yeah, you're a noob. Beardy boy, you've lowered my integrity as a human by conversing with you. Do you know how much you've drained my power levels in the past three years?" she joked.

"If you dislike me so much, why do you use me as your associate?" he sighed into the speaker. "You throw fits whenever someone else consults with you on these things."

Bearded Worker tapped away, probably looking at several screens in an ominous office with a beard. She kinda liked him. Bullying him mercilessly about beards was the fun part of her day.

Tatsumaki wouldn't let anyone have him, though. Not even Amai Mask.

Bearded Worker was assigned to her the first day, him in administrative affairs and her with lowly jobs. Tatsumaki had a head injury when formally applying for the association and almost flunked the written test.

People deemed Tatsumaki and Bearded Worker useless, so they were useless together for a month. They both rose in ranks as Bearded Worker was acknowledged for his technological and leadership skills and Tatsumaki, well, for everything.

"Simple. You buy me candy apples. You're S-Class in intelligence and compassion. You also don't have to use a dictionary for the words I use," admitted Tatsumaki.

"That's not a compliment."

"And I don't throw fits, idiot." Tatsumaki shrugged. "Hey, your beard eats other beards for breakfast. That's admirable, you never have to pack a lunch. Chomping away like that."

"That's not what beards are for and we don't do that. I don't even have that much of a beard. Do you know how facial hair works?" he demanded, the only company worker able to use that tone.

"It's a lunchbox for lazy people." Tatsumaki nodded to herself. "C'mon, don't cry. You'll water your beard. If you need comfort, hug your beard."

Bearded Worker wasn't thrilled with her answer. "Anyway, Terror of Tornado-sama, here's a text of his appearance. He will meet you at Yoyogi park in the east. I have real work to do. And no more favours. After this meeting, you're done in City Z…"

Bearded gave her the coordinates and Tatsumaki sighed. Mumen Rider really looked like a jackass. And Bearded worker couldn't stop her from doing what she wanted to.

###

Tatsumaki was sure rays of disappointment shone down on her when waiting for Mumen Rider. She texted Bearded Worker whilst lounging on a bench.

So. He's bad at everything. Including coming on time. It must be a hero-thing. To be late. I'll kill him.

- Tatsumaki.

You're meeting in a public place for a reason. There will be less casualties. :)

- Bearded Worker.

I promise nothing. ;)

Tatsumaki.

:(

- Bearded Worker

The park was fresh with kids, people with businesses and hobbies. Childish yells of fun and music were bothersome. The metallic park had bright yellow heated slides.

The open plain of grass was near the inner part of the city, an oasis of green. Many people walking around with sporty wear, stretching or jogging around crisp grass and trimmed trees. It was endless.

City Z had many parks and kids and families and dogs. They interacted with charming street vendors and the flat edge of the river bank.

Tatsumaki stood, comparing the photo to the physical version of the underwhelming Mumen Rider coming closer.

Oh my god, his outfit is worse in person, Tatsumaki thought.

Mumen Rider had a huge beetle green helmet with yellow straps, brown shoulder pads with glasses obscuring his eyes and a dark suit under his thin armour. Mumen Rider was of average height with precipice-dark hair. His goggles were just so old-style with his maroon armour. She was scowling, seeing her narrowed eyes in his wide lenses.

Mumen Rider's green bike made her eyes burn out of her skull due to the rosiness on her cheeks. She wanted to scream nicely and die because she couldn't ride that bike. Or any bike. She never learned.

Mumen Rider didn't notice her wanting to hide behind iron curtains. Even so, Tatsumaki was struck by the sun found in his smile. Tatsumaki ignored the urge to reach out to know if it were real. She was pissed.

Mumen looked like he wanted to shake her hand or hug her or stare forever but he restrained himself. Luckily. She didn't like killing people on Thursdays anyway.

He bowed slightly. "You are Terror of Tornado! Hello, Tornado of Terror-sama! It's n-nice to meet you. Welcome to City Z! I heard you wanted to meet and d-discuss heroic things. Like a team." Mumen Rider extolled, genuinely merry.

"I don't do teams." Tatsumaki recited. Is that why Bearded Worker let Tatsumaki see Mumen Rider, to do team exercises?

"Well, we could get udon. I k-know a great place near here where we could chat. I will pay, for sure. No fighting on splitting the bill. I know there are always fights. But hey, you'll win that one like every epic battle. Even so, I'll try my hardest to treat you." he rambled, nodding his head.

"I don't eat with people. And I don't think your body moves like mine, so you wouldn't ever run strong in that race," Tatsumaki tilted her head. "Ever. For truths."

Mumen Rider didn't seem attacked but caught off guard. "Yeah." he chuckled, a bit inferior. He settled his fists on his hips, oddly sprightly and comfortable after her comment.

"I didn't think you'd come here, to my city but I've seen you on the news, patrolling. It's not very often I see powerful S-Class heroes in this part of town." He paused. "Is this your test message?" Mumen Rider held up his phone, which was the model she had. Bearded Worker's slow mannerisms found its way into text alright.

Tatsumaki nodded, watching him impassively. "My Bearded Worker sent you a message detailing the fact we needed to meet. I didn't expect to actually see your bicycle." she directed her glare at the dreaded bike. She will conquer that distorted tin can.

Not hearing Tatsumaki's sarcastic disdain, Mumen Rider was flattered by her words, accidentally opening space for conversation.

Mumen Rider observed his bike, proud like a father. How Atlas looked at her whenever she didn't fail her finals.

Mumen Rider beamed. "It's pretty cool. A n-new model with a revised head tube, chain rail and rear derailleur. I could manage to go 2.5 times faster. But I don't get tired as easily." Mumen Rider said confidently. "And it's—"

"Hmph. I never much liked bikes. They're a yawn." she said, voice high pitched.

At 28, the guy was 2.5 times faster than she was. Talk about embarrassing. The green colour paint job was okay, the colour of fresh green apples before the harvesting season. However, it didn't spare him but he truly used a bike. A bike.

He nodded, voice not wavering. His fair and fragile mind didn't falter. "I like motorcycles more. To be honest. These are pretty handy, though." he laughed, flustered. "Especially a-after I lost my license."

"There's a story there." hummed Tatsumaki.

"Yeah. It's actually pretty—"

Tatsumaki held up a hand. "I don't need to know. Trust me."

"T-Trust?" Mumen Rider repeated.

Tatsumaki nodded concisely. Mumen Rider turned around, settling his worried arms. Tatsumaki wanted to reach out and flick his helmet, maybe to shake up his brain but she couldn't handle it.

"Shall we go?" Mumen Rider dislodged the kickstand and held onto the handlebars.

"Negative. I don't want to eat." Tatsumaki got closer while stared each other down. Well, Tatsumaki did.

He looked away, beyond. "I'm the bicyclist for justice, Mumen Rider. A C-Class professional, have been for a long while helping people. I've only seen you on TV and in the elevator going to the places with the higher-ups while I'm on the streets for justice and you're fighting Demon-Level threats. We aren't fighting, er, and you don't want to team up… so Tornado of Terror," he swallowed, seeming curious, peering back owlishly, "why did you meet with me?"

"Let's skip the formalities and the hassles of meeting. Veteran heroes have a lot to deal with. I found it important to have a summit and ask." Tatsumaki cleared her throat, folding her arms. "What are doing in City Z if you're not helping much?"

Mumen Rider steadied his bike, kickstand and all with expertise.

"Get it through your helmet, to your brain that your City Z heroes are not making enough effort. Not reporting stuff, not asking for help or not getting stronger. If you're on the level of my sister, Fubuki, why the fuck haven't you helped or trained more? You're on a bike, not a tricycle. You have the opportunity of a full grown man, hero, whatever. Do something about it." she lectured him.

He took a while to recover but spoke. "D-Do something about it?"

"Yeah! 600 people have died in the past year because City Z can't find better heroes. Why are there are only two of you heroes here on a consistent basis?"

"My skill set matches my opportunities. I only have a bike and a helmet and justice on my side but that's more than enough!" he countered, timid but defensive. "I try to keep this place safe from harm."

"Then why didn't you ask the Hero's Association for help? Aid. New fucking bike wheels! My help! You're there in this company for yourself but not by yourself." Tatsumaki yelled. "Are you dumb or something?"

"That's not true. We're in this Hero's Association to save people, not to boast about accomplishments and feel good about ourselves." Mumen Rider gave a small laugh. It was sort of sad and small, breathy.

So much of the association was about public perception and strong social, societal impacts. Mumen Rider hinted it shouldn't be that way. Why didn't Mumen Rider trust the company? Yeah, there were some creepy bosses like Amai Mask and slouches like Bearded Worker but she liked working.

"I take pride in defending the city indiscriminately. I may lose, at the end of my strength but I fight. I have to fight to protect the peace. The S-Class doesn't care enough about the common folk to appear in this City Z regularly." Mumen Rider explained. "Only the big, devastating monsters are responded to and even then, the S-Class chooses when to appear or how much to fight."

"We don't need to if you'd had just done your fucking job! Oh my god! Demon-Level threats aren't even that hard to defeat and you struggle with a Wolf! It's pathetic. All of you C-Class heroes are pathetic and soft!" Tatsumaki shook her head.

"I know." he conceded.

Tatsumaki blinked. He wasn't supposed to agree. They normally had pride.

"I know all of that." Mumen Rider lowered his glare, arms shaking with discernible disgust and rage. "I am not strong enough to perform up to your standards but I gravitate towards pain rather than softness and I don't quit this city."

Hm. So he knew he wasn't everlasting but he still tried to help the city, though he wasted his life.

"I do all of that but what are you doing about the tragedy of City Z?" asked Mumen Rider challengingly.

Hunting a certain Baldy for not calling back, Tatsumaki wanted to say but that wouldn't blow over well since Mumen Rider hasn't tried to get better. He settled.

"Me? I'm just bringing up the problem to oblivious tricycles like you!" she mentioned."You've fallen into the culture of inaction! By dinting your helmet with reality and facts, you'll learn that maybe you're supposed to be complaining about your obsolete self as a defeatist!"

"Why aren't you helping?" he asked simply.

Tatsumaki stopped and looked at him for the moment. "Me? Helping?"

He shifted, pausing loftily. "Tornado of Terror-sama, I'm not a doomwatcher and there is a problem in City Z. Y-You're complaining but you aren't doing anything to help because you think complaining is enough. It isn't. Not in heroism." Mumen Rider said.

Tatsumaki was an autumn tree at the moment, stripped bare by those windy words. She was embarrassed. Very much.

"You're a weak, minor C-Class. What do you know about h-helping people? Why commit suicide in your work clothes if you can't help?" she sputtered.

"I'm a hero. Dying's apart of the job. It's not suicide if you're saving someone. At least I'll be here and that means something. Are you going to stay and do something about City Z?" he asked quietly.

She didn't know. Probably not. Tatsumaki responded with silence.

"I'm here, consistently and the public has someone reliable and dependable. You're powerful but absent. Our City Z monsters seem like a nuisance to you." Mumen Rider said bravely.

Tatsumaki sighed, waving her hand. "What justice are you achieving, assuming shit like that? I thought you stood for truth, which never damaged anything."

Mumen Rider got fiercer, aggression in his body and stance. There was a strange emotion within her but it wasn't pity or jealousy. It churned sourly within her stomach.

"No matter how the world changes, justice should remain constant. My justice will remain constant. With power comes duty but with the willingness to fight evil and have justice in perpetuity, people you like should keep." he spoke.

Tatsumaki was angry. Angry at Mumen rider for speaking like that and the guilt inside— no… that was humiliation or guilt. I'm here. For now, Tatsumaki thought. Did that matter? It should. Did it?

Tatsumaki was paranoid now.

"I'm going to go fight monsters or a purse snatcher. It was nice to meet you but I would like to go help now," he said, getting into his green bike.

Mumen Rider was trying to sting Tatsumaki. Mumen Rider, I know your nickname but let's torch this tired act. I only answer to progress, Tatsumaki thought but couldn't say. Tatsumaki didn't normally hesitate or lie but saying it felt wrong.

Mumen Rider watched her for a long while, a slight smile on his face but it was sour and subtle. Like water with a dash of lime.

"What? The meeting's over. I will get no help from a C-Class. As always," snapped Tatsumaki, ignoring how people were staring.

"Ah. It's nothing." Mumen Rider turned away. "Just saying, All S-Class heroes were C-Class at one point." Mumen Rider reminded her and pedalled away, to have a sword fight with q-tips or something.

Well, he was useless. She knew that. It didn't get better when yelling at him. Mumen Rider was without filter, without defence. It was incredibly easy to just yell at him… but also acknowledge his purity.

Would it be suicide to him if he died fighting for justice against an enemy he knew he couldn't beat? To her, yes. But he seemed like the type to try anyway.

After standing in the odd scam that people called life, Tatsumaki wondered about the major incidents in City Z she's missed. The natural disasters, terrorism and the dangerous monsters. She complained about them. C-Class looked for purse snatchers, robberies and random attacks. They handled the small grunt work and have to take cold calls. They also complained about it.

People complained but they don't help because they think that's enough.

Tatsumaki sighed at him and opened her phone, browsing the monster pics and other photos. Dr. Gray appeared, bald and awful and not calling. Was she trying hard enough? At anything?

The city was quiet. Maybe Tatsumaki should just go home. Metal Bat needed a daily insult to keep healthy and she wasn't helping anyone.

She was about to set off, floating with a bird-eye view of the park. With that one cursory glance, Tatsumaki saw him. Lounging in the sun in the middle of the park, laying on the grass as this mass of yellow and hate.

Rage. Full on rage enveloped Tatsumaki with the burn of dry iceIt made her heavy as she settled on the ground. Tatsumaki incredulously stared him down, hands on her hips, blocking the sun from caressing his yielding, tanned skin.

Dr. Gray does not get to sunbathe. No. Nope. No. Not after the shit he's pulled.

Dr. Gray was at ease, unusually slack-faced. He wore a belt with a brown buckle, securing his dumb yellow one-piece suit in place. His red gloves and red boots were jarring to the naked eye. He enjoyed the breeze as he was cushioned by his white cape.

So, this was his location, a lovely burial site. Ohhis face will be a punch card. A punch card. Tatsumaki will drag him to a grave, kill him, and bury him with attacks.

Dr. Gray Baldy had the I.Q of a lemon and the suit of one too. Lemons don't hide very long against sharp knives like Tatsumaki.

Dr. Gray's eyebrows twitched. He wasn't able to bask in the sunlight and noticed the interruption. "Is it cloudy?" Dr. Gray murmured softly to himself.

Hell usually had acid rains. So, she guessed death was pretty cloudy. "Get up, idiot." Tatsumaki kicked his knee.

The pain came a thousandth of a second later. Tatsumaki just kicked steel box of gold. She held down the scream. She's endured worse than this but how was his skin— like that? Was it his suit? What the hell!

And her foot pulsated. Hurt. Ouch. She hasn't been dealt with physical pain for a long time. As if a fly landed on him, her hit didn't deal any damage. She hasn't resorted to using her body in such a long time and it backfires?

"What was that?" Baldy yawned, becoming boneless and skinny and weak.

Dr. Gray made eye contact with her. They gaped at each other with varying degrees of horror and scrutinizing disdain.

"Oh, shit. It's that midget grocery thief—" Dr. Gray's eyes widened.

"Don't call me that! Address me with respect after the shit you pulled!"

Tatsumaki wanted to kick him again but that seemed like a bad idea. Subconsciously. For seem reason.

"What did I do wrong?" He noticed her glaring. "Hey… Why are you here? How'd you find me."

"You are sincerely the father of all nonsense. All of it." Tatsumaki held her forehead.

"That didn't answer my question. Man, you're too evasive."

What a fucking hypocrite! Tatsumaki was too evasive?!

Dr. Gray Baldy was the one who evaded her for almost a week with his weird, shitty chameleon tactics. He was the background characters in dreams with his bored eyes and placid complexion. Such an evasive bastard.

He was.

"How I came here doesn't matter." Tatsumaki steadied herself again. "I'm curious, Dr. Gray. You haven't answered ANY of my calls and most of the time, there were monsters around. So hell yeah I'm curious, why didn't you call?"

"Don't be curious," said Dr. Gray simply.

"Huh? Don't be curious! You're kidding me! I have so many concerns and questions—"

He rubbed his eyes. "Why's there more than one?" he seemed irritated by this.

Smartass.

Dr. Gray's the spawn of evil. The evil spawn if he doesn't know what's wrong. With his attitude, she was shocked he was still alive did he really kill those monsters? She was half-sleepy when she made the theory and jealous… Many S-Class heroes could kill with one punch.

Why was she here? She wasted time but she still had to know.

Tatsumaki walked to him, hands on her hip. She levelled her face with his, dying to ask the big question. "Hey, Dr. Gray, perpetual novice, did you really kill all those monsters?" Tatsumaki asked quietly.

"Which one?"

Pause. Dr. Gray got uneasy.

"These." Tatsumaki showed him the pictures of all of the monsters she found and all of the corpses that were there too.

Each time Tatsumaki switched the pic, Dr. Gray sweat even more. Something like satisfaction and recognition flashed through Dr. Gray's eyes. So… it was him. Dr. Gray closed his eyes after she repeated her question.

"Will you leave me alone if I did?" Dr. Gray opened a sole eye.

"Negative. Quite simply no." Tatsumaki folded her arms. She couldn't.

Dr. Gray Baldy didn't even hesitate, taking on the most ridiculously morose voice. "Then beats me, I dunno who defeated all of those monsters." he put on a dead ass expression. "I, uh, don't know at all…"

"You're a TERRIBLE liar!"

"And you're blocking my sun. Move outta the way, people are trying to relax."

Tatsumaki scowled at the idiot. "Attached to the sun, huh? Wanna see it in high definition? I'll ship you to another dimension for ignoring me." For five days!

"As long as it has a sun, I'm good." Dr. Gray shrugged, arms cradled under his bald head.

"You'd be good? I would've dragged you back by your hair but you don't have any! Your last brain cell will do." hissed Tatsumaki.

Dr. Gray glared at her. "No one was talking about hair! Damn it." he waved his arms, covering his face.

Tatsumaki shifted on the spot. Huh. He's a not-so-perpetual novice. Tatsumaki gazed at his red fist. It didn't seem deadly but… it was. Being around him made her uncomfortable.

Tatsumaki acknowledged him and his dead ass expression. But her house of judgement has been refurbished. He was more concerned about the sun rather than the fact he claimed City Z without alerting the Hero Association. The worst thing is that he saw these monsters on the disaster channel. Some of the monsters he killed match up with the ones seen on TV!

"Tch. I thought you'd call when you figured out you needed my help. You needed help with those monsters, remember!" said Tatsumaki, testing whether or not he'd react. She didn't really believe the words but maybe he would justify himself or his strength if he got angry.

"I don't lose and you have a lot of free time," he said resolutely.

Fr-Free time?!

What was with this guy's answer? He didn't get provoked by anything serious and didn't even try to say he was strong.

Tatsumaki's foot throbbing told her something else, something she didn't want to confront.

Tatsumaki could make him her lackey and they will unlock the mystery of the restricted area and the plentitude of the monster population. Starting now.

"Hey, disgraceful baldy, get up." Tatsumaki tilted her head. "Let's go and kill those leftover monsters. See how you contribute to me. See if it's actually you."

"I'm risking it all if I go anywhere with you," Dr. Gray said, quite conscientious and afraid.

"What are you risking, aside from your shitty habits? Just follow my lead. You won't have to think so much. Not like it happens much anyway."

Dr. Gray scratched his head, groaning. "You're really persistent. I thought to humour you then blowing you off would do it but it isn't."

"Why would that work?"

"That's how I usually avoid bigheads."

He was such a dick!

"Me? A bighead?" Tatsumaki shook her head. "I have perfect proportions. Did you know that clams live up to 400 years? They can be small, the average weight of 0.5 to 2 kilograms. Tiny. The tardigrade or "water bears" are tiny and they could survive underwater or in space. It's science that I'm not a big head."

"If I were those things, I would come for Poseidon." Dr. Gray tapped his chin. "That'd be a great challenge."

"It's a challenge? Poseidon doesn't exist and Poseidon is a mythological God. You'll find many monsters who live in the sea. They're pretty challenging. There has been a rather large emergence of deep sea creatures."

Dr. Gray considered it for a bit. "Noted."

"So, tell me where you find all of these monsters. Don't forget I need to find other idiots like you living in the restricted area." Tatsumaki nodded. "I want to format a concise map of monster hotspots so these monster attacks won't affect so many people. There will be personnel specifically placed in that location to protect people like you. Maybe even a whole regiment of trained heroes who will defend City Z since you nor Mumen Rider can't do it."

Bearded Worker didn't want her to get involved for some reason and she just gave a speech about her rough plans.

"It's okay, I'll just defeat them." he waved her away.

"Maybe you didn't hear me! I'm not gonna mince words. Tell me where they are." she raised her voice, frowning at him.

He seemed moderately horrified of her. Freezing up.

"Better yet, let me answer your question, we're going to go look together and find all of these monsters. As tardigrade were the first animals to survive in space. Behave and you won't die in space."

"Hey…" Dr. Gray said concernedly. Annoyed. "I'm busy and I don't know your real name." He squinted to her. "Is your name—"

"Don't hurt yourself. My name is Tatsumaki-sama. Terror of Tornado. We have a business to do."

"No, thanks, Tats." He leaned back down, lounging in the sun like some societal reject.

"Huh? You wanna call me that without p-permission? That's not what I am. It's Tatsumaki-sama to you. Always."

"Okay. I'll compromise, Tatsu," The line of his smile has a mischievous curb. He was riling her up on purpose. Purpose!

"Curb your mischief, hairless swine, it is Tat-Su-Maki. Not Tats. Not Tatsu. It's Tat-Su-Maki!" she stressed.

"It's too long. It almost has fifteen syllables." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Zuzu is way easier to remember."

Bastard! Tatsumaki impulsively kicked his knee again and collapsed because of the pain. What the fuck. Why did that hurt?! Fuck. Fuck!

"It's dangerous to keep on kicking me, Zuzu. Your foot okay?" he asked, concerned.

Tatsumaki toughed it out and pretended not to hurt. "No, but my hands work. I will beat you until my hands have no blood left to bleed."

"Why not just go to the park, you'll have more fun there?" he genuinely asked.

Tatsumaki raised a fist, trembling and full of threat. 

He smirked a bit. "Zuzu, if kicking he was no good, why would you punch me?"

"You really don't care about your life, huh? I almost paid for your shitty lifestyle and a comb for your ear hair." she rolled her eyes.

Dr. Gray tapped his chin. "I like to hoard money like my resources in a game but when buying stuff, it's the thought that counts. And the bargain. Always find a bargain."

"I say, it's not the gift that matters. It's the price of the gift," she said.

"That's not how it works." he mildly frowned.

"In my book it is." Tatsumaki shrugged.

"Can you read properly then?"

"Shut the fuck up," Tatsumaki got back on task, floating instead of just sitting there, on the ground with him. "How many more did you kill? Aside from my counted forty?"

"Wasn't counting," he answered… or rather didn't.

"Do you know any numbers past ten?" Tatsumaki groaned.

"Why'd you come and talk to me if you're all smarmy? A big head."

Tatsumaki composed herself before wanting to punch him into the fucking sun. Tatsumaki sighed. People say time stands still for love and careers are like hand-knit sweaters. One thread or one news report could undo years of work.

She couldn't explain the low current of electricity buzzing through her as she glared down at him. It was… weird.

"You are a terrible beloved." Tatsumaki face-palmed. "I can't believe this snowballed into this."

He sat up roughly, shocked. "What does that mean?"

"If you've been watching the news. You'd know." There was radioactivity on her cheeks too hot, so she turned away.

"What's the big idea? Why'd you turn like that?" he asked.

"Shut up, kneecap! I-I'm just scratching my chin!"

He didn't buy it but let her be. She calmed her face down after a minute or two.

She offered a flustered shrug. "The m-media's confirmed they have nothing but filling for skulls. All these idiots say that we're together. On the news. So, I turn to you, he who shouldn't be spared from scorn, since you probably saw the rumours." she said stiffly.

"What rumours?" he asked. "You lost me. There was a cloud that looked like Kombu. Haven't had any in a while. But continue your boring story."

"Idiot octopus head!" She turned around and got in his face. "There are rumours about you being a jackass and ones of you and I being engaged. Being Beloveds, by the way, you're terrible at it."

He was appalled and shocked. "You in love with me or something?" he accused her casually.

"No! This is a really bad thing!" she growled with wrath. "I don't even like you, let alone love!"

He raised his arms in surrender. "I'm not supposed to have stalkers at this point. And I'm not lookin' for marriage. You're looking to get married but I want to be happy."

Don't be Zomebieman 2.0, Dr. Baldy! And Tatsumaki would make anyone happy. She'd make so many apple pies and buy them festival tickets! Tatsumaki should feel worse for including him in this public mess but he was the useless jackass to her.

He scratched his head. "The media needs hobbies. I don't care much for people's opinions. They were all bigheads."

"Even so, we're a thing. Fake, awful but a thing. People think that you and I are in a relationship. The public isn't supportive of me at the moment." she admitted, casting a look his way. "Beware."

He considers after Tatsumaki suspended him in silence. "Are you going through some redemption arc?" he asked.

"No." she blinked. What type of question is that? "Why?"

"Man, those don't end well." he blew air out of his mouth. 

Idiot. "I don't care about what people say! Those small fries like you can't even handle the true potential I possess. Redemption arc or not. Being in a relationship is tiring, useless and a bad coping mechanism to everyone who can't deal with their pasts."

"I'm not a small fry, I'm a full potato. Ba dum dum tss," he said.

Tatsumaki gave him a dry look. What type of idiot was he? Tatsumaki almost had a seizure because he was so funny. Ha. Ha. Ha.

"Get it... it was making a joke about fries," he clarified, thinking she didn't understand because of the scowling.

"No. You're a potato with blight." she said hotly. Exasperated, Tatsumaki buried her hands in her face. "This world is hopeless. People are useless. The media is useless because people are useless and the world is hopeless. I can't believe the media thinks I'll marry you."

"You really have ambivalent ethics, huh. Why didn't you just tell the media it was a lie?" He widened his eyes when she looked at him. "Are you doing it for the attention?"

"Fuck attention. I'm not shallow. There are always rumours of whom I'm dating. You think the media would believe me if I told them the truth? People don't like the truth! I just needed to give you a heads-up since you're a participant in this circus too. You don't care, though."

"I didn't need to know." Dr. Gray tilted his head.

They remained in resolute silence, which was a balm for her nerves. She didn't like starting conversations or participating in them either.  

"Enough chattering, let's just go find a monster. I'll pay you to shut up." Tatsumaki changed the subject. "I need to know your power level. It's probably an odd number or you're just too lucky. We'll crush monsters and I'll see who you really are."

Watching her, he noticed the determination in her eyes. "Why do I feel like I won't have a choice in this?" he murmured.

"Because you don't. Let's go to the restricted area and you'll kill a monster," she said. He sighed, getting to his knees like a tired ox and brushed himself off.

There it was, a man surrendered! Something kind of lucky gleamed in her eyes. She was beaming and cool as she triumphantly floated away.

He frowned at her back, she felt it. "I have a feeling you won't leave me alone," he said simply.

"I'm a real slave driver when it comes to doing work." Tatsumaki looked back with a sweet, lily-soft tone. "It's my best quality."

His shoulders completely hunched. "Hey! Why are you bragging about it?"

Tatsumaki laughed then choked. How was her dry and colourless heart laughing? That was the second time he made her laugh. Tatsumaki turned away, suddenly covering her cheeks and mouth.

"That was weird. You good, Zuzu?" he inquired.

"Don't call me that! It's Tatsumaki!" growled Tatsumaki.

"Zuzu, you angry?" he teased, enjoying himself.

"No. I just hope you die from an iodine overdose while your thyroid problems take over your life." Tatsumaki fumed.

"What are you talking about?"

A simper grew on her lips. "Kombu has extremely high amounts of the mineral iodine. It breaks down sugars that the gut can't digest so yeah, you'll be dead, gassy, and huge since thyroids produce hormones to make you grow. Uncontrollably." she said darkly.

"Kombu is cheap and great." Dr. Gray gave her a nod of respect. "I didn't know you were some science wiz. You just seemed like a sassy, lost child in grade 2." he complimented her. Or not.

"Grade 2?!" Tatsumaki shrieked. What type of roundabout compliment was that?

Dr. Gray measured her height against his. "Nope. Kindergarten, that's what I first thought," he concluded.

Tatsumaki gritted up his expression. "Listen here punk, I didn't know that you, a doctor, can't figure out the secret to hair growth. Pity you don't use your intelligence for good or how to reverse ageing." she shook her head. "Sad. Don't think you should trust your own judgment."

He held his forehead protectively. "So what if I don't have hair? Why the hell are you so mean if you wanna kill monsters with me?" Dr. Gray stopped abruptly.

They were walking on the gravel path in order to get to the restricted area. She didn't know whether or not to trust his sense of direction or... his anything but he seemed pretty confident until now.

He did have a valid question. One she was endeared to answer. "I like to get things done by myself but I am testing you. Testing. Proctors like me do need students, after all, and I am an excellent teacher." she gave him a stern look. "My sister is my only student. You got that? I'll only teach her."

Her gaze pinned on him made him swear."You won't hear any smack from me." Dr. Gray waved his yellow arms in a soothing manner. 

"Good," Tatsumaki nodded. "You are loosely a working partner though working with people wastes time." Tatsumaki described thoughtfully.

He gazed blankly, one brow upturned. "Huh?" 

Tatsumaki blithely continued, happy to share her. "Working with people is just a series of people wasting my time. I might as well destroy their self-esteem to waste their time back." she looked at him, waving her hand.

"That doesn't make sense." 

"Yes, it does! It's revenge, sweet, sweet revenge!" Tatsumaki rolled her eyes, puffing her cheeks. "Like humans can't see air and fish can't see water, I don't expect you to understand or see the truth of my words."

"That's a bad ideology. It's dodgy and dark," he said, eyeing her thoughtfully. "And fish can't see the water? That's weird."  

"That doesn't matter. Do you like working with people?" she huffed.  

"No," he frowned at her pointedly. "Not really."

"Me neither. Why not spend your time wisely?" she shrugged, sharing her erudition.

Tatsumaki didn't care about making friends. Caring was creepy, acquaintances were creepy and family was mildly terrifying. People working with Tatsumaki was the only thing others were afraid of doing... Aside from Zombieman. But he was rather creepy too. 

Tatsumaki opened her phone. Bearded Worker hasn't texted the files back. So, he was certainly holding out. She'll wear him down.

Tatsumaki remarked Dr. Gray still concocting her words.

Tatsumaki shook her head, frustrated. "Are you still stuck on the fish comment?" tormented Tatsumaki.  

He blinked, twice. "You say complicated things," he informed her but resumed walking. "I guess it doesn't matter to think 'bout it."

Tatsumaki matched his footsteps so he couldn't wander off. Then she realized she called the wrong number. She was angry about that, it bubbled in her chest. "Oh yeah, why did you give me a fake phone number?" Tatsumaki asked, words like acid coming up her throat.  

"So you wouldn't call," he answered honestly. "I thought it'd work."

"Too bad." Tatsumaki had slits for eyes. "I called anyway and not calling doesn't stop me from getting what I want. Do I need to put that jigsaw puzzle together for you?"

"How many pieces?" he chirped back. 

"Hm. 22. For every bone in your skull I'll break." she said. "You'll probably die by the time I'm done."

Dr. Gray was terrified, stepping away from her side. Ha. She made him terrified.

"So, puzzle-to-be, you will get a phone, right?" Tatsumaki said though it wasn't a question but intention.

"Phones are too expensive."

Cheap thug. Of course, they're too expensive. She wanted to buy him a phone so she wouldn't be ignored but she decided not to. 

Tatsumaki looked at him, the musculature and his dull features. "You made a terrible first impression on me and then you don't keep promises. I humbled myself for you and you took advantage of that." she shook her head. "That's so rude."

"Rude? I didn't promise anything." he stopped, looking down at her.

Tatsumaki clucked her tongue. "I thought it was a promise and that bad impression stuck. Now you've killed all these monsters and created some case that I have to investigate. Do you think you help people?" she asked after a pause.

"Yeah." he nodded.

"Then we'll help someone survive by killing the monster we find. You have to care about the job you're meant to do, not the people you work with. Human interaction is the worst part of humanity, after all." Tatsumaki preached. It was her motto.

"I guess you have nothing better to do, either," Dr. Gray said, watching her closely. "You're bored."

"I'm bored when I don't save others. Is that fucking wrong?" she demanded, challenging him with the ascending tension.

"Not a bad reason to be bored." he shrugged.

"It really isn't."

Tatsumaki, for the first time maybe, agreed with him. And that wasn't the worst way to be bored. The hunt was over and he wasn't bleeding yet. The monster will take care of that task when they encounter it.

This man was probably the eeriest phenomenon since Fubuki was born. Tatsumaki was mean since caring was creepy. Carelessly, she was caring for this Dr. Gray. Did she help people because she was bored or because she wanted to help others?

That was the question she couldn't answer when looking at Baldy. Was she trying to help him or herself?

Damn Mumen Rider for leaving her with these thoughts.

 

###

-End Chapter-

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 5-
Scientists

 

TATSUMAKI DIDN'T LIKE HOW THE MONSTERS DISAPPEARED WHEN THEY HUNTED.

Dr. Gray and Tatsumaki wandered for hours, getting lost and found in their hunt. Dr. Gray used the necessary street signs with transit to complete their job. Or rather to not complete it.

He mostly led the way since he knew the city better. Tatsumaki did try to dominate the situation by trying to directing him, somewhat. It didn't much work and he brushed off her words anyway, like invisible dust on his shoulder.

Tch. Asshole.

Aside from criticisms, Tatsumaki didn't speak the whole stretch they walked but Dr. Gray found it necessary to talk. For such a closed-off guy, he was expressive. It was strange beside her hot-headed, abrasive but selectively quiet behaviour. She never shared her true, true thoughts unless she was angry at the person.

Anyway, he said he wanted a break. Baldy was weak for saying he wanted to take a break. Weak. He couldn't count on breaks. Superheroes didn't care for breaks. Diligence was the mother of success, after all.

Halting in the shopping district wasn't Tatsumaki's intention. Tatsumaki hated seeing her image sliding over the window, washed-out colours all watery and misplaced.

Despite Tatsumaki's protests, Dr. Gray stopped in front of a Hero Association Merch Store: All Of The Heroes Clothes, Figures, Gifts, Posters & More Here! and casually window-shopped while she complained about moving forward and beyond.

He didn't care much and studied gadgets, books, and tattoos with child-like awe.

Tatsumaki was apprehensive of how people made money off the heroes in society. Even Tatsumaki. It was also creepy to see her face on cups, phone cases, posters, action figures and the weirdest ones— body pillows. That was weird.

But Tatsumaki was thrilled she was at the top of the roster, with a lot of merch. It showed her omnipotence as S-Class rank 2. When Tatsumaki wasn't present, other small fries believe they'd get her spot. Who the fuck was kidding them?

The top ten S-Class heroes and a few popular A-Class figurines stood frozen, with arguably remarkable qualities and characteristics everyone cherished. The action figures were the same sizes, not minding the reality of height. Not that Tatsumaki minded a centimetre or two of added height. Heh. Heh.

Nohow, besides Amai Mask, King was extremely popular. He was more embellished than her fellow S-Class action figures.

In real life, King was a compact, tall man with this menacing atmosphere. His mean, steady eyes and sunken cheeks were handsome above his distinguished jawline. Tatsumaki's never witnessed the physical prowess he possessed and he wore a turtleneck. Barf.

His action figure failed to capture that fearsome brute strength.

King was six feet and Tank Top Master was seven foot three, some boring piece of muscle. But they were huge in real life. Compared to her fellow heroes, Dr. Gray Baldy was smaller, weaker and way lamer than her colleagues.

Maybe Dr. Gray was truly a civilian, getting excited looking at these S-Class dolls in the window, face close.

"They must be real famous to get action figures. Even that guy." Dr. Gray pointed to King with a red glove.

"They might be rich and famous but he's just a guy to me," Tatsumaki shrugged.

King didn't treat Tatsumaki like some God and he didn't act immature like other S-Class heroes. At meetings, the heroes played games to see who could say the dumbest things. Metal Bat usually won. But fuck, King wasn't perfect. He was so picky and never tried hard on the battlefield.

King shouldn't be picky! Why was Blast allowed to be picky? He should be there! Always, too!

"Seems important. That guy," Dr. Gray murmured.

"His name is King, S-Class… rank 7… A good guy?" Tatsumaki cringed. "He even wrote a book, or a manga, I don't know. How I Developed Indomitable Will, it's called."

"Oh. You ever write a book?" he asked, for some reason. More like no reason.

Tatsumaki smirked. "See, small fry, when you get to a point like mine, people write books for you. About you, all the time."

Aside from merch, books about her were always being bought. No one knew her true story, her true history and she sure as hell wouldn't tattle. They had all these assumptions and questions but they ultimately knew nothing. Would they ever? No. Did the public need their noses in her backstory, fuck no!

Besides, people could assume and hope all they wanted but they wouldn't ever squeeze a biography out of her. She was no bleeding heart.

"Ah. You're just lazy, then," he said with a sure nod. "Good choice," he added proudly.

Tatsumaki sighed in exasperation. He missed the point. Then she took offence. "I'm not lazy! What do you mean it's a good choice?"

"You're like me. It'd be troublesome, tiring to write all my achievements down," he admitted after a long hum. "Who'd want to do that?"

Yeah right, she internally scoffed. It's not hard. Everyone wants to see their achievements plastered and recognized. It's like spreading her ego onto a page and seeing everything good about her.

"I get your reasoning of why you wouldn't write a book." he continued.

"You're the lazy one here, bub." Tatsumaki hissed. "How long would writing your list of achievements on the battlefield be?"

"It'd take too long," he said thoughtfully.

Was that a roundabout way to brag or was he being truthful? What the hell? Actually. She didn't care, she admitted to herself.

"You should read his books. Check them out, if you will. People should take his advice as an S-Class ranked hero." Tatsumaki shrugged.

Hearing her words, leaned in close, a careless expression on his face. "Hm. You trust him? You got some strong words for 'im."

"No. I don't trust King but my praises are his glory." Tatsumaki corrected him. "It's only higher law that I carry him on the battlefield."

"Tell your friend he's pretty cool. I'd like to see him fight," Dr. Gray said, slightly happy. "Maybe he does martial arts."

"I'm not friends with King!" Tatsumaki huffed, provoked by this assumption. "I'm trying to crack down on him. He gives up so damn much. The last time I saw him on the battlefield, he avoided fighting! I don't know if he does martial arts. No one knows if he does anything. It's weird. A waste of a hulking brute. And damn that Blast for being picky. Damn Blast."

Dr. Gray had a considering look on his face. He seemed to be calculating and speculative like a real doctor.

"Then what does King do?" he queried.

"Nothing! The Association calls me instead when he feels lazy and shut-in-like. The Hero Association treats me like a fortune spirit. I deal with all of their problems." Tatsumaki rolled her eyes.

Before maturing, Tatsumaki was a delinquent with a bad reputation, who came to the Hero Association to get a better score. Tatsumaki was working to help. Many other heroes stepped into the business to be the recipient of glory and monetary gain.

King wasn't for any of that. Tatsumaki liked King, despite him never doing anything. He would come and help just like Blast when things were in danger.

Tatsumaki had a healthy distrust for the other heroes' fickle tendencies and the shortcomings of theirs but… King wasn't as useless as Tatsumaki made him out to be.

Hmph. She didn't like to defame the survivors or the strong.

Tatsumaki cleared her throat. "Eh. King steps up when needed. He could easily duke it out and win against a God level threat. His reputation proceeds him immensely." Tatsumaki said in full confidence.

"Ah, understood," he nodded. "King's strong..."

He looked concentrated and hopeful. His fingers twitched and his back muscles (which Tatsumaki didn't know he had) flexed within his jaundiced suit.

Seeing how his lifeless eyes lit up a little, she laughed.

She knew exactly what he was bulking up for. Dr. Gray would be killed afterhearing that famous King Engine. All that audible bloodlust, capable of shaking the earth. Dr. Gray's dumb for wanting that.

"You thinking about fighting King? Ha! Don't be dumb." Tatsumaki warned.

"Nah," he sighed, all of his zest for life gone. "That's too selfish."

What a weird response. It made her snark too.

"Yeah. King shouldn't take your life. I should." Tatsumaki rolled her eyes.

Dr. Gray shoulders tensed and he got all depressed. Or rather more depressed.

"That's not what I meant." he finished, gazing at the ground.

The way he got all empty and blue… was familiar.

It was almost like telling Fubuki that there were no more crab cakes in the fridge. All of his interest collapsed and he was empty. What the heck is wrong with him?

Tatsumaki didn't know how to deal with the comment, like when he said nothing could kill him. This atmosphere he created made Tatsumaki feel like floating garbage.

"Zuzu," Dr. Gray called out. Before she could tell him to piss off and stop calling her that, his eyes roamed her face. "You kept on mentioning that guy. Who's Blast?"

Shit.

Horror rushed through her. When did she mention Blast? Tatsumaki's whole body filled with a raspberry crush, as her heart beat faster. All of those feelings hurt like heaven. She knew he wasn't around but did he slip into her speech? Damn it!

Tatsumaki swallowed the squeals of embarrassment. She turned away, shaking her head. "He's nobody."

"Oh, so-"

"He's nobody but don't mention it," she said sharply, her voice high and annoying, even to her. "Ever again. Just forget him."

Seeing her aggression and her anger, he gulped. "Al-Alright, who's Blast?" he surrendered, chuckling nervously. "I don't know him."

That's what she thought. Putting annoyance aside, she roared at her idiot self for memories of Blast. Since when was Tatsumaki so careless? Tatsumaki should be on guard. Dr. Gray watched every word she said, despite leaving the impression of the opposite.

A moment later, he chuckled at the rest of the heroes standing on display while Tatsumaki was internally scolding herself. He was looking at her figurine. A sexy, totally womanly figurine if she said so herself. And he was laughing.

"What's so funny?" she hissed.

He pointed. "So, you got a real action figure. I can't even tell the difference between you two."

Tatsumaki glared at him. "Hey, dork, it's seven thousand yen for my action figure. You'll have to lick seventy-five people's boots in order to make that kind of money."

"What kind of calculation is that?"

"The most accurate one."

"How's th—"

Tatsumaki ignored him. "It's a pity that we couldn't find any monsters. They respond to loud sounds and agitation, so you were clearly endangering us. Fix that when we end your imposed break and leave in two minutes."

His mouth fell open. "Huh? You kept on taking photos of me. I kept on finding mosquitoes. They suck."

Tatsumaki was unimpressed. "You're a baby if you can't handle mosquitoes."

"I'm not a kid, kid." he groused.

"You're real annoying, you know that! I'm twenty-eight!" Tatsumaki yelled, crossing her arms. "As for the photos— I just wanted proof that you weren't some damn ghost after your actions. I hate ghosts," she shuddered. Fucking hate them.

She actually took the photos to thoroughly document their time together. If Bearded Worker was going to bitch about her going against his wishes, she wanted to have proof that everything she did was proper and good. But also because she legitimately wondered if he was a ghost.

Damned ghosts.

Amused, he zeroed in on her fear. "What are you, scared of them?"

Of course, ghosts were scary! That's why Tatsumaki feared Zombieman for a while since he was linked to the spiritually damned. Paranormal activity scared Tatsumaki so damn much.

But did Dr. Gray have to know that? Nope.

"C'mon, Zuzu, tell me. You afraid of 'em?" he teased.

"N-No! I hope a durian falls on your head to get that stupid i-idea outta your head. Ghosts… they just freak out normal people." Tatsumaki turned away, calming her face.

"Dude, ask yourself reasoning questions. Ghosts don't exist, Zuzu," he said drily.

"You don't know that! You don't know anything." she snapped. "There are absurd creatures in this world. How the hell don't ghosts exist?"

"I thought you weren't afraid of them?"

Espers were useless against apparitions and ghosts. Ghosts were see-through and completely unexpected and creepy! She shuddered just thinking about it. Ghosts represent the worst things ever!

She closed her eyes. "Dr. Gray, you pulled some scary ghost stuff in the past week. I just needed to know you were real," she said, opening her gaze to him.

"As much as you guarantee you do, you don't need to look after me." Dr. Gray gave her a sure look.

"At this rate, I believe you lack something in your DNA that makes you not pick up on social cues. It's ridiculous. You're supposed to call back. Until you get it through your head, I'll tell you." she pinched the bridge of her nose, defeated.

Dr. Gray shuffled uncomfortably for a moment. "I don't have a phone, remember? And I wouldn't call, anyway."

"Oh. That could be solved." Tatsumaki got a devilish smirk on her face. "I know, I'll just hang out with you every day."

"Oi, don't threaten people with hell so easily," he shook his head.

Tatsumaki wanted to smack him. "I am great company! Amazing company!"

Dr. Gray didn't seem convinced. "Eh…"

Tatsumaki ignored his doubt. "Nothing in the world would interest me less than doing that but work is about getting things done." Tatsumaki looked over. "You'd have to tell me where you live and that will be our HQ. I will mail all the information we gather. Tell me your address."

"Nah. I don't think that I want to do that." He shook his head.

"I wouldn't come over! I just need to mail you!"

He hesitated.

"And well, you have no choice. Just give yourself to fate," she commanded, aggressive in her tone. "You'll walk all the way to the restricted area with me, on Saturday at seven hundred hours in the morning. You may not make it to my home since you normally wear shabby shoes and walk in them."

"Holes have good ventilation on hot days," he suggested, shrugging.

Tatsumaki twitched. "Just how cheap are you? I know you don't care but can you listen for once?!"

He looked irritated. "None of this "hunt" you're hosting is working. I'd just relax on days like these. I have a manga to finish." he said honestly.

Children read manga! He should read books like an adult!

"Even if you don't find relaxing embarrassing, I do. Either you help or you're my damn accomplice." she hissed.

He considered her words for a moment then an agitated tone coloured the air. "Hey… Hey, that's the same thing!"

"You can't get what you want but you can get me. I just wanted to kill a bunch of monsters. There were so damn many before I came here. Maybe you're just bad luck!" she accused him.

He got to have his fun, where's hers?! There should be so many damn monsters for Tatsumaki to kill at her disposal.

"Evil reincarnates and heroes fight those who oppose them. Just wait." he eyed her foot tapping and her muscles twitching. "You know, patience is a virtue."

"Right now, it isn't." Tatsumaki face-palmed. "This conversation is as useless as you buying shampoo."

"Or you growing a millimetre." he retorted.

Rude.

"Don't look down on me." she narrowed her eyes, pointing to him.

"I already am." he chuckled, looming over with more than a foot of height. "I need to call the doc already."

Motherfucker! And he had to crane his neck, just to look at her. It was uncomfortable and awful! And he completely bested her. She wanted to beat him with a cactus and make him die by fighting some overwhelming monster.

Aha! When I'm done eating, I'll transport one sea folk from the beach then see what he's really made up of, Tatsumaki thought happily. If he doesn't die, I'll just slaughter him.

Tatsumaki wanted some food before watching him die. She observed the location across the street. The sandwich shop was homey and cute in its bright colours. It had appetizing pictures of the sandwich she wanted to buy. Not many people were inside. Perfect.

"Drop dead for all I care. I'm going to go eat. I'm getting a sandwich." she waved him away.

Dr. Gray brightened. Seeing his pleasure was a pain. "Can I have some of your sandwiches?" asked Dr. Gray. "Halfsies after a hard day at work."

No. He should die seventeen thousand times. "I owe you nothing! Not even half of something." Tatsumaki raised her voice with rough anger.

Dr. Gray drooped. "I didn't eat lunch since we've been hunting. Agh, it's embarrassing but I'm low on funds. I'll pay you back." he promised earnestly.

She wasn't budging. She'd rather chow on roadkill and die. It's her money. It's her food and money and he's a dick. So no!

Sensing this reluctance, Dr. Gray continued. "Y'know, being a hero for fun isn't very lucrative," he said thoughtfully. "If I had one yen for the times someone said I was frugal, I'd save so much money."

Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. Again.

"C'mon, we're stranded on this victory road for food. You're not tempted?" he asked, gesturing all around him.

"I don't get distracted."

"Oh," Dr. Gray halted awkwardly. "Man, it's all tempting."

"Uh-huh."

Tatsumaki did notice the number of restaurants and shops advertising food. This was sort of a dream spot to get an early supper but she wasn't tempted by anything.

"You owe me for the one hundred and ninety-six calls I did without you trying to answer. You owe me for every text, every message and voicemail. Let's not forget the fact you stupidly had that left a bad impression on me." Tatsumaki brought up.

Desperate, stomach growling, he surrendered. "Fine, I'll do it."

Really? He's giving in? This was the first time he's really done that willingly. "For one sandwich?"

"With veggies," he said.

Tatsumaki got in his face, watching him with fire in her eyes. "I'm not generous to those who have less posture than string. One thousand good impressions you owe me. And I take my promises seriously."

"Me too. I return favours, the next time it comes up." he tried to assure her.

Tatsumaki had a feeling he was only saying this because of the food he wanted. Tatsumaki rubbed her skull. He's so weird and talked a lot about nothing. And didn't listen. It was like a challenge and now he wasn't trying to obey her... He was an enigma and she... Why did she keep on forcing him to work with her—

Dr. Gray started talking, interrupting the rapid-fire of thoughts she shouldn't be having. "Hey, can you add cheese?" he said, almost interested in the conversation. Which was weird.

"Yeah. Maybe it'll shut you up. At this point, I love cheese if it has that possibility." she told him seriously.

"That'll make us like a mouse. Ba dum dum tss." he chuckled to himself. "Well, mostly you."

Huh? Tatsumaki turned back. What the hell did he just say? She bound him with a dirty glare. "What the fuck does that mean?"

He shrunk, not as affably amused. "I made a joke about you eating cheese and being tiny. 'Cause mouses love cheese." he explained.

Another joke about her damn height. For a guy who made no effort for anything, he started a bunch of fights. And he was dumb.

Tatsumaki sighed. "Mice, not mouses, would eat anything of little to no nutritional value. They might even eat your IQ if they found it and be hungry for days. Besides, they'd rather prefer grain or fruits, given the choices."

"Don't you like apples?"

Tatsumaki nodded. Promotion for the fruit was key to everyone loving it too. "They're the king of fruits."

"You're still a mouse-"

"Baldy, speak one more fucking word and I'll send your dick to space," she said quietly. "Literally. I dare you, just talk and say I'm a mouse one more fucking time. I dare you."

He opened his mouth then closed it. All silence from him. That's better. Ah. So much better. She floated across the street to the sound of music- Baldy shutting up for once.

"Zuzu, you're still getting it, right—" he called out as she crossed the street. "Hey! You're no—"

Tatsumaki went inside of the petite restaurant, greeted with the smell of fresh greens and cooked meat. She gave him an evil smile through the window. A small wave.

Tatsumaki liked seeing the terror and desperation on his face.

Tatsumaki didn't like going full chihuahua on him. She hated when people talked about it. Being under five feet made her seem nothing short of harmless. The men and women of the association underestimated her. She would usually kick them and they would stop being so fucking rude.

Dr. Gray kept on surprising her. Tatsumaki made deals with those who wouldn't surprise her. Why she still got surprises anyway bothered her. She couldn't be caught off guard. And he's always getting her angry.

And now she was getting him a sandwich because unlike everyone believes, she was actually quite polite. If he wasn't energized, he wouldn't be able to kill anything at his full strength.

Did he have full strength? Who was he? What did he do? Why was he so... bored with everything? Was he really a hero? All these questions about him kept on drawing her nearer.

Even so, Tatsumaki can't believe she's spending money on him. Idiot. She needed to be the bigger person (when she could) and show him the real way to behave.

What did he want again? Tatsumaki studied the options and choose which one to get for herself and for the other guy.

Someone in the back of the line, standing with her in the air-conditioned bliss looked at her intently. "Hey," The girl asked quietly. "Is that your Beloved?"

Tatsumaki didn't like strangers and she didn't like answering people… but this was important. And she might run to social media and cry about how rude Tatsumaki is.

So, Tatsumaki straightened her back. "Whom might you be speaking of?" she asked neutrally.

"Outside the window. The media says he's bald. It's all people could talk about. We're trying to find his identity." she whispered. "You probably know better than anyone."

The two women turned to see Dr. Gray struggling to stand upright because he almost nodded off. Through the window, they look and this is what they see?

He dared her anger. Couldn't he stand straight, damn it, and not embarrass her? And he was bald. That was one of many shortcomings. Perhaps the most identifiable.

Tatsumaki forgot that people obsessed over Tatsumaki and other relationships heroes seemingly had. Common folk would bring it up to her. Not that she's spoken to very many people as of lately. Tatsumaki forgot people only cared about her relationship instead of how she saves the world many times over.

As much as it pained her, she had to play along.

Tatsumaki had to say something sweet and kind, without attitude to show Zombieman that she had a great attitude. Fuck him, she was lovely to be around.

But did she have to compliment him? That was asking too much.

Tatusmaki's mouth was dry. "Y-Yeah. We've… been going pretty strong. I'm ordering his favourite vegetarian sandwich with cheese and we'll go to the beach later on."

The woman laughed. "That sounds perfect! My guy wouldn't even take me to any beach."

"To me, my Beloved," Tatsumaki recoiled, "is perfect. He'd do anything for me."

The woman seemed aggravated. "My boyfriend is so afraid of the sea folk around there. My dad was a hero before the Association was around, so those fish never scared both of us. My boyfriend should be fearless. He swore we'd go if I offered him something special," she said with a sexual innuendo involved.

Tatsumaki sighed. "Well, some men have more balls than brains." she shrugged.

The woman's laugh rose out of her like a melody. "You're funny, Tornado of Terror-sama! They don't usually put that inside of the magazine articles." The woman complimented her.

Tatsumaki's cheeks burned red as she turned away from the whole woman's cooing and happy face. A while later, she got all of what she needed and left. When she went outside, the man looked like a melted puddle.

"Zuzu! Oi!" he called from across the street. He was obvious and loud, and not melted anymore.

"Dr. Gray, you bellowed," she sighed. Tatsumaki settled in front of him, taller than him of course. With that, she held her bag of two sandwiches tightly.

Dr. Gray inspected her nervously. "Zuzu, did you get it?" he asked.

"The name's Tatsumaki-sama! None of that Zuzu shit." she gritted her teeth. "And I got it."

All of his confusion and doubt cleared like mist rolling away from the sea. He was triumphant. The thought of her not getting his food might have alarmed him.

"Sweet!"

Then, he smiled. His plain face illuminated. Sparkled mutedly. It was like the universe coughing stardust on him.

Tatsumaki didn't know what to do for a second. He usually just had a blank, blank face. It was almost broken.

He looked different. Tatsumaki gathered her wits and looked away. Idiots always look the same, no matter the face.

"Me feeding you…" Tatsumaki finally gave him the sandwich. "This doesn't mean I give all my affections to you. In fact, all my dissent stems from you wanting cheese."

He took a healthy bite after unwrapping the sub. They settled, leaning like delinquents on the window of the shop Hero Merch Store window. She couldn't believe that this man killed all those monsters. All of them. All these monsters were annihilated by a guy with a broken face.

She felt his eyes gliding over the photos she looked at. He shifted, obviously uncomfortable. Why couldn't she kill all these monsters? Wouldn't it be fun—

"How do you look at monster pictures when you eat?" he asked, striking up a conversation once again. "They're rotting."

"Huh? You a baby?" she teased. She looked at the photos of dead corpses on her phone. "This isn't that gross."

"No. It's creepy and gross," he said, munching some more.

"You don't have to look."

"You've got issues, man. Get a new hobby."

Tatsumaki gave him an icy look. "As I said, you don't have to look. You get a new hobby!" she snapped. "Hmph. I wanted to know how you killed them. Not how fast you could eat a damn sandwich."

Which was pretty fast. Dr. Gray finished his sandwich, basically inhaling his food. He ate it with the etiquette of a starving Pig God. It was crass and gross. At least Dr. Gray didn't eat as much as Pig God.

"I'm not buying you another one," Tatsumaki mentioned offhandedly, cutting off the breath he took.

"Huh? That sucks. They're really good," Dr. Gray stared at her expectantly.

"I-I'm not going to change my mind." she stuttered.

Tatsumaki could feel the gaze of his burned into her skull. She ignored it successfully for a little while until she looked at him and then her half-eaten sandwich. And this dog-like stare made her feel so damn guilty.

Moments passed and he stared at her nibbling the bread. She didn't like eating this sandwich and she lost her appetite.

"Can I have some of your sandwich?" he asked.

"No," she said, taking another bite. "I know it's half done and I don't really like it but no."

"Why not?"

"I don't like your mouth." Tatusmaki retorted.

"But—"

"I got you your own, fatty," she shouted. "Don't be like Pig God!"

"Is that an insult or something? What's a pig god?"

Tatsumaki made another disinterested noise, ignoring him. Dr. Gray might get a gray scalp for if he worries way too much. Or if he asks too much.

Being sadistic, he screamed when she tossed it into the trash. He blabbed about how she was so damn wasteful and she laughed.

They were in the business district, hoping to see something causing disarray.

The streets were filled with suits and ties, people leaving their offices. They weren't cheerfully dashing into the sunset. An attack could happen any time now. It was nearing five in the evening. She hoped someone was

Tatsumaki turned around. "Let's go."

"Eh. Fine." he agreed, letting her take the lead. Doing so as Tatsumaki pleased, they toured around the city until they encountered a sea of white amongst the concrete streets.

There were near a laboratory with a metal dome, its window showing large machinery. The sleek building was dotted by white coats. Nothing natural was happening. She hated the stainless steel and their cold eyes behind glasses. She hated the mirrors and the cold cleanliness.

The whole street was decorated with banners, tables and stands with sophisticated people chattering about findings. All she focused on were coke bottle glasses and flapping white coats. She hated lab coats.

It gave her flashbacks of being sold to a bunch of scientists as if she were cattle. Like a cow.

Tatsumaki stiffened.

If these scientists saw her psychic abilities, she would obviously draw attention to herself. She couldn't. They would try to... ask questions or inspect her. She didn't want to be violated. Never again.

Reluctantly, Tatsumaki made herself less defensive. She eased her shoulders and frowned a bit less. She relaxed the green glow around her and settled on her two feet. She looked normal.

Baldy watched Tatsumaki mildly, weirdly attuned to her.

"You good?" he asked.

Again, she gave him a wary look. How the fuck did he know she was uncomfortable? She has to be careful. She couldn't show any of her feelings. She didn't want to be this transparent. She had to strap down her feelings.

Tatsumaki ignored him and gestured to the scientists. "What the hell is all of this? They should be thrown into garbage cans."

"Well, a classroom is a garbage place." he shrugged. "Not my scene."

"Child Emperor would kill you for that comment." snarked Tatsumaki. The kid would probably be able to chase him with one of his creepy bots.

Tatsumaki was so jealous of Child Emperor's weapon proficiency and his skills in soccer. Tatsumaki couldn't even play most conventional sports!

Tatsumaki growled. Damn her baby legs.

Most of the guys in S-Class didn't care that they were so buff and built. It was annoying. They could naturally pick up ANY sport they pleased to do.

"Who's he?" Dr. Gray asked.

"S-Class hero. Such a cheeky kid, a genius," she said. "He's also four feet but his brain's probably bigger than a grown adult's."

"You mad 'cause he's taller than you?" he asked.

"Drop dead and die again and again," she yelled. "Tch. Child Emperor was doing integral calculus and playing soccer at the age of two. What the hell were you doing?"

"Yeah. I wasn't good at school." Dr. Gray admitted.

She gave him a knowing look. He ignored it. "So. Amongst math, what other finals did you fail?" she asked casually.

He sweat, nervously chuckling. "Failed three of my senior year finals. My mom didn't care."

Oh. Lax. Atlas was the same. As a caretaker, Atlas didn't think she had much of a future with the sciences. She didn't either. He didn't care about her long history of violence and her terrible school track.

"My pops did though. Mom may have married the wrong man but she gave birth to the best one," he said smugly.

"Oh," Tatsumaki looked at him seriously. "You have a brother?"

"Zuzu, I was talking about me!" he insisted.

Tatsumaki grinned evilly.

Did he have a brother? Tatsumaki's better off not knowing the trouble in his life. It's not like she needed to know.

They perused around, no one paying much attention to them. The scientists' clipboards and pocketed pens scared her but she would transcend it. She still wanted to know why this was happening.

"Hey you," Tatsumaki said to the nearest scientist with loafers, cuffed beige pants and his lab coat. "May you give us information… Just what is happening here, sir?"

The scruffy scientist gave her a wary look then turned in the other direction, arms holding a stack of paper tightly to his chest. He looked down at his shoes, not in front of him.

Asshole! Tatsumaki rudely put up a barrier and he scurried headfirst into it like some cornered rat.

"Zuzu," Dr. Gray said lowly. "What the hell?"

Tatsumaki smirked.

The scientist's papers exploded. It was a blizzard of black print and hypotheses. He screeched and tried to collect them, yelping about the pain on his forehead.

"How... What was that?" he asked, to himself.

"So, you think ignoring me is smart? Think hard but not long," she called out.

The scientist hesitated on his knees. "You just look scary and he doesn't understand the binary code." he trembled, looking at his research strewn about.

"Then there's option one and two, you either tell me what's going on or I just bash your mouth in and you forever hold your silence. You'll swallow your teeth, yeah."

"My— my teeth?" He whimpered when he collected his stuff, sighing. "Fine. Fine, I'll tell you though we have an information desk."

Dr. Gray sighed. "Why do you feel the need to do that? He's just a normal dude. Be nicer."

Tatsumaki ignored him.

"Well, most alpha females try to assert their dominance. It's a tired act yet I'm rolling my eyes." The scientist said, rolling his eyes.

"I'll roll your head!" Tatsumaki said, pointing to his skull. "Tell me what's going on."

He instantly obeyed. "Ar-Around me is a science convention. Scientists have normally locked away, doing their studies. It's one of the few opportunities that we would convene," he said. "Socialize with others from other departments, if you will."

Tatsumaki nodded. "It wasn't that hard to answer a question, wasn't it?" she muttered under her breath.

Dr. Gray shot her another disapproving look which she ignored.

"We test and find monsters and examine their abilities." The scientist raved. "This convention is mainly an exhibition where other scientists vie for attention. The competition between scientists is evident as those who get the most funding have the most publications and tools to unlock the mystery of where these Mysterious Beings originated from." His eyes lit up and he spoke quickly. He radiated uncompromised intelligence. "You both know the theory of how monsters form?"

Tatsumaki thought for a moment. "Humans can turn into monsters from the desire to transform into something else. It's like a demonic makeover." Tatsumaki tasted the words, not liking it too much.

Then superior heroes like me chose their funeral outfit. Ha, Tatsumaki internally laughed.

"Well, yeah but not completely. Human bad habits, obsessions and desires ignite a transformation when their cells have an abnormal reaction. Some changes happen through engineering, pollutants and environmental changes. City Z has many monsters but its the scene where those specimens are found." The scientist said. 

Tatsumaki turned to Dr. Gray. "See! Even these scientists know that there's something wrong here. Let's work to dispel the curse of the monsters."

Dr. Gray groaned. "You're just looking for problems. Problems and trouble. Let's go back."

"Be quiet. This is important." Tatsumaki hissed.

Dr. Gray looked at her through the narrow corner of his eye. "Zuzu, we shouldn't wait to go," he said loudly.

"Hey, hey, patience is a fucking virtue!" she whispered. "Just work with me here."

They glared at each other for a while. None of them looking away or blinking. Why wouldn't he just bow down and surrender like everyone else? They both shared the same irritation.

The scientist blinked at Tatsumaki and Dr. Gray with wonderment. "So… you work with her?" he asked Dr. Gray, casting a skeptical eye.

"Nah, man." 

"Yes, positive!"

Dr. Gray and Tatsumaki said at the same time. They locked eyes, both glaring in open disagreement.

"Wh… So you're his working partner?" The scientist looked at the growling Tatsumaki.

Before Dr. Gray could say anything, Tatsumaki stepped in front of Dr. Gray. "It's better to be the right hand of the devil than be in her path. Isn't that right?" she purred over her shoulder.

"That's right... right," he said, obviously intimidated by her sharp look.  

Tatsumaki nodded, giving a predatory smile to the man. "Good."

Tatsumaki was happy, bruising his feelings. Suddenly, watching the two of them, the scientist started laughing.

He's laughing! Tatsumaki gasped. Why was he laughing, pointing at the two of them…

Tatsumaki considered it for a moment. "You're laughing. At me."

"Yeah. At you." he chortled. "Your tough-guy exterior. It's cute-"

"Stop making aggressive lawnmower sounds! Don't call me cute!" Tatsumaki growled. "Stop that. Or I will eviscerate you."

The scientist's laughs cut off abruptly as he collected himself. "I thought it was cute." he adjusted his glasses. "It was a joke," he added quietly. "Joke."

"Yeah, sorry man, Zuzu doesn't like jokes," Dr. Gray shrugged.

"Yeah. That's why I don't like you." Tatsumaki retorted, pursing her lips.

The scientist and Dr. Gray shared an odd look of exasperation and she tsked at the both of them. Scientists were so fucking weird, acting like they know stuff. Tatsumaki's adoptive mother was one after all. Aihara Kizashi. That's why they don't get along. Tatsumaki hated scientists so damn much.

And there were so many of them around.

"Even so, why the hell are you lab coats swarming the streets?" Tatsumaki asked. "Couldn't you guys just stay inside?"

"We're looking at the samples and specimen that the scientists collected over the years. Some of them are alive! One demonstration will have the dissection of Quark, the monster who can reach temperatures of minus forty degrees. He's dead, of course, but we got loads of data from him. But magically he reverted back into a human, which contradicts our research. Some other people are like that. It'll be fun to observe Quark's kin under extreme situations and the reaction to cages."

"They're in cages?" Tatsumaki thought back to her days.

"Yes."

"They're being tested on, yeah?"

"Yep!" he paused, looking at his trembling hands. "Maybe one of them was an Esper. We're trying to get one of the kids from The Psychic Sisters' school to allow us to do some minor tests on them," he said wonderingly. 

Fubuki's school? Did he want to start gobbling up Fubuki's students? For science? Research?!

"Huh? The Psychic Sisters? Who were they?" Dr. Gray asked.

"The specialists from the Alis Association about twenty years ago had a safe, consensual academy where they got an insurmountable amount of findings because of Terror of Tornado." The scientist nodded. "She was obviously taken care of and now has benefitted from the Alis Association, that's what I'm told. She is S-Class rank 2 for a reason." 

Tatsumaki controlled her flinching. The public was told that they tested on children at an academy?! And Tatsumaki gave those bastards fame and fortune and findings?! What?

The scientist's cheeks were red, eyes excitable. "It was fascinating. Fascinating, I tell you!" he gushed.

He looked completely blissful, talking about the suffering she endured. Motherfucker. Experimenting on monsters was fascinating. Her suffering was fascinating. Maybe one of them was an Esper? And what the hell was that human getting tested on for?

All things were beneath her notice, blaring away, words too indiscernible to understand. Her heart pounded and all restraint escaped her.

The scientist looked at Tatsumaki. "You kinda look like her but you must be a fan, you don't have her famous glow but nice cosplay—"

"Hey," she whispered, feeling hot and angry. "Scientist."

A smile coloured his voice. He was smiling before but the smile was sincere. "Yes?"

"I'm gonna exterminate you," she told him frankly, sucking on her lip. "For safety."

"What-"

Before Baldy and the scientist could react, debris and dust sliced through the air, spinning, spinning so she could watch his work be destroyed. Their papers got sucked up and shredded.

Tatsumaki threw the scientist around, spinning him like the tornado she famously caught her epithet from. City Z was a victory road for food, life. Yeah? There was a lot of prey to devour! Dark cherry blood spilled in small doses. Ha!

"Are your people coming after my sister? And kids! Children! They're babies!" Tatsumaki yelled. "Why can't humanity grow up? Learn that we're people!"

His answers were screams and pleads.

"Don't you dare come to Buki's school! I don't give a damn for your reasons why but you touch that school- church bells will be crying," Tatsumaki yelled. "Stay away from ALL of us espers, fake Raegan!"

The scientist went in circles, a blur of white, beige and pain. He was about to be contorted, but she wanted to play with him longer.

He was so fragile. Was this all he got? She's only given some love taps. Die! Die! Tatsumaki smiled.

"Raegan! Stay away from us!" Tatsumaki warned.

Tatsumaki saw the world spinning so prettily.

Then she saw flashes.

Bright lights. Young Fubuki. Heartbeats. Dark cages. Pain. Tests. So many tests! It all flashed before her eyes. Raegan's dark hair and lab coat. Money. Blood. Young Fubuki.

Young baby, precious Fubuki crying because of Raegan paining her with so many tests. She didn't want to be reminded or without Fubuki.

And her heart stopped beating.

Restraint captured her.

Someone was touching her wrist. Brought her back to reality. Somehow, Tatsumaki was close to the building wall. When did she move?

She pinned the scientist against the wall again with her psychic abilities. She didn't realize Dr. Gray was there. His face was plastered with muted worry. And he was touching her wrist.

No, he held on with a surprising amount of strength and there was a pressured warning. Pain shot up her arm when she attempted yanking her arm back. She stifled a gasp of pain. Tatsumaki arm could snap if she moved too much, that's how hard he held on.

He could easily throw her across the plain or something, with this grip. If he squeezed harder, he would have literally broken the left side of her body.

Why was this affecting her so much?! 

How could she have left herself so open? Damn it. He was so under the radar that she thought he wouldn't be able to do anything. He did kill those monsters… she just forgot.

"Zuzu. His name isn't Raegan. Stop it. You'll kill him." Dr. Gray said, just subtle environmental noise.

"What?!" Tatsumaki glowered at Baldy, murderous intent whirling around her. "That's the idea! His senior is rotting with booze and boredom. Death will make his scientific life more interesting."

Dr. Gray nervously looked between her and the scientist. "I'll pay you ten yen to set him free," Dr. Gray said, vice grip on her tightening.

"I'll pay one hundred thousand yen to see him die!" Tatsumaki raised a fist. "You don't even have any money. Who the fuck are you kidding?!"

"That's all I got."

Disgusting! "You're willing to go broke for him?!"

"I'd do anything to save someone's life."

Tatsumaki flinched. "Me too. But not him."

"C'mon, you're making him look like modern art. Don't you have any respect for this building?" he asked calmly.

"No. I don't have respect for him or the dead right now. Nothing!"

He froze. "You don't have respect for the dead?"

"I'd like the scientist to join them, that's how much I respect it! I'll destroy the whole city if it means a brief moment of safety," Tatsumaki said, as darkly and as certain as nightfall.

"Safety, what are you talking about?"

Ignoring him, Tatsumaki settled her gaze on her prey. She will make him stay away from her sister! No matter what.

"If you wanna live dangerously, don't bring others into it. If you keep this up, I'm gonna have to get serious…" Dr. Gray threatened.

Tatsumaki looked up. "Pfft—"

Tatsumaki clamped up, a cold chill going over gelling her limbs together. She didn't notice his sharper expression. The detail in his face showed something— he will be an enemy.

He was an enemy. Someone who is loosely a working partner whom she hasn't scouted, gotten any information instead of his kill list. All those forty monster attacks were cleared up by him… using one powerful attack.

And he… was stronger than she knew.

A rational cosmic force at work, she shut up for her own safety.

"As heroes, we fight monsters. Not humans," he said, leaning closer.

Tatsumaki paused.

Why did she feel intimidated? He looked determined without that braindead sort of expression. Now he wasn't looking at his simple eyes and basic mouth, he was going to kill her.

And he was raising his hand, she was prepping an attack. Before a rock could saw off his hand, he lazily flicked her forehead.

"Get that through your thick scalp, Zuzu," he told her.

Relief went through her as he released her. She ignored the slight throb in her wrist.

Crap. Bearded Worker was going to scold her so hard. Fuck. Atlas, too.

Sense returned. The press was going to tear her to bits. Tatusmaki didn't kill humans, no matter the rumours or what she said… Why didn't she think a bit?

As the chaos stopped, she let the debris fall. It didn't land on anyone. All that remained in the air were sharp cries of panic. To this entire scene, everyone just saw her randomly attacking some frail scientist. And Dr. Gray probably thought the same.

Tatsumaki ground her teeth, eyes steady on the mostly uninjured scientist. She let him fall to the ground. He didn't throw up, which was impressive on his part.

She wanted to see him cough up blood, a bit. Sigh.

Everyone watched as Tatsumaki shuffled all of his intact pages in order. She landed the sorted pack on his lap. All the papers weren't shredded.

She stared him down, ignoring the crowd, ignoring how Dr. Gray watched her carefully.

Bits and pieces of his research fell languidly like snow. It got in Tatsumaki's hair and the scientist snatched the particles with sad eyes.

He was trying to salvage what was left.

Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. "You're pathetic, you know. Walk away from what your idiots are doing."

Noting how close they were, the scientist jerked backwards. His head collided with the wall but he still retained some pride. He stared at her owlishly, white knuckles clenching his papers. "You won't hurt me, Terror of Tornado. I'll report you to the— the Hero's Association. They'll do something! They'll protect me." he promised, unable to keep his volume low. "I s-swear."

"Whatever. Science ruined you people," she sighed.

The scientist gasped, sounding tortured. "Science is the closest thing to the truth. Science is infinite and a gift to me as happiness. I would never distort it!"

Happiness was all self-talk. She hated his cause. "Pain is infinite too, you ever considered that?!" she demanded.

He couldn't respond. His clasp on his papers weakened. She shook her head. A scientist had blood on their coats. They ALL have blood on their coats. They're untrustworthy bastards.

"I won't play forgiveness for your wrong games. Don't touch it. You know damn well what I'm talking about." she whispered.

The scientist grew even paler. "We wouldn't do anything wrong! We just— I haven't done anything."

Maybe you don't have skin in the game but this is wrong! Don't you guys study morals, too? For all that scientists know, you guys don't know shit. Tatsumaki sighed to herself.

The scientist was broken, blabbering. He was anxious and confused. She stood in her heartache. Maybe she was too involved in the past. Blast now scientists talking about Alis Association and Raegan. Damn it.

"Ne, Zuzu," Dr. Gray said quietly. "What's goin' on?"

Oh yeah. Him. What right did this scientist have to know her past? Coming close behind her, Dr. Gray had his aura of worrying that Tatsumaki couldn't stand. She didn't owe Dr. Gray anything. Why did he care? Why was he looking at her like that?

Tatsumaki fixed her cold gaze on him, speaking in a low tone. None of these scientists could hear. She got close to his face, levitating and stern.

"Don't ever touch me." she hissed lowly. "We're still on for Saturday but don't touch me."

"Hey, it's not like that. I just needed to stop you from—"

"I don't need advice," Tatsumaki said rudely. "Don't think you could do anything without my permission. You do not know anything about me."

Her ears caught the whispers and high-school level gossiping. Disgusting! She looked at everyone whispering, pulling their phones out, calling the police.

"None of you do, either. For a bunch of smartasses, can't you learn compassion and stop testing on people? Humans! We bleed like you." she sighed roughly. "If anyone is from the Alis Association, I swear to God that I will stop your malicious practices immediately."

Tatsumaki flew all the way to the other side of the City Z, shaking her head.

She thought Blast had taken care of decimating the company? Did he fail? No, Blast doesn't fail. What happened? Were there consequences? She'd never thought about it. She never wanted to. 

Now they're trying to get Fubuki!  

After getting no calls back, Tatsumaki left a message for Fubuki. "I don't know why you're avoiding me. We both got the same blood. My cursed blood is your cursed blood. Why the hell do you avoid me? If we run, we run together," Tatsumaki said loudly. "You gotta call me anyway 'cause it has to do with your school."

She sat on a building, arms spread out looking at the coming sunset. Since when did pain stop and why did scientists start it?

Since when.

Since when.

She took one breath and screamed for the next minute and a half and flew off like nothing ever happened. Because nothing did. Nothing really.

When she got to City A, it was annoying. Articles about how the scientist got attacked came out. None of them cared. Nobody cared. It sucked. Dr. Gray showed some false caring at that moment. She was forcing him to work with her and they couldn't find anything.

Just as she inputted the password that would allow her into the apartment, she noticed something. A mysterious thing found on her doorstep.

It was a gift. It was small, its pot being wrapped in this green, expensive mesh. It was a pretty deciduous tree with thin branches and broad green leaves.

Tatsumaki instantly recognized it. It was an apple tree.

Did someone get her this?

The note that came along with it was extra delightful.

Hey, Green Eyes. Wanna talk? I gave you an apple plant as an apology. Now you won't have to bother yourself with getting apples at the store if you have an apple tree at home. Just wait a little, treat it with love and care (like you straight can) and it'll be huge in no-time.

Can you give it time and allow me to also grow it with you?

P.S, I find your attitude great. 

P.S.S, I'm sorry again. Call me.

P.S.S.S, You probably look great today. :)

-Zombieman.

Tatsumaki hesitated but didn't call him.

"Idiot," she whispered, caressing one leaf. "I don't need compliments. Idiot."

Tatsumaki couldn't deny the smile she had. This was so nice. No one else but fans had gotten her presents and even then, she didn't accept them. Those had fake love or appreciation. 

No one who was close, admittedly less than three people, gave her anything of value. Or anything at all on a whim... They didn't really like her.

Bearded Worker, Fubuki, Zombieman were always exasperated with her. They treated her as a childish nuisance, which she wasn't. All the time. 

Usually, they thought she should apologize and she was always a hero on the streets but a bad guy at home. Maybe the roles switched now after that attack.

Even after the earthquakes and now this incident, he bought her something she would care about for years to come.  

Instead of extending an olive branch, he gave her an apple tree. And he knew she would love it. He was a big dope but one who made her feel better.

On the side of being a hero, he's actually a pretty good detective. He may help her find these bastards from Alis Association. And he would actually care...

For everyone that didn't care, Zombieman made up for every single one of them. Sometimes. Just barely. 

Barely. 

Completely. 

###

-End Chapter-

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 6-
Senile Predictions

 

TATSUMAKI, FOR THE FIRST TIME, ACKNOWLEDGED SHE WAS A WIZARD OF LONELINESS.

Tatsumaki hated pets. She didn't like people and her family was just… ew. It's a wonder that Tatsumaki has a job with the stuff she pulled. Tatsumaki had anger issues and not to mention she didn't have any practical skills aside from murdering monsters.

And that's boring now. Fuck!

On top of that, another Fubuki Friday was skipped by the famous Fubuki. This was the third week of Fubuki missing out on their afternoon practice. Fubuki didn't want to practice.

The next day, Tatsumaki killed monsters from seven a.m to four p.m. It was a good work out. The monsters were bland and easy so she killed them until her clothes were drenched in red filth. Tatsumaki looked like a cattle murderer and she terrified anyone who approached her. Including the monsters. 

Tatsumaki came home, watered her apple tree and settled onto the couch (changed into her bunny pyjamas). The house was empty and she never came here unless she was exhausted.

Tatsumaki was bored. Did no one want to hang out with her? She rolled onto her stomach, pointing at the sky with her remote. There were no more monsters to kill, no more people to comfort, no more anything.

The TV was a good distraction.

On the Disaster Channel, Pig God's ugly face kept on playing. It wasn't oftentimes Pig God was praised. A reporter kept blabbing about one thing; Pig God protecting orphans. It made Tatsumaki open her eyes. 

What black magic was that? Tatsumaki felt… like patting Pig God on his back… or rolls. Shudder. Would it be like touching a mattress? Double shudder.

Tatsumaki had the glory of invincibility. Pig God had the glory of a stomach.

Pig God ate one seafolk when trying out City Z's seafood. Being close to the sea, the ocean carried some monsters into the streets from the waves. Pig God protected an orphanage and Tatsumaki appreciated him, though he literally ate a monster. Gross!

Tatsumaki knew he had places to go, people to eat. Money had no substantial meaning to him and burgers had value.

Going to City A's raunchiest burger joint, Burgers, Burgers & Burgers. It was popular with bacon burgers and large drinks. Tatsumaki guessed she could get him burgers, then he would be thanked. This was the only time she acknowledged Pig God.

The proportions were idiotic and Tatsumaki ordered fourteen burgers. Anything less for Pig God would be considered starving. Pig God usually got twenty at a time but Tatsumaki thought that was extreme. Did he have no shame?

Tatsumaki trusted the website had accurate information about Pig God's tastes. If Pig God throws up, the world would drown in his violently strong and corrosive stomach acid.

At the counter, the cashier looked unimpressed. She was a slender teen of seventeen, bored and nonchalant with gum popping in her mouth. She was very intent on seeing Tatsumaki's order through.

"So. You're going to eat this all yourself?" The cashier asked, whistling at the bill and burgers.

"No. I know someone who would," Tatsumaki grumbled. Damn Pig God's elastic face.

"Look, little lady, I'm not judging. Sometimes I could see people's spines. I think everyone should eat what they want." The cashier teen rambled. "You're brave."

Whatever. "Put extra tartar sauce on the burgers. I'll pay some more." Tatsumaki waved her debit card.

"Oh. You like tartar sauce?"

Sunglasses hid Tatsumaki's disgusted expression. Why was this cashier making small talk?!

"No. I hate fish. I always had." Tatsumaki said dismissively. "A colleague has a stomach with battery acid. He loves fish. I also hate questions."

The cashier left Tatsumaki alone as she floated humbly, like some lonely island in a plain black v-neck shirt with skinny jeans. Her hair was swept back with a scarf. She wasn't doing hero work now and Fubuki liked shopping with her on the third Friday of the month after practice.

Tatsumaki's womanly heels made her legs look long. Many people questioned if she were old enough to have a debit card. Don't get her started on going to bars and going to the gynecologist. It's hard being small with a youthful hair colour. Her green hair made people mercilessly tease in high school with never-ending comments.

She's happy no one knew who she was. She ignored the articles and messages in her inbox sent by Bearded Worker. He was so intent on meeting her. She's been ducking the press and the internet for the past few days. All she did damage her reputation because she went berserk on that scientist for no reason.

"So," A creamy, velvet male voice said invitingly. "Princess, wanna head back to my castle?"

Ah. Another pedophile. Time to rip out his tongue.

"Oh, stranger, I'm a princess but I'll slay you like I'm killing a dragon—" Tatsumaki looked over to serve her prey a nice slice of get the fuck away and there it was.

Amai Mask. Amai Mask had a tight smile, lips pressed down with handsome curves. Fuck. Now's she pushed her line of luck. Not that she's ever been lucky. Everyone was quiet as they bathed in the starlight he offered those obedient insects.

"So. It's you again," Tatsumaki grimaced, voice flat with disappointment. "The eleventh plague released to the world. How did you fit your ego through the door?"

"Same way yours did." Amai Mask purred.

Amai Mask met Tatsumaki's glare with a smile. Amai Mask was the complete opposite of Pig God. Pig God was so monstrous-looking but completely caring and kind.

"Here's your order—" The cashier paused in folding up the burger's bag to give to Tatsumaki. The woman recoiled in shock, the bag close to her heart.

Double fuck.

The cashier gasped like all the air in the world vanished. Her eyes caught fire with ardour. "Hey! You're Amai Mask from Love Story Beauty! I rated it 100%. I-I love you!"

"I love all my fans. Be sure to be on the lookout for the sequel coming out this autumn. I will personally give you a chance to rate it more than a 100 percent." Amai Mask hummed in a breezy tone.

"It's done! I use your face mask. My cheeks are so soft." She slapped her cheeks, so spellbound.

Amai Mask nodded, a purr of lust and smooth things whistling a tune into everyone's ears.

"I only offer the best to my fans when aid is needed, in the bedroom, on the screen. Wherever. My autumn skincare line will be released. With two purchases, you have the chance to see me on the red carpet. There's a draw."

"I will so totally, totally be there and buy everything!" The cashier teen squealed.

"Oh. We're going to eat, let me take that for you." Amai Mask reached for the bag, a successful arrogance on his face.

"Uh. This is her order." The cashier snatched up the bag before Amai Mask could lay claim.

Ah! Tatsumaki rejoiced. Kind of. The girl was doing her job right!

Amai Mask produced the equivalent to gold in front of the teen. "Here are two VIP tickets to my next concert," he whispered sweetly. "Of course you are a fan."

He gave her two golden tickets, flashy, classy— everything he was. The cashier had a mini-panic attack and jumped around, teary-eyed. None of her co-workers thought the wiser.

Tatsumaki despised being a teenager and she hated other teenagers, so her dislike wasn't anything new.

The teenage girl was so excited! Then the bubble popped and she came back to reality. The teen shrieked at her dark grease-smelling uniform. "I can't go like this! I have to get clean! I'm sorry you had to see me like this—"

"Here a thought, honey," Amai Mask didn't indeed flinch. "To me, you look perfect. All your skin."

"Oh. I understand you." she nodded, voice all soft. "Of course you'd say something like that and mean it. You're my hero."

Amai Mask and the cashier were drawn in this disgustingly tender moment of self-awareness and flashy words while Tatsumaki hissed at him.

"Here's a thought, girlie, why not just think maybe he's average for pete's sake? And average people SHOULDN'T give out concert tickets to fragile teen girls. You could do so much better! They might be suspicious." Tatsumaki glared at Amai Mask. "Extra suspicious!"

"Average?" Amai Mask repeated, eyes smartening. "That wounds me."

The teen hissed at Tatsumaki. "It's Amai Mask, he could never be suspicious. And what's your problem?" The teen demanded, her voice high and curious.

Amai Mask smirked. "Yeah, Princess, what is your problem?"

"You," Tatsumaki looked pain as her voice climbed in volume."You're damn—"

"Princess, that isn't how you speak to people. Do we need to discuss this in the car? We have a long drive to do." he charmed a threat to sound teasing and reprimanding. "Fans need respect. The heroes do have consequences."

He was going to drive her around? She wanted to run. Ignoring her problems was strange for her but she didn't mind at the moment. She found it easier to strike than to run.

Amai Mask winked to the growling Tatsumaki. "Hey, this is my friend. Forgive her."

"You're forgiven." The cashier whipped to Tatsumaki. "Oh my god! You are so lucky. He's on the Hero rank association! He's so perfect and great and he makes your skin shine. He's literally a God."

He gave a smug look to Tatsumaki. "A god? I wouldn't say that."

"You totally are! You were ranked the number one hero in the popularity polls for twenty-eight weeks straight! I voted for you!" The cashier cooed, heart eyes growing infinitely wider.

"I cherish your continued support." Amai Mask observed Tatsumaki gritting her teeth. "Fans do allow friends to share burgers together. Don't they? Especially my fans. They're supreme."

"Yeah! Of course! Here are your burgers. Have a nice brunch. Come again." The cashier smiled.

"Yeah. I'll have a great time with my princess," he smiled, getting her bag of food and continuing to the door.

"Your princess?" Tatsumaki echoed.

"I said what I said." he stopped. "You coming?"

"Go to hell." Tatsumaki hissed.

"I like hot showers anyway," he laughed. "Let's go."

"Oh my god, he's so beautiful!" The cashier gasped.

"Oh. Really?" Tatsumaki drily turned away. "He's so plain, I didn't notice a thing when he came into the restaurant."

The sun in his eyes suddenly waned, leaving a blood-red moon. Amai Mask successfully gave her a dark look. "Let's go to lunch, Princess. I'm hungry… for answers."

"Starve," Tatsumaki keened. "Just starve and leave me alone."

"You know I can't do that…" he whispered. He waved to everyone, charming them with arulent eyes.

They cooed.

Why was everyone emotionally attached to this glittering guy? Why couldn't teenagers think with their brains rather than their impressionable hearts? And damn Amai Mask for capitalizing on this fact.

Tatsumaki rubbed her temples. Pretty boys with awful personalities and immense powers were the bane of her existence.

They got into his car.

Wearing her sunglasses made the scene darker, which wasn't preferable. She felt like some crow on a tight wire, falling deeper into this conversation made her uneasy. The more she spoke, the higher the bar was raised.

Amai Mask was probably going to eat Tatsumaki alive. Amai Mask will literally tear Tatsumaki apart as his chauffeur cruised across the city.

Amai Mask's car— no, the limousine was leather, smelling like upscale sleek cologne and masculine musk. The seats felt like clouds beside the tinted windows. No one could witness it if he killed her. Tatsumaki was sure that he'd be pissed about blood getting into his bourbon drink tray.

Argh. His biceps could level cities. Nice world, been good knowing it.

She could smell his cologne. Damn! This! World!

Amai Mask watched her with a certain fascination, calculations and sorcery dancing in his stable beauty. Amai Mask cushioned a slender, pointed chin on his hand.

"Will you give me sweet dreams tonight?" he asked sweetly.

"No. I'd rather you die after the nightmare I give," Tatsumaki said calmly. "I never sacrifice anything to a God. Those who pray on the weak and minor. Like a certain Romeo I know." she quipped.

Amai Mask sat up taller, asserting himself into the situation. "Such a spitfire tongue. I don't have time for your insults and jokes. Coming from me, a friend." The last words had a knife within them. "I invite you to sit closer and have an open conversation."

Open? This was incredibly one-sided. He was driven by the motivation to ruin her. Literally!

"So. We're friends? All I know is that you boss around Bearded Worker when his beard could kick your ass." she rolled her eyes.

"You and Bearded Worker are acquainted with me, as per usual with all S-Class heroes."

Tatsumaki held up five fingers. "Oh, then five of your two friends don't like you. Boohoo." Tatsumaki looked out the dark window, though she couldn't see outside. "You know, bosses shouldn't lecture young women on their days off."

Amai Mask rolled down the window, the breeze tousling his hair. "The smell of those burgers make me retch. Do you buy these burgers? Burgers have too much salt and not to mention they make your skin break out. Your pure skin would be marred by the presence of pimples."

Tatsumaki stiffened. She scraped up every nerve she's accumulated over the years to keep the iron in her expression.

Amai Mask held her damn burgers hostage and rolled down the window to toss it. "Discarding it will be best." he dismissed.

"Discard those burgers and I'll discard your fingers, Romeo," she warned. "Go on. I dare you."

For a moment, the air was cold. It had a hectopascal weight on them.

Amai Mask finally laughed, entertained. "Princess, you were always curious. You could always take a lunch day with me. I'll show you real cuisine with discipline."

"Aw. Do you think I would eat something that you've touched? How sweet to offer."

"Hey, hey." His shadowed eyes were claret and dangerous as he pointed his face her way. "I ain't that sweet."

His voice was uneven now and he was… less beautiful.

"My, my Romeo, you don't like me anymore, am I not your rose?" Tatsumaki rolled her eyes.

"I don't like evil, annoying interviewers and irresponsible heroes. Can you guess which category you belong to?" he quizzed.

Tatsumaki shrugged, a candied smile on her face. "Beats me. Are you implying that I want something other than your continued happiness? I think I'm not of those things. I am a positive to your life. Po-si-tive, boya."

He crinkled his nose in irritation. "You keep on testing the association with your big-lunged words and utter destruction. You and I were meant to speak. You and I were supposed to make a change in your appearance and your reputation."

"My reputation. What do I care about it?" she yelled fitfully.

"You care a lot about it." Amai Mask looked at her, simmering with anger. "You assaulted that scientist. You almost decimated City F. It's one press disaster after another. You embarrass the association. I want you to reform yourself."

"Don't talk about my situation when you know nothing!"

"The ways your past disrespects you is crippling but you do not have to attack scientists."

Tatsumaki's frustration flared. "I don't need your greater narrative. Don't lecture me, either."

"Tch. Looking at you is hard when you're like this." he hissed.

"Then blind yourself." she rolled her eyes.

"Tatsumaki, you're not the only one who has bad experiences with organizations who specialize," he said loudly. "There are 17 S-Class, 38 A-Class, 101 B-Class and 390 C-Class but only one you. You have a certain pull in the community. People look up at you but you're diminishing my trust in whether you should be so highly trusted. You should retain a sense of professionalism."

"There are 500 or more heroes. I only care about the strong. There are only 1 percent of the people I care within that number." Tatsumaki turned away.

"Five people?" he asked.

"Fubuki, Bearded Worker, me, myself and I qualify as those I go out of my way to understand or seek. The rest of you are conniving, slow ladder climbers." she looked at Amai Mask's gold eyes. "And you want me as the feminine icon of the association. You're a surgeon of darkness and you can't heal the association's view of me. Give up."

"Keep yourself in check," he said. "I want you to keep the company safe. No one has sued us but City F's representatives are more hesitant to come to the year-end dinner. They are more hesitant to donate."

"I don't care about checks, money or reputation but if you care about it. I won't kill anyone. Everyone will be safe with me. I protect everyone, parasite or the strong alike." she announced. "Don't judge my abilities to save. Don't get in my way, either."

"Your appearance is salvageable, however, you must go on a campaign to become a sweetheart of society."

"Hey. Romeo, what do you care about me being in City Z? I have to help them. Besides, Bearded Worker doesn't mind." she stated squarely. "I claimed the city. Did you know that with my claiming of the city, anyone you send in will get torn apart, limb for limb."

"I don't appreciate your words and threats."

"I don't appreciate weaklings who don't listen." she shot back. "Tch. Don't make me set examples or test people. I am a hard marker and I don't like to be questioned, Amai Mask."

They peered at each other then he sighed. "Ah. I guess I will have good dreams, Princess." he beamed. "Now that it's settled, let us go to a restaurant. We're going to go to the headquarters."

"Hey, Romeo," Tatsumaki ultimately settled on the chair. "If you don't drop me at HQ, I will summon a storm and you will taste lightning. Sincerely."

He promptly left her at the entrance of HQ. He couldn't even stand a little bit of rain in his hair where sunlight broke through.

###

Amai Mask's talk was less antagonistic than she believed it would be but that didn't mean she wasn't completely hostile. Walking down the wide, dark halls of the association was a relief. She used to linger here, waiting for a job. She pretended she was allergic to the sunlight until she got something to massacre.

Now she avoided HQ as much as humanly possible. She avoided Bearded Worker but he knew where she was. He probably sprinting from his office. He must've heard she was in the building, arriving in Amai Mask's car. He wanted to greet Amai Mask.

Seeing his suit flapping around, Tatsumaki realized that maybe Bearded Worker wasn't fit to run. He panted with a sheen of sweat as he stopped in front of her.

"Run a couple of times a weak, you look pathetic," Tatsumaki ordered. He looked like he was about to fall over.

He rested hands on his knees. "Hagn, Tornado of Terror-sama… I am an office worker. I can't… ha, ha, can't run that fast."

"Still pathetic." Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. "Catch."

He did, surprisingly. He looked offended. "You know I'm vegetarian," he said forlornly after looking inside of the bag.

Tatsumaki clicked her tongue. "Give it to Pig God. This is payment for dealing with City Z that one time."

Bearded Worker opened his mouth, then closed it. "So you're thanking him? Wow, Tornado of Terror— that's so nice." he swallowed and checked the burgers like a bomb threat. "There's… There's nothing wrong with them, right?"

Tatsumaki balled her fists. "How DARE you insinuate that, idiot? Idiot! I acknowledge the strong. Pig God wasn't a parasite for once and he did something. That's so rude. I am so kind, so kind and you spit on this—"

"I am sorry. You are kind! Kinder than anyone I've met." he apologized.

"If you'd like, I'd even make you burgers," she said, miffed.

"I kind of like my stomach where it is."

Tatsumaki glared. "Do you like where your head is too, eh, smartass?" she hissed.

He avoided her gaze then tilted his head. "There are… 14 buns?"

Tatsumaki clapped loudly. "You can do math without pen and paper."

Bearded Worker ignored that last comment, looking at the burgers with a sort of amazed disgust. "That won't satisfy him. Did you know that he once ate 50 seafolk without leaving a trace?"

"Did you know that a million people just threw up in their mouths?" Tatsumaki shuddered. Why does he have to eat his damn enemies! It's gross! "He should get in shape."

"Round is a shape." Bearded Worker pointed out.

"He's still super huge!" Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. "Be grateful I acknowledged someone on a weaker rank than me. It's clemency. I would rather twist my enemy's spine than poison them. It's not my MO. Tornadoes don't use poison."

"You are the terror of a tornado… I didn't need to know that part," he almost belched.

Tatsumaki giggled at the curve of his set jawline. "You're sheltered. Not even you should be shiny and wrapped like a package of cookies."

"Are you always like this?" Bearded Worker had another sigh in his caramel voice. His molars were blinking. It was a sign to run.

Tatsumaki waved him away. "I don't have time for this conversation anymore. I'm out of town."

He scrunched his expression up, looking scruffy and annoyed. "But you're right here."

She ignored him, aching to get home. "Wish me luck on my trip. Peace," she told him. "I'll give you a postcard. Your beard must have a great signature when you sign it."

"Tornado of Terror—"

Just then, a whoosh of air almost knocked her off her feet. She had enough sense to hold onto the scarf holding her hair in place. Only one dick head would do that in this building and not grovel. Flashy Flash was fast, faster than she could follow. It was quite unsettling just how much advantage he had when using his speed.

Even now, she glared at his long, silky blonde hair cascading over his white cape. He wore a black spandex suit with an oversized belt buckle. His hairpins annoyed her. He was a boy! How was his hair so luscious? It made her jealous but so annoyed.

"Hairpin, the next time you come here to flip your hair like that in here, I swear to fuck that I will cut it ALL OFF!" Tatsumaki shouted, fixing her wind-blown hair.

Flashy Flash focused on Tatsumaki, overlooking her provocation. He glared at Bearded Worker. "Why'd you send in Tornado of Terror to that job? I particularly claimed it." he groused.

Sobering a bit, Tatsumaki flew to him, smug and happy. "I just finish the job better." she stuck out her tongue. "Wouldn't Bearded Worker want the job done quickly? For a guy named Flashy Flash, you're pretty slow to do the job." she jeered.

He prided himself on being the fastest hero in S-Class but was he? He was fast but he was weak.

He jerked back like she gave him an electric shock. "I am faster than you, Tornado of Terror! Don't insinuate anything else. You leave so many damn piles of debris and messes. There's nothing sophisticated about terrorizing the citizens."

Bearded Worker put Tatsumaki behind her. "Hey, S-Class, let's not fight in the middle of the hallway. There's a reason why S-Class heroes are forbidden from interacting in a battle-filled or aggressive way. Cities suffer. Especially non-heroes like me."

"Bearded Worker, you never have any shortage of killed prey and monsters when I'm on your side." Tatsumaki turned to Bearded Worker. "Don't you like that?"

"Bearded Worker, why do you put up with this? Tornado of Terror is like a damn lion with pride and damn arrogance. Follow that logic up the chain." Flashy Flash yelled.

"Hairpin, lions reek of ammonia. I smell of greatness and apple cider," Tatsumaki yelled back. "You follow your fucking logic up the chain, footstool! I am the greatest or better than you."

He laughed. "You should have a far humbler view of what you can do and what you should do." Flashy Flash sighed, rubbing his temple in deep stress.

"I don't need to be humble. Besides, I'm in pursuit of precision. If I left that job up to you, you might have not killed the monster. You get knocked out, constantly, and everyone was counting on a strong, fast hero to calm the situation. You'd have to call a bunch of A-Class heroes and you'd lose points!" Tatsumaki ranted.

"I don't care about points. You don't give heed to its superficial meaning. All I care for is training to become strong." he snapped.

"The naturally gifted don't need to train." Tatsumaki pointed out carelessly. "You disgust me."

"Then you are neither outstanding nor gifted if your training is lacking. Your mind tricks don't have any effect on those with a blade." he turned away from her scornful face. "People from my ninja village were sworn to act with humility and nobility when confronting those like you."

"Those like me? You mean winners?" Tatsumaki grinned. "How would I know anything the good ninjas of your village would say anything about that if they're ALL MIA? They probably ran away from you because of your hideous personality."

"You're going through the greatest lucky streak of your life. The association likes to put you on a pedestal but pedestals can be cut down," he warned. "Amongst the shrines, rice paddies and dirt roads… I remember having an Esper or two in my village."

Tatsumaki blew air through her teeth. "They can't hold a candle to me. What happened to them? We should all hate you together." she asked with hope.

She wanted to know if Alis Association had a hold on them. She hated how he kept her in suspense.

"Ah. I killed them. All of them," he said, words balancing on the blade of the knife.

Huh? Tatsumaki ignored the trip in her heart, beating a crescendo. What the hell happened in his damn village? Being beside him felt a lot more reckless than it did before. She should ditch the situation now that she's gotten what she wanted.

"You're mad because I'm right," Tatsumaki said. He couldn't have done that, right? "You shouldn't try to be a con all the time. If I were you, I'd not leave my vanity mirror at all."

Flashy Flash gave her the most peaceful smile. Like the moment all to quiet before the tragedy and walked away.

"Come back here and tell—"

Bearded Worker held her back.

Tatsumaki paused, jerking away and shaking her head. "That's the second time you've touched me without consent."

"I treat you all equally but Flashy Flash has a justice rating of five, the lowest of all S-Class heroes. It's in his nature to be strong but not to do what is right for the masses. Do what you will with that." Bearded Worker informed her.

Bearded Worker, in his own way, was telling her to yield. Normally, if she yielded to power, she wouldn't have been that much of an S-Class champion.

This time, she stepped back and watched Flashy Flash's billowing cape in the dim red.

Its luminosity was undeniably tainted.

Tatsumaki peered at Bearded Worker. "Why was he allowed to be a hero?" she asked, a sick feeling in her stomach.

"What made you become a hero," he answered mysteriously then pushed her to write reports of all those who she's killed.

Bearded Worker pestered her about the scientist's attack and she explained that he was testing on children. Tatsumaki had him agree to cover up the incident. How? He said Amai Mask would take care of it.

For the rest of the day, Tatsumaki pestered Bearded Worker while Flashy Flash glared at her. The evening was spent in conflict, killing and killing in boredom.

Tatsumaki concluded that Flashy Flash was just some self-important twenty-five-year-old. A misfit of the violent species but Flashy Flash probably killed everyone… With Mumen Rider telling her off and saying that the company was rotten. Tatsumaki wasn't sure if she could defend it. How did Flashy Flash become a hero… if he killed people…

Was she a good hero? They became heroes for the same reason.

Bearded Worker wanted to escort her to the lobby but they slow-walked through the halls. He was busy on his phone.

Tatsumaki was busy with thoughts. She noticed the interesting amount of guards shuffling down the hallway at a snail's pace. She didn't know what the fuss is about.

Then Tatsumaki saw the big deal. It was Lady Shibabawa.

Lady Shibabawa was a small, spindly lady with gunmetal hair, wrinkles on her narrow, leathery face. She was forever pointing with claw-like black nails. She appeared on television shows as a popular, respected fortune teller. However, Lady Shibabawa was given special treatment because she predicted large national disasters.

With an accuracy of 100%, Lady Shibabawa predicted the appearance of earthquakes and terrible monsters.

Lady Shibabawa also, for some reason, really took a liking to Tatsumaki. Kids hated Tatsumaki and the elderly did too. Yet Lady Shibabawa's thin eyebrows quirked up and she pointed a long, gnarled finger at Tatsumaki.

Lady Shibabawa was old, deeply wise and had some tired sadness. "My darling Tatsumaki-chan," Lady Shibabawa called out, voice croaky and excited. "It's you."

Oh no! There's no escape. Tatsumaki felt small and misbehaved around Lady Shibabawa. The old woman looked at Tatsumaki like she knew Tatsumaki's secrets. And she called Tatsumaki her grandchild. Lady Shibabawa was notorious for disliking heroes. Except for Tatsumaki.

Bearded Worker pushed Tatsumaki all the way to Lady Shibabawa. The woman nodded, lifting an arm to Tatsumaki. Tatsumaki dipped her head, as most people did, and let the woman pat her head.

"Lady Shibabawa… hello," Tatsumaki spoke meekly.

"Oh! You're so cute when you're shy, my grandchild," she said loudly. "You haven't been eating well, I see."

"I eat enough, Lady Shibabawa." she protested softly. "There haven't been good restaurants in City A. And you know I can't cook."

"Come eat with me in City G. We have the best crab. You don't like eating chicken or beef. " Lady Shibabawa said with a twinkly expression. "Come eat with my grandson. It will be a feast."

"I couldn't. You're busy! And there has been so many attacks and… and it's okay." Tatsumaki rambled. "And I wouldn't be able to bring anything good."

Lady Shibabawa's kind eyes narrowed. "Oh my show, Love Fortune!, you see recipes for you younguns in between commercials. Always eating ramen and oranges. We want you guys to eat well and good since you're all concerned with pictures and your interviews… At my show Love Fortune on channel 37, we fill young one's hearts with the future of love and their stomachs. You need to take care of yourself, Tatsumaki-chan."

"Ah. I will." she nodded. "I'll watch the show when I have time."

Tatsumaki was about to bow out since she didn't know what to say. Whenever Lady Shibabawa spoke, it had a purpose. Tatsumaki couldn't just stand here, with all these idiots watching. Bearded Worker sensed her unease and stepped forward.

Lady Shibabawa didn't have any of that. She suddenly grabbed Tatsumaki's hand. "I'm happy to see you because I saw this fortune yesterday. I saw how you would be in love with the strongest man in the world."

Blast? Tatsumaki will be in love with Blast? She will get a future with Blast? He's been gone for eighteen years and she hasn't seen them for so long. She had a chance? An entire world opened up.

"Are you serious?" Tatsumaki shrieked. "You cannot be joking with me."

"I'm too old to joke. One cough could end me." Lady Shibabawa said honestly with a hint of jubilance. "It will."

Everyone gasped in horror. Tatsumaki didn't like to hear those types of jokes from old people. It's scary.

"Don't say things like that!" Tatsumaki hissed then softened her voice. "It scares people."

Lady Shibabawa patted Tatsumaki's hand. "All good things come to an end. I'll pass on the torch. Death isn't scary." she whispered, all sage. "I'm always gasping, gasping but somehow still alive."

Tatsumaki frowned. "You shouldn't be moving around if you feel like that," Tatsumaki said quietly.

"Huh? Are you calling me old?" Lady Shibabawa demanded.

Tatsumaki froze. What could she say to that? Everyone got so uncomfortable, squeaking and looking at one another for help. Tatsumaki gave Bearded Worker a pointed look like, what do I do?

Lady Shibabawa laughed loudly, mocking and teasing. It disarmed Tatsumaki. Any time the woman was disconcerted, she could literally have a heart attack.

"I'm just kidding, child. Kidding. City G gets stuffy. An old ox like me needs to run around, see the sights and report if there will be any huge disasters in the upcoming months. The Association relies on me to keep them safe." Lady Shibabawa looked at Tatsumaki. "You too. You've been doing good work."

Tatsumaki's childish heart glowed at the compliment. Something about getting a compliment from an older person, after all, that they've done and seen, is very rewarding.

Tatsumaki nodded. "I will be more diligent," Tatsumaki promised.

"You work too much, though." Lady Shibabawa looked over at one of her personal escorts. "Get her my tea that helps with wrinkles."

The escort nodded and left.

"Wait! I don't have them," Tatsumaki held her face. "Right?"

Lady Shibabawa patted her forehead as if blessing Tatsumaki. "Not yet. Kind women shouldn't trouble themselves with saving the world."

"How do I trust the other idiots? It'd be best to leave the work to you and me, the true professionals." Tatsumaki said.

"In front of me, you are so kind. It's not often others let an old woman talk and ramble. An old soul l needs a listener. We don't always tell the same stories. We also spoil the ones who stay."

"I don't care for gifts. Just your insight is enough," Tatsumaki smiled, genuinely.

"You are adorable!" Lady Shibabawa crooned. "Child, why are you so unkind when you can smile like that at me?"

All of the other escorts and men looked at Lady Shibabawa curiously. Lady Shibabawa glared at them. "What are you all still doing here? Listening in to my conversation. You show a woman of my age disrespect? Leave."

Like rats, they all scattered away, even Bearded Worker. They surrounded them and weighed her down but now she felt liberated of their eyes. Lady Shibabawa had so much power and control. Tatsumaki wanted to be badass at Lady Shibabawa's age. Hm. Alive too.

"Thank you," Tatsumaki said, fueling the desire to have the same respect from people.

"You musn't hide your good, good heart from everyone. Especially that strong fiance of yours. The strongest man in the world is waiting." Lady Shibabawa said, a bit coldly. "You can't have walls up forever."

"Ah. My walls aren't… He's… He's…" Tatsumaki stammered, Dr. Gray's face flashing in her mind. "He's not really my, er, you know. Truly."

Dr. Gray's rumours reached Lady Shibabawa, too? Damn. Now she felt shame. The only reason why this was happening was because of that proposal from Lover Boy and now everyone knew.

Tatsumaki was taunted by this.

Lady Shibabawa laughed. "Why didn't you tell me? Did you think this old girl couldn't help you with romance? I used to be reeling in the men left and right." she winked. "They loved me and you should tell me everything. I'm not getting any younger."

"Lady Shibabawa… I didn't—"

"Ah. It's okay. Most people are too nebulous for you. However, you are prime for marriage and children. You're a bit slim but nothing like pelvis—"

Tatsumaki face burned. "Children aren't in my view right now! We're in a catastrophe and I am not with the strongest man in the world. Dr. Gray likes shopping and cheese way too much," Tatsumaki bristled then reeled back. "He's quite dense. He really isn't the strongest man in the world."

"Oh." Lady Shibabawa said, disappointed. "My predictions are never wrong. That is what I pride myself on as a seer."

"Well, who did you say was the strongest man in the world?"

Lady Shibabawa tapped her chin, waving her staff. "Isn't his name Saitama?" she said wonderingly. "We discussed this on Channel 37. We didn't say his name but Saitama is the strongest man in the world. Or one of the strongest. I like to brag about my future son-in-law." she whispered blithely.

Huh? Tatsumaki froze stiff. Excuse me, what the HELL is she talking about? Tatsumaki thought. My heart won't ever change for Blast. What does she mean I'm supposed to be in love with Dr. Gray?

"I can't be mistaken that this "Dr. Gray" isn't the strongest man in the world. Isn't that a shampoo for hair loss? My late husband used it. That was embarrassing. He had no hair, did it matter if it were gray?" Lady Shibabawa murmured.

Something didn't make sense. What? How could this happen? This was so weird? How was he able to be the strongest man in the world? What the hell?

Lady Shibabawa patted Tatsumaki's cheek. "You do not know how strong he is? I may not be there to celebrate your wedding. It'll be sad not to see you like a monk. Always happy. Always calm."

All Tatsumaki did was glare at the world. Tatsumaki always promised to mangle people's faces so badly that they couldn't be identified. She liked leaving people at her mercy because they wouldn't make fun of her or treat her like a kid. She remembered how she didn't have history, just hatred.

"I'm not a monk. I…" Tatsumaki shook her head.

"You will be. Everyone will love you," Lady Shibabawa promised. "Your love for others is a bit shy and odd and standoffish but it's still there."

Tatsumaki didn't know what to do. She watched as self-assurance of hers crumbled. And Lady Shibabawa was never wrong, for some reason. She didn't believe the seer if she didn't see how unlikely her prediction was.

I'll humour this old bat for a while. She is wrong, for the first time in her life. No need to cause that old heart grief, Tatsumaki thought.

But looking at Lady Shibabawa made her sigh, close her eyes and surrender. "Okay."

###

The next day, Tatsumaki was back in City Z, watching the sunlight pierced through the thick clouds. It was a spruce morning, birds chirping, breezes covering her in a blanket heat. How was it always this hot?

Tatsumaki laid on top of a clean building, a perch she's come to love. It was in the Ghost Town and in surprisingly good shape. She could see the lovely city and her prey. She had a bag full of papers, reports and candy.

Tatsumaki couldn't sleep all night since Flashy Flash killed his whole village and two villagers were espers which impacted the already low population of her kind. Also, Lady Shibabawa said Dr. Gray was the strongest man in the world and she was destined to fall in love with him.

Tatsumaki would rather not suffer nightmares or expectations.

Tatsumaki decided, through the coffee and sleep deprivation, that no, Lady Shibabawa was lying and getting senile. That old woman forgot things, started fights in the market and still believed in the confinement period after pregnancy.

No way was Tatsumaki believing in that old goat. Besides, Tatsumaki didn't need to be a monk! No way! To prove it, to prove the elderly woman wrong, Tatsumaki will spend time around Dr. Gray and prove that they could never fall in love.

Once the problem of monsters and Dr. Gray's indescribable strength was uncovered, she won't bother him anymore. The flower of partnership blooms even in hell. No dream of hers got covered by moss or gets buried in the dirt. Until then, she's going to be latched on.

Instead of a yellow blob, Tatsumaki saw a blue tracksuit and the shiniest egghead. It wasn't a stylish get up but it wasn't loud and dumb like his last outfit. He breathed quietly and stealthily, just like Tatsumaki and walked like an old man.

"Hey, Dr. Gray!" Tatsumaki said happily. It went with the endless, easy confessions.

Dr. Gray owed Tatsumaki 1000 good impressions or 1000 chances for them not to fall in love.

He didn't even stop until he looked up and sighed. "Damn it," he said quietly. "What are you doing in City Z?"

"I claimed this city." Tatsumaki floated to him, unusually happy.

"That sucks. The surface is mine," he said smugly.

The surface of the earth. Bah! That's impossible. The entirety of earth? No way!

Tatsumaki scoffed. "The city is mine. Sucks to suck, Dr. Gray." she stuck out her tongue.

He shrugged, frowning sourly at her.

"Listen here, I have this city. Any happenings I don't like, I make them go extinct," she lifted a soda can and crushed it. "Hurting my companions, my city or my people carry a high price. Anyone who doesn't agree pays for it. And you, you are allowed to run wild in City A under my name." she gave a smile.

"Ah. I feel like you're not listening to me." he scratched the back of his bald head.

Why should Tatsumaki? He should listen to her. She was the boss here, yeah?

He tilted his head at her. "How'd you even find me? This is super unusual."

Tatsumaki shook her head. "Anyway," she sighed, letting the tin can fall to her feet. "I practically memorized the streets. It's difficult to keep an eye on you if the forest isn't landscaped, yeah? I haven't gotten to the Ghost Town since that is your responsibility to tell me about this two-star city…"

"You've been looking for me a lot. Why?"

"Pfft. You owe me 1000 good impressions and should want to work with me. Should I write this down?"

"No, no, no," Dr. Gray recoiled a bit, dismissing her words. "Zuzu, look, I didn't promise that—"

Tatsumaki laughed heartily, breathy and empty. "Having hair doesn't collect memories or brain cells. Being bald is no excuse to forget. You promised me 1000 good impressions. Until our work is done, you fucking keep up with your promises." she snarled.

"Uh—"

"When I work with someone, they build a complete dependence on me. What time we have, we spend together," Tatsumaki said. "Until the last word of the report, of course."

"That makes it sound like a relationship." he voiced.

And that's it! Tatsumaki was at the end of her road. She normally could very well be made of chrome, shining brilliantly whilst deflecting the idiots.

"I'm not trying to make us sound ENGAGED. Don't make it sound like we're going to our home in make-belief. That's the last thing I want. Can't you think rationally? I am not in love with you. I do love my work. So, get it through your head that I am obsessed with getting this job done, straightening out the restricted area and killing monsters instead of making dumb small talk."

"Killing monsters should be fun," Dr. Gray said quietly.

"Stop lolling around like a dumb old man. Why are you out at this time? I thought you slept in." she said, collecting her stuff while she walked ahead.

He cautiously followed her, behind by a few metres. "Sleeping in? I woke up late," he replied. "6:02 a.m." he elaborated, completely defeated.

"What time do you normally wake?' Tatsumaki asked, curious for some reason.

"6:00 a.m."

So. He's respectable, she admitted internally. And he wandered the streets at 6 am, much like she did. Did he pick through trash or something?

"Wait, what were you doing now?" Tatsumaki gesticulated around her.

"Working out."

Hm. It probably doesn't work since he's minorly buff. To the extent that Zombieman was. Zombieman was ripped and he wasn't some piece of boring muscle. He also got her apple trees. Zombieman's not the worse, she also admitted internally.

"Hey. Mine stopped but do your arms make clicking sounds when you work out?" he asked carelessly, gesturing to his elbow.

Tatsumaki shuddered. What the hell? She didn't work out the way those muscleheads do. Dr. Gray should get that checked out. Seriously. She instinctively held her elbows. She didn't have a clicking sound.

"That's not normal. You don't know that? Is that why you failed med school?" she sneered

He moved his elbow, about to protest when there was a clicking noise. They met eyes. What the hell?!

"I swear, that wasn't me," he said, catching her mildly horrified.

Tatsumaki shuddered again. "Let's go deal with the early rising monsters wreaking havoc on society. We do need a desk and I assume you have a cardboard box somewhere around here. Don't worry, I won't blow on it." she promised.

"I have an apartment." Dr. Gray corrected her.

"Ah. Good. You probably won't afford a train ride to City A." she said. "I refuse to pay for anything more for you."

He gave her a skeptical look. "So, what do you have against scientists? You almost killed a guy in front of me. He said some shady stuff but I don't kill people. Do you?"

"I don't!" Tatsumaki nodded. Damn shady stuff. She wanted to kill the scientist for wanting to hurt Fubuki.

"There are ambulances who interfere with natural selection. Then there are humans, who allow nature to take its true form. Creatures are everywhere, deal with it."

"Nature is cruel but creatures are kind. You shouldn't act like that, moron." he leaned down and flicked her forehead. "Mo-ron."

She stuttered backwards. How did he do that to her— again? She didn't see him move. And what right does he have to touch her forehead?

"I-I act how I damn well please. What the hell do YOU know about my situation?! You're on the outside. The outside. Don't try to come into things you don't have any business in."

He walked on for a while.

Before Tatsumaki could tell him to piss off, he was rapt with attention on her. He turned his feet in her direction, eyes trained on her every atom and cell, with him feeling levelled with Tatsumaki.

"Zuzu, if you hurt more people, I'll find you before other people do," he said, cold. "We'll fight."

Tatsumaki turned away. "Hmph. As if you could touch me. You're designed not to be taken seriously. No one but me is."

He just groaned. "You're annoying and you scream like a vocal beast," he said. "Annoying."

Tatsumaki laughed and clenched her teeth. "And you're stupid. Schools crumble when you walk inside. Carry on," Tatsumaki hissed. "Let's go read the documents I prepared. It has the different data me and my Bearded Worker fixed up. Hurry up and escort." Tatsumaki patted her bag.

"Data? You're actually serious about this?" he yawned, stuffing his hand on the pocket of his.

"When am I not?" she said. "Stop making drama like some earnest underdog."

Dr. Gray groaned but sighed, apparently leading the way. Tatsumaki followed him with the small idea of who he was. Was she bothering him? Obviously. Was she putting stock into this person who didn't really care about anything?

Why was he important enough for Lady Shibabawa to think about?

"Dr. Gray," she called out.

He stopped, looking over his shoulder. He actually listened to her?

Tatsumaki settled her expression. "Do a good job. I chose you for this job," she said unobtrusively. "I don't usually choose people. So, don't fuck it up."

He got quiet, wind blowing above them. The sky reflected on his bald head, no worry emanating from the guy. Candy apples playing on the edges of her tongue.

"I'm a good choice." Dr. Gray waved away her warning. "It's annoying."

"I said what I said to you. Remember it."

"Ah. I said what I said."

"Tch." Tatsumaki walked ahead. "Whatever."

Tatsumaki popped a small candy in her mouth, sucking on the sourness. Sourness; that's all she could taste lately. But it tasted like apple fields when around him and she didn't mind. She really didn't.

###

-End Chapter-

Chapter Text

Tornadoes For Sighs

-Chapter 7-
Channel 37

TATSUMAKI FORGOT THAT DR. GRAY WAS A DUMB RECLUSE WHO LIVED UNSAFELY.

Tatsumaki wasn't outraged by the cracked terrain that was rough in some places. She dodged rubble and the buildings trying to fall to nothingness. The medical guy wasn't disturbed when passing gates screeching open like an alarm.

Maybe he came to this street under this bridge all the time. With the apocalypse running around them, they walked aimlessly without a tasteful destination.

The thin veneer of hope was him taking Tatsumaki to his apartment. Then they would solidify a schedule, Tatsumaki would leave him and go kill some monsters.

However, she didn't know if he was honest, not just blunt. Either way, he was an asshole and they were moving.

Soon, they reached a building. It had many hanging rust-coloured balconies with painted cream walls. The parking lot had wide yellow lines separating the spots. The vegetation was sparse and sorry but still holding on.

This place must have had bright, colourful paint, ambient music playing as people drove by leisurely. Happily. This was a nice neighbourhood. City Z homed the rich. When they fled, they left good stuff. It wasn't safe to be here anymore.

Tatsumaki knew Dr. Gray was a dumbass who would brave any danger to save a buck. Would he mind sleeping in dirt? Were there others forced to live here out of sheer desperation? That made her frown. She remembered being homeless for a brief stint after recklessly running away from home. It sucked.

And this wasn't safe.

What was his address? Actually, would a mailman come here? She guessed she had to come here to drop off documents by herself. Ew.

Nervously peering, Tatsumaki rebounded back. That… that looked like monster blood or vomit or monster blood vomit. Argh. No. She didn't know what diseases were inside the building and how he lived there.

"Hell no am I taking off my shoes when stepping in there," Tatsumaki stated.

He frowned. "You musta been taught manners sometime between now and birth. In my home, you gotta take off your shoes."

"Ha. I have no desire to get foot fungus by stepping in this building. How the hell are you living here?"

"Rent's cheap." he shrugged.

"You're really cheap! Humanity might be too old to roam the earth and too young to discover space but I am too old to be told when to take off my damn shoes! I'm not going to get a million needles from the government because YOU decided to live in this area!"

He shrugged. "Fine, high-maintenance girl. Don't come in. We don't need to work together, anyway." he huffed.

Her cheeks reddened. "Nope. We do. I chose you. You're a terrible choice. Let's go back around." she shook her head. "I change my mind. Let's meet at the cafe. I don't care about your house. I just wanted an address to ship paperwork."

"We've already walked this far. You're giving up now?" he said, tilting his head. "I thought you never gave up."

That was a provocation, huh. From him? Him.

She balled her fists, seeing red. "Bastard, I NEVER give up. Take me to your apartment. I'll never wear shoes. Hell, I'll walk barefoot! I can walk anywhere barefoot. The sun, easy? Coal, child's play. I don't give up," Tatsumaki spat.

Tatsumaki reached down to her heels.

"Zuzu, you don't have— what are you doing?"

Tatsumaki's feet were hot against the jagged pavement. "When I give in to anything, you know the big bang wasn't worth it. Let's go. I will walk barefoot—"

###

Twenty minutes later of arguments and a tentative float to his apartment, Tatsumaki didn't end up being barefoot. Dr. Gray threatened to carry her inside of his house and she wasn't having any of that.

Tatsumaki didn't want to be a damsel in distress and having him engulf her in his arms made her oddly nervous.

Tatsumaki glanced around the room with a sense of slow foreboding. It's was a petite apartment. Cramped.

It smelled vaguely of rice and paper, its scent pushed onto her face. There was this shelf filled with manga and the rice cooker beside her answered a question or two.

The walls were a natural light colour, the sunlight reaching unusually far here. It bounced off the huge flatscreen TV with a small piggy bank on its stand. The light reflected off of the low gray table with some half-finished manga and wrappers from convenience store foods. Some wrappers were crumpled onto the light-coloured wooden planks.

The theme of brown carried onto the mat she sat on. It felt awkward.

Dr. Gray was across from her. His huge computer tucked on a high table with a laptop, his rolled futon and the odd lack of space between furniture made her incredibly claustrophobic.

It reminded her of how Fubuki and Tatsumaki were locked up when they were small. Nonetheless, he treated her with slight hospitality as he put a cup of tea before her. Matcha.

"No one else lives here. I can assure you that," he intoned.

Tatsumaki laughed, mocking. "You live here. So there is bound to be someone else who mooches off of the free water and utilities."

Everyone watched Amai Mask's movies. If someone's doing something, someone else would follow suit. Low I.Q idiots baffled her.

He was unimpressed. "They're smart. Even electricity works. That's a steal."

Water and electricity still ran here. Is that due to someone paying the government to run it here for those who benefit in these streets or is it some city-wide flaw? Was someone afraid to shut them off or was the government not willing to?

"Who do you pay rent to, huh?" Tatsumaki asked.

Dr. Gray shrugged. "She's a tough lady but I could just do this business on my own. You could just have your tea and leave. It's not bad."

"What could you possibly do? Throwing me out isn't an option." Tatsumaki stuck out her tongue.

"Kind of," he said. Tatsumaki gasped, a bit shocked at his blunt answer. He said, "Not that I would. I got manners."

"Mhmm." she hummed, unconvinced. "Can you open the window? Just do it."

He did and stomped all the way back to his spot across from her. Now she could feel the fresh air pulsing, pressing against her spine. It made the room feel less stuffy.

Dr. Gray... Why couldn't you just tear down this wall or choose a high-level penthouse? If you're gonna live in City Z's ghost town, why not just live like a king before you fade? Tatsumaki thought, studying his face.

"You live here instead of a penthouse. Are you humble or something?" Tatsumaki asked, the only loud-mouthed thing in this awkwardly rectangular apartment.

"Zuzu, I'm as humble as a man before the sea." he shrugged. "I also have a lot of coupons."

Hm. He's fucking weird. How could a man be humble in front of the sea? If she sees the sea, she wants it all to herself. If someone fishes, they have to drain the whole ocean by the time they're through. She liked that type of thinking.

He continued eyeing her, though. "You should just go home with shoes. I have stuff to do. Don't interfere with my day because you wanna make yours more interesting."

"My day gets interesting when I do my job." Tatsumaki glanced at him. "Just because I look this way don't forget I'm still your senior. Do what I say. Let's cut the small talk—"

"Was that a pun?"

"No, fool. S-Stop laughing." she snapped, voice harsh. He laughed anyway.

She seethed. "I will egg-u-cate you on life. You won't lose any hair over this. Shouldn't you want to help people? I'm not wrong. You already agreed to work with me."

He just sighed. "I'm not big on files and papers," he answered, then bunkered down as if she weren't in the room. "I'll read it but the people'll be safe in my hands anyway."

Tatsumaki nodded. She's worn him down. He was perfectly content with forgetting that she and him were meant to discuss. He didn't seem very big on words or rather, big on Tatsumaki as a person.

He habitually sipped his matcha tea while hers was untouched. Despite her complaints and growls, he didn't stop humming.

He didn't stop because he wasn't afraid of her. She could bend his sanity, crumble his very anatomical structure with a thought but he was lounging, leaning on his rolled-up futon with the ease of someone who didn't know her real identity or strength.

How wasn't he terrified of her? She didn't touch her matcha tea, so he drank hers. He liked sharing.

No one had the balls to look her in the eye and deny her. He wasn't penitent and her general existence didn't excite him. The only thing that bothered him was his bald head and his groceries being ruined.

Could she get a yelp or a combination of whimpered apologies? Maybe not. She could try to test if he felt anything, even pain. She moved his cactus onto the table.

Earlier, Dr. Gray went on a rare speech tirade about how great his cactus was. He introduced her to it like a member of his family. Gross but she felt that way about her apple tree. It was one thing she could kind of relate to… about him—

Anyway, Dr. Gray wasn't hyper-aware of anything.

His hooded eyes, numb stare and mindless reading was an indication of his thoughtless state. She slid the cactus into his grip, where he was about to grab his (her) cup.

The effects were delayed. He didn't react at all, looking at his cactus with a mute fascination. "How'd you get there?"

He… must have had the dullest reactionIts needles fell to the floor. If she grabbed his cactus like that, her hand would have bled or been torn to shreds while bleeding.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she yelled, jolting to reach the cactus across the table.

Using her powers, she flung the item backwards, which went out of the window, past the balcony and away. Just away.

Tatsumaki accidentally used her telekinetic powers too harshly as they watched it fall out of the sky. Shit. She was too emotional. The whole paragon was met with awkwardness and despair. And it was so far away…

Oh. Well, that was shitty. To lose his cactus, the one that he liked. It was probably an aloe vera face mask scrub.

Before she could apologize, she was tossed by a strong, intense gust of air. It forced dramatic tears out of her eyes. Barriers were put up as she shielded herself from the odd anomaly of a wind. She protected the flying items by keeping them in place, so they wouldn't break or jump around.

Were they under attack? How could they choose this particular location? Tatsumaki didn't sense anything! What the hell?

Now's your turn to shine, Dr. Gray, Tatsumaki thought.

Looking over was useless. Dr. Gray was gone out of the messy apartment. Was that a monster with wind attacks? Since when was this a new power given to monsters?

Tatsumaki ran to the balcony, getting away from the tangled drapes. Looking up, Tatsumaki froze.

Dr. Gray dashed across the Ghost Town, mid-air, holding his cactus. Tatsumaki gasped as if she needed an oxygen mask.

Did he fly? Did he teleport? Did he use— what did he do?

Dr. Gray landed on a building that crushed under his weight. After years and heights, Tatsumaki was too shocked when seeing someone else doing something she was capable of. It was rare.

He made a dust cloud. How could he crush a building, dropping like that? How did he jump across multiple blocks? He wasn't even fazed! Was this normal to him?!

So no monster. It was just him, emerging out of the gray clouds like some hero.

Flying over, she coughed, waving away the gray clouds while accessing him. He was so not normal. It was harder to look at him.

Maybe it was guilt. Dark, shifting guilt. She followed him back to his apartment, the walk locked in this confused silence.

He had a film of fine powder on his shoulder. His hands were broad futon beaters as he dusted himself off.

"I caught it," he said, looking at his plant. "Why'd you chuck my cactus out the window?"

It wasn't her intention. She hid her face as she coughed. "Well. I thought you were hurting yourself."

Turns out she was right. He didn't feel much. He hadn't felt the pain.

"Weren't you the one who shifted it into my hand?"

"It's not like I wanted something bad to happen. My hypothesis was right. I didn't think you'd be like this," Tatsumaki looked at him seriously. "What's wrong with you?"

"I'm fine, thanks for asking."

That wasn't what she was asking. She didn't care if he had injuries. Just what did he do?

He thought about it for a moment. "I forgive you, by the way," he added. "I don't hold grudges."

"It's not like I want your forgiveness." Tatsumaki snapped, face rosy as it warmed too much. It was just the sun. Sun, sun, sun.

Dr. Gray wasn't doing this to embarrass her. It was genuine. However, with that forgiveness, a breath of relief was there.

"You brought me to my second cactus," Dr. Gray justified. "It's deserved."

"I thought you'd have a bald baby-ass tantrum."

"Nah. You've had enough for the both of us," he assured her.

"SHUT UP! I don't throw tantrums! I communicate like a damn adult, it's you who has problems with speaking!" she hissed. "Your apartment is a mess. You didn't think your moves through," she scoffed.

Tatsumaki had no idea if her bag was thrown out. What about her candy? Was that ruined, all those files? Damn it.

"Yeah." he sighed, shaking his head. "That's okay. I got my cactus."

"You're so damn weird and your face is broken," she said quietly.

He felt his face, the shiny head and lowly panicked. "Broken?" he looked at her, eyes dead and face stuck in that same dead-ass fish stare.

He was stuck in this perfectly inert, jaded existence. No dreams, no goals that showed on his face. He stared glumly out of the tourmaline eyes of his, with nothing inside of him. When destruction was imminent all the time, he didn't look scared or interested or alive. His face was a blank sheet of nothingness.

Broken.

Tatsumaki just wanted to fix it, which left her feeling seasick.

"Nevermind. You'll just clean up the damn catastrophe." she shrugged. "Then I'll leave again."

"Ah. Good," he nodded, putting his thumbs up.

The bastard looked near grinning!

"The sky looks weird again," he said in passing as if this were a normal occurrence.

When they both looked up, the sky was split. Clouds parted like making way for a God. That... how?

"Was that you?" Tatsumaki aspired to confirm it.

He looked up, shrugging. "That always happens. Kinda embarrassing," he confessed, squirming away from her purposeful eye-contact.

"How the fuck is that embarrassing? You're an anomaly."

He squinted at the sky. "I disturbed the sky. Doesn't that make you feel weird?"

"That's what gods do," she suggested offhandedly. "Disturbing the sky."

"Exactly." he sighed.

Tatsumaki grimaced. "You're a strange one."

Looking at him like this, Tatsumaki's heart pulsated with wary caution.

Maybe Lady Shibabawa wasn't senile and being a fortune teller wasn't a complete scam.

Or maybe Tatsumaki had too many martinis lately and time was weird. Or maybe Dr. Gray was all Tatsumaki thought he was.

###

The apartment was mildly wrecked. Papers covered the floor, his shelf was tipped over and The whole windswept area was completely dishevelled with terrifying energy. Manga, posters, the futon was in its own tornado that Tatsumaki hadn't created.

He picked up a manga, checking its validity and whether or not it was still good. He treated every manga preciously as if it were a gem. She'd be afraid of his messy crying if one was ripped. Even his casual ordinary things were important, dear to him.

Tatsumaki picked and prodded through the stuff, deciding to at least help with some small things. She only touched her belongings. All of her meticulous paperwork was all sifted through and separated and messed with.

And at least the TV didn't fall over and his things weren't too broken. He didn't make headway either, the silence like a physical weight between them.

"You afraid of me or something?" he asked.

Tatsumaki looked at him piercingly. "Why do you say that? I'm not afraid of anything, egghead."

Dr. Gray peered at her consideringly. "Oh. You just hadn't said anything."

Tatsumaki tilted her head. "I was thinking. You try that every once in a while?" she asked.

"Oooh, there she is," he commented.

What does she say, anyway? He was so weird. She couldn't help but look between the hole he made and his dead-ass expression. She heard the crinkling of a wrapper. She knew what it was!

"What? Don't munch on my treats!" she shrilled.

"Thought you wouldn't mind," he flinched, continuously stuffing his face.

"Well, I do." she glared at him. "Jerk. Next time you try that, I'll nail your corpse to the wall."

Admittedly, it wouldn't be different from the overall decor. He relinquished his hold on her bag when she stomped towards him.

For a guy who liked being alone, he didn't mind being handsy. Instead of cleaning his apartment, he gathered her papers and candy after assuring his manga's safety. He skewed his priorities.

Even so, the quiet went on.

Spending time around Dr. Gray made Tatsumaki feel anticipation burning low in her stomach. It was like gearing up for a long trip or hike without a real map or destination. He kept on looking at her and she ignored it, trying to find order in her papers. It was almost sorted.

"What are you thinking about?" he brought up.

Tatsumaki gave him the most forlorn look. Why does he care?

"You think I'll do anything to ya? I won't," he asked.

"You say that to an S-Class! Are you dense now? You think I have fear? Dr. Gray, don't flatter yourself. What do I have to be afraid of?"

He shrugged. "People usually get freaked out by now." he motioned to himself.

"By you? People are scared of a scrub like you?" she deadpanned then laughed. "You? You?"

He got offended. "Hey, at least try to believe it."

Tatsumaki laughed. "Go back to training, idiot, get a Halloween mask or something."

He watched her face. "So, you're not afraid?"

Tatsumaki stomped her foot. This again.

"Pfft. As Tatsumaki, Tornado of Terror S-Class rank 2, I do not get freaked out. It's vast curiosity. So… You don't look too heavy or strong. But you jumped about one hundred feet and left a hole in the floor." Curiosity ate her up. "So, what are you?"

"What d'you mean?" he asked, looking at the hole in the floor.

He even left burn marks. The friction of jumping outside of the window left burn marks. He used that spot as some springboard. So much darkness dragged Tatsumaki into his messed up little world. Now her thoughts were abnormal.

Was he a real hero? Why hasn't she heard about him? Why was everything complicated to the point where nothing makes sense? Keeping a cool head around him was hard. What the heck is with him?

He's human but not everything was as it seemed.

He lifted the vending machine. He almost broke her wrist by holding on. He broke a building. His skin was unusually tough. She didn't know if she could lift him.

He wasn't an esper. He didn't specialize in weapons or armour like Zombieman or Metal Bat. He also didn't have any strange features or anything visibly interesting. What was he hiding?

"You got any special power?" Tatsumaki asked.

"Nah." he looked at his cactus.

"Did you kill those monsters?" Tatsumaki demanded. He nodded once. "No powers? At all?"

"I'm just a hero for fun. Things go down easily," he admitted.

Pfft. That doesn't sound fun. Tatsumaki remarked, "Aren't you happy they're down easily?"

"Nope," he said simply, fiddling with the manga cover. "The path to greatness is pretty pedestrian."

"Huh? Being strong is awesome. Being S-Class rank two means I get to have fights in abundance. It's awesome," Tatsumaki gushed. "Everyone respects you and they bow down. It's like having a footstool. People stay low like they should in front of me."

He blinked at her a couple of times. "Wow. You say those things without feeling bad? At all."

"Why would I feel bad?" Tatsumaki asked, confused.

He just seemed exasperated. "Zuzu… I wonder, do you have fun during your fights? Don't you get anxious to compete? Do you get a thrill?" he asked.

Tatsumaki turned away. No. No. No. She's bored. Fights were easy. Life was easy.

Tatsumaki was immune to danger. Tatsumaki had the skills of some modern God. When does fighting get fun again? Being donated to a slaughterhouse herself would be more interested than the last hundred monsters she's slaughtered.

And she got down on her luck because the flawed city, the monsters she killed tied to society added no value to her days.

"S-Class aren't meant to have fun while being a hero. They're meant to work," Tatsumaki shrugged, voice low, "but no one has fun at work."

"I thought jobs were supposed to be fun," he said numbly. "My job search was bad. Good jobs were most likely linked to rotting away in some office. I didn't know hero work was the same…"

"I don't think you would do great in an office job. They aren't entertaining. They're easy and you have to sit still."

He thought for a moment. "Being a hero… It was interesting and now it got worse."

"Worse? We save people, help them because they need it. It's not about ourselves anymore."

"Hmm. Shouldn't being strong mean winning?" he asked.

Tatsumaki clicked her tongue. "When you're strong, any obstacle is inadequate. Life on the battlefield is perfect." she grimaced. "Just perfect."

"Perfect?"

Dr. Gray gazed at her with an expression she's never seen before. He was listening to all of her words with unbridled curiosity.

It made her listen to his question a couple of times.

"Why do you say that like it's a bad thing?" he asked.

Being the strongest person in the room meant monsters were terrified and they always surrendered. It meant Tatsumaki couldn't challenge herself and monsters were boring.

Outside of being a hero, life for her meant that Fubuki avoided her, she couldn't date people because they were afraid of her success and her family life suffered due to the fact she always worked.

Tatsumaki didn't need others, she knew that but there was always nothing to do... Days off weren't even satisfying. But she's killed over five hundred monsters without thinking or having fun.

As Tornado of Terror and the Princess of the Hero Association, people think she succeeded. Others see her existence as a win, her standing on top of a mountain of riches, public recognition and respect.

They'd never know she was caught beneath a landslide of problems.

He's the first that's ever had dissatisfaction with strength. That made him tolerable.

"But with perfect, doesn't it get boring? Since nothing is developed or difficult. We aren't winning at all, then. That's why I spice up my life outside of work." Tatsumaki looked over at his pensive expression. "You know, I think you need an apple in your coffee."

Getting out of this intimate air of reassurance and confiding in one another, he frowned. "What the hell? That's not something people should do." he scrunched up his expression.

"You definitely need the king of fruits brightening up your coffee. And I shall help you fix yourself." she grinned. "Praise me for building your self-esteem."

He held up a hand. "Nah. That's odd. Don't."

"Life is odd and coffee is bitter. I will give you anything that makes you better." Tatsumaki winked. Seeing how displeased he was made Tatsumaki grin. "I'll wear you down, Dr. Gray. I always do win with apples."

"That doesn't change the taste of the coffee. Don't cut up an apple for this," he called out. "Hey, it's rude to go to people's kitchen."

"I am a guest. I will do what I please."

"That makes it worse. I'm reading what you want. Don't make any drinks."

"Don't tell me what to do. It'll make you feel better. Just how sick people need onions since they keep the viruses away." she shrugged.

"Zuzu, are you putting onions in my coffee?" he asked. "I'm not sick."

"No! Don't be DUMB."

Tatsumaki looked out through the window-like cut out from the wall was disheartening. There was a wall phone hung up, too.

Beneath his words, she heard a man begging Tatsumaki for salvation. She ignored him and fluttered to the empty kitchen. It was small, cramped, with an unusual amount of cutesy items.

There were pots, pans, cups and bottles scattered all over. The theme was steel. Tatsumaki checked in the steel sink. Huh. It's clean. She didn't expect that.

She went to his fridge to find it empty. Nothing was in his fridge except for the base items. Eggs were there, she laughed. He liked to keep his siblings close.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "Oi!"

"Saving humanity. It's destiny." she hummed.

"Ah. Destiny." he deadpanned.

"There was always destiny in me," Tatsumaki shrugged. "I'm feeling the destiny in me."

"Okay," He eyed her for a moment. "What are you gonna do?"

Sweeten up life.

Tatsumaki reached into a cupboard. Lifting herself, levitating, she found a cardboard box. Seriously? Out of everything that survived the wind, puzzle pieces in a damn box.

Your items' priorities are quite airhead-like or blown out of proportion. Tatsumaki internally cackled. Great pun!

Looking around, it was different from her apartment with luxury items, sets of silverware since Fubuki was always hosting.

Tatsumaki just liked having many cups. Back at Atlas' home, there were always sounds, people washing cups and plates being used. It was odd to see he barely had anything.

And he didn't have coffee? Just tea? Huh? Dr. Gray didn't have coffee or bananas? How did he wake up in the morning?

"Hey, you have a puzzle but not food?" Tatsumaki sighed, unimpressed.

"Yeah," he said. "I could do that puzzle in under ten minutes."

"Good for you, I guess," Tatsumaki clapped. "So, you gonna show me how you suck at putting puzzles together?"

"Huh? Right now?"

"How about next year?" Tatsumaki deadpanned.

"That can be arranged." he nodded. "Nice timing. Go away."

"Idiot! I mean now."

Dr. Gray gave her a questioning look then gestured to his dishevelled living space. "What about my apartment?"

Ah. That would be a problem. Tatsumaki sucked on her lower lip. "Well, time to turn back time in this apartment," Tatsumaki announced.

Tatsumaki concentrated, getting a mental image of what the apartment looked like before. She cleared her mind, pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth and carefully supported each atom in the room.

Tatsumaki felt the force of her abilities swirling around her like sunlight pouring through a valley. She gave attention and energy to everything she could sense. It was warm, precise and articulate.

Tatsumaki liked being aware, conscientious of what she could pick up, move and alter. It gave her control but also the peace that she wasn't completely worthless.

She opened her eyes.

Dr. Gray looked at her like she had moved a star down from earth. Which she could do.

Jumping up, happy and lively, Dr. Gray started to clap. The whole room illuminated with his laughing and relaxing amongst her presence. His emotions flowed into her and caterpillars turned into butterflies and they flew around his face.

This was an odd time when he liked what she did. Time stood still, clear cut and her body felt heavy.

"Wow! Everything's back to its place. Man, Zuzu, you did a great job." he said.

Tatsumaki opened her eyes wider. Tatsumaki thought he would hate the job… she did. He didn't even get up and perfectly place his items. He thought it was enough. She realizes she mixed up two of the locations and the TV was sort of crooked and—

"You ever thought of starting a cleaning business? You'd do great. You even got rid of the dust." he clapped with more vigour. "Nice job, Zuzu."

Was that why he was impressed? Tatsumaki stiffened. "Telekinetic powers are more than just a tool for that!"

"If I were you, I'd start one, y'know, a business." he nodded.

Tatsumaki narrowed her eyes. "Of course you do prioritize the organization and heightening hoarding tendencies of young City Z dwellers."

"I'd make bank. On top of that, you're not too bad with designing. It's exactly where I left things." he started clapping again.

Tatsumaki huffed, turning away. "It's not like people ask me to clean their houses. I won't ever do that. I'm only doing this because you're getting distracted by the items you own instead of cleaning." she hissed, ignoring how flushed she was.

"Isn't that what everyone does? I mean, I have a lot of cool stuff," he said. Sitting down, he sighed a bit at his stuff. "Too cool."

"No, you actually don't have cool things. You barely have anything." Tatsumaki looked around.

"Well, they have a shitty magical ability to fascinate me."

"Ah. I have that too, don't I?" Tatsumaki smiled, winking. She got the puzzle box and made her way towards his newly placed table.

He made a conflicted face. "I like hanging onto my solitude," he said. "You don't let people be alone, for some reason."

Tatsumaki nodded. "Of course. Why would I? I take them under my wing, they're mine forever. It's kind of nice, seeing someone grow."

Dr. Gray looked at her, perplexed. Yet he said, "I see."

"I decided to look after you and one of the things involved is to dominate in everything you're good at." Tatsumaki smiled. "Making it to the top is a national obsession but puzzles are probably my forte."

Tatsumaki spread out the pieces on the table and sat. There were more than she initially assumed. Huh.

"Aye. Just don't break the puzzle pieces." Dr. Gray looked at her hand. "I think it wouldn't be much of a problem with your small hands."

"Shut up." Tatsumaki hissed. "I could still beat you up. It's gonna be super easy, barely an inconvenience."

"I'm surprised at how unperceptive you are with such a scary face," Dr. Gray commented.

"Well, you look like you think about nothing. You're actually terrible at that!"

"You're occasionally yelling but you don't notice much to get so angry."

"You're the worst person I've ever met. You know I hate you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow." Tatsumaki yelled. "Damn! I'm trying to help you despite who you are!"

I am a goddamn beacon of hope, as lovely as a raindrop and my hands cleaned up your soul. You know, an apartment is just as clean as the person's mind, Tasumaki internally hissed to him.

"Read that while I finish this puzzle. Don't sleep. Tell me what you think and we'll make a plan about it. Do it or else I won't suppress my homicidal rage." she warned.

Dr. Gray looked at the TV and felt around for the remote.

"Why are you turning it on?" Tatsumaki tilted her head.

"I feel unwell when the TV is off." he shrugged.

That's weird but Tatsumaki didn't comment. She was busy trying to complete the puzzle everything without flipping the table. But she probably will!

He didn't actually read the papers, he literally watched TV or just binged read the manga underneath the table. Tch. Slacker.

She wanted to say something (cough, cough punish him severely) after she finished her puzzle.

At first, she was confident that she'd finish the puzzle. Then nothing was okay. She didn't know what the outcome was supposed to be. She wouldn't ask him anything. He sifted through the paperwork, looking about a minute away from slumber when she glared at the pieces.

"Damn it!" Tatsumaki shouted. "What was this supposed to be?"

Suddenly disrupting the air of vacillating tranquil made him look at her questioningly. "It's supposed to be a rainy night."

All of the pieces were some shade of melancholic gray or intense black with unassuming speckles of white. She couldn't even figure that out. She didn't have a picture reference, either. This puzzle was stupid.

Seeing a fourth of the puzzle completed, he raised his eyebrows. "Why didn't you ask for help?" he asked, putting the papers down.

Because I am totally capable of this. Just let me do this, Tatsumaki thought.

Five more minutes of hopelessness. Why were the pieces so small?

Tatsumaki held up a puzzle piece. "Where does this one go? I'm not asking for help. You are obviously just giving me one direction out of the goodwill of your heart. I am not and will not ask for help from you."

"Right." He pointed to its place. "There."

Tatsumaki picked up another. "And this one?"

He pointed again and it was true. They did this, again and again, Tatsumaki avoiding his brown eyes. Aargh. This was taking too long.

She wordlessly shoved the pile to his side.

"Show me it all," she ordered. "I allow you to."

Then he finished the puzzle. His hands danced around, fitting the pieces in their places. To watch his expeditious actions, the layout of the puzzle was a weird process. This whole day was weird.

It was like a picture was coming from nothing and he was painting it, with odd shapes and odd colours. His development was quite surprising. But also daunting. She couldn't do the puzzle and he could finish it without a single hesitation or hitch. Fuck that.

He threw a confused look her way. He played around with the last pieces of the puzzle.

"How do you spice up your fighting career?" he asked casually.

Tatsumaki blew air out of her mouth. Lady Shibabawa said Dr. Gray was the strongest man in the world… This conversation must be a characteristic of that.

Was he bored? Asking her for advice. Did she ever really know what to say to help others? Can she ever know?

Well, she had some words to say anyway.

"I find the next monster to kill and hope and pray it could kill me," Tatsumaki mentioned after a long pause. "That's how you get salt and pepper. Spice."

"Zuzu…" Dr. Gray seemed surprised or less bored than he was before. "You don't think I want to die and my question wasn't about darkness or death?"

"I think you're stupid but not completely forfeiting your life. No. I get mad at what can't kill me. They're weak. That isn't darkness. It's logic, you got any?" Tatsumaki said, hating this small talk.

Couldn't he just shut up now?

Dr. Gray swallowed, avoiding her gaze. "So how do you deal with not finding an interesting opponent?" he asked cautiously.

Tatsumaki kept neutral. She didn't deal with it. Not really.

"As great as I am, I don't have the answers."

"Oh." he deflated.

"Idiot, don't sigh. Do you have a surgery to make your brain smooth? There are always going to be weak small shrimp fries who die in front of me because they're weak. They can't take the heat. Tough people like me beat them into submission. As I am meant to." Tatsumaki laughed. "They all have such a tough time against me."

"I know." he agreed.

"Tough times don't last. Tough people do." she pointed at him. "They eventually… Well, all the live shrimp who aren't weak, small, and submissive come to challenge you. The fights and waiting… It never ends and that's what helps you get spice while you eat your prey for dinner." She moved a puzzle piece while he just openly gaped at her. "What?"

"Did you just try to cheer me up?" he asked.

She glared at him. "I am a proctor but no I did not cheer you up. I was just saying facts—"

She stopped suddenly. This was a casual conversation and she's sitting here, like some petty girlfriend trying to get her despairing spouse out of a rut. What the fuck! This was a weirdly domestic scene, them sitting in his cramped apartment—

Oh god. Lady Shibabawa was confirming something? Why was she even here? Was she trying to get herself into bad situations? This seems pretty stupid, but she was sort of conflicted. Lady Shibabawa was wrong. She should be. She takes too many cough drops.

Relationships were about keeping the proper distance. That was the foundation of peace. Giving calculated answers with much thought was also apart of it. Meeting was the beginning of parting, so being like this helped.

She's been much too close with him, anyway. She contained the urge to run away long enough, so she decided she would go scouting for the rest of the day.

"Did you finish reading the pages?" she asked, suddenly cold.

He nodded. "Pretty good plan. Thought it was a bit long," he said.

"What part is lie? Don't lie to me—"

"The puzzle's finished. Looks good, doesn't it?" he said shakily.

She stood, watching him finish the image. It was supposed to be a sunset interrupted by rain. It was a beautiful but melancholic scene. Why did he keep it? Was it because of the shifting shades? The— doesn't matter. He still was better than her! But no.

"You're not better than me. Especially not at puzzles and brain games." Tatsumaki hissed.

"Just one last piece," he said, grabbing for it.

Tatsumaki snatched it. "You're not done it. It's not finished and you're not better than me—"

Her phone rang. She answered it without looking at the number. When she heard that caramel laugh, she sighed. "Zombieman?" Tatsumaki asked. "What do you want?"

He gulped, mildly discouraged. "Hey, Green Eyes…—"

"Answer my question, bub."

He coughed. "Alright. Alright. So, there hasn't been a big disaster, want to look for some? Then we'll go to that new coffee shop." he said after no pause.

Tatsumaki made an unimpressed sound. "You want to go for coffee after killing monsters? I see you're still strange."

"Made a whole career out of it." Zombieman probably winked. "So, I'll pay."

"No. I won't go." Tatsumaki shook her head. "Nope."

"Why not? I'm in City A."

"I'm busy," she said. "Or in busy town. I won't send you a postcard. You suck. Loser. Loser straw."

"You are busy? Are you with him? Whenever you're with him, bad things happen and you got Pig God burgers and you can't have coffee with me?" Zombieman asked.

How did he know that? Tatsumaki bristled. "Do I have to explain myself to you?"

He reeled back and probably shrugged. "No, but we should talk. I've been getting paired with Metal Bat since he saw me use a metal bat."

Tatsumaki allowed a small smiled. "Why did you do that?"

"I wanted to know why he used one. Some fan got a picture. Public spreads and thinks were an alliance. You know how the media is. I didn't expect him to follow me. He kept on saying I was unworthy, I lack fightin' spirit. The kid skipped school to bother me. Little shit."

Metal Bat's a well-known problem child. Him being gone from school isn't very looked down upon. He is a hero and human lives are more important than schooling.

Still, Tatsumaki got amused. "You were stealing his shine. Don't tell me you stole his pompadour while I was gone? You cross over yet?"

"Why don't you come out and see me? The tree sees you all the time, I'm jealous."

"Continue being jealous," she snapped. "You know damn well why we're not together right now. Sit there in your heartache, loser."

"Can we stop with the name-calling?"

"Nope. Loser."

He sighed. "The association wants to give me to the Tank Top Army. For this fitness workout bullshit. A commercial. The idiots keep on leaving protein shakes for me in the lobby."

"Did you drink any of them?" Tatsumaki asked, spurring on his playful voice.

"They get high-end stuff. It's like 150 yen. Tank Top Master hits hard. He's been training me."

Huh? Why did Tank Top Master have to train Zombieman? Ah. He's a boring piece of muscle but a kind, mellow guy, unlike his followers. Tank Top Master had a band of gym enthusiasts. And Zombieman made plans. The rest of Tank Top Master's group just went with the flow like a certified dumbass. For some reason, that works for him.

Tch. His army thinks that their Tank Tops are gods. Gross!

"Why are you pairing up anyway? You're usually fine on your own." Tatsumaki pointed out.

"See, Green Eyes, I'm usually with you and that's fine but I don't shine if you don't shine. You are the best of me."

Tatsumaki smiled a bit, warmth flooding her chest. "You were one with pretty words. You want me to slow dance to your voicemails?" she asked sarcastically.

"I'll sing your favourite song, next," he promised.

"I'm hanging up, bye-bye." she deadpanned. "Don't call, loser."

"Wait!" he let out a ragged breath. "I want to apologize in person. Putting me on the back burner wouldn't do much? These changes aren't changing me… I still want to be a friend."

"Friend?" Tatsumaki winced.

"Co-worker," he corrected.

Better.

There were more moments where silence steered the conversation until Tatsumaki gave in. "Where are you?" Tatsumaki shifted.

"City A… HQ," he revealed. "You weren't listening to me before—"

Tatsumaki hung up. Looking at her phone for a couple of moments later. Hm. Zombieman hadn't been that bold and now he was acting better. It dawned on her that he was trying and maybe she should try back.

"Zuzu, who was that?" Dr. Gray asked. Argh.

Tatsumaki jumped, having forgotten that he was there. She was still there, in the cramped apartment with the puzzle he finished better than her. And he was munching on something. She saw her candy wrappers.

"Are you eating my candy again?" Tatsumaki squawked.

"No." Chew, chew interrupted by more chewing. "Not really. They're just really good."

Stop eating them, idiot! She glared at him, bringing her candy bag to her side while answering his question.

"That was my stalker. The object of my vast discontentment," she said.

"Oh. Why do you speak to him?"

She hesitated. "It's Zombieman. That's reason enough. You've probably seen us work together on TV."

"I haven't," he admitted.

"I forgot you were clueless. Anyway, his eyes leak a lot. He's a brain dead idiot and day time television confuses the jerk. However, when we talk, it's like apple fields."

"Huh? Apple fields?"

"You know, he'd totally drink someone's bathwater for me, that's how much he damn adores me."

"He would drink your bathwater? That's gross."

"He's weird but that isn't what I said. Listen. The guy wears leather pants, like snakes eating his legs. He said he'd eat my legs. Such a freak. He doesn't even like me. Why would he want to eat my legs?"

Dr. Gray got a considering expression on his face. "He's a guy, right?"

She nodded. "What does that have to do with it?! He's still missing a bunch of brains. He drinks water from his sink. He says, "Green Eyes, it's all good. It's better than tap water." No, it's now. People shouldn't drink from their bathrooms! I've never heard anything so gross. So, he's a zombie, of course, he'd eat my legs. No. He said he'd eat my thigh."

"Thigh?" He blinked at her. "You… never mind." he looked at the puzzle. "It's finished."

She looked at her hand. Empty. Since when? Why?! She darted her gaze at him. "Why'd you take the piece?"

"I wanted to finish it," he said it like she should already know the answer. "I wasn't gonna let you be petty, so I finished it. Puzzles are better when completed, right?"

"Not if someone finishes it before me." Tatsumaki sighed petulantly. "Shouldn't I be the one using the umbrella?"

"Why? I mean, I finished the puzzle. And the umbrella doesn't belong to me, or you. It belongs to the puzzle piece." He gestured to his work.

He threw his arms over the puzzle and she narrowed her eyes. "Do you have an umbrella?" Tatsumaki asked.

"Near the shoe rack. I didn't know it'd rain," he said thoughtfully. "You could keep it and stay away. Sayonara."

Tatsumaki smiled when she got the umbrella. It was red, totally huge and hid her evil smile.

"This is a trade, Dr. Gray. If you get that umbrella, then I'll get the other one," she said nonchalantly. "Halfsies and a compromise."

"You can't just take my stuff, man. What's wrong with you?"

She walked away with the umbrella. "Read all that paperwork and read it, I saw you reading your manga under the desk. You aren't slick. Finish your I'll bring your umbrella back." she smiled. "Sweet reading."

She was about to blow a sarcastic kiss but that felt wrong.

He slammed his hands onto the table softly. "I didn't wanna be rude but now I gotta know, why do you keep on forcing yourself into my life?" he stood up, absolutely curious.

Tatsumaki paused. "From a work perspective, it's like you know something I don't about protecting City Z," Tatsumaki shrugged. "You don't look like you know anything else but everything about these strange-ass monsters."

"Is that a compliment?" he sat down.

"Hell no."

Oh please, I don't do compliments, Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. Then she remembered. She stopped and turned around.

Tatsumaki darted her eyes to his TV. "If you go on channel 37 tonight or sometime in the near future, I'll ruin your house."

"I don't doubt it," he said grimly.

"That's what I like to hear, boya." she winked. 

"Eh, what's so wrong about channel 37?" he asked.

"They gossip about you and I. We're still technically "engaged"," Tatsumaki rolled her eyes. "Lots of goons and goonies are talking about how they're happy when we're having children, how strong you might be or how I spice up your life." she rambled.

Dr. Gray was confused. "Huh? Kids? Spice? You don't spice up my life."

"They meant your sex life." Tatsumaki looked at her hand then pointed to him. "They say you like handjobs and how my hand makes your dick look big—"

He stuffed his face into a nearby pillow. "Shit! Don't you have a filter?" he squawked.

Blushing idiot. "What did say wrong? The media talks about everything! I just needed to give you a heads up! Because they think I give you head. Ha! As if you noticed somethin—"

He still muttered into his pillow. "You have the personality of kid and you say things like that without shame."

"Ah. Are you embarrassed, egghead? I didn't think you were cool enough to get some bubble tea but dang. You can't even talk about this! You're a coward and you don't deserve bubble tea. Can you even drink it?"

"What does that drink have to do with anything?!" he asked, lifting his face. So he wasn't a blushing idiot.

Tatsumaki closed her eyes. "Just read the damn files and order bubble tea and how do you say it, get some balls."

He still looked completely put out. "Just leave. And opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck."

"I'm bad luck." she laughed, twirling under the umbrella. 

"I know that." 

"Shut up." 

Now he seemed completely annoyed and flustered. Now he'll stay away. Tatsumaki internally praised her cleverness. Now he'll never know Lady Shibabawa said Tatsumaki was with the strongest man in the world.

Just to bring it home, she needed to put the nail in the coffin. "Channel 37 talks about us and our exploits in detail. But if you are inexperienced, Channel 37 saves those who are one-trick ponies."

"Now I hate it. Stop talking and leave," he said.

Mission accomplished. Tatsumaki laughed out of the apartment.

Why do you keep on forcing yourself into my life? Why do you keep on forcing yourself into my life? Why do you keep on forcing yourself into my life? Echoed.

He did drop the bomb she waited for. It's when she sees something interesting, she wants to mess with it until it's all hers. Not that she wanted Baldy to be all hers. He wasn't easy to piss off. Sadly. She disturbed him but he wasn't terrified of her.

He was… strange.

Many people around her, they were loud, shone like stars and had the personality of can openers. They acted like melodies, attempting to be louder than everyone. Him, he was like a beat and he tried to escape her. He also had the scanty personality of a can opener.

People want her and he didn't. She didn't have to be a hero or be kind because of that. She tried to save the people of City Z and he was the only one helping when she wasn't there. Besides, he's a strange recluse himself. 

And Lady Shibabawa said he was the strongest man in the world. She's fucking confused and scared and wondering if it's true.

Well, whatever.

They didn't have to interact too much. She made sure of that in the coming weeks. And did a spectacularly bad job. For the first time, she failed herself. That was new. Very new. 

###

-End Chapter-