The conversation between you and the Symbol of Peace that followed the sudden revelation replayed in your head as you escorted the survivors of the collapsed skyscraper to the barrier for rescue. His voice firm, his hands at your arms strong, his eyes desperate for answers. He asks these things as the civilians count their numbers and gather names and identification.
“How can anything be wrong? You’re in perfect health, the prime of your life-- you’ve never been as successful as a hero as you have now.”
“I know,” you lamented, fiddling with the broken and empty plastic bottle. “I promise I know. I’ve been trying to figure it out, I’ve seen numerous doctors on the issue, but they either don’t know themselves, or just prescribe me a larger or stronger dose of these damned eyedrops.” You frowned, and tossed the bottle somewhere off in the distance, voice dripping in frustration. “Nothing feels different. Nothing in my life is different. And yet, whatever the problem is, it’s not showing itself to anyone. Least of all me.”
All Might frowned deeply as well. “So, you’re recovered for now, then?”
“For now. But because my eyedrops are made from my own DNA and cells, I won’t be able to get a refill; it won’t be able to pass through the barrier.”
“If you need to leave--”
“I’m not going anywhere. There’s still work to be done.”
All Might looked behind him, before lowering his voice, and chiding you with your last name. “If it’s dangerous for you to remain present here, at the risk of losing your Quirk--”
“I won’t lose my Quirk, just not have the energy to use it.”
“You know what I mean.” His voice was gentle but stern. “Comet, this is very serious. I’m… I’m worried about you.”
You swallow, thickly. “I’ll manage,” you insisted. “I’ve been piecing things together; I think I’m getting close to figuring out what’s wrong. A more permanent fix over this medication.”
“How sure are you?”
“I have to be sure. How sure I actually am is irrelevant. I just have to be.”
He sighed your name in exasperation. “Now isn’t the time for experimentation. I need you to be deadly sure that the choice you’re making is the right one, that remaining here won’t negatively impact you, or anyone else. It’s important to me that you do the right thing for yourself.”
“All Might, these people need me--”
“ Don’t think about them.”
The command was sudden. Silence ticked away, before he spoke again.
“Don’t think about the citizens for a moment. Think about you, and only you. You’re important, Comet, so much more important than you know. Is remaining here in Chuo-Ku ward the best course of action for you ?”
And when All Might moved to grasp your hand, his touch was light, and trembling. As if he feared hurting you. Something is sparking through that gentle touch, something that simultaneously brightens your sight, and hurts. It frightens you. You pull away, and swallow thickly.
“I can’t be anywhere else.”
It’s clearly not the answer he wanted, but one he decides to be satisfied with for now. He stands tall, his cape billows in the wind, torn and ragged, even though out of all the heroes trapped within this forecfield’s walls, he is the most unscathed.
“If there’s anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to let me know. We’re in this together; you aren’t alone. I am here for you.”
The pro hero’s words repeat in your head as you lead the charge of civilians to the border where various medical tents and authorities have set up, fully prepared to handle what you cannot from within. The sun has begun to rise to your right, tinged with red from the smoke and dust still lingering in the air around you, but the feeling is still warming, in comparison to the cool night from before. It will be a hot day, you predict; fortunately, the heat is no deterrent to you. The air is further warmed by the hopeful conversation of the group of people following you, further elaborating on their plans once they’re free from the confines of this broken city. As you look back to them, to make sure everyone is following and no one is falling behind, as you look over them, his words echo once more.
I am here for you .
That signature catchphrase of his, with two additional words, felt… different. Not that it had never been said before, but now, the weight of it felt… different. But why? Surely, it was no different from times past. Different, different. What was different? Nothing had changed. Or… had it? You furrowed your brow as you summoned the image of his face to the forefront of your mind. Was something different about him? All Might was a hero; it was his job and duty to look out for others, just like it was yours. Of course that job requirement would extend to you. Not to mention, if you weren’t up to par, you couldn’t save people. You would be a hindrance rather than an aid.
What was different ?
You have a split second thought that you should have told him to rest; he’s been working endlessly since this whole situation began; it’s been nearly twenty four hours. Surely, he must be approaching exhaustion, isn’t he? Or is the power of his Quirk keeping him going? You should have expressed care towards him; in the wake of all this destruction and tragedy. It must be taking its toll. After all, you care deeply for him, and it seems he cares deeply for you…
He cares about you… differently, than if you were just another hero. You’re his friend, a close one at that. Everything he says to you, every action he makes with you in mind… it’s genuine. It’s… there’s never been an ulterior motive, and it’s never just been out of politeness. From moment one, he has cared, deeply . It shows in his words, his actions, his… his touch…
That sensation, when he held your hand… that was different. You’ve held and touched hands before, but this was different. But it wasn’t unfamiliar . You have felt that before. But it wasn’t him that was different. After all, the sensation of feeling is because of your own nerves. And the way he looked at you, with such deep concern and worry… you couldn’t describe the sensation. It was intense, it was deliberate, it was…
No. This isn’t about him. The Symbol of Peace is nearly unwavering in everything he does. Yes, he’s human, and he makes mistakes, but his resolve is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This isn’t about him.
You, on the other hand…
Something has changed-- or is changing-- in you .
This feeling… after all these years, could it really be..?
The thought is cut off short, when the civilians behind you murmur and cry out with elation at the sight of the camp at the edge of the exterior of the barrier. Those more able-bodied rush past you, eager to be free of this hellscape, while those who stay behind express their deepest gratitude to you and your sacrifices you made to ensure they could make it this far. Grateful bows, handshakes, and hugs are all you can focus on for the next several minutes, until the crowd thins, and then, dissipates entirely. You walk to the edge of the barrier, watching as people are either taken for more intensive care, or are reunited with families, or taken to receive news of what has become of them. Each story will go on, though it will undoubtedly be invariably changed forever.
As you stand on the inside of the barrier, however, you find yourself shocked to find that some people are still inside, some you know for a fact were saved hours ago, if not yesterday. It seems they’ve created a campsite inside the barrier, and you watch briefly as some give commands, some point out places on the map of Chuo-Ku Ward, and another group farther off is returning with more civilians. They have stayed to help.
“Comet!” A familiar voice of a young man calls out to you, and to your left, Ichiro rushes to the edge of the barrier, followed by several androids of various makes and sizes, one even so small that it rides atop his shoulder.
“Hey, Ichiro,” you respond, and you prop yourself against a chunk of debris, taking some of the weight of your own body off of your feet. “How are things looking out there?”
“Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s recovering. Almost all escaped villains from the Chuo-Ku ward prison have been captured, or at least we know where they are and we’re working on getting to them. We’ve gotten a couple thousand of the survivors you guys have recovered set up in temporary housing in the bay, courtesy of Selkie, and more organizations are already preparing reconstruction efforts for when the barrier falls.”
“And progress on bringing the barrier down?”
“It seems almost impossible, and our friend who brought it into creation is unwilling to cooperate. He hasn’t slept, and resists all attempts to render him unconscious or otherwise. There’s only so much the authorities can try before it starts becoming inhumane and, well, illegal.”
“So you’re saying his consciousness is directly linked with the integrity of the forcefield?”
“It’s mostly just a theory at this point, but yes. That’s what we believe. It’s been almost twenty four hours, and longer since he’s slept, or so he claims. Hallucinations will start to set in come the fourth day, which may be our best opportunity to truly bring the forcefield down.”
“Three more days.” You sigh, and rub a hand against the side of your face. “Okay. We’ll keep doing what we can in here. Have you heard from any of the other heroes?”
“Psionic Entropy updated our numbers; before you brought this group, the number of recovered was up to a little over thirty thousand, with an extra thousand or so considered dead or lost depending on where they were found, or last seen. We have the best medics on sight bringing back anyone who’s still just barely holding on. The numbers, of course, aren’t going to be pretty at the end of all this, but the sooner you can get to people, the better this will all turn out.”
You digest the information slowly, the numbers.
“And what’s been the public’s reaction to all this? On the outside; what are the news and other people saying?”
“It’s…” Ichiro screws up his brow. “It’s not as bad as you think. Of course the major media outlets wouldn’t let the image circle through their stations, but online sources nabbed a pic of the main culprit behind the disaster crucified on that damning pole. It’s made the idea that it’s not the heroes’ fault out of negligence or poor teamwork less of a possible reality, and of course most logical people-- or, at least the die-hard All Might fanatics-- understand sometimes, a villain is going to have capabilities beyond what we planned for. Even some villains are cursing what the other three villains have done due to the uptick in hero activity as a result, which puts citizens further at ease and inhibits their ability to function. But even more than that, everyone’s attention is split half-and-half between this, and 4ST3R01D.”
4ST3R01D. You had forgotten about the replacement bot that was taking your and All Might’s place in your absence, and a heavy, uncertain weight presses down on your chest. “And… how is 4ST3R01D performing?”
To this question, Ichiro beams. He reaches into his pocket to retrieve his phone, pushing it through the barrier for you to look at. On screen are several news articles, thus far praising the machine and its cohorts for its work in rescue and apprehension. Of course, given the short timespan in which 4ST3R01D has had to operate thus far, there isn’t much, and some outlets express skepticism at it all, but for the most part, there are only positive things to be said. Endeavor can be seen in the background of several images, sulking even as he keeps an ever-watchful eye on the powerful machine.
“So far, 4ST3R01D has handled two villain incidents every hour on average, alongside a few rescue cases, all without incident. I took what we had learned from C4D1E’s time on the field and made certain to edit the ethical parameters to include the methods of operation involving cooperation with the police. They’ve always had a conscience and understood right from wrong, it’s just been difficult for them to discern between their own thoughts and what society believes to be acceptable. That shouldn’t be an issue now.”
“And their main directive is still to protect humanity.”
“To destroy any of Earth’s threats with impunity,” Ichiro affirms. “It may not always be humans that need protecting.”
“Right. That makes sense.” You pause, before handing Ichiro back his phone. “If possible, Ichiro, and if Endeavor will cooperate, I want more heroes assigned to monitoring 4ST3R01D on the field. This thing has All Might’s Quirk; the results of this bot going rogue would be catastrophic beyond belief.”
“All Might’s--?” Ichiro blinks, and his mouth flaps uselessly for a moment. He looks amongst his machines surrounding him, before turning back to you.
“Comet… 4ST3R01D didn’t register All Might’s Quirk. In fact… none of my creations did.” When you furrow your brow and lean closer, he elaborates. “When 4ST3R01D explained he couldn’t process All Might’s DNA, I thought perhaps it was just a glitch, so I tried assigning the Quirk to another bot, a clean slate, as an experiment. But… it didn’t work. It didn’t work with any of them. Not one of my machines has All Might’s Quirk.”
“You’re sure? He gave you his blood, that should work, shouldn’t it?”
“It should.” Ichiro frowns. “But… I can’t quite explain it, but something about All Might’s blood seemed… it’s like it didn’t want us to know his Quirk, as if… I don’t know how to describe it. It was just… bizarre.”
This comes equally as a relief and perplexing to you. You only let the latter emotion show on your features. “Don’t worry too much about it,” you console the boy. “What matters is that the bots are doing their jobs, right? Send in the ones you have with you now, and I’ll direct them to problem areas.”
“Yes. Okay.” Ichiro tilts his head in your direction, and the androids gathered around him walk through the barrier with ease. “Well, on the bright side, I guess this answers whether souls are organic or even corporeal.”
“Thank you for the help, Ichiro.” You nod to the boy, then turn your direction to the machines awaiting their orders before you. “Uh… I… guess I should ask your… names…”
As you are introduced to the bots one by one, including their Quirks, and then give them their orders, your thoughts once again wander back to All Might and the growing strange circumstances surrounding him. While, initially, your thoughts are centered around the behavior of his Quirk, they slowly shift once again to the… feelings… between the two of you. Or is it just a feeling within yourself? You can’t speak for All Might, after all; you don’t know what he’s thinking about all this. About you.
Do… you want to know what he’s thinking about you?
No-- you know what he’s thinking. You’re his dear friend, after all; of course he cares about you, and you care about him. Of course. But… to what degree? How much does he care about you? How much do you care about… him?
The question grows. The feeling grows. No-- it’s not growing. It has been here for quite some time. But since when? For how long? The White Day gifts? When he caught you from falling from the sky when you fought Rockshot? When he took you for tea and a walk for your birthday? The training? The Kairaku-En incident? Or perhaps, when he professed his weakness..? His vulnerability? His humanity? It couldn’t have been any sooner than then.
So, for how long, then?
For how long have you been in love with All Might?
The final question-- the true question-- steals the breath from your lungs. All you can think about is the sound of his laughter and the crinkle of his blue eyes and the warmth and tenderness of his hands, even as you make your way back into Chuo-Ku ward, seeking to meet up once again with one of your fellow heroes to continue the rescue efforts. But time blurs together, and your feel light and unreal, as if you are a ghost.
For how long have you been in love with All Might?
Are you in love with All Might?
Each breath shakes you to your core. Your breath accelerates, until--
“Well now, there’s our beacon of hope!” chirps a tired but gleeful voice above you. You turn to look, and are greeted by the sight of Tengu, perched atop a lamp post with a bundle of something in his arms. A woman rushes past you, and Tengu drops to the ground, handing the sobbing woman the item. When she runs past you once again, you hear the muffled whimpers of a baby. “Safe travels, miss,” Tengu calls out to the woman, before coming to stand next to you. “Wonderful as ever to see your shining face, Comet.”
“How have you been holding up?” you ask the bird man.
“Feel like I should be asking you that more. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Huh?” You place a hand to your cheek, and even through the material of your glove, you can feel your skin is clammy and cool. “Oh. Well, I… just spoke with Ichiro.”
“I figured.” Tengu gestured up to the sky, and in the same moment, an android soars above the two of you, two people under each arm as it rushes to return to the barrier. “Glad to have the extra hands. It’ll be better for everyone. You figure the kid’ll bring us any more backup?”
“I wouldn’t doubt it.”
“And how’s the situation outside?”
“They’re managing pretty well. I still have doubts about the integrity of Ichiro’s machines,” You turn your attention southward bound. “But they still need our help in here.”
“Always focused on the task, eh, girl?” Tengu chuckles, a warm sound that crackles like s’mores. “Well, I could sure as hell use your help checking out a shopping district east of here. Feeling up to it?”
“Well then, after you, m’lady. You are our beacon of hope, after all.” Tengu bows, wings fanning out, and there’s a twinkle in his eye when he looks up at you and winks. The look on his face is warm and… affectionate? It is similar to the look All Might gives you, happy and hopeful, and yet…
Wait a minute .