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“Master!”

Sighing at the sound of that hyperactive psycho addressing him, Upa reluctantly turns to face Nico as the other runs up to him.

“What do you want, Nico?”

“Oh, oh!” Said boy pops out, “I have questions for you!”

“About?” The younger asks, patience growing thin.

“I wanna know what Master likes!” Nico cheerfully bursts out, jumping and spreading his hands out.

“…What-”

“What’s your favorite kind of hero?!” The sickly child cuts him off, swishing side to side as he badgers Upa with pointless questions, “Cocky, hot-blooded muscleheads? Precious cinnamon roll softboys? Mysterious loners with a troubled past?!”

Trying to get his thoughts together, Upa shakes his head and tries to interject, “Nico, what-”

 “What kind of weapons do you like best?! Or, wait, you’d probably like the ones who use their fists. Oh! What kind of superpowers do you like?!”

“Nico…”

“How do you feel about capes?!”

“NICO!”

“Hm?” Said boy mutters, finally noticing Upa’s frustration.

Huffing, Upa finally manages to get out, “What the- What is wrong with you?! Why are you asking all of these stupid questions?!”

Blinking, Nico’s silent for a minute before a grin sprouts onto his face and says,

“Because I want Master to think I’m cool!”

Tilting his head to the side, Upa stars, “Wha-”

“Master is the coolest guy around, so I want to know what he thinks is cool, so I can be cool like you!” Nico replies easily.

“…Nico…why…”

“Because, if I become cool like you, maybe you’ll like me!”

Regarding the boy in front of him, Upa tries to make sense of what he just heard.

“…That’s stupid.”

Smile turning to shock, Nico manages to utter a, “Huh?”

“It’s stupid,” Upa reiterates, “You can’t just change someone’s opinion by trying to be something you’re not; eventually, you’ll slip up, and they’ll realize you’re not who they expected you to be and you’ll just keep killing yourself trying to keep them impressed; so drop it, Nico.”

“O…Okay.” Nico mutters, head going down.

Feeling…something sharp in his chest at the sight, Upa tries to start, “Well…”

Before Nico lifts his head back up, smiling, a star in his eye, fists balled with excitement and says, “That was such a cool line!”

Blinking, Upa regards Nico with shock. Taking that as a cue to continue, Nico says, “That was the coolest and most tsundere way to say ‘Be yourself’ I’ve ever heard! You really are the best, Master!”

The praise is enough to make Upa turn his head (in apathy, definitely not embarrassment, shut up Trash!) and mutter, “Hmph. If that’s how your feeble mind chooses to interpret it, then fine. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Giggling, Nico holds out his hand and says, “C’mon! Let’s do floating practice!”

Slowly grabbing the outstretched hand, Upa huffs, “If it keeps you from asking stupid questions, then fine.”

Walking towards a more shaded spot to make sure Nico doesn’t get too dizzy, Upa softly mutters, tilting away his pink cheeks, “Besides…”

“Hmm?”

“I think…you’re plenty cool already.”

This surprises Nico, who recovers quickly and lifts Upa up and twirling with the smaller pulled to his chest, shouting out cheers in joy while Upa protests the manhandling.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the courtyard of Building 5, Liang approaches the bum as he’s laying down.

“Have you seen Upa?” he questions, “I could’ve sworn he said he’d be here today.”

Looking up, Qi replies, “Oh, he walked off a while ago with his boyfriend.”

“The green-haired child from Rock’s cell that he’s always talking about?”

“That’s the one.”

Somewhere else on the compound, an offended yell of, “HE’S NOT MY BOYFRIEND!” surrounds the entire facility.

“…Qi?" Liang asks, curiously, "Is this what Inori calls, ‘puppy love?’”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the cafeteria of Building 13, Uno’s fork and knife fall from his frozen hands and land on his tray with a small ching!

“Uno?” Rock calls out from across the table, “You okay?”

Sniffing the air around them with the fervor of a bloodhound, hands slamming onto the table to slightly elevate himself to sniff higher, Uno eventually ceases with a, “Hmm….”

“Uno?”

“I just caught a whiff of Nico’s self-esteem dropping; it’s fine now, but I wonder what caused it.”

“…You can smell when Nico feels bad about himself?” Rock asks disbelievingly.

“I can smell that for all three of you,” Uno clarifies, “Usually happens about six times a day with Jyugo.”

I really do it that often?  Jyugo wonders from next to Uno, Do I worry him when it happens? He doesn’t need to worry about that, I 'm already giving him enough reasons to get stressed out as it is, why am I like this? I don’t deserve to have Uno for a friend.

“Aaaaaaaand, there it goes; get over here Rock, he needs hugs.”

While they embrace the second youngest of their cell, a chill goes down Rock’s spine.

“Oh no…” he says gravely.

“Rock?” Jyugo asks.

“My ‘Someone’s Trying to Get Sweet with Nico’ sense is Tingling.” Said mohawk man says with urgency.

“Oh no!” Uno gasps.

“…I should have gone with Nico.” Jyugo laments.