And here we are with another request!
It certainly has been a while for these, hasn't it? Whatever the case, this chapter request comes from UCCMaster who asks:
I remained silent for a moment...before just going "wut" then rolling on my bed giggling with glee. Pretty sure I scared my housemates with my fangirl giggle.
Anyways, love what you've done with the place. Hazamura being a closet pervert eventually fits in with shameless Aogami and Tsuchimikado. Though he hasn't incurred the wrath of Fukiyose so I'll be patiently awaiting that. The Golden Ratio huh...I don't know...I'm more a cleavage person than a leg person so I can't really make a decision.
Request: either more "the Distance Between Them" (I love Megiio and Shutaura) or this idea:
Sherlock Uiharu...I know...it sounds wrong, but it would be a funny thing to add on with your most recent ACUL0 chapters. Just wanted to see Uiharu chiding Kuroko "Elementary my dear Kuroko."
A certain Neutral Legend Hunter...Saten is doing her Urban Legend hunting and encountering Estelle and Accelerator fighting Scavenger.
Scavenger fighting Touma...cause why not?
Which one I end up doing you will have to see although all of these have their own appeal. Especially the Scavenger ones but I feel I would have to know them a bit better before I get into any of that…
Whatever the case, let's get into the Q & A:
Lukkundantt: It is sort of obligatory to have a genderbend chapter, isn't it? Although I'm not the first to have done one with Touma! I can't even imagine what a male and female Touma conversation would look like, haha. Noukan needs some more love here…
whwsms: I'm not too sure whether doing a 100% gender reversal would really change anything, you know? I mean, because then EVERYTHING would just be the opposite and as such, nothing major would really change. But then again, I'm glad that you just turned your brain off for it!
Anime-ted Life116: In the end, last chapter WAS a one-shot so there's only so much I can do with it! Although in my defence, I've never played Genshin Impact so it makes sense I would miss that reference. Oh my god though, those yuri pairings; you're letting your creative juices flow much more than I ever would! But yeah, I do think that Accelerator would have fallen for Touma but imagining how Sogiita would interact with her is aa lot more amusing! But imagining just a chapter with Touma having boobs is just making me go crazy…
onilink500: ¡¿Accelerator sería un yandere en este mundo?! Tendremos que ver si alguna vez hago tu idea en un Touma más pequeño...
Zatil Hidayah Spensa: Why is it so surprising that female Touma would have a reverse harem!?
craytherlay: Part of me was always on the fence regarding the breast size for female Touma, but I figured that if she had large breasts, she could be considered 'lucky' in a way, so having her be entirely average was the selling point for me. But yes, as you can tell, it's just the usual misfortune for Touma. As for yandere Touma, I don't even want to go there…
Mr. Self-Deprecation: It was sort of inevitable, wasn't it? But the rabbit hole goes down deep for this particular one…
xellos540: I always want to say that we rarely see anime characters going to the bathroom so does it really ever happen? Dude though, normal Touma's size is still one of Academy City's greatest mysteries! I think female Touma would still think nobody would like her because the delinquents who are trying to pick her up aren't really interested in 'love' per se, you know? Part of me personally feels that cramming the chapter full of characters interactions would have made it longer than it needed to be, hence why it was so short. Maybe in other chapter instalments we may see something along the lines of Accelerator, Shiage, Mikoto or Imagine Breaker?
Guest: I reckon Touma would make a pretty good husband!
5queso: I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one who has done a female Touma fic!
elementalgaming30: Most of these stories are one-shots so unless there's a second part, what you've got is what you're getting.
guest: That's going to be a really odd story to do, especially since Touma would literally just take his dragon back, haha!
TheDarkPublisher: I'm glad that you felt something with the chapter and the way that Touma perceives how his family thinks of him. If anything, I was really aiming for that realism aspect in the mind of a small child, hence why his viewpoint is a bit distorted.
Meep fanmeepster: I've done so many things with Touma: I've isekai'd him, genderbent him…now all I need to do is actually give him a rom com and I'm set!
KyuremKing: You've got this idea in my head now and it's not leaving…
Kurt930: Hahahaha, you never know! Maybe I have something in the works already!
WwEpsilonwW: I wouldn't call myself 'ballsy' as I would more 'insane', haha. I can't believe you of all authors are calling me terrible when you know my Touma sadism preferences!
5had0wHand: HAHAHAHA, it DOES take a real man to be best girl! I'm glad that I managed to write something that you really enjoyed! I think the 'way' you read BTL is the correct way though: unless they are one-shots that follow a specific order, it's not like you have to read them 1 – 93 in that order or anything – I've always maintained that BTL should be read as something where you read whatever interests you. As for the Fantasy Reincarnation one-shot, yes, I plan on having another part of that which really gets my creativity flowing, but that won't be for a while given update speed. I didn't realise it until you pointed it out, but I get Medaka vibes as well… As for requests in BTL, there are usually two ways they work: you can either PM me or just leave a review with a request. After you do either of those things, I usually take on the request and write something with it (eventually).
And finally, the thanks to you, the reader. After all, a lot of different things happen in these one-shots and you can never be sure what happens so there is some fun in that. But there is also risk yet you guys keep coming here regardless. For that alone, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Also, to UCCMaster. After all, this comes from you which means you have read this project! For the fact you are giving me the chance to do something like this for you makes me happier than I can say and I hope I manage to nail what you were aiming for in this chapter!
And finally, to Hlioskjalfin. To those of you not in the know, from last chapter, he's managed to make some art of Kamijou 'Tomoe' Touma! The fact that I've been blessed with a reader who would give art for that Touma and also some characters and moments from ACUL0, you have my absolute thanks. For those interested, looking up ReadingThoth78 on Twitter or Hlioskjalfin on DeviantArt. Honestly man, for those small pieces of art, you have my utmost thanks.
But enough of this! We have GT 7 around the corner which is hype so let's get into this one-shot before we had into actual canon content (which always takes precedence)!
From me though, as always:
Mr Question Mark.
The Work that No One Considers. Major_Talk.
"How did you start out?"
That question entered the air at the table Meigo Arisa was sitting at but it was so sudden and out of nowhere that she felt surprised it had even come her way in the first place. She looked up from the chopsticks, staring at the person directly across from her with surprise clear on her face.
The room she was in was unfamiliar to her, but right now, it felt more like a home than any other place Arisa had ever been. Even if it was small, it was cosy, even if it had too many people, it did not feel like a crowd and even if it was cold with the light autumn breeze flowing through the open door to the balcony, it was surprisingly warm.
She, a complete stranger to the occupants of this room, had been given permission to stay here for her own safety. People she had met hours before had extended a hand to her in simple kindness, allowing her, when she did not know them at all, to stay in their home for the sake of giving her the chance to keep on doing what she was doing.
For that, she was extremely thankful.
For that alone, she knew she would never forget these two people who had proved to be the blinding light in the dark tunnel the world had forced her into when she had been unable to sing as she always wanted to.
The normal high school boy you could find anywhere called Kamijou Touma and the nun you would be hard pressed to find anywhere called Index stared at her as they ate their meal. Kamijou was the one who had asked the question, sitting with his back facing the kitchen and sitting directly opposite Arisa. Index sat next to her, her back facing the bed and she turned her head to face the idol in wonder.
Said idol blinked once, unsure where the question had come from. She stared at the boy whose dorm room she had found herself in and had found being her home for the night and possibly for the nights to come (something which brought a fierce blush to her face) but she did not explore the thought anymore than she needed to. Being too self-conscious about this would not end well for anyone here and Arisa knew that better than anyone.
Then again, trying to not be self-conscious about what she was wearing was proving to be a chaotic challenge indeed.
The blue plain shirt she was wearing was not hers and was much too baggy to belong to the only other girl in the room; Index.
Her clothes, after the ordeal she had just been through which had involved some strange people who had wielded water and fire, were currently being washed. But who were those strange attackers? She had thought they were espers…but there was something about them.
Was it the way Index had called them 'magicians'?
As a foreigner, perhaps she did not understand the finer workings of Academy City and its Power Curriculum Program so her terminology of the powers she had seen was very much like someone who did not know much about the City. As had been said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and for Index seeing the powers of those espers, it must have been the case. 
Still…there was something about the way Index had said it. Or was it the way Kamijou had reacted to her saying those words, insisting they meant nothing and simply referred to the 'bad guys'?
She was not sure, but it did not sit right with her.
However, as much as she wanted to say something, in the clothes she was wearing, she could not.
With her clothes, as previously said, in the wash, it had seemed that Kamijou or someone else had changed her out of her dirty clothes and placed the baggy shirt over her without electing to place any pants on her lower half. Thankfully, the shirt covered enough of her lower half that it showed around the same amount of skin had she been wearing a miniskirt but with the absence of pants, the issue at hand was not simply one of rationalising it as her having fresh clothes.
Whose shirt was this?
Why hadn't anyone given her any pants?
Who had changed her out of her clothes and put this on her?
And why in the world did it smell so good?!
The warmth she felt from it given its size made her feel safe, even if it was contradictory given the shirt was too big for her. It was just…a feeling she got from it, much like the feeling she had gotten from the home she was in, a sense of security she knew she would not be able to find anywhere else in the world.
Maybe it was because this place had been offered to her when she had desperately needed a place to stay. Maybe it was because this was the place where someone had said they would allow her to sing, to achieve her dream and to protect her and allow her to do what she had always longed to do within the depths of her heart?
She did not know, but the feeling of the fabric against her skin and the warmth coming off it made her heart beat a little bit faster. It had made her think too much into the owner of the shirt (when it could only have been one person) and the rising of red to her cheeks was both uncomfortable but a feeling she knew she could live with given how it made her feel.
There was a song lyric in the things she was feeling right now but that was for another time.
The sudden question, especially given how her thoughts were elsewhere as she ate the fantastic dinner given to her, made her feel more startled than she otherwise would have. Then again, with everything that had happened to her over the past few hours when it came to passing the audition for the Endymion and making her debut, her being attacked and her finding somewhere to stay with kind people willing to take her in, maybe it wasn't so surprising she was startled.
Still, if she was going to be making her debut, then she needed to be able to get used to surprises and answer the sudden questions and requests given to her without even once hesitating! Such was the job of an idol, someone she was set on her way to becoming! Even if she had to autograph someone's breast, kiss a baby or deal with unfair scandals she had to be prepared for anything!
The effective landlord of the second home she had found tilted his head and stabbed into the air with his chopsticks.
"Well, I mean, going into the idol business isn't exactly easy, you know? Not to mention we first met when you were busking out in the streets. I heard that busking nowadays is a pretty hectic thing to do."
"A-Ah, yes. Well, you do need a license for it and you have to keep the music you play within a certain decibel range, otherwise you could be arrested for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention that sometimes the cleaning robots get caught in the wires and suck up the coins people given you. I've even had people, when they looked as though they were putting money in my piano case, take some out."
Arisa spoke calmly of things she had had happen to her, leaving both of those sitting in front of her rather pale faced. She fidgeted, noting the awkward atmosphere within the room and shifting her butt on the floor, noting the shirt she was wearing (Don't think about it!) was large enough that her butt was between the piece of cloth.
Index, with her hand grabbing a small dumpling in one hand, turned to Kamijou and gulped.
"T-Touma, is this what it is like for singers in Academy City? Are you trying to prevent those with the voice they want to unleash into the world from doing so with your cruelty?" Index trembled as she spoke and Kamijou gave her a look.
"I have no idea what it's like around the world but since when did you think I have a personal thing against singers?! A-Are you trying to give this Kamijou-san a bad impression in front of someone who has literally decided to stay for the night and potentially indefinitely?! And eat that dumpling otherwise Sphynx is going to get it!"
Kamijou shouted at the nun who had dangerously put her dumpling in her hand next to the edge of the table. The calico cat, with its eyes glittering as it stared at the dumpling hanging on the edge of the table realised that lying in wait for its prey was no longer going to work, leaping with its claws forward and teeth bared.
Index quickly, and much too enthusiastically, thrust the dumpling into her mouth, resulting in Sphynx hitting the side of the table with a 'clunk' sound and falling into Index's lap with his eyes turning into swirls and twitching slightly.
"I definitely know who the alpha predator in this household is. Finish your dumpling before you start talking."
"Fi fwas fwalking fwabo – "
"Don't just ignore me while stuffing your face!"
Kamijou shouted at the nun who energetically took Kamijou's advice about eating the dumpling on the table a bit too far, Kamijou slapping Index's hands away from the food she was snatching so Arisa could have some on her plate, if any. The to-be idol stared at the duo with a small smile on her face, Index gulping down the dumplings in her mouth without a care in the world.
"It must be hard doing what you do, Arisa." said Index as she stared at her friend. "Especially with the magicians going around trying to stop you, choosing to continue what you want to must have been hard."
Kamijou's eyes went wide and there was an impact underneath the table. Index's eyes went wide in turn as she jumped, letting loose a cry of pain. She turned her head so fast it was a blur at Kamijou, her eyes shining with a devilish glare within them.
"Wh-What was that for Touma!?" she demanded.
"Stop confusing Arisa with your weird talk of magicians and magic. Th-This is Academy City, so no one understands when you say stuff like that. Do I need to explain to you how esper powers work!? Because those who attacked us were clearly espers. Get. It?!" Kamijou responded, trying his best to be as persuasive as he could but with the way Index stared at him and edged closer to him, it was clear the message was not getting across.
"What is that supposed to mean!? You've seen magic for yourself Touma so how can you just deny it like that!?"
"I was trying to be subtle, so I'll say it in a way even you can understand. When we are talking in front of Arisa, there are no such thing as magicians. Understand?"
Kamijou emphasised what he was saying by poking his chopsticks at her, something within his voice making something within Arisa become alert. Although she had no proof, Index calling the people who had attacked them magicians was merely because she did not understand the nature or concept behind esper powers.
Index on the other hand replied to Kamijou's question with a statement of her own.
"What are you talking about Touma!? Magic is real!"
"Wh – How are you not reading between the lines here?! Do I need to have a big nylon sign with the obvious point I was trying to avoid speaking about above my head? Or are you that dense?! I understand you have your pride as a member of Necessarius, but can't you put a sock in it when we're eating dinner!?"
"…As a member of Necessarius then, I have a duty to hurt those who insult my organisation, don't I?"
"I know what you're going to do next but the fact you recognise it hurts me makes you a monster! S-Stay back, stay back; I have chopsticks and this Kamijou-san has become a master of using the art of the poor student so there is nothing you can do to break through my defec – Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?!"
The supposedly unbreakable defence of the normal high school boy was ruthlessly destroyed as Index pounced. The alpha predator sank her teeth into Kamijou's head and sent him rolling along the floor trying to get her off. It was a rather surreal scene that Arisa felt was out of place no matter where she went but because she was the guest in this house, her role when it came to stopping such a scene was unknown to her.
There was a sense of normality here, Arisa could feel it.
The references to magic and the occult, some organisation Index belonged to that Arisa could not remember the name of, the way Kamijou had suggested him being bitten on the head was a regular occurrence; there was a language spoken here she did not really understand all that much as the outsider. While it stabbed into her heart she was being subconsciously left out from their conversation (she knew it was not the fault of Kamijou or Index it was the case), she felt something of a sad smile come to the edge of her lips.
She managed to hide it by taking a rather large piece of rice and putting it in her mouth, chewing it thoughtfully as she stared at the duo on the floor. Unsure of what to do in front of the scene (she was unsure if the red there was a good sign), she spoke up with a drop of sweat hanging from the side of her cheek.
"U-Umm… You were wanting to know how I started singing? Or decided that it was what I wanted to do?" she asked nervously.
It, however, managed to get the desired effect.
Index immediately let go of Kamijou's head who collapsed to the floor head first, staring at the girl with some anticipation in her eyes. The lack of movement on the part of Kamijou was rather dangerous, something Index ignored as she came up and sat right next to Arisa with a sparkle in her eyes.
"I do want to know! After all, you are going to be like Kanamin soon, aren't you? Ah, to think that soon you will rise to the same levels as her! Like Kanamin, everything starts somewhere do they not? Hearing where you first learnt of the talent budding within you interests me a lot! Right, Touma?" Index asked, looking over at the boy on the floor, completely ignoring what she had done to him not moments before.
Amazingly, the boy on the floor, despite being face down managed to raise a thumbs up into the air, suggesting he was alive. Yet, the fact he did so without even thinking of striking back at Index made Arisa blink a few times in surprise.
These two…really were close.
There was a connection between the two of them Arisa was honestly jealous of given how they could interact with each other without a care in the world and without caring what others thought of them. There was a purity in that connection, even if it had left Kamijou on the floor and even if there were very few people who saw it, it was something both Index and Kamijou valued and treasured between themselves.
In a way, those two knew more about each other than Arisa would ever as a stranger. It was not strange for her to feel left out in the connection between those two and although they never meant to, the small feeling of jealousy and envy for seeing what these two had that she did not made her feel as though the gap between them endlessly widened.
They shared something she did not. That was all it was but it was enough for Arisa to feel as though the distance between her and Kamijou Touma and Index widen immensely.
Unlike them, she did not have the same connection they had. No, looking at what they had, how many people could say they had the same relationship and connection these two had? Arisa was not sure but the purity of it brought a cold feeling of envy in her heart.
She had no right to feel the things she did, but they coursed through her heart while looking at the two of them. Still, realising that even though those dark feelings in her heart were unjustified, it was these two who had given them their home to stay in, their arms to protect her and their resolve to make sure she had the chance to sing without anyone else being hurt.
They had merely asked her a question.
So it was well within her ability to answer given what they had given her already.
"Where I started…"
Arisa felt the words roll off her tongue. She leaned back, hitting the floor and staring at the ceiling with a melancholic look on her face. The ceiling, much like the one she had woken up to three years ago, was one she did not know but felt as though she would come to love and treasure in her own special way.
Where had she started?
Three years ago.
She knew nothing before that.
Having lost her memories from a major accident, something even Arisa was unsure of, she had woken up in a facility which had raised her and sent her out into the world. The people who had been there had been a distant family to her, not her real one but given that her real family had never come to claim her, she did not know what else to call those people within the research facility who had looked after her.
Those people had given her her name but even with that, she had nothing else.
Arisa had been nothing short of a blank slate.
Even after she had woken up from whatever had afflicted her, she had still felt she was one. Her days in that facility had passed boringly as she tried to grab some semblance of who she was, what had happened to her and how she was going to live out her life when she had nothing and had forgotten everything she once had. Each passing day there had felt as though it was going to extend forever as Arisa, more than anyone else, had desperately tried to figure out where she had come from and where she was going.
Perhaps it meant nothing given she knew nothing of herself.
But Meigo Arisa, or the girl who had been named such, had truly wanted to know.
The days had passed in that facility.
And nothing had been given to her.
No epiphany, nothing like a blinding light showing her who she was or a flashback that gave light to the blackness that was her identity. Day after day had passed and with it, the chances of Arisa ever remembering who she had once been seemed to have been lost, tapering away with each passing day into nothing. Nothing seemed to have been gained with each day and with it, Arisa felt the small invisible line tying her to who she had once been slowly fraying away until she knew nothing would have been left.
That had truly scared her more than she could say.
The inability to gain who she had once been was a threat that had loomed over her head and terrified her to her very core, making each passing day where nothing was learned more unbearable than the next. It had pressured her, crushing her down with everything it had until it had felt as though Arisa was going to burst from the pressure pushing down on her and turning her into nothing more than a person without a past or memories.
It had been nothing but a whim that she had found her salvation.
Someone within that facility had given her a CD player to listen to in the hopes it might reveal her stress.
If anything, if there was any semblance of the word 'miracle' to be applied to Meigo Arisa, it would have had to be that one CD player and the music it had provided.
The tunes played on it had been average at best.
But there had been something entrancing about it.
Arisa remembered, in that state of mind where she had felt as though she had nothing and would never gain anything, she had listened to that CD again and again and again. She had lost herself in it, almost analytically pulling apart each musical piece in her mind as she had listened to the songs, finding herself oddly connected with them.
Like her, songs started from nothing. They had no form until the music and the words were placed within them and CDs were blank until something was put on them. Arisa herself felt like a blank CD, nothing written on her yet and no one having placed the 'tune' of her life on its grooves such that it could be heard by everyone else.
It had again been nothing but a whim.
After listening to that CD so many times, having remembered basically everything about each song that felt like her, something that had started from nothing and been moulded into something beautiful eventually, it seemed inevitable Meigo Arisa would have taken that path.
She had decided to sing along with the CD when she had played it from the beginning again.
In that moment, even if Arisa would endlessly struggle in trying to find herself, she knew she had found her salvation.
In the depths of her despair at being unable to remember who she was and the uncertainty she would ever be able to remember, the warmth singing had given her was more than she could ever ask for. No, it was more than just that.
Her being heard, her singing made her feel like she was adding something to the blank CD she was, writing something and managing to grasp something she had once lost by adding value to it once again. Never before had Arisa felt something that powerful rising within her as she had sung and that warm feeling, that strong feeling of connection with her voice and the music made her feel as though she would get something back.
That something lost would return to her as long as she kept up singing.
That had been where it had started for her.
But in a way, it had transformed far beyond that to where it was right now.
This was her past and she was sure if she were to tell it to either Kamijou or Index that she would get some sympathy or pity from them. It was their kindness that made them give her that, but she did not want it, not because she hated it but because she had already accepted it was part of who she was. Maybe if she was pushed into a corner would she tell them of her past in this way but that was not now and thus, she had no reason to tell them that part of her story.
Singing and gaining something back was where she had started. Even now, it was her reason for singing, but it was not the only reason she chose to let her voice into the air and let others hear it.
"I guess you could say…singing was something I was always bound to do. There's something about it, you know? The feeling you get from it and music."
On the floor, Arisa said those words slowly, feeling a smile rise onto her face as she spoke.
"One day…I just sort of felt I should give it a go. Everyone does it, you know? Whether it be humming along to your favourite tune or just singing in the shower, the connection music gives people can go beyond barriers such as language or anything like that. They can connect people. National anthems, songs that are remembered even if they are in another language; songs can do things a politician or even the world's greatest scientists can sometimes not do. A melody can sometimes shake a heart more than a proudful speech can."
"I know exactly what you mean!" said Index as she nodded with her arms crossed. Arisa smiled on the floor as she saw the nun have that reaction.
"One day, I just wanted to give it a go. So I did. And the feeling it gave me… I'll never forget it. Never."
Arisa spoke with conviction in her voice, looking at up the roof and narrowing her eyes.
"It felt like I was grabbing at something when I sang. Like there was something formless I was grabbing with my words. Something I could feel within the music as it resounded within me. Just that feeling…it made me want to do more, want to grasp that feeling with my own hands instead of following along and singing along with the songs of everyone else. It might be selfish but…"
Arisa felt a bigger smile come onto her face as she recalled the emotions she had felt when she had made the decision to finally make her own music instead of merely singing along with the songs already made.
"I felt like I could touch people if I were to make my own music and sing along with it. I felt like I could make my way into their hearts and make them feel the things I do when I listen and sing to music. I wanted to make other people happy with my songs, allowing them to listen to them when they wanted to have a smile on their face no matter what the situation or their mood was. I wanted… to allow myself the chance to be the one not only doing the singing but also giving the chance for others to sing to the songs I made. I wanted to use the only talent I seemed to have to reach out and touch people in a way that only music can seem to."
There was silence in the room as Kamijou and Index listened to her story.
"It all began with one song but that wish to allow other people to smile with my songs, even if it didn't work out, was something I wanted to do. As a Level 0, I had nothing, but the things music and my singing gave me really resounded within me. So, in my spare time, I did what I could to achieve that goal of writing my own songs and singing, even if it was a selfish wish of mine to give other people the songs I made."
"What you could?" asked Kamijou. Arisa tried to sit up but the feeling of her back on the floor was too comfortable meaning she did not get up. "What did that entail?"
"A lot of hard work and frustration." Arisa replied with a small laugh at herself. "A lot. I always thought it was luck this entire time but after what you said to me Touma-kun… Maybe I never realised all my effort put into trying to achieve my goal actually managed to produce results. Results I am proud of from the very depths of my heart. But…that hard work and frustration was what made the journey worth it."
"Worth it? Even though it was hard?" asked Index.
"Of course!" Arisa sat up, her eyes sparkling in their own way as they stared at both Kamijou and Index. "It was those frustrations that taught me to never give up and taught me how wonderful music can be. If I was to fall at those hurdles, then that was just the extent to what music meant to me, right? But I could not think music was just something I could 'put aside' when it got tough. That was not what music meant to me. So when I fell, I got back up and studied and worked harder than before to overcome those obstacles. You asked where I started? Well then, I started where everyone does: just listening to music and wanting to do a bit more than that."
Arisa smiled at that, leaving both Kamijou and Index blinking at how bright she seemed.
With her dream in hand, she had something she could never give up on. It might have not seemed as great to Arisa but for both Kamijou and Index who were merely going down the path in life in front of them and not thinking much of it, the dreams and the desires of this girl made her feel like she was far in front of them and racing ahead to the finish line, leaving them in the dust.
What exactly did Kamijou and Index want out of life?
They had never really thought about it and would probably give the average answers of 'to be happy' or 'to live without want' or something along those lines.
Meigo Arisa on the other hand had managed to grasp something that was hers and hers alone. She had found purpose, a dream to follow and had raced after it so fast and hard that whenever she came across an obstacle she knew she had to climb over it because of her dream and how much she wanted to bask in its light.
She had gone through hardship.
But it was because she knew her dream was worth that hardship that she overcame it and walked towards the destination she had in mind.
It might have been nothing but selfishness in that this was only Arisa's dream and no one else's but it was what had led her here. It was what had made her name well known and given her the results she could claim she had worked hard for at the very end of the day.
She had started from nothing.
But with the perseverance and the desire to ensure she had something she could grasp, she had made it this far.
That drive, commitment and willingness to charge through to reach a dream at the end of the road that was merely hers and hers alone; Kamijou and Index felt as though the way she was living her life was miles ahead of where they stood in their small little dorm room, satisfied with what they had and not willing to rock the boat.
For that alone, the distance between those who were happy with what they had and Arisa who had wanted a little bit more was made clear to them.
Sure, it might have been selfish, self-centred and something only Arisa had wanted.
But the fact she could grasp something that was hers and hers alone was what surely made her human and a normal girl with an abnormal dream.
"…You deserve this."
Kamijou said that without really thinking about it, Arisa facing him and tilting her head. Kamijou blinked, flustered as he realised he had spoken without thinking before coughing slightly and scratching his cheek, partially embarrassed he had been heard.
"A-Ah, I was just thinking… You've come this far from nothing and you've managed to come this far using your ability. But it's not only your ability that allows you to stand up to that plate. Like I said before, it's the courage to step up to that plate and charge ahead that allows someone to gain what they want. And no matter how many people were throwing you off that plate, you managed to stay on it. For that alone, for the things you've done to get this far, you deserve this. You deserve to have your dream fulfilled, Arisa."
Kamijou smiled at those words, Arisa staring at him in surprise. She nodded slightly at those words, words that meant a whole lot more given they were coming from someone who was helping her to try and achieve that dream, something else rising to her cheeks at the same time.
What was it?
Arisa was not sure what rose to her cheeks in that one moment but the feeling it gave her was something she felt as though she could put into lyrics and form a song using this emotion alone. Had other people done the same with this emotion she was feeling? Arisa was sure of it, but the unknown nature of it was such she did not have time to think much of it.
That and the words of the girl next to her prevented her from going forward with the thought.
"So, Arisa, you said you studied to sing? What did you mean by that?"
Index's voice was curious as she tilted her head, placing her hand on her cute chin.
"Whenever I use my Sheol Fear, I place the contradictions of teachings within the words I speak and use the form of song to communicate them. In that case, it's more the message I have to think about rather than the tune I am singing. I've always felt that singing was about getting the message across. Indeed, for me and how I use the grimoires inside my mind that is the case, but you said you studied for it. What did you mean?"
Arisa stared at the girl who easily lifted off terms that had no meaning to her, glancing to Kamijou to see if this was part of their 'insider talk', something she felt increased the distance between her and them but even Kamijou's dumbfounded face suggested he had no idea what the hell Index was talking about.
Sheol Fear? Contradictions in teachings? Grimoires?
Arisa had to question whether she had gotten involved with some strange people and with a drop of sweat on her face as she lightly smiled, she politely answered the question.
"W-Well, Index-chan, while I would like to hear you sing some time, for me, it wasn't just about singing. I write my own songs." Arisa said, Index nodding.
"Touma said he downloaded your album thing on his phone thing."
"Why are you saying the word 'thing' after the word when you get it right?! Are you that technologically illiterate!?" Kamijou shot at her, however, as the calm guest, Arisa was the one to break up any fight that was going to happen.
"W-Writing songs is a bit more than just knowing how to sing. You have to make sure you know a lot about musical theory and the placement of many different musical concepts. Some music out there which is highly regarded isn't done so for the tune always but more of the elements that make up a particular piece. There's more to it than you think and it's why I had to study a bit; so I could understand how the different elements of a piece fit together."
Meigo Arisa, the girl who had passed the audition for the Endymion and was set to become the poster girl for such and known throughout the entirety of Academy City for it, spoke casually. However, to the girl and boy who tilted their heads in confusion, what was happening here went entirely over their heads.
After all, right now, perhaps the person to know within Academy City was giving them a lesson when it came to music and singing. There were people who would have paid millions of Yen for that opportunity alone and yet it fell right into the lap of these two without even realising it and without them realising the worth within it as well.
Were they simply ignorant or was this merely the effect the two of them had on the people around them? When seeing Kamijou Touma and Index, thoughts such as the complexity of the world and the way things should be seemed to fall apart, leaving one with the simple feeling that in the presence of those two, one was simply another person who was in the presence of other people.
Was this why Arisa was letting down her guard in this sense? Because she felt this scene was completely normal and that the people with her were not thinking along the lines of what they could get from her or what they could squeeze from her by knowing her?
They were merely kind.
And that in itself drew people to the both of them and allowed something as ridiculous as the Meigo Arisa giving them a lecture on music and singing to happen without them realising its worth.
Kamijou tilted his head, clearly not getting it.
"If that's the case and there is a lot more to singing than other people otherwise think, does that mean what Index does with her Sheol Fear or whatever it was called is just a pseudo melody?" The idiot with spiky hair spoke without thinking and the nun (who was also a little bit of an idiot) responded to the idiocy with sharp tone.
"Touma, you've just called the collection of 103,000 grimoires in my mind and what I can do with them a cheap thing. Just because you can do the same thing as my grimoires with your right hand, do I have permission to take what you said as a declaration of war?"
"Hah! In a battle between you and me, all I'd have to do is not cook for you and wait out until you lose the battle of attrition! You're one hundred years to early to be facing this Kamijou-san in a battle of wits!"
"I'd just turn my fangs on you instead then Touma."
"I'm very sorry for my remarks. Please forgive me."
Kamijou Touma was surprisingly easy to make enter a dogeza pose, Arisa giggling a tiny bit at the exchange. Index, hearing the bell like tones that came from the idol's mouth, turned to face her while asking a question.
"Touma's got the essence of the idea though. I don't want to sound rude or anything but how is what you do different from anyone else who sings?"
Arisa put a hand underneath her chin and, in nothing but a loosely fitting shirt, tried to think of something to say to explain it.
"How do I put this… Index-chan, when you sing along to a piece of music, you sort of naturally follow the way the piece goes, right? Whenever the singer raises their pitch, you follow and the like. Sure, you can play around with it in whatever way you like, but when you listen to a piece of music, whenever there is a rise in pitch, you follow it instead of go in the opposite direction."
"Yes, I know what you mean. It 'feels' right."
"Exactly!" said Arisa with a smile. "The song has made you think that singing in that way is the 'right' thing to do. But when a singer decides to rise their pitch, a lot of things have to happen as well. Given how much they rise the note they are singing by, the chords playing within the song aren't always going to match as they originally did so they would have to change as well. There is also the balance of the instruments to consider too. A song makes something 'feel' right but getting that 'feeling' means you have to consider a lot more than just the singer."
"Really?" asked Kamijou. He turned his head to the door where Arisa's bags and other things were, things Kamijou had had to carry given she used them for her singing. They had been fairly heavy from what he remembered and he frowned a tiny bit. "But you were only using a piano. Is there any of this balance you need there as well?"
"Oh, definitely." Arisa responded by standing up and moving over to the wall where her keyboard and bags were. "Getting my piano, although technically it's a keyboard, took a lot of hard work as well given the pricing. Not to mention I had to take a crash course in knowing what input to put into the speakers, how to work the basic electronics and other technical things. You downloaded my songs from my website, didn't you Touma-kun?" asked Arisa as she turned around.
Kamijou nodded and looked around for his phone but that was all Arisa needed.
"I maintain that site myself. To do so, I have to understand website development a bit, as well as know a few people who are willing to let me record so I can put stuff online; there's a lot more to music and CDs than people think and was part of the 'study' I was talking about. But I digress. Shall I show you what I mean instead of telling you?!"
Again, something had entered her eyes as she spoke, the energy coming from the girl almost electric. Both Kamijou and Index were taken aback as they stared at the energetic girl and part of them, seeing the passion she had for music was such that she was more than willing to pass it on to them, meant there was really only one answer they could give.
"We'd love that."
"I want to hear you play again!"
Arisa, hearing Kamijou and Index's remarks as they stood up smiled. She turned and bent down to collect some wires for her keyboard, but that in itself was a big mistake given what she was wearing.
Or rather what she wasn't wearing.
With only the shirt covering her lower half, although just barely, Arisa bending down provided a view that, again (although with a much more malicious intent), many people would have paid millions of Yen to see. Thankfully, she was wearing panties but the fact that Kamijou saw what he did made his face go red and desperately tried to turn away from the sight before Index next to him realised what he had seen.
But, as always, he was not actually that lucky.
"Touma-kun, do you have a power point around here some – Touma-kun?!"
Kamijou, for some reason, was rolling on the floor, holding his shin, slight tears in his eyes (and also a red face). Index's foot was also close to it but that was surely nothing more than an illusion. He shakily held a finger up and pointed near the television, Arisa moving and squatting, seeing it instantly and moving towards it.
However, given she was squatting and the low angle Kamijou's vision was at now he was on the ground, he again saw something he didn't really want to. As a gentleman, he said nothing and turned his face away but the dead look in Index's eyes was all he needed to know when it came to how low he had fallen in her eyes.
I-If she hadn't kicked him in the shin, he would never have been that low to the ground in the first place so this wasn't his fault!
Even if that was the case, why did he feel like dying on the inside?!
Again, tears came to his eyes, as he lay on the ground, turning his body to face the bed in shame and curling up into a foetal position, silently lamenting his position. Arisa rose again, smiling although seeing Kamijou like he was gave her cause for concern, something Index ignored as she spoke up.
"So? Are you going to show us your playing Arisa?!"
Arisa brought over the keyboard she had taken from the bag, placing the necessary cords inside the necessary places and sitting on the bed. She set up the stand she had used when she, Kamijou and Index had first met, placing the keyboard on it and sitting down with her hands on the keys. Index and Kamijou (who had swiftly recovered) sat next to her, the girl turning to them and smiling.
"Now, do you remember that song I was playing when we first met?"
"Of course!" Index said happily, puffing out her chest. The instant response given surprised Arisa but seeing how Kamijou looked at her with a smile on his face suggested Index was not merely pretending to remember: she did in fact remember the song Arisa had played. That in itself filed Arisa with a sense of pride and happiness, knowledge she had managed to touch someone's heart using music giving her the knowledge the journey to where she was now had been endlessly worth it.
So giving the two of them a little music lesson would surely be enough to make it up to them.
"If we want to understand how I first studied music, we'll have to get into the basic notes on the keyboard before we get into the song. And once we do that and a little bit more we should be able to get into actually playing the song you heard when we first met." Arisa said and pointed at one of the white bars on the keyboard. "This key here is called middle C and the notes range from A – G following the English alphabet before repeating."
"So, what is this one here?" asked Index to her right as she pressed one of the keys on the piano. A high pitched sound came from within, Index tilting her head in confusion. Sphynx hopped onto the bed and sat with the nun with a yawn.
"That one there is also a C, just higher. You playing the same note but higher is called an octave, but I'll get into that later. Touma-kun, on your side – "
"There are the same notes? Is this one a C but lower?"
"Ah, no. Well, yes but the lower end on the keyboard for most of my songs isn't for the playing of the notes, but more for the supporting chords." Arisa explained, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear as she tilted her head while trying to explain what she meant. "You know how when you see piano players on the television, they are using both hands?"
"Index? Is it like that?" asked Kamijou on the left of Arisa said to the girl on the right of her. Index scoffed, throwing her silver hair behind her and grinning.
"Of course it is! As part of the English culture, understanding even that is the basics of the basics."
"Is that so? When was the last time you saw someone performing on a piano who was not Arisa? Do you know the structure and complexities of music like she does?"
"…I'll let Arisa explain."
Kamijou's question got the answer he thought he would get, Index turning her head to the side with a slight blush on her face. Arisa giggled slightly at that before turning to Kamijou.
"For most pieces of music, the left and right hands are both used for the piano. Unlike other instruments, piano music is read on two lines: one for the right hand and the other for the left."
"S-So you're reading two things at the same time?!" Kamijou went wide eyed and his shock was apparent in his words. Arisa, seeing how stunned the boy was suddenly felt nervous but nodded all the same.
"I-In essence. The left hand, where you are sitting Touma-kun, is more for the chords while the right hand, when Index-chan is sitting is more for the melody. The chords back up the melody and you can say provide 'context' for a piece; they allow the right 'feeling' to get across. When the chords change, so do the notes and when the notes change, sometimes the chords have to as to get that 'feeling' across. I'm simplifying things mind you."
"I sort of get it…?" Kamijou said, staring down at the keyboard in front of him.
Arisa slightly laughed, smiling all the same and holding her hands on the keys.
"This is why I thought I would explain using this method instead of just words. See if I do this…" Arisa used her left hand to hit three notes while using her right to play a small tune on the piano. Kamijou and Index recognised it as the opening notes for the song they had heard when they had met Arisa for the first time; the song called Gloria. "It sounds like it should. Whereas if I do this…"
Arisa did the same thing as she did before but instead changed where her left hand was placed and did the same melody on the right hand. There was something about the way she played it now that 'clashed' with the way it had been played before, something inherently wrong in the notes being played. Without realising it, at the sound of the 'clashing sounds', both Kamijou and Index winced.
That in itself brought a laugh to Arisa.
"See? You can sort of just 'tell' there is something wrong with what I'm playing just from that, right?"
"Yeah…" Index said, her eyes watching the keyboard in fascination. "To think that even though you placed your fingers on your left hand a little bit to the left from last time we got a completely different sound!"
"Y-You remembered where I placed my hands?" Arisa sounded surprised at that although to both Index and Kamijou it was nothing new with her perfect memory. Instead, Kamijou spoke up to divert the conversation.
"So, the first time you played it, what were you doing?" He asked, Arisa turning back to him and blinking a few times before managing to get her thoughts back on track.
"R-Right. While the right hand was doing the melody, the left was providing support using a major chord. Touma-kun, if you could place your hands on those keys there." Arisa said as she pointed to them, Kamijou nodding and raising his hand, placing three fingers of his right hand on three keys.
"No, not those ones." Arisa spoke up beside him. "These ones."
She didn't even realise it when the idea came to her but she reached over and grabbed Kamijou's hand in her own, using her hands to move Kamijou's right hand to a specific place on the keyboard and his fingers to the particular keys.
It was only when she looked up at Kamijou to tell him these were the notes of the chord she wanted him to play that she noticed the faint red on his cheeks…and what she was doing that had made that reaction run through him.
Meigo Arisa's own cheeks went red as a result but she did not pull her hand away frantically, sitting there in the same position with her hands on Kamijou's. The warmth given between them was reassuring with Arisa's hands on top and there was a small moment between the two of them that Arisa felt lasted for eternity.
She had felt the distance between them was large. Given the connection he had with Index, she had envied that a small bit, knowing it would take time for her to have the same thing with Kamijou Index had. While she herself knew the effect hard work would have on achieving results, if she had wanted to be friends with Kamijou, she knew she had to put in the work.
But right now, that distance between them given Arisa was teaching Kamijou about music seemed to have lessened a tiny bit. It seemed there was a moment where they had grown closer together and with their hands touching the way they were, Arisa felt as though she could lose herself here forever and be content with that.
She was sure of it.
The feeling within her now was inexplicable to her but she felt it grow within her chest with a positive feeling behind it. It made her smile and want to hold onto this moment for a single moment longer, her hand on Kamijou's and feeling his warmth.
But with everything, like with a piece of music even, it had to reach an end.
"Arisa? Are the notes I have to play these ones?"
Arisa instantly pulled away as soon as she heard Index's words, turning to face the nun who was staring down at the keyboard and placing her fingers on the notes to play. So engrossed was she in what she had to play on the right side that she never noticed the red face of Kamijou and Arisa beside her.
The tune Index played was, surprisingly, the exact same one Arisa had just played, leaving the to-be idol stunned at how well Index had an ear for music. She had said she sung herself, so maybe that was the reasoning behind it?
Index turned to look at Arisa, Kamijou focusing on the keyboard as to make sure he didn't lose focus. Arisa nodded in surprise at how well Index performed.
"Y-Yes. That was great Index-chan. Now, if you could do that while you play on the other half Touma-kun?"
Both did as they were asked, the opening bars of the song Gloria resounding through the air of the apartment. As soon as they heard it, both Kamijou and Index's faces lit up as if they had done something they had never done before, Arisa smiling all the same.
They certainly had a long way to go to know how to play the entire piece but it was a start.
A start that Arisa knew far too well.
After all, it had been where she had had her roots too.
Everyone started from somewhere and as Meigo Arisa taught what she knew to both Kamijou Touma and Index on the bed, both attentive to her words, she felt as though there was something bridging the gap between them. Although it was not as physical as her touching Kamijou's hand, it was just as warm.
It might not have been whatever connected Kamijou and Index, but Arisa was using what she knew to make sure the distance between them was lessened ever so slightly.
She knew music had that power after all and it was showing itself right now in what was happening with them.
It might not have meant something to anyone else but for the kindness these two had shown her, it was more than enough for what Arisa wanted to convey to them.
The apartment was filled with the sounds of music, laughter and singing as when they got far enough, Arisa had decided to sing the words to the song they were playing. All on the single bed, the trio were lost in the tunes around them, filling and immersing themselves in the music in the air.
And that was all that was needed.
Through nothing but music, the distance between Meigo Arisa, Kamijou Touma and Index had been lessened ever so slightly.
And the true smiles on their faces seemed to be evidence of that very fact.
 This quote, as you have probably heard of it, comes from Arthur C Clarke and refers to his third law.
And there we have it!
So, what did you think?
I did a third part! This was surprising to me but I have said before that I enjoy these sort of black box characters where I can do as I please and Arisa is one of those characters. Although we were given a small role she had in the movie, I always felt like expanding on it in its own way as you can see with this and the arc within ACUL0 that covers her.
And this time, you can say this was really her 'backstory'. We're given very little about her given she comes from Shutaura so while it might feel like such a story would be pointless in how it eventually resolves itself when she fuses with Shutaura, I did feel as though having this small story where the backstory and the joy of music and what it means to Arisa fit within the theme of Between the Lines, a story you think could happen within the ToAru universe even if it is not explicitly mentioned. What did you think of it?
Music, as was seen in the movie, has its own power but what I wanted to show here is that music, and not just Arisa's, can affect people in different ways and lead to different things. Just like Arisa being moved from her depression not being to remember who she was and how Touma and Index smiled in the end after having been able to play the small part of the song they knew, I wanted to give you that small impact of what music can do, especially given how it results in Arisa and the others becoming a bit closer.
Surprisingly though, there was more to music than I originally thought, especially if you are trying to be independent. If you look at the set up Arisa has in the beginning of the movie, she is surprisingly stacked with a lot of different equipment for playing. Not to mention she writes her own music and has her own website; Arisa is seriously one of those characters that has those 'hidden' talents in what she does. I wanted to use that and reference it a tiny bit in showing how hard work and the desire to study can get you places, even if it might not seem like it.
It was a short one this time (I think) with a simple message and some cute fluff but because of that I think this was one where I didn't bother going into emotions and the like. It was just a story of a girl sharing something she loves with those she wants to get closer with and I hope you enjoyed it because of that.
And as always,
Review if you please.
And I'll see you when I see you and I won't if I don't.
Even though she appeared only briefly, I love Arisa so much…