Disclaimer: Me no ownie.


…and there was nothing terribly exciting. A mildewed carpet, a table made lopsided by the loss of a leg; a typical entryway, if a little more expansive than the average house. A grand staircase led upwards and then split off right or left; at the bottom of the stairs on either side was a hallway that looked less than inviting. Scheris let out the breath she had been holding unconsciously.

"Let's split up."

She felt the chill again when she heard Ryuhou say those words.

"Scheris, with me down the left hallway. Cougar, Kiryu-san, down the right."

He turned stiffly on his heel and walked with clear confidence in the direction of the left hallway, leaving Scheris to scurry after him. She glanced around once. Cougar was chatting animatedly to his companion, but Mimori was watching the two of them go with a strange look in her eye.

I wonder what Mimori-san is thinking about…

"Scheris, you're falling behind."

"Oh! Sorry, Ryuhou, I kinda got lost in my thoughts."

"Hn."

She internally flinched at the annoyed flash in his eyes before he turned away to continue walking. He was clearly not in a good mood, and it was obvious why. Scheris squinted her eyes shut, letting every noise (little that there was) but the sound of his sure footsteps fade; then, ever so slowly, even that grew fainter and fainter until it was nothing, so that she could slip peacefully into her own thoughts.

This house. This house had some strange quality about it, some quality that every other rundown, ramshackle, uninhabitable pre-Uprising house did not have. The problem was she didn't know exactly whatit had; but it was clear that the thingit possessed was not a good thing. Another shiver crawled up her spine, and this time she was unable to suppress it. She hoped Ryuhou wouldn't notice.

Creeeeeeeeak.

Scheris jumped back sharply, eyes snapping wide open. The floorboards under her feet had creaked loudly, startling her. That was all. Taking a deep breath, she steeled her nerves and glanced warily from side to side. She wrapped her arms around herself in a protective way.

"Sorry! Ryuhou, this place is…it's – it's just wrong."

Silence.

"Ryuhou?"

There was no response.

"Ryuhou, this really isn't funny!"

Her own shaky voice echoed up and down the empty hallway. The one window, large as it may have once been, had been boarded over years ago, and allowed only a few slivers of light to guide her.

"Please. Please come out."

No one could hear her broken whisper, because no one was around to. The blackness seemed to draw closer, attracted to her despair. Her breathing quickened and she sped up.

"Wait up!"

Scheris' slow jog soon broke into a frenzied sprint. She ran and ran and did not stop. She ran until she tripped unceremoniously over the edge of a dark, stained carpet, and slammed her head into the floor painfully. She almost instantly realized that she had popped her right arm out of its socket from the pain she could feel there. Quickly, she scrambled to her feet and her gaze flickered around – around – well, around wherever the hell she had ended up…

"R…Ryuhou?" Again, her echo answered her mockingly. Her shoulders hunched.

"Ryuhou…"

A silken curtain rasped as the wind tugged it gently, letting the moon's pale glow light the pitch-dark room. She glimpsed the shadow of a figure. "Ryuhou!" she called happily, running towards him.

"Ryuhou, I –"

She had reached out a hand to grasp his shoulder (an action to reassure herself) only to touch cool glass. She paled.

"W-what…?"

Looking again, she saw only her scared reflection, and the reflection of all the emptiness surrounding her. The huge mirror seemed to magnify the nothingness until it surrounded her small, shaking form completely.

I…I'm alone…

She didn't quite manage to choke back her panicked scream as she turned and fled the room.

--

--

"And sooooooooooo, Minori-san, that is how speed has contributed to the development of everything good! SPEEDSPEEDSPEED! Speed is so –Minori-san, are you paying attention? Minori-san? Minori-san? MI-NO-RI-SAN! Huh! Now where did she run off to?"

Hmm'ing and aah'ing, he poked his nose in a few rooms down the hallway, calling her name loudly in a singsong voice. A frown formed on his face when he could not find her in any of those rooms.

"Minori-saaan, where are yoooouuuu?" His thoughts took a panicked turn and he continued to wander, going faster and faster until he had nearly activated his Alter. Realizing what he was doing, he immediately put on the brakes, knowing that activating his Alter was getting more and more dangerous. With a small scowl he looked around and saw nothing familiar. The scowl became a grimace.

"Oh, shit."

He turned to leave and barely noticed the slight sluggishness to his step until he reached the door. He glanced down at his feet to assess the problem; nothing seemed to be wrong. He shrugged and continued to walk.

Looking up, it appeared as though the door had suddenly gotten farther away. Hm. No matter. Just a trick of the imagination. He took a step forward.

Or attempted to. Cougar found, to his sheer horror, that he was moving in utterly slow motion. Every step of his seemed to take an eternity before it even neared the old, rotting floor.

What the hell is happening to me?!

Panic crawled up his throat like vomit and he fought the urge to retch, knowing that the movement, too, would go so slowly it would seem to last forever.

Why was this happening? He hadn't felt anything strange from this old house, but Mimori's calculations had never been wrong before now. Was it some sort gravity room, where the pressured was increased dramatically to induce the impression of slow motion?

There was a scream.

Mimori!

He tried to plow through the molasses-like air, to no avail. What thehellwas going on?! She needed his help, damn it! Every little step took longer and longer and longer –

"Cougar, you failed!" whispered the voices of his past, echoing inside his head. "You were too slow… she's gone now, just like –"

"NO!"

He struggled even harder, and even faster, nothing was working, he almost moving backwards now, Mimori was gone – images were facing before his eyes – herlaughing green eyes, followed by Mimori's annoyed yet amused face – then blood was everywhere, they were both dead now, there was nothing he could do, he was too slow – again -

I'll be faster this time, I promise! Please, just let me – I said that I would, I promisedI would be faster this time - !

There was another scream, and this time it seemed to break a trance, putting everything back into perspective. Cougar was suddenly speeding through the house at record speed and that was definitely saying something.

Not this time!

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