Temporal Thunder Part 3
This is a side story of S. Thesken's Quantum Destinies fanfic. All characters within are owned by their creators. Quantum Destinies was created by S. Thesken.
Note: This story is based on the Manga. Certain things happened differently compared to the TV and OVA series. It takes place almost at the end. Everything has been revealed. Madoka has left for the States and Kyousuke has broken up with Hikaru and is waiting for Madoka to return and tell him her feelings.
Eyes closed in concentration, Kyousuke focused his powers on the task at hand. This exercise was just one more step in his quest to get his powers under control.
Around him the air began to swirl in response to his will. Within the enclosed room, a barely noticeable breeze started to blow. Wishing for a more noticeable effect, Kyousuke began to focus more power into moving the air molecules that should increase the strength of the wind.
Just as quickly as it began, the wind died. Kyousuke's eyes opened in confusion as he let the Power disperse. He had been exerting more Power. Why did the wind die down?
"Do not try to force it, Kyousuke," Mu shook his head. "You must let it just flow from you. Moving the air requires a very delicate touch. You cannot push it as if you were a bulldozer."
Still, he could not really complain about his progress. Controlling the winds was one of the most difficult pyschokinetic skills for a normal telekinetic to master. Most of the telekinetics not born with this ability were simply incapable of learning this skill. Used to exerting relatively strong forces onto compact, solid matter, it was not easy for them to change gears and disperse those forces sufficiently to affect the air around them. The fact that he was able to summon a light breeze after a day's training was testament to his abilities.
"Now try again. This time bear in mind, the air is a diffuse form of matter. There is no fixed boundary where it ends. The flow of air must thus be continuous. When you push a body of air, you must take into consideration that the neighboring bodies will also be pulled along. does not react to brute force. One must be gentle with it. Coax it and it will do your bidding.
Kyousuke nodded in understanding. Once more, he focussed his powers. It took a lot of control for him to maintain the dispersed field of force. This time, he managed to call forth a slightly stronger breeze. It was just enough to make the strands of his hair move a bit, but he was very proud of it nonetheless.
"Mu-sensei," he took advantage to ask the older Esper as the training session ended. He seemed like a nice person, maybe he could help him. "I've searched through the library, but I can't seem to find anything about time travel. Do you know where I can find material about it? Or better still, someone who can teach me the skill. I've tried to talk to Grandpa about it, but he's always busy."
Mu looked at his student with a smile. The naivete of youth. Always wanting to do things faster, better, become stronger and more powerful. Sometimes even seeking to do the impossible. "No, Kyousuke. I do not know of any material about time travel. Nor do I know anyone with the skill. Time travel is an ability that doesn't exist I'm afraid, no matter how much we wish it to be otherwise. Studies have already been made into such abilities and they have shown that such things are impossible, even for people like us."
Kyousuke started at that. "But I thought Grandpa could do it."
Mu's smile grew even larger. "Director Kasuga is one of the most powerful Espers in the Institute, true, but even he cannot break the laws of physics set by heaven."
"Oh." That killed the idea about asking his grandfather for help. Oh well, looks like he'll have to learn how to do it himself.
"Was that what you were trying to do just now?" Mu had noticed Kyousuke attempting something. As far as he could tell, he had been focussing on some goal in mind, summoned the necessary power to do it, then releasing it all in a burst and... nothing. Not a single molecule shifted, warmed or even moved.
Kyousuke shoulder's sagged. "Something like that." He had been so sure it would have worked. The precognitive dream he had last night had shown that he would be home for Ayukawa's return from the States. He would be jogging up THE steps, counting them and as he reached the top, Ayukawa would be there, wearing the red straw hat he had bought for her, teasing him about how he had miscounted again.
A wry grin made it's way on to his face. "Have to admit. It would be very useful if I could go back in time. I could correct any mistake I make." The memory of a certain Christmas came to mind. Three times was definitely a charm.
Mu smiled back. "You should just take life as it is, Kyousuke. Some mistakes in life are inevitable. You should not think of preventing them from happening. Sometimes a small mistake at the beginning can lead to a greater reward in the end," he preached.
"Now, let's stop that futile exercise of yours. You have used enough of your power today. Go home and rest. You will have your entire life to develop your powers." With that, Mu sent the young man on his way.
Kyousuke had just left the drab compound of the Institute when he heard a voice calling his name. Turning around, he saw a familiar figure run after him.
"Azusa," Kyousuke was surprised to see her again so soon. He had explained to her yesterday morning that he would not be able to ask for any favors from the Devil Hunter Yohko in the near future. "What is it?"
"I wanted to know if you've spoken to Yohko-san about me." Azusa huffed a bit from her chase.
"Sempai, I know you made up with Yohko-san. I heard from Sakura, who heard from Miyu, who heard from Mayuko-sempai, who was at the reception last night at the Hayakawa residence that you made up with Yohko-san there and danced with her 'til late in the night." She finished the sentence in one breath.
"That sort of place isn't exactly appropriate for discussing such things, Azusa."
"Oh," Azusa's face fell, her disappointment showing clearly.
Kyousuke frantically tried to come up with a way to cheer her up again. Ice cream normally worked very well. No, he had no time for that. He had to attend Ayukawa's audition. Say, that's an idea. She was a fan of Mitsuru Hayakawa.
He had overheard at the party last night that he would be one of the judges at Ayukawa's audition today. It had brought a smile to his face as he thought how similar the situation would be to the Talent Scout Caravan. Although this time he was definitely not going to switch bodies with him before the audition.
"Hey, do you want to come with me? I'm going to hear a friend perform. I know that Mitsuru Hayakawa will be there as well. I know you're a fan of his. Maybe you can get an autograph from him or something."
Azusa's eyes grew almost to saucers, her eyes cleared. Sempai knew his identity? The identities of pop singers were nearly impossible to uncover. Society disapproved of Citizens making money from such low class pursuits like singing pop music. Classical music was promoted for the cultural growth of the Empire, but pop music was only tolerated as a form of entertainment for the lower classes. As a result, pop singers usually brought out their songs under pseudonyms to avoid society's scrutiny. Their CDs, while widely circulated among the teens, could only be bought 'under the table'. Their real identities were regarded as state secrets as far as the average teen was concerned and knowledge of it was counted to the few things that many would do anything to learn.
Sure, if it came down to it, the Security Directorate could find out their identities in a flash. Nothing could be kept secret from them for long after all. They kept an eye on everything that might threaten the social fabric. It was however, regarded thus far only as a minor phenomena, so they generally just let it continue unmolested. She heard it was considered a minor exercise for Directorate Agents to uncover their identities. Still, cadets would not be given access to such information for private purposes. Sempai must have some serious sources for him to learn such things.
"Gimme a minute. I need to get my CD," Azusa told him. She would be nuts to pass up such an opportunity. Getting an autographed CD would make her the envy of all her friends. With as much speed as she dared, she dashed back into the Institute.
"Sempai, what are we doing here?" Azusa inquired, looking nervously around the crowded auditorium. When she heard that they would be meeting Mitsuru Hayakawa, she had assumed there was going to be some sort of small, underground performance taking place. The school auditorium of the Onraku Academy for Advanced Culture, and on a school day at that, was definitely not on her list of places where such a thing would take place. The administration would howl in protest of such an event on their campus.
Azusa felt a touch of agoraphobia. She was normally not very extroverted and did not mingle with others very often. This was further compounded by the fact that she belonged to the Mobius Institute. The normals she knew were mostly limited to members of her own family. Her parents she saw only when she went home for visits, and her aunt and cousin, Hitomi, with whom she lived here in Tokyo. All others avoid her when they saw her Mobius pin. As a result, this was the first time she had ever been in such a large congregation of people.
"My friend is having an audition here. If she does well, she'll be accepted as a student here. I'm here to give her moral support." Kyousuke replied.
"And what does that have to do with Mitsuru Hayakawa being here?" Azusa really did not want to sound self-centered, but all these people made her nervous.
"He's one of the judges." Kyousuke searched the auditorium. There was the judge's table, but he did not see the idol singer. One of the seats was empty though. For that matter, Ayukawa was not to be seen either.
"I don't think he's here yet. Tell you what, we'll go backstage first and I'll say hello to Ayukawa. Then we'll come out again and wait for him."
Azusa nodded even though she was confused as to what a pop singer would be doing HERE, at Onraku of all places, as a judge. Still Sempai seemed to know what he was doing, so she just followed his lead. To get the autograph of her pop idol, she would endure any hardship.
Kazuto Hayakawa, son of Lord Hayakawa, had just finished informing Madoka of the extra song that she had to perform for her audition. It was to be a song of her own personal choice, which would best reflect herself.
"We realize that it would be unfair of us to give you so little warning. We can hold the judging for your technical ability and improvisation today. You can come back another day to perform your song," he turned to the other person in the room, "Miss Shimitsu will arrange it. It would give you time to practice and to prepare the background music."
Madoka considered the offer. This would just delay the whole process of her rejection. Might as well get it over with today.
"No thanks," she shook her head. She reached into her bag. She played once in a while for her cousin's band and had a tape of one of their sessions. The lead singer was her cousin's girlfriend, but Madoka could sing the same songs in a pinch. She handed the tape over to the judge.
"I'll sing the song on the tape." She shrugged.
He looked at the proffered tape. The title of the song was unknown to him. "Are you sure? We won't hold it against you in any way if you were to come in another day."
Madoka nodded. "I'm sure."
He gave Shiori an uncertain look then turned back to Madoka. "Very well. I'll arrange for it to be played. Miss Shimitsu, if I could speak to you in private for a moment?" he motioned for her to enter the adjoining room and followed her in.
As soon as the door was closed, the two dropped the professional facade they maintained in front of strangers. Shiori rushed into his arms where he held her tenderly.
They had been classmates back in school. It was there that their relationship had begun. They had been young then, they had dreamed of finishing their studies and going on to teach in the same school, and then getting married. That was not to be.
As the son of an influential noble, his father had objected to their relationship. He would not have his son marrying a mere Citizen from the middle class. He had forbidden the two from seeing each other and had arranged for the two to be separated after their stint at the Teacher's Academy. He had been sent to Blackhall to serve as a music teacher and she was sent to oversee the probation of problem students. It was rare that they had such a chance to meet.
Fortune had truly smiled on them to arrange this opportunity to meet. Shiori having to organize Madoka's audition gave them the perfect excuse to meet. He had arranged for the quick audition by calling upon all the favors he had with his colleagues. Lord Hayakawa would learn of their little rendezvous, but would be unable to do anything about it as they did have a legitimate reason for coming together. It was unfortunate that the girl did not want to return another day.
"It's good to see you again. Even if it will be only for a short while." Kazuto leaned close to Shiori. He took in a deep breath, savoring her perfume.
"I missed you too," Shiori fought back tears of joy. Enjoying each other's presence, they brought their heads together for a long deep kiss. No words were spoken between them. They just held each other tightly, praying that the moment would never end.
Kyousuke and Azusa stepped into the room cautiously. The lavishly decorated dressing room was empty except for Madoka.
"Hello, Ayukawa," he greeted her. He saw her sitting on a chair, studying a song sheet.
"Kasuga-kun," Madoka stood up upon seeing him. My god, he had really come to her audition. His would be the only friendly face in the audience. Her eyes shifted then to where Azusa stood.
"Oh, this is Azusa. Azusa, this is my friend Madoka," he introduced them to one another.
"Azusa is here to get an autograph from Mitsuru Hayakawa. She's a fan of his," he explained.
Madoka's brows furrowed. Through her cousin Shuichi she was pretty familiar with the underground scene for pop music, but even she had never seen him before in person. "Really? I've heard of him, but what would he be doing here?"
"Kyousuke-sempai, says he's one of the judges." Azusa spoke up. She looked the older girl, Madoka, up and down. She seemed to be a nice girl. Very pretty, with a figure that put her own developing one to shame.
"Well, I wish you luck, Azusa. You know how hard it is to get such things." Madoka addressed her. Turning back to Kyousuke, she said, "Thanks for coming. I'm afraid you'll be my only supporter here."
Kyousuke could not believe his ears. "I'm sure your other friends will be here too." He could not believe that her friends, especially Hikaru, would leave her alone on a day like this.
This elicited a slight smile from Madoka. There were some things he could be truly clueless about. Even if some of her friends dared to enter the gates of this school, they would be turned away by the campus security upon seeing their uniforms. Still, it didn't hurt for him to claim otherwise.
In the side room, the forbidden couple broke apart with the greatest reluctance. Who knows when they would have the chance to meet again?
"We better go. My student must be wondering what is taking so long." Shiori told her lover.
Kazuto sighed and nodded. There was only so much they could do without raising suspicion. If word got back to his father, Shiori would have hell to pay. Straightening their clothes and wiping off any smeared lipstick, they made sure that neither showed any signs of their intimate embrace before they headed out.
Kazuto frowned as he saw that Madoka was not alone. She was talking to a young man her age. Kyousuke Kasuga. He recognized the young man from the ball last night. He was the grandson of the Director of the Mobius Institute. A powerful telekinetic and teleporter from what he had heard. His telepathy was to be restricted to communication with other psychics only though. At his side stood another girl from the Mobius Institute. The markings on her pin marked her as an apprentice magic-user.
Kyousuke saw Mitsuru Hayakawa enter the room and smiled. Looks like Azusa was going to get her autograph after all. His eyes then shifted to the woman by his side. He was beginning to get a real bad case of deja-vu. Then again, why not? They were a couple after all. So long as he did not switch bodies with him again.
He remembered all too well how he had met the two. The confusion caused by his body swap power, dinner with Shiori, the search for his own body and the subsequent reunion of the two lovebirds. And how could he forget the panic that had set in when he thought Mitsuru would reveal to the whole world about his powers? Instead he had publicly declared that he already had a girlfriend even though it would have hurt his career.
"Hi," he greeted them with a grin and turned to the silent Azusa and prompted her, "well?"
"Well what?" Azusa came up with a blank about what he was trying to say.
"Mitsuru Hayakawa. Didn't you say you wanted his autograph?" Kyousuke did not know what she was waiting for. He was standing right in front of her.
"Yes," Azusa still did not get it.
"He is Mitsuru Hayakawa?" Kyousuke wondered how a self professed fan could fail to recognize her idol.
"Oh," Realization dawned on Azusa. HE was Mitsuru Hayakawa. She went up to her favorite singer hesitantly. Bowing deeply, she stretched her hands out with the CD in them and asked, "My name is Azusa Kanzaki. Mitsuru Hayakawa-san, could I please have your autograph?"
Madoka's eyebrows shot up. HE was a pop singer? And Mitsuru Hayakawa to boot. She had to admit his ingenuity though for choosing a stage name so close to his own. No one would ever come up with the idea that someone would be so dumb as to do something like that. Hiding something in plain sight, as it was taught in class.
Shiori were shocked to say the least. Until short moments ago, she had thought this secret project of Kazuto's was only known to the few close confidants he had.
Kazuto took the CD in hand gingerly as though it might burn him. His gaze went from Azusa to Kyousuke. His second darkest secret was known to them. He knew through his own connections in the Security Directorate that they were ignorant of his secret. That and the fact that his father had not taken him to task for singing what he called 'noise that only served to dull the minds of the young'. Then again, the Psychic Division had always been autonomous from the main section. They could have found out about it and chosen not to inform them.
"So, you just want my autograph?" He took out a pen from his pocket and signed the CD. No telling how far they want to push this blackmail.
"Well..." Azusa considered how she could best use this opportunity. Perhaps an invitation to his next underground concert?
"Azusa..." Kyousuke warned her before she could voice out any requests. He knew that look on her face. "Be happy with what you have. We're here to listen to Ayukawa's audition, remember?"
Azusa lowered head, properly chastened. "Okay," she took back the CD, "Thank you very much." She bowed once more.
"Then it's best that we head out. The audition will be starting soon." He motioned them to the door. "Miss Ayukawa, ten minutes." He tapped on his timepiece as they filed out.
Kyousuke and Azusa made their way to the performance hall. They had had no problems finding seats in the hall. The students were only all too willing to vacate their seats for them. This almost brought a sigh to Kyousuke's lips. Espers were people too. Azusa, he noted, seemed to be resigned to such behavior. If only there was something he could do to help, he thought as they settled down and waited for the start of the audition.
Kazuto nodded in approval as he listened to Madoka perform the standard recital pieces for grading music students. The first piece was an old folk song praising the beauty of the cherry blossoms. It's tempo was slow and the melody was smooth. The way each of the chords flowed into the next made it challenging for singers to keep time by listening for cues.
The second mandatory was one of those patriotism-building anthems. In contrast to the first, this song had a fast martial beat requiring the performer to sing widely separated tones quickly without pause.
He had to admit. She was very good. As far as he could tell, both songs had been performed with a standard that he would expect from the best at the academy. That, he mused, was exactly the problem he and the other judges faced. Her performance was too good. No missed cues, off notes, unsteady tones and perfect time keeping. They could hear the emotions of the songs come forth from her throat. The beauty of the sakura, the lament at their passing, the faith in the Empire and the gladness at the Empire's unrelenting march. If it was all up to him, she would be accepted without a complaint. He was sure his colleagues would all agree with his opinion. They could certainly use another student of her ability.
The only thing that held him back was her past. Theirs was one of the most prestigious institutions in the Empire. They had a reputation to maintain. The board would never agree to let her study here. He knew it. His fellow judges knew it.
His eyes fell down to the sheet of paper before him. The next song's title was not known to him. A recent composition by an unknown song writer, he guessed. A very bold move to choose such an unknown for her audition. He definitely admired her courage, but it would not help her. After it was over, he and the other judges would put it to a vote and there was no question as to how the result would fall.
The first chords of the synthesizer echoed through the hall like a wave of thunder. This was followed quickly by the fast beat of the drum and the sounds of an electric guitar. Madoka set her foot moving to the sound of the beat as she took in the shocked expressions in the room. She was realistic about her chances of being accepted, no matter how well she sang, but she was going to leave this place knowing that she had done her best. This last song was going to be her way of snubbing the musicians here. There was a short moment of mild curiosity as she saw Kyousuke's reaction to the song. Why would his face light up like that? She put that out of her mind as she heard her cue to begin the song.
"Makezugirai no lonely heart
Sotto kaban ni tsumekonda
Yoru tabi dekaketa
Kakaekirenai Joy and Pain
Atsui beat ni nokkete utau
Lonely hearts club band"
Kyousuke could not believe it. Ayukawa was singing the same song she had performed at the Talent Caravan. He had gotten a second chance to see her perform it live. Sure he still had that video of her performance back at the Talent Caravan, but was nothing compared to seeing her sing it in person.
A sidelong glance at Azusa told him that she was enjoying it as well. He could almost see the stars in her eyes.
"Hoshi ga yozora o nagare
tsuki ga kimi o teraseba...
Machi no noise ga kieteshimau
You just call me...
Kimi wa doko? Kaze no machi
Manazashi ga tsukamenai
Ashita wa 'north' 'west' 'south' 'east' kimagure"
My god, thought Kazuto, the charisma she exuded. He knew she was good when he heard her perform the previous songs, but this was unbelievable. She had actually captured the attention of every single person in the hall and held them in her thrall. Even with his experience in the music scene, he had never heard or seen such a wonderful performance before.
Silence filled the hall as the last strains of the song faded away. Standing confidently on the stage, Madoka had her head lowered and her right arm was stretched out to the side. Dropping her last pose, she was surprised to hear the sounds of clapping from the front row.
Looking up, she found Asuka clapping away. She was followed by Kyousuke albeit at a more normal pace. As the other members of the audience noticed it, they too began, hesitantly at first then gaining momentum, to join in the applause. Soon, the entire hall with the thunderous roar of clapping.
Over the sounds of applause, the judges began to discuss their decision. What had initially would have been a sure decision was now creating a stir among them.
"Look, I'm not saying that she isn't talented," Matsuo Nakajima, a fellow judge to Kazuto's right admitted, "You'd have to be deaf to think that, but she simply does not fit in here. She's too much of a rebel. That last song of hers pretty much proved that."
"You're not suggesting that we let a prodigy like her slip through our fingers like that, are you?" Kazuto countered calmly. The last performance had been excellent beyond their expectations. Still, he had not expected his fellow judges to just admit the girl without any protest. "It would be a waste if she were not able to develop it to the fullest."
He knew that that would shake at least a few of them from their previously unwavering positions. The mission statement of the Ministry of Education was to see that every single Citizen of the Empire was pushed to do his or her best. For wasted potential translated into wasted chances for the Empire to achieve it's rightful position in the world.
"It would be a greater waste if the studies of our students is disrupted by her presence. Take a look at her conduct report. It's just filled with mentions of fighting both in and out of school. She is wild and undisciplined. Her behavior is completely unsuited for such a premier teaching institution like Onraku. Her presence here would be a blight upon the reputation of our school. The other students would never accept her. They'd make trouble for her and even you can see what would happen. What if she were to attack a fellow student from a higher station? There'd be hell to pay," he argued back.
"I have read it," A beautiful, slim young woman with dark shoulder length hair to Kazuto's right answered dryly, "it is also noted that she has never made any unprovoked attacks on others. Her fights were always initiated by other students. It is possible that as long as our students behave themselves Miss Ayukawa wouldn't get into any fights with them. Besides," she cocked her head at the packed auditorium, "I think there are enough students who were impressed by her performance just now."
Kazuto allowed himself a small smile. Kanna Toreishi was a good friend and one of the more open-minded teachers here at Onraku. In addition to being a fellow music instructor, she was also his occasional partner in crime in the pop industry, but more importantly, she was also a member of the school board, a testament to her abilities. Her opinion would carry weight among the other judges.
"But that is not the point. We are here to judge whether her musical abilities qualify her to study at Onraku. Not to wax poetic about whether she would fit in or how her presence would damage the reputation of our school. I think we can all agree that Miss Ayukawa has more than enough talent to enter the school, am I right?" she asked her fellow judges. No protests were forthcoming from the others.
Finally, Matsuo gave a sigh of exasperation. "Okay, okay. I give up, you win, but have you considered what you're going to tell the school board? We heard her sing. We know how good she is, but they're not going to see it that way. They will be too interested in maintaining the reputation of the school to permit such a thing. Especially if they hear that she performed a pop song here," the board was famous for their hatred for the new form of music, "even if we accept her now there's no guarantee that they won't overturn the decision later."
Grimaces appeared on the faces of almost all the judges. "She would just be here on probation for the first few months, but you're right, that would be a problem," Kanna admitted. She raised an eyebrow in question as she noticed the half hidden smile on Kazuto's face.
"Leave them to me, I think I know how I can convince them." he said, the smile was beginning to grow. Gears were starting to turn in his head as looked over to where Madoka stood. Yes, that would work. He wouldn't even have to lie. All he'd have to do was say that there were interested Mobius Institute cadets present at the audition and let them draw their own conclusions. Maybe they were just here by chance, maybe the Mobius Institute really had some sort of hidden plan. He didn't give a damn. Someone of her talent should be given the chance.
"Don't worry about it, Ayukawa," Kyousuke reassured her, "I'm sure you'll get in. The judges will recognize your talent. Especially after you sang 'Kaze no Manazashii' for them. You're a shoo-in."
"Yeah, you're really good." Azusa echoed his sentiments. She couldn't help marvel at how Kyousuke-sempai managed to befriend such a wonderful singer.
Madoka didn't give him a reply. Outwardly, she was cool and calm, but under her skin she was a nervous wreck. The murmuring of the crowd did not help either. Those judges were real music experts. Their judgement would tell her whether she had the ability to become a world-class performer or if she'd be condemned to be an amateur like her parents for the rest of her life.
By her side, Shiori waited in silence. She didn't want to be such a pessimist, but she knew how things worked. Madoka already had two strikes against her, coming from a poor working class family and her delinquency report at a reformatory, even with her stellar performance just now and Kazuto's influence she held out not much hope for her.
Madoka felt her throat tighten as she saw the judge approach. The volume in the auditorium dropped as the students noticed this as well. The moment of truth had finally come. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she waited for him to pronounce judgement.
Kazuto kept up a serious facade as he walked up to Madoka. "Congratulations, Miss Ayukawa. We've decided to accept you on probation. We do however expect you to be on your best behavior during your probation period and not disgrace us in anyway. Further, we expect that you will do best in your studies and..."
The rest of his words faded away as Madoka went into shock. She did it. She'd been accepted. Only on probation, of course, but that in itself was a great achievement. Wait till she told her parents about ... Oh my god, she'd never told them about it. She hadn't believed that she'd ever be accepted, so she didn't want to raise any false hopes, but now... Madoka felt giddy from the news.
Hikaru jumped off the bike before it came to a complete stop. She couldn't believe how late she was. Madoka's audition was long past by now. She could only hope that she would at least be in time to catch her before she left.
Madoka would be crushed by the rejection. She had grown up with her long enough to know how much music meant to her. They may not have the same parents, but they had grown up together and were closer than any real sisters.
"Hurry up, you idiot. It's all your fault that we're late" she snapped at Yuusaku as he parked his bike next to Madoka's bike just outside the gates of the Onraku Academy. With a long suffering sigh, he turned off the engine.
"Hikaru," he started, "it doesn't matter if we're late or not. We wouldn't have been able to enter anyway. We can't just barge in like in a normal school. Too many damned noble spawns here. We'd be crushed by the Security Directorate if we did."
Hikaru opened her mouth to protest that Madoka needed them, but then closed it as she grudgingly admitted that he was right. They'd have to wait out here for Madoka. It was well known to all biker gangs that they owed their continued existence to the low profile they kept. As long as there was no publicity directed at them, the Directorate would suffer their continued presence.
Since their members were predominantly from the lower classes and their hangouts in less well maintained districts (The Land Cultivation Ministry would never allow slums to develop like those in the barbarian lands), they were generally ignored by the populace. Fights could break out between gangs for control of land and members so long as nobody protested too loudly. Piss off someone with influence in the Imperial Household however, no matter how slight the insult and you'd be lucky to escape with your limbs intact.
Madoka walked out of the gates still in a daze. She pinched herself one more time to prove she was not dreaming. She tried not to get too excited over the decision. After all, she had not been fully accepted into the Academy. She would just be there on a probationary basis. There were still a lot of things that could happen during that period that would get her kicked out again. She failed miserably as a smile found its way onto her face. She couldn't believe that she'd be able to study here at the premier Academy of high Arts in the entire Empire.
"Madoka." The sound of someone calling her name brought her back to the present. She looked in the direction of the cry and her mood brightened even more.
"Hikaru," she greeted the girl with the light brown hair as she was wrapped up in the younger girl's embrace.
"Sorry for not being here earlier to hear you sing, but the dimwit here refused to ride faster." Hikaru apologized.
"That's alright. You're here now. Yuusaku," Madoka greeted him.
"So, how did it go?" Hikaru asked, "don't worry if they made fun of your singing. I'll bet they wouldn't know real talent if it hit them over their head."
Kyousuke walked out of the gate with Azusa in tow. If she got any more excited over the day's events, he was sure they'd have to give her an insulin shot to calm her down.
"Wow, Ayukawa-san is a great singer, Kyousuke-sempai. I'm glad you brought me along. I mean, just getting to meet Mitsuru Hayakawa was alone was terrific, but then hearing that song with an auditorium's acoustics..." she gushed.
"Glad you had a good time."
"I have to go now. Thanks for the great time." She waved goodbye as she began to run down the road.
Kyousuke smiled back at her. Azusa was an enthusiastic girl, just like Hikaru. He certainly hoped she would get her wish to become a Devil Hunter.
He turned around to head for 'home' and found himself seeing a few more familiar faces. Standing a short way down the road, Ayukawa was talking with Hikaru. Yuusaku was also with them.
"WHAT?" Shock registered on the faces of both Hikaru and Yuusaku.
"That's right, Hikaru. They've allowed me to come here for my probation period." Madoka explained.
"That's great. I'm so happy for you, Madoka," Hikaru was all excited. A thought gave her pause though. "Marin's not going to be happy about it though."
"Don't worry about it. I'm not going to leave the gang. She won't have any reason to get upset." Madoka reassured her.
Hikaru eyes widened as she spotted the Esper in the Imperial Academy uniform come their way.
"What are you doing here?" she growled at Kyousuke as he came near. Today she had Yuusaku with them as well. She wasn't going to run away this time.
"Ahh... I was here to hear Ayukawa sing and give her some moral support." Kyousuke was not used to seeing a hostile Hikaru.
"Well, she doesn't need it. We don't need you stupid brain eaters in our lives. Stay away from Madoka if you know what's good for you."
Madoka was shocked at her outburst. While she did not relish the thought of having an Esper around anymore than she did, Kasuga had seemed like a nice person. It wasn't fair to be so rude to him without any reason.
"Hikaru, ignore him." Madoka told her friend. Her voice showed no emotion. She got on her bike, making sure not to meet his gaze. "Let's go, I doubt we'll see him again." She started the engine. Without a single word to Kyousuke, she released the clutch and rode away.
Seeing Madoka leave, Hikaru paused just long enough to shoot Kyousuke another venomous look before joining Yuusaku on his bike and rode off in pursuit.
Kyousuke finished writing down the day's events, set the pen down on the table and looked at his work. He certainly hoped his analog appreciated his efforts. What a day. He had had a productive day learning to better control his powers, but he also knew he still had a long way to go. He picked up a few books on psychic powers and started for the bed. Time for some light reading before dinner.
There was no doubt that he would get home, his premonition dream told him that much. The only question was when. He did not know how long he could keep up this masquerade. At the same time, he did not want to find out what they would do to him if he came clean. Security was very high on the list for the Mobius Institute.
A sudden mental feeler stopped him in his tracks. He quickly scrambled to protect his mind by filling it with useless thoughts, or with what was described as 'white noise' in one of his analog's books about mental defense. He began to recite various nursery rhymes in an attempt to ward off the intrusion.
*Er... hello?* a cautious voice spoke, *am I getting through?*
*Who is this?* Kyousuke carefully let his clumsy attempt at a thought shield down. What he had taken for a psychic attack had just been someone building a mental connection with him. He could feel the other person on the other end of the 'line'.
*Kyousuke, and I mean both of you. The two of you can hear each other just fine. Now stop fooling around. Our time is short,* a familiar gruff voice entered the mental connection.
*Grandpa,* Kyousuke started in realization. This could only mean that the other person was this world's Kyousuke. *Grandpa, can you use your power to bring me home and send my other me here?* he quickly asked.
*No,* Kyousuke felt his hopes collapse. *The two of you are going to have to do it yourselves.*
*Do it ourselves? But I can't do it. I tried it this morning. It didn't work.* Kyousuke protested.
*I know. I felt you try. I got teleported each time without warning.* his other self interrupted.
*Kyousuke, I can't hold this connection between the two of you for too long so listen up. I've already told your analog here what we have to do. Both of you have to activate this power of yours together to switch you two back. Kyousuke, I'll explain it to you once you're back.*
*Good, now on the count of three, both of you focus your powers on getting home. Your link will do the rest. Okay? One, two, three*
Summoning all his available power, Kyousuke bent his mind to the task of getting home. In his mind's eye, he could see his other self doing the same thing. He began to feel something exert a pull on him, guiding him, calling him with the lure of a siren song. He hadn't had the chance to properly experience it before, but this felt in a way just like the first time he had learned how to teleport. At the same time, there was an unfamiliar feel to it as images began to rush past his consciousness too fast for him to grasp.
Had anybody been observing the scene, it would have seemed like the air around Kyousuke Kasuga had just shimmered. The only visible clue that betrayed the recent feat of metaphysics was the sudden change in clothes he had undergone. Where he had been wearing a plain green shirt with dark trousers a moment ago, he now wore a Tokyo Giants jacket over a T-shirt with the picture of the Hummingbirds on it. Levi's jeans completed the look of a typical teenager from the world he had just visited. He carried a small bag of souvenirs, thoughtfully provided by his kind 'sister', in his right hand.
Kyousuke Kasuga of the Mobius Institute was relieved to find himself back in his own bedroom again. That had been the most amazing experience. He had found himself in a world where people were unaware of the existence of Espers and the supernatural. He had been able to mingle with normal people without them shying away. It had been a learning experience for how they acted in real life that he was sure would help him in his duties in the future.
He dropped the bag onto the floor. He had to inform the Institute of this new power of his. He certainly hoped they hadn't treated his analog too badly while he was here. After all, his family there, as well as the people had made his time there a completely wonderful and unforgettable time there.
He raised his hand to massage his sore neck a bit. Okay, so maybe not completely wonderful. Manami was a real angel. It had been nice having a younger sister like her to help him. Kurumi, on the other hand...
He could somehow understand why his analog was a bit more powerful, and at the same time, less disciplined than he. Stopping to affix his Mobius pin on his attire, he headed to look for his mother. This was one tale that would be hard to believe.
The Director of the Mobius Institute was silent as he considered the situation before him. His grandson was definitely going to become one of the most powerful Espers in the world. He had already developed a power that had been completely unknown to the Institute.
"Very well, Kyousuke. We've finished with your debriefing. You can go now. I want you to know that this incident will be classified as level Black. Understood? Do not mention this anyone. Not even to the Mano girl."
Kyousuke paled. Level Black? That was the highest level of secrecy in the Institute. Need to know only. He gulped. He would follow orders the best he could.
"Ah... I'm just curious. That other me didn't get into too much trouble with Yohko, did he? She was already pretty mad at me when we last met."
"No, he didn't. He even helped you make up with her. You'll find out what he did from the journal he left behind. I'll see that you get a transcript of it." Director Kasuga told his grandson. Several things became clear to him now. Like how Kyousuke had been able to tell apart the Devil Hunter and her ninja cousin without a psychic check.
"Thank you, sir."
Director Kasuga waited until Kyousuke had left the room before turning to his daughter.
"What do you intend to do about this?" Akemi chose her words carefully as she walked to the front of the desk. The brief glimpse of the other world, where Takeshi had still been alive and Kyousuke had a pair of younger sisters, had been a real eye opener. "I am ready to assume full responsibility for it. I've not only failed as an agent of the Institute, as his mother I should have noticed the switch."
"No one is going to receive any disciplinary action," Director Kasuga snorted, "You are not completely at fault. You spend little enough time with Kyousuke as it is. Even I had not noticed anything out of the ordinary myself."
Calling up the guard records for the various checkpoints for the past few days, he winced as he saw how often it had been recorded that his grandson had passed through the major checkpoints. "Besides, we'd lose half our security personnel if I did that. What happened was not a case of possession, mind control, impersonation or even cloning. Wards, brainwashing checks or even true seeing would not work in this case. For all intents and purposes, it had been Kyousuke who had been coming to the Institute the past few days. There had been nothing that could have tipped off anyone here that something was wrong. They were identical down to the DNA level. Even their personalities and auras were close enough that not even a normal scan revealed anything. The only way would have been to have a full scale mind probe into his past."
Akemi considered her next words carefully. Now that they knew that such things could happen, it was the duty of the Institute to make sure that it could not harm the Empire. That would entail identifying such individuals that came from parallel worlds, monitoring them and if need be neutralizing them.
"While it would slow down things in an emergency, we could conduct such probes at the entry points to sensitive areas within the Institute itself, but I doubt any of the higher members of the court would agree to such a thing."
Director Kasuga heaved a sigh. There were limits even to the carte blanche that the Institute possessed. "We will have to do more research on this kind of travel. Find other ways to detect it. Possibly even send out scouting teams to look for such capability." A sour look crossed his face. Sending operatives on such missions could really complicate things. If they came across a world almost exactly similar to their own, would the decrees of that world's Director or Emperor be valid?
Akemi let the idea run through her head. That would mean that Kyousuke was going to be instrumental in building such a defense. "Who will you be arranging to take Kyousuke's place at the Academy?"
The Director hesitated before answering. Espers usually went through life with the same powers. New ways of how to use such powers could be learned, but that was pretty much all that could be done. It was rare for Espers to develop any new powers. Standard Institute policy in such an event was for the Esper in question was to return to the Institute for training until the new power had been brought under control. He or she was to stay away from public areas until such time. All public displays of supernatural power must be carefully orchestrated in order to nurture trust. Uncontrolled outbursts would only sow suspicion among the population and complicate the Institute's monitoring efforts.
Kyousuke had not just developed one new power, he had gained two new powers. In addition to the power to travel to parallel worlds, he had somehow also developed the power to dream the future. It had been the latter power that had given him foreknowledge about his return. While he could arrange for Hinoto tutor him on how to control his precognitive dreams, the former power raised some very prickly problems.
During the time which the Esper learned to control any new powers, the Esper would be assigned a mentor. This mentor however, could not just tell the Esper how to use the power, he or she could only provide guidance. An Esper's powers were just like a vehicle that only the Esper could use. Only with use could one learn how to use it properly without causing an accident. The main purpose of having a mentor on the other hand, was to avert any accidents. Without such safeguards, many a pyrokinetic would have spontaneously combusted himself, or worse, another person. Other powers could also create potentially life threatening situations.
There was however, no one in the Institute who could monitor Kyousuke's progress with this world traveling power. Hmm... he was going to have to come up with a better name for it than world traveling power. Kyousuke was going to have to learn on his own. Bringing him back would not be much help. On the contrary, if he were to worldwalk, no that sounded horrible, straight into an alternate Mobius Institute, he ran a very high risk of being detained, brainwashed or even killed.
There was also other factors to consider. The least of which being his present assignment.
"No, Kyousuke stays where he is. He's come too far on his present assignment to abort now. The Devil Hunter might be less inclined to let another Institute cadet into her heart if we were to break them up now."
"I see. If there is nothing else, I will excuse myself." Akemi saw the Director nod his assent and left the office.
The table splintered apart as it was subjected to the fist of the one called Jima. They had lost. The biker gang he had been supporting had fought another gang for control of a precinct and was driven away. It was an unforgivable event.
"I see you've heard the news." He growled at the female that entered the room. If he hadn't needed her as a figurehead he would have gotten rid of her long ago.
"Care to tell me what happened?" Shaina Ginshi tried her best not to gloat. After all, this loss HER gang, not Jima's, but hers, had met was a blow to her reputation as well. It DID however, give her a handle to deal with the unpredictable, but powerful fighter. "Our deal was that you make my gang the most influential in Tokyo if we did a little of your dirty work for you."
Jima fought to control his anger. It would not had been long before he had gained control over all the biker gangs if it hadn't been for this unforeseen loss. All it would have taken for him to consolidate his power would have been one or two more overwhelming wins and all the remaining gangs would have bowed to him.
"I let them lose," he lied. He would have to feed her something convincing to get her continued cooperation. "We cannot win all the time. The authorities might find it suspicious. I don't like needing to do it either, but small sacrifices must be made for our, no your eventual victory." He corrected himself when he saw he had chosen the wrong words.
"You promised that we didn't have anything to fear from the Security Directorate."
He shrugged. "You don't. As long as you have my aid they will not take any action against you." It had been too simple to ensure that. The web of plotting and deceit in this city was almost enough to make him think he was back home. All he had had to do was tug at a few of those string, sometimes not even needing to resort to his powers, just a few words or several thousand yen here and there and everyone would happily turn a blind eye to his own machinations. Even the infamous Mobius Institute would not notice anything until it was too late. His powers were more than a match for them. "I can't let it show too much though. If the other gangs suspect anything, they would join forces against you. Even I cannot help you if that happens."
"Very well, try not to make this necessary too often. Others might decide that you are not infallible." She made just one last barb. Understanding that she would not get anything else useful from him, Shaina decided to leave him alone. It would not do to provoke him too far after all. She may find him repulsive, but he was still useful to her.
Jima paid no attention to her exit. Something had happened this afternoon. A burst of power so similar to his own and yet at the same time different had erupted somewhere in the city. He had thought that he had felt something sometime in the morning, but had dismissed it. The one in the afternoon however was unmistakable. It had been the cause of the lost fight.
He took a moment to examine himself. His wounds were healing nicely. It had taken years, but now almost a quarter of his scars had faded. His power was returning slowly but surely. Even if forced into battle with his mortal enemy right now, he would still be victorious.
Unfortunately, it might not be enough. Someone out there wielded a power close to his own. It had been too brief for him to identify the user and what had been done this afternoon, but it was enough to give him pause. He had had to remove his influence from the fight in hopes of remaining undetected.
He growled once more at the thought of his helplessness. His timetable would now have to be pushed back. There was no question about it. He could count the number of beings on one hand with powers similar to his. With only a quarter of his full power available, he did not dare to get into a fight with any of them. If he was lucky, he would just be destroyed. If not, there were worse fates than death. He should know. He had inflicted many of them on his enemies before.
Still, the very idea galled him. He may have all the time in the world, but that did not mean he liked having to wait to take his rightful place. He silently promised himself that whoever it was who had thrown this wrench into his plans, he, she or it shall pay.