Toaru Tachimawari no Kakidashi
A Certain Beginning of Action
Misaka clutched her singed shoulder with her free arm as she rushed into the nearest building, hoping to lose her pursuers. The domicile was a tall office building several stories high, the sides lined by large plate glass windows. The building had obviously been long abandoned, several windows were shattered and the outside showed hints of the stress the structure had endured over the years. The inside supported this theory, the few remaining pieces of the lobbies furniture were either scattered, broken, or both and a layer of dust had settled over every surface.
Running over to the elevator, Misaka pressed her palm against the call button, powering the long-unused electronics and opening the door. She stepped inside the old decrepit box and pressed the button for the top floor. The ride was bumpy with the elevator creaking and moaning as it rose ever higher.
Finally it reached the top, fortunately in one piece, Misaka stumbled out making sure to fry the elevator's electronics to make sure her pursuers couldn't use it.
She made her way across the room. The floor lacked anything save for a blanket of dust and, closer to the windows, several shards of broken glass. Thin columns dotted the room in two orderly rows, but they were worthless for cover. Misaka reached the far wall and sank against it, her breathing shallow and heavy from exertion, but she knew she would not have long to rest before they arrived and the fight would resume. She glanced around looking for anything that might give her a tactical advantage. Her search was in vain however and she could find nothing of any help before she heard the echoing steps and cries of her pursuers rising up from the staircase.
Standing up once again, Misaka took a deep breath and relaxed her injured shoulder. She readied herself as the group of ESPers ran out of the staircase and into the middle of the room, facing down their cornered prey. They congregated around Tekada, their de facto leader and only shield against Misaka's fearsome abilities. An arrogant grin spread on his face as he stood there.
"You have nowhere left to run, Railgun. Looks like you aren't nearly as tough as I've heard if you're this easy to beat." He said, voice full of stupid thuggish conceit, "Maybe if you beg we'll go easy on you."
Misaka let off a multitude of sparks in warning, but she knew that attacking him with anything short of her railgun was pointless. After all, even a Level 5's powers are, for the most part, reined in by the laws of nature. Even one as powerful as Tokiwadai's ace, the Electric Princess herself, was nigh powerless against an opponent who could control his body's resistance to electricity. An ability which not only protected himself from any electric attacks against him but also allowed him to function as a lightning rod protecting the other thugs as the lightning took the path of least resistance through him into the ground.
Tekada, knowing this, merely laughed, "Go on and try but it's useless," he said as he took a step forward, drawing a fierce looking knife with a ceramic blade. The other ESPers readied their attacks as well, the pyrokinetic that had hurt her before eagerly preparing a fireball for another go, "you're –".
The last word was lost in the massive groan the building suddenly gave off. The ground beneath Misaka's feet began to shake, chunks of floor gave way in the middle of the room, as the group of thugs looked around frantically for the cause of the commotion. Larger chucks began falling as the shaking intensified, swallowing up several of the thugs as Misaka felt the floor beneath her begin to give way.
Before she had a chance to react, Misaka found herself outside on the roof of a neighboring structure. She watched the building she had just been in collapse, the structure falling neatly down and inwards as floor after floor gave way, looking almost like a professionally controlled demolition. Soon there was nothing but a pile of rubble where there had once been a tall building.
It was then that Misaka became aware of a familiar presence clasping her right arm saying something and trying to grab her attention.
"Onee-sama," Kuroko called to her again
"Kuroko?" Misaka inquired, confused by the events that had just transpired.
"Onee-sama, are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere?" Then upon seeing her injured left shoulder, she gasped in shock and horror, "Onee-sama! Your shoulder!" she stated, as if Misaka had not known.
"What are you doing here?" Misaka asked, composing herself, "how did you know where I was?"
"Let's talk about that later, we need to look at that injury," Kuroko insisted, grabbing her Onee-sama's right arm again. Soon they were gone. A series of quick, successive teleports landed them in what looked to be an old clinic. Compared to the other buildings she had seen in District 17 it was in far better shape, but was still coated with a layer of dust. Kuroko helped her onto one of the beds and began rooting around the large backpack Misaka just noticed she had been carrying. She pulled out several things then finally found what she was looking for, a pair of scissors.
Kuroko hopped up on the bed next to Misaka and gingerly took her injured arm, "Hold still please," she said and carefully cut away the singed fabric of her sleeve, revealing the burnt red flesh underneath.
Misaka stayed still as she let Kuroko do her work, having been trained by Judgment in first aid. She looked over at the teleporter and said, "Now can you please tell me what you are doing here?"
"I was worried about my Onee-sama," she said simply as she examined the injury, determining that the burns were not too severe but still looked quite painful, "Justifiably it would seem," Her voice was gentle but Misaka could hear a tinge of hurt and betrayal buried deep within it.
"Kuroko…" she began, looking for the right words, "There is a reason I didn't tell you about this. This is my fight and I don't want my friends to get hurt in a fight that doesn't involve them."
I'm fully aware of that," Kuroko snapped bitterly, "It's the same reason you always give when you go off alone into dangerous situations. But do you really think that your friends want you to get hurt? That I want you to get hurt? Your fights involve me because they involve you." Her voice was colored with outrage as tears began welling up in her eyes, but her hands were as gentle as before as they cautiously applied balm to the burns.
Misaka sat there for a while, unable to refute what Kuroko had just said and unwilling to simply brush it off and force Kuroko to go back anyway. Not that she could do that anyway. Kuroko was the most annoyingly persistent person she had ever met and, for some unfathomable reason, was utterly devoted to her "Onee-sama". Misaka simply resigned herself to the fact that Kuroko would follow her wherever it was possible to go, and the thought actually brought a smile to her face for an instant.
"How did you do that thing?" Misaka asked, surprising Kuroko who had been expecting an order to leave, or at least a scolding of some form, "you know, with the building. That was you right?"
"It's a trick I learned during the Level Upper incident. I was facing an opponent I couldn't hit directly, so I teleported the panes of glass from the building we were fighting in into the support columns and brought the building down," Kuroko said, wiping the tears from her eyes, glad that she had not been rejected this time.
Misaka nodded as Kuroko finished bandaging her arm. "Now Onee-sama," Kuroko began, "perhaps you better tell me what exactly is going on."
"Only if you tell me how you knew to look for me and where to find me," Misaka said, still curious as to how this had been, fully expecting Kuroko to have placed some sort of tracker on her person or to have hired a bloodhound to sniff her out..
"How I knew to look for you?" Kuroko repeated as if the answer was the most obvious thing in the world, "You haven't been yourself for the past couple days now. Even though you can hide it from some others I could tell as clear as day," She said with pride, "as to how I found you, I simply followed your path on the street camera footage at Judgment. Then I packed up, came to the district, and listened for the sounds of a fight. It didn't take me long," she said, sighing in exasperated resignation.
"Hey," Misaka bristled, "it's hardly my fault that I was attacked."
"Then whose fault is it today?"
"Shokuhou Misaki," She replied then began explaining everything that had led up to this ordeal.
It had happened four days ago when she had been called down to the headmaster's office.
She arrived at the large heavy oak doors, slightly confused. She did not know why she had been called down here, her mind already in the habit of ignoring the multitude of offences she had committed this month alone, but he knew it had to be serious to be called down here so suddenly. She took a deep breath and pushed open the door, entering the room with a bow to its single occupant, an old, balding man in an extremely expensive suit at an extravagant desk, littered with various papers and files.
"Ah, Miss Misaka, have a seat," he said, gesturing to a large comfortable chair which faced his desk.
"Thank you sir," she said politely, taking the proffered chair.
The headmaster sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers, glancing at the papers on his desk before looking again at Misaka as he slowly began.
"I truly regret to tell you this Miss Misaka," he said with a sigh, "there has been some legislature raised which prevents a single school from having more than one level 5 enrolled. Trust me when I say that I wish this was not so, and I have tried everything within my power to prevent this, but to no avail."
Her heart dropped as she heard this, "so I'm being expelled?" she asked hardly believing her ears. 'What is this ridiculous law,' she thought, 'and why the hell am I the one being expelled?"
"Not necessarily…" the headmaster replied hesitantly, "in an effort to make it fair, the legislature state that the level 5's affected may choose for themselves which of them will leave for another school. If they cannot reach a peaceful agreement…" He paused for a second before continuing, "then the one who remains shall be decided by a test of skill."
From what Misaka knew about "The Queen", Tokiwadai's other level 5, she had no doubt that she would not leave willingly, and would be more than happy for an opportunity to try and prove that she was better than Misaka. But she was only the 5th ranked level 5 whereas Misaka was 3rd.
"What kind of test?" Misaka asked carefully. She was higher ranked than "The Queen" in power, but their abilities were so different that that didn't necessarily decide the victor.
"From what I understand, it is a battle of sorts taking place in a large abandoned section of the city. You enter from different ends of the city and fight until one of you is victorious, though I don't know the exact victory conditions."
Misaka was angered by this. It was such a barbaric proposition: setting two people against each other and letting them fight it out. Misaka, despite how it may look from the frequency in which she found herself in fights, was against such purposeless violence. With one spiky haired exception, she never attacked someone unless that person attacked her or her friends first. She wasn't some gladiator fighting for someone else's amusement.
"I understand how you must be feeling, "the headmaster said reassuringly, "so why don't you think it over and tell me what you've decided this evening, after school. Till then, head back to class and have a nice day."
"Yes sir," Misaka responded, standing up and bowing before leaving the room. The door had just closed behind her when she heard a voice.
"You should just quit now, save us both the trouble," Misaka turned to see none other than The Queen herself standing in the hall with a haughty, contemptuous look on her face.
"Listen, I don't want to have to fight you," Misaka warned.
"What a surprise, such a barbarous hooligan such as yourself being reluctant to fight," she gaped in a greatly exaggerated look of shock, "or maybe it's just fear. Rankings don't matter. So what if you're number 3, you're still weak and you know it. Maybe that's why you don't want to fight."
A few sparks escaped Misaka as her anger rose.
"Whether you fight or not, I'm going to be the winner. So I shall say it again, drop out and save both of us the trouble." She said before walking away with an arrogant stride.
Of course, nothing The Queen could have said could have more inflamed Misaka's will to fight than that. Misaka steeled her resolve and told the headmaster the next day that she would accept the challenge.
The two were given a couple days to prepare beforehand. They were allowed to bring and use whatever or whoever they wanted in the battle. Misaka, of course, didn't bring anything, convinced she could wrap this up quickly on her own without getting anyone else involved. After all, there was no way she could lose in a direct fight.
This morning, on the first day of the battle, the two Level 5's had both been led to separate ends of their battleground, district 17. They were given small tokens. The objective was to capture your opponents token by any non-lethal means necessary and bring it back to this point. Other than that there were no rules.
"After that I went searching for a while when I was ambushed by those people. The leader had some ability, it completely neutralized my lightning attacks, and there was nothing else. I got hit by one of them and so I tried putting some distance between us and think up a new strategy. That was right about when you showed up." She finished.
Kuroko leaned forward and snatched Misaka's hand "you need to win Onee-sama," she said frantically, "you can't change schools and leave me…"
Misaka pulled her hand away, "I was planning on winning but thanks for the suggestion." She said, standing up and looking around. "It's getting late and this seems like a good place to stay; it's a clinic so it should have a few semi-comfortable beds."
"Nope, this is probably the only one," Kuroko said smiling, her attitude changing in an instant, "guess we'll have to share."
Misaka glared at Kuroko and looked around for more beds, but it looked like everything that wasn't nailed down had been taken. Needless to say, the accuracy of Kuroko's statement annoyed Misaka.
When she had finally finished searching and reentered the main clinic Kuroko smiled at her and held out a plate with a large bun on it.
"It's a bit cold but it's your favorite," she prompted as she patted the spot beside her, "sit with me and enjoy."
Misaka did so, she was hungry and it was her favorite after all. Shortly after they ate, Kuroko was again rooting around her bag as Misaka examined the map of the district that Kuroko had brought, cursing herself for not preparing thoroughly. She looked through the map, allowing herself to become more familiar with the various facets and landmarks of the place.
"Oh Onee-sama," Kuroko suddenly sang, "I have another surprise for you." Misaka turned to see Kuroko holding out an exceedingly revealing, see-through negligee. "A change of clothes," Kuroko said with an innocent little smile.
With an audible thud, Misaka's fist connected with Kuroko's head, "Baka."
"Oww," Kuroko whined, rubbing the developing lump on her head, "it was only a joke, no need to hit me…" she reached back in and pulled out Misaka's usual bright green Gekota pajamas, "you do really need to learn to wear more mature clothing though Onee-sama, you can't wear Gekota print forever."
"B-be quiet," she snapped, snatching her PJs as a blush overtook her face, "it's none of your business." With that she stormed off to change in an adjourning room.
Now that she was alone she had a chance to think. This most recent event complicated matters a bit, she didn't want to have anyone get involved in this, she planned to do it all by her own merit. But once again Kuroko had wormed her way to her side, and she knew that her friend would never leave it willingly, and in all honesty Misaka didn't want to force her away at all. There was, after all, no one that she would rather have at her side, for many reasons, though she would never admit to some of them.
She walked back into the other room when she was finally finished changing. Kuroko had already changed into the negligee she had previously offered to Misaka. Her face, however, was steeled in a thoughtful expression that she often wore while in the middle of a case in her work at Judgment. The juxtaposition of the serious, no-nonsense professionalism of her expression with her… less than serious apparel brought a slight smile to Misaka's face.
As Misaka walked over to her Kuroko looked up. The serious expression quickly melted into the ever-so-familiar lecherous grin. "As much as I object to those, there is something about them that suits you Onee-sama."
"Just go to sleep," she said, too tired from her long day to deal with Kuroko's inanities, "and don't try anything funny, understand?"
"These accusations...so hurtful... and after all my kindness as well! All I want to do is show you my love Onee-sama."
"Then show it by respecting my personal space," she said in reply, laying down on the cot on the far side of Kuroko.
"Goodnight Onee-sama, "Kuroko said trying to settle herself on the uncomfortable bed.
"Goodnight Kuroko," she replied, doing the same. It had been a hard day, and in short order the two were asleep.