And here we are with another part.
There's not much to say here apart from this is the point where everything kicks off. How things go from here now we have so many different parts moving along, I hope you can fully come to enjoy what is in store. It's surprising we've reached here but there you go!
And before we begin, the Q & A:
whwsms: I have to agree in a way that Touma has been conditioned to think that he is not worth it. I mean, after everything he has been through and all the punishment he has faced both before and after is memory loss, its understandable how he would begin to think that he isn't worth it. Part of me feels like there are many 'people' who would be interesting to see Touma interact with, with Orion being one of those: someone who is like him yet almost irredeemable. I'm glad you liked the chapter though and I hope I can continue to impress!
TheDarkPublisher: Ohohohoho, I won't give too much away over the eventual reveal for Touma's PTSD, but I can say that what I have planned is a bit more beyond just rain. In terms of inspirations for this story, most of it was really a lack of acknowledgement from other characters over what Touma has really done for them and for others – Touma has been through SO MUCH on their behalf and yet there is so much that does unsaid for him as a character. As such, I wanted to create a story that focuses on others learning about him and the things he has done while not being a straight reaction fic (which are totally fine). So, in terms of inspiration, I really wanted to try and tell a story that was focused on that – were you asking more about what stories inspired me to write this though? And for your comment, there is no such thing as a crappy beginner! Everyone starts from somewhere and I'm than happy to help you out where I can. As for your theory on Kamui and Accelerator, I'm neither going to confirm or deny that… As for your question about the dragons and the Invisible Thing, in this story, it follows the Index canon on whether or not they are separate entities (in my mind they are separate and hence the story leans in that direction if that makes sense). And I think you're misunderstanding something, Kamui doesn't want Accelerator for the cyborg since that is a separate project entirely.
craytherlay: Hayashida has sort of always been missing out as of late, so I might have to change that soon… I think Index has this wish that she's going to have Touma and a girl late at night and nothing is going to happen. One of these days, that wish will come true, LOL. I hope you can look forward to the punishment Orion is going to be given in the future…as he rightly deserves it.
Yulfar: I'm glad that you enjoyed the back and forth between Orion and Touma – I really wanted to nail how the two of them are really similar and yet can't stand the other because of it. I dunno if I would be able to properly write the fallout if the Kamisato Faction and the Kamijou Faction ever ended up meeting…
onilink500: Tendría que decir que tienes razón; muchas de las chicas a las que les gusta Touma probablemente solo tengan el síndrome de Estocolmo.
Red Glasses: Wait, you were trying to offend me at the time!? I think that going forward, chapters are going to longer and longer so it's going to be easier to binge read so I'm glad that I managed to write something long enough for you to get into. I think you're confusing the random office worker with Officer Yukiji; they are two separate people – although even I remember that particular scene and I'm glad that it stuck out to you…even though you noted it later. I'm also glad that you enjoyed Arisa's and Orion's moments; I hope you can look forward to more that is on offer this time! I'll try and keep your comments in mind and hope that the future battles between Touma and Orion are just as exciting!
RUiN The Extinct: Hehehehehe, do you think I would give Touma a good end?! If you have a look at my fic overall, you should be able to see…
ShadowBloodedge9396: Thank so much for the kind words and I'm glad that I manage to touch your heart some way with Arisa; that in itself makes the effort I put into the chapter all the more worth it! Oh my God, don't even get me started on the Orion/Joker parallels there – whatever the case, I hope you can look forward to what comes of them in the future! I love how brutal you are when it come to describing the difference between Touma and Hamazura though!
WwEpsilonwW: I think you've got the right idea; Orion is driven by logic and doesn't put emotions into things whereas Touma is driven by passion and rarely looks at things from a strictly logical side of things…but that's only one of the differences between the two of them! I'm glad that you enjoyed the bad end and the hypocrite lines; I've been wanting to write them both for a while! Glad you liked it!
LoneVirgo98: Glad I could give the update! Personally, I think any scene with Arisa is a perfect thing so I'm really glad I managed to get such a scene in. I'm also glad that you noted how stone cold and unmoving Orion is; we'll have to see what comes of that going forward, shan't we?
Komigakuo: We'll have to see what happens with Touma going forward, wont we…? I hope you look forward to it though!
Kami: Are you telling me that Arisa is a magical girl!? But I have to agree that yes, Arisa really is best girl…and there are others who share the same position.
5had0wHand: You're ONLY at the Konori Mii arc?! You've got a long way to go…
comrade-elmo1: I'm glad that you enjoyed it! I'm also glad that you're enjoying what I'm doing with Orion, especially with the things that he thinks and says – the EMIYA parallels are definitely there and gives some perspectives to how he really is Touma's Bad End.
Agent Nine: I think you thinking Orion is redeemable is the overall 'message' Raildex as a series tells us…so I sort of wanted to create a character that doesn't really seem all that good nor one would think deserves to be saved. I'm glad you liked what I did with him and Touma though and I hope you can look forward to what happens next!
thegamersport7: Thanks so much for the kind words! I'll try and keep things up!
bluefish1945: Yeah, Touma goes through a lot in the earlier chapters…
And the thanks. My beta reader is still taking a bit of a hiatus, but even so, I'd still like to extend my thanks to PokeRescue18 for all he has done for this project.
And also to you, the reader. Truly and eternally: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I owe you a lot for choosing to read this far and for sticking with me for this long. I only hope you can realise the thanks I am trying to communicate with those words for the things you have done for me.
And from me, I hope you can do what you always do with these chapters:
Mr Question Mark.
Kamijou Touma ran through the darkness of Academy City, feeling the night air press against him. Not wearing a jacket, he paused, panting and stared up, looking around himself with sweat rolling down his face but seeing nothing in the lit streets that gave way to what he was looking for.
There was no sight of the boy he was trying to find, his Bad End, the mercenary Orion Phoenix.
The boy who, for the sake of his client continued to betray himself and his own feelings, was similar to Kamijou and yet, someone who Kamijou could not entirely accept. Despite both throwing themselves into conflicts for the sake of others, Kamijou continued to pursue a path of his own choosing and acted in a way that prevented himself from feeling regret, moving with the feelings within him and using them to guide his movements. Orion, on the other hand, let someone else choose his path and acted no matter what he felt on a particular course of action he had been told to take.
Nothing but a puppet of his own making, the two were on opposite sides of the battlefield despite their similar choices to fight for someone else but it was now that Kamijou knew he had to find that mercenary.
(Damn it! Where did he go? He barely left me and Arisa minutes ago so where is he?)
Kamijou turned and ran, his heart pumping so hard he could feel it in his ears. The headache from the exhilaration of what he was doing and the Tetris Nanomachines within his body coursed through his head. He wiped the sweat from his brow but reached an intersection, stopping and looking up and down it for any sight of the black-clad boy.
Orion had suggested in his words, but never said anything, that he knew exactly what the condition of Shutaura Sequenzia was: that she existed as herself and as Meigo Arisa at the same time. Even though, as far as Kamijou knew, Kamijou was the only one who had seen the fusion of both girls, the knowledge Orion (and possibly his client) knew of the existence of Shutaura and what she was gave Kamijou pause for concern when it came to Shutaura and Arisa's wellbeing in the future.
Even if Orion had said they were safe from harm, there was no guarantee it would be the case. Shutaura herself was an existence that was one in six or seven billion, someone who was two personalities fused into the one body with both personalities having two distinct and different bodies at some point. Wanting to learn how exactly that Bad End knew of Arisa, Kamijou had chased after him after the boy had given the captured Crow 1 back to him and Arisa.
But there was more to it than just that.
(Orion said he had business elsewhere. And given that his latest 'business' involved kidnapping someone, I can't just let him pass and do whatever the hell he likes! But…where did he go?! Damn it!)
This had nothing to do with Kamijou, he knew that.
But that did not mean he could just ignore it when Orion was potentially threatening the peace of others. The thought that someone else, someone who had nothing to do with anything, was going to be dragged into the darkness merely because someone had asked Orion to do it made Kamijou grit his teeth and frantically scan his surroundings once more for the mercenary but finding nothing.
They were both mercenaries of a fashion. While Orion served others for his own purposes, Kamijou did the same save for the fact that he never gave himself the title of one. But right now, if there was anyone Kamijou was serving, he knew in his heart, it was the people who Orion was going to threaten once more and place in danger.
It was only human to want to prevent others from suffering and being caught in pain, only normal to want the best in people and want them to have their own smiles kept on their faces when everything was said and done. The idea that someone could voluntarily take that away from someone just because someone else asked them to made Kamijou realise exactly what was at stake here.
It was not just someone's safety.
It was their peace, their smiles and the normal lives they held. It was everything someone was owed and everything someone had the right to maintain.
Even if they might be strangers, there was no way Kamijou as merely going to put this to the side when those things were threatened. As much as those things meant to Kamijou, they surely meant something to the person being threatened and it was the idea of that being destroyed at the hands of Orion that made Kamijou grit his teeth and squint his eyes to look for something in the distance.
(Where is he? If that bastard thinks I'm just going to let him do what he wants with someone else's smile and happiness, he has another thing coming! Just because you gave back Crow 1 does not mean you can fill that wrong with another one! Why can't you see what you're destroying with your hands, you idiot? The people you're after aren't targets, they are people with proper smiles and peace! To hell if you think I'm just going to let you destroy that!)
Kamijou didn't know where he was going but moved to the right, charging down the streets at full pelt, his heart pumping in his chest. He had to stop that mercenary before something irreversible happened. Even more so because Orion was working for the remnants of MINUS.
The fact his Bad End had joined the side of the remnants of a group Kamijou was responsible for felt like a cruel irony. But no matter the things he felt and the partial responsibility he had to solve this, there was nothing else filling Kamijou's mind save for the raw desire to make sure he could find and stop Orion before he tore at someone else's peace, someone who had nothing to do with that mercenary.
But where had he gone!?
District 7 was fairly large and even as Kamijou ran, he knew Orion was moving as well. Had he gotten into a van or a car at some point? Was the reason Kamijou could not find him after all this running because he had already disappeared long from this District?
Kamijou cried out, sprinting faster through the District. Even though it was a risk chasing after Orion with his guns, Kamijou did not care. The only thing that echoed within his heart was the concern for the people Orion was going to harm and destroy the smiles and peace of along with the raw desire to ensure he stopped Orion before he even remotely touched those things.
Even if the people being threatened were people he had never met and would never see if he stopped Orion before he touched them, Kamijou still wanted to save those unknown and invisible smiles and peace. Everyone was owed that and there was no way he was going to let it be threatened for the life of him.
But with each moment passed, the threat and the judgment loomed ever closer over the heads of those innocent people and their peace.
Heart pounding with fright for the people being threatened and their peace and head pounding as he tried to figure out where Orion could have gone, Kamijou raced through the street, stopping at another intersection up ahead and trying to see through the darkness of the middle of the night to spot the form of the mercenary.
But a chill went through him.
Kamijou Touma could not explain it.
It felt as though every single nerve within his brain were sending a signal to every single muscle in his body, an icy chilliness coursing through his mind and almost making his heart stop right then and there.
Out of more shock than anything else, Kamijou froze on the spot, going wide eyed and clutching at his chest. It felt warm so the sensation was not a physical one but even so, his entire body gave a chill down his spine that made Kamijou turn his head around frantically on the spot. It felt like being watched…but at the same time, so much more than that. It felt as though something were observing him from the inside out, having infected him and was searching through every single fibre of his being to deconstruct him and rip him apart.
Cold sweat ran down his face as Kamijou stared around him, unsure of what the feeling was and knowing he had to hurry and find Orion instead of being focused on this. But the sensation was not merely one he could so readily ignore. Turning his head, Kamijou could feel the chill down his spine increasing and decreasing like a tide, however, he noticed with a frown, doing so at a set pattern.
Turning his head to the left too far would cause the chill to decrease, but turning it back to the right would make it increase…before it would then decrease. As if he were a radar tracking a target, the chill down his spine made him tremble as he turned his head and focused on the one thing in front of him where the chill was the strongest.
It was an alleyway on the other side of the street, one he had just passed by in his rush to hurry and find Orion. The darkness of it was almost inviting, as if beckoning Kamijou towards it. He gulped, staring at it and noting the chill going down his body, wanting to turn away and focus on what he knew he had to.
There was more at risk than just some dark alleyway. If he focused on one of those every day of the week, it would create more trouble than it was worth and given his misfortune, trouble was the last thing Kamijou wanted to deal with. Starting to turn away, there was something else though that kept him rooted to the spot.
He turned his head back to the alleyway, eyes wide as he stared at it. No, it wasn't just an illusion. The alleyway in the distance felt as though it was more inviting than ever, as if existing just for the sake of Kamijou to walk through it. He stared at it, shaking his head and taking a step back from the alleyway, gulping slightly.
"(Oi, oi. What is this? An alleyway in the middle of the night beckoning me? I've seen enough slasher films to know where that ends!)" Kamijou slightly grinned to himself but he could feel the nervousness behind his smile as he stepped back once again, something feeling as though it was constricting around his heart as he did so.
He could feel it.
In the very depths of his mind, there was not just a calling. It was a knowing, the knowledge that within that alleyway there was something there he could not deny or ignore. The knowledge that if he turned and ran from that alley he was going to regret it for the rest of his life filled his head and beyond anything else, the overwhelming chill of his body made him unable to take another step back.
He could not just ignore this.
He had other things to do but that realisation was so strong he could not just push that alleyway in front of him aside.
Kamijou gritted his teeth, turning down the street and trying to see through the lit streets but finding nothing. Orion wasn't here, that much was certain, and while he wanted to find his Bad End, there was no going to be finding him just waiting around. There were so many places where Kamijou had not looked and while he knew he was wasting time, the alleyway just in front of him, calling him, made him unable to move away from it.
Kamijou gulped, staring into the alley but he could not see its contents fully. The only thing he knew was that it was calling him but why it was doing that, why he was even thinking that in the first place and what was making him stare at the alleyway were all things unknown to him.
The only thing he knew was that he was not leaving this street until he looked into that alleyway.
He was not going to be searching for Orion any longer unless he looked into that alleyway.
His head turning and realising there was more at stake than some stupid alleyway, Kamijou opened his mouth to speak and let out hastily said words.
"Th-That alleyway leads further into District 7. If I want to shortcut to where Orion possibly is, then I need to take that alleyway. I…I need to do it…"
His words were said but even though they were meant to convince him, he felt nothing of the sort, only a heavy dread within himself. He didn't know what to expect but the alleyway and the sensation coming from it were things he knew he could not so easily discard. He had to see what was inside…if only for the fact he knew he would be frozen to the spot if he did not move forward and look inside that alleyway and discover what was inside for himself.
The knowledge he could not ignore what he was feeling from the alleyway was overpowering. Taking a small step forward, Kamijou felt as though it was more of a bound, the way the chill up his spine increased felt as though he was going to move into the pits of hell itself. He paused for a moment, getting used to the sensation but turned his head to the side, staring down the lit street and into the darkness.
He was here for a reason, not for this alleyway. That came to him like a wave and Kamijou grit his teeth, clenching his right fist and staring back down the alleyway in a look of pure defiance rather than anything else.
(…You want me? That's fine. But there's something I have to do. There are people out there who are on the chopping block without even realising it and the one going to slice them is someone I can't ignore. I don't have time for you! I don't have time for some alleyway when someone's smile is at risk!)
That thought overpowered anything Kamijou was feeling. Like a ray of sunshine, it cut through the chill down his spine and the sensation he had to find out what was inside the alleyway, replacing it with a sense of urgency to get this out of the way immediately and return to what he had been doing.
Even if what was inside was some Academy City slasher or some interdimensional being who had travelled through time to probe him and take him for alien experiments (even if he didn't believe that but knowing his misfortune, anything was possible), Kamijou was more than prepared to punch whatever was 'calling' him in the face and return to the issue at hand.
Kamijou didn't bother taking small steps anymore; he raced for the railing and leaped over it, landing on the other side of the road and making a straight beeline for the other railing, leaping over that too and landing on the sidewalk. Racing to the mouth of the alleyway, Kamijou prepared himself to take on whatever he was going to see in its stride before returning to the other more important things he had to do right now.
He entered the alleyway, the more important thing in his mind taking over him now and filling him as he caught sight of what lay within it –
And instantly, that thought within his mind disappeared and was left with nothing but momentary shock and surprise. Kamijou felt his eyes go wide, staring in stunned silence at the interior of the alleyway before feeling something within him choke and something making him tremble. Unsure of what to even say or think, Kamijou was only left with the horror of the sight, his mind being replaced now with the only reaction he felt he had to have as any normal person would.
Kamijou Touma whispered those words but the emotions within him now as he stared at the monstrosity in front of him was more than enough to make him scream, sending the words of absolute anguish and despair from his mouth in an uncontrollable shout.
"What the hell is this?!"
There was nothing saying anyone was at risk.
The only problem with that was that uncertainty worked both ways.
Even if there was nothing suggesting something was wrong, there was always the possibility something would go wrong all the same and utterly destroy the preestablished harmony already set up.
And right now, there was someone out there who might be more than willing to destroy that preestablished harmony and send it crashing down.
"…For fuck's sake."
Accelerator, the #1 Level 5 of Academy City, couldn't sleep. He rolled in the bed given to him in Yomikawa Aiho's apartment with a look of irritation on his face before slowly sitting up and rubbing the brows of his eyes. Doing so meant his arm lightly touched against the choker against his neck, Accelerator staring at himself in the mirror in front of his bed and realising the choker on his neck had now been fully charged after he had set it aside to be charged as he had tried to get to sleep.
But now there was no chance he would lose any cognitive abilities as a result of the battery running out of power, Accelerator was only left with the thought that had been brooding within his mind ever since earlier this morning.
Kamijou Touma had told him all about another one of those bastard Kiharas and through nothing more than interest, Kihara Kamui had proved to be more of a bastard than Accelerator had first thought. Simply looking through the files related to one of his projects, Personality Swipe, was enough to reveal the twisted cesspool of science that was the mind of that Kihara. Thinking about it now only made Accelerator sick.
He kicked off the covers, unable to get to sleep and walked to the window, opening the shutters and glancing through them at the City below. The silence of the darkness of Academy City suited the #1 more than the daylight but the faint lights of the neon lights in the distance gave the feeling that Academy City was alive, even though most of the stores and public transport vehicles were out of use. The only people walking around this time on night were idiots and the idiots who were sent out to stop them in the first place.
Realising that Accelerator had once been in the former group, being made to kill the Sisters in the darkness of the night only made something bitter rise in his mouth. He clicked his tongue.
The project which had once threatened Accelerator and everything he loved.
Through some means, Accelerator was not sure how this had been obtained, he had been told by Kamijou that Kamui had had an interest in him. Or, more accurately, had been interested in breaking him due to the status he had as a hero. The thought was ridiculous but the idea of it, the concept, had stuck in the mind of one particular Kamui who had been killed.
Even if it had been an afterthought, there was the risk of other manifestations of Kamui's personality coming to the same conclusion as the now-dead Kamui and doing what they had not; acting on the desire to see Accelerator's mind (being that of a hero's) shatter simply to discover what it would take to achieve such.
However, again, there was no certainty of that.
Thankfully, Kihara Kamui's personality was not something that transferred completely. While, both according to the paper describing the topic and Kamijou Touma, the process involved the transferring of the personality of one person to another, the main thing involved here was that it was related to the memories of Kamui.
The idiosyncrasies of each personality infected were going to have an influence on the type of direction Kamui would go. Thankfully, as only males could be infected, Accelerator had a rough idea of the ideas of the pieces of shit Kamui was now but given it was only personality that was transferred, it meant the individual memories of each Kamui and his manifestation were not going to be shared, unlike the Misaka Network.
Instead of linking brainwaves, it seemed the only thing shared between the Kamui clones was their personality and nothing else. Meaning that anything Kamui, in any one particular form, did or experienced were not going to be transferred over to another.
And given that the Kamui who had expressed an interest in Accelerator had died, there was no chance another Kamui would seek out Accelerator and what he loved for the sake of shattering the personality he had built up until this point. There was no chance there was going to be any risk to the things Accelerator wanted to protect and for that, at least for now, he was safe.
However, as much as that was an optimistic thought, there was only one problem with that.
It was uncertain if it was the case.
And as said before, uncertainties worked both ways.
There was nothing saying it would happen…but also nothing saying it wouldn't either.
He was living on the edge of a knife. Balancing himself on the whims of some bastard who may or may not have an interest in him based on some twisted desire and a personal interest in seeing what it would take to shatter a mind that had nothing to do with him. It pissed Accelerator off that he was being involved in something that had nothing to do with him but the urgency of that uncertainty had kept him awake.
If there was just one person who had been infected with Kihara Kamui's personality, then it seemed unlikely that out of everything that such a bastard could get up to that he would isolate breaking the mind of the #1.
But it was unknown how many Kamuis there were out there.
If it was only 1% that Kihara Kamui would isolate Accelerator and seek to break him and his mind, then there only had to be 100 of them for that possibility to manifest itself in the twisted mind of that psychopath. And it was the uncertainty there that had kept Accelerator up all night.
If only one of the Kamuis, even if it was the Original or not, had that idea, then they would act on it. Accelerator knew Kiharas well enough to know that was what they would do and the consolation that their memories were not shared was not a relieving one.
After all, it had only taken one Kihara, Kihara Amata, to almost push Last Order to the point of no return. They were not to be taken lightly and it was with narrowed red eyes that Accelerator looked at the dark City, his thoughts taking himself to places he did not want to go.
(Sometimes the worst pieces of shit aren't the ones who are powerful. They aren't the ones who you can't defeat in a straight fight. It's the ones who know they can't win in a straight fight that face you anyway that are the dangerous ones. The ones who battle you on levels more than just the physical. Fuck this. Fuck all of this.)
Accelerator clicked his tongue and moved out of his room, grabbing his crutch on the way out, and heading for the fridge. He stared at the rooms he passed on the way, noting Yomikawa's room was open although with the light off. He frowned, remembering vaguely she said something about her patrolling because of the extra trouble caused by this 'Eiyuu' character going around Academy City and dealing with the crime within it on their own terms like some American comic book vigilante.
"…I've got enough problems to deal with instead of the retards going around and doing their own thing. Looks like another person was inspired by the actions of that shitty Hero."
Accelerator spat out those words and shook his head. Given the last people who had been inspired by that spiky haired idiot was MINUS (and to an extent, Accelerator himself), it seemed that only trouble followed that boy wherever he went. And now, given that Kihara Kamui had mentioned Accelerator to that boy, it seemed Accelerator was now caught up in the path of misfortune that seemed to radiate off that hero.
Staring at the contents of the fridge and letting the light of it wash over him, it was with a careful glance at one of the rooms in Yomikawa's apartment that Accelerator let his gaze linger for only a moment longer. He knew who was within it and it was for a single moment that he pictured in his mind's eyes the occupant.
It was not Misaka Worst.
Nor was in Yoshikawa Kikyou.
Even if the world crumbled around him, even if there was one person in the world he wanted by his side and even if he had to sacrifice everyone else so that he could make that single girl happy, Accelerator knew he would. He would take on the role he had to take on for the sake of that single girl to make her as happy as could be. There was no one else he wanted by his side and he would give the world for her and her alone simply because of what she had given him in turn.
The girl who was, with no exaggeration, the core of the boy standing right there.
There had been many people over the years who had given Accelerator a form of 'happiness'. Strength, ability and invincibility, all of those bastards had operated on preconceived notions but none of them had truly looked at Accelerator once and asked him what it was he wanted. They had assumed something that would make Accelerator happy and sweet talked him into believing that was what he wanted.
But in truth, in the depths of is heart, the one thing he wanted was not power or anything else like that, like what the scientists who had experimented on him had said he wanted to hold in his hands.
The only thing he wanted was a family, people around him who accepted him for who he was and could hold him by the hand simply because they cared for him and not to lead him towards something he could benefit them for. Simple, unadulterated acceptance that only came with the people by his side and nothing else.
And that girl, Last Order, had given that to him.
She had smiled at him and been with him, accepting him and wanting to be with him even though his hands were stained with the blood of her kind. Even though he was the worst piece of shit the world had to offer, she had calmly approached him with a smile and stood by his side, radiating a light so brilliant that, even if it was small, it had pushed away the darkness that had surrounded the #1.
Last Order had not been cruel or sought anything special from Accelerator. The only thing she saw was him, without any filters or any labels. She did not see the strongest esper, the person who had killed 10,000 Sisters or the person who had the ability to reach Level 6. The only thing she saw was Accelerator as he was, just a single boy who was so scared to reach out and touch somebody because of what he had the ability to do to them.
And she had reached out and touched him.
She had taken a hold of his heart and kept her firm grasp on it, if only for the fact that she wanted to be by his side and him hers. There was nothing else in between them but that, only two beings joined at the hip through acceptance of one another and nothing else. The things they saw in the other were not plans or abilities, but merely the worth given to them simply by the presence of the other.
Accelerator had once committed a crime. He had killed so many people it was impossible to shed the blood off his hands. But even despite that, even despite that overwhelming strength, that girl had reached out and grabbed him, being the one person to stand by his side and tell him it was alright and that even if he was the strongest, she wanted to be by his side and stay there because of what that place meant to her.
And for Accelerator it was the same.
He had once committed a crime. A crime he had no hope of redeeming himself from and a crime he was sure would have meant the abyss was the only thing waiting for him.
But the hand that had reached out to him was not the one of a usual spiky haired boy. No, that hand had been the one to knock the sense into him such that he could reach out for the true hand which had been held out to him.
The hand of a girl simply known as Last Order.
And it was that touch, that warm touch that Accelerator felt had been his salvation.
If such kindness, such innocence and such purity could willingly stand by his side and not be destroyed, then perhaps there was redemption for a piece of shit such as him. Perhaps there was the chance he could repay the things he had done to the clones back a thousandfold and grasp what he had been missing this entire time…and even regain back what he had lost so many years ago.
If it was Last Order by his side, then maybe, just maybe…
Accelerator would be able to get back the same amount of innocence he had lost.
He had already been given the family he had longed for his entire life. Even if the chances of him regaining something as powerful as the innocence he had lost were miniscule, he knew that as long as that small girl was by his side then there was the chance, if however small, that he could manage to achieve the smallest amount of redemption available to him.
He had grasped that opportunity with both hands.
For the chance for a family, for the chance of redemption and even if he would never admit this to anyone save for himself, he would hold Last Order tight even if his hands frayed and even if his body destroyed itself. For the sake of having her by his side, he was never going to let her go and never going to abandon her for anything else.
Even if he had to become a monster for her sake and even if he had to sacrifice everyone else…
Last Order was the one person he knew he wanted to have by his side more than anything else in the world.
If only for the redemption and the precious family she had given him.
He knew it was nothing but self-satisfaction.
But he simply owed that small girl that much.
The open fridge and the air from such made a chill go down Accelerator's spine. He turned away from Last Order's room, shaking his head and closed the fridge, realising he wasn't as hungry as he thought he was and there was nothing in the fridge anyway.
Even if there was nothing but uncertainty when it came to what Kihara Kamui had planned for him, there was one thing that Accelerator above all else thought.
And that was if anyone came even remotely close to touching her or the family he had obtained after all this time, then he was going to show them what true fear meant. Well, that and what it meant to try and cross the one with the top spot of the Level 5s of Academy City.
That was the only certainty Accelerator had in his mind as he stared now at the fridge. He clicked his tongue, realising it was the caution he was placing on Kamui that was keeping him up in the first place, realising he was letting an issue that had yet to come to light weigh down on him and cause him to lose precious sleep.
Already irritated enough, Accelerator knew that lack of sleep would not exactly add towards that in any way, staring at the couch in the front of the television and walking towards it. His official bed was much too far away and as he could as easily sleep on the couch, there was no hesitation in his gait and decision to sleep there, as impractical as it was.
But then again, the kindness that the #1 had achieved was evident in how sleeping on the couch meant he was closer to not only Last Order but also the rooms of the other members of his family if something were to ever happen to them tonight. Accelerator shook his head, refusing to think too much into why he was choosing to sleep on the couch and slouched on it, closing his eyes and letting the blissfulness of sleep come over him.
However, the sound of something by the door made Accelerator frown, turn towards it with irritated eyes and slowly reach for his choker, ready and prepared for anything that was to come his way.
He heard something as he was doing that: a small 'beep'.
And suddenly, all feelings and comprehension of events left his mind, causing the boy to fall forward right onto the floor. All rational thought was emptied out of his head like a bucket, leaving nothing but true blankness.
The door to his apartment was ruthlessly kicked open, revealing two people who clearly were not here for peaceful reasons.
Even though that was enough for Accelerator to enter a rage and stop them right there, he only lay on the ground, unmoving and watching them.
But most of all, he was unsure why he was unable to understand what was going on and why.
Hamazura Shiage was a boy who was used to late nights. His days within Skill-Out had been carefree and filled with thoughts that had been far from savoury, but it was now that Hamazura realised how much of his youth had been spent thinking about stupid things and never thinking about the bigger picture.
After all, he had also been named as a potential target by one Kihara Kamui, who was now dead.
Kamijou Touma had not failed to include that former thug when it came to warning him about what the now-dead Kamui had said about the temptation of wanting to break him because of his status as a hero. The thought in itself was ludicrous, to think he was someone worth breaking because of the sick interests of some mad scientist, but the reality was something he could not change no matter how much he wanted to.
He had been named as a potential target.
However, now the Kamui who had named him was dead, he was not entirely safe either. Because someone who had the personality of Kamui had had an interest of seeing if he could break Hamazura, there was nothing saying another Kamui would not suddenly have the same interests as the now dead one.
With the project Personality Swipe, it was possible one of the men Kamui had infected would target him for the same reasons as the now dead Kamui, simply to break him and see how far it would take for Hamazura to lose his mind. But again, there was no certainty as even if the Kamuis around Academy City had the same personality, they did not have the same memories.
It was nothing more than that that Hamazura had to rely on as much as he disliked the thought. The idea he was using chance to hold onto the idea he was safe was naïve and just as nothing said anything would happen, nothing said it wouldn't either. Even now there was the chance that one Kamui out there, perhaps even the Original, was looking at Hamazura right now and thinking of how to break him.
But again, as only personality was shared and not memories, there was no reliance of that fact either.
The situation he had found himself in was pointless but also troublesome and he sat in the luxury apartment of ITEM (which had been for Takitsubo Rikou and him but somehow had the other two members of ITEM moving in with him), he felt the chill of what was going on with him surround him from all angles. He shivered, choosing to sip the bitter coffee in his hands and wincing at the taste but deciding that if there was anything in the world that would give him the peace of mind to think about the dangers of what Kihara Kamui might pose, then it was a focused mind and a cup of coffee.
Even if it was bitter.
Hamazura felt like laughing.
How had everything turned into this in the first place? It seemed like yesterday that he was messing around the City with Hattori Hanzou and Komaba Ritoku and yet now, he was possibly in the sights of some bastard who felt as though Hamazura was some target with some interest. The thought itself was laughable but even so, the threat was true. And yet, for that former member of Skill-Out, it was surprising it had turned out this way in the first place.
Where had the path leading to this point started?
Hamazura felt confusing emotions in realising it was when he had met a spiky haired boy who had pounded some sense into him that this path had started. But thinking more deeply into it, it was a bit more than that. No, just like Accelerator, the path he was on was made by his own choice and his own convictions, something he had struggled through and would never return because of what he had in his hands now.
In truth, putting aside the meeting with Kamijou Touma and the sense he had pounded into Hamazura, the start of this path Hamazura was now on all began with a single girl.
Hadn't it been her who Hamazura had looked at and fell in love with because of the simple kindness she had given him? When their lives were on the line, for a mere grunt like him, Takitsubo had been more than willing to give Hamazura the chance to escape to save his own life, trading the life of a Level 4 for that of a 0.
Even basic mathematics told you how stupid such a trade was. Unless it harmed you, you would never trade four of something for zero of something. And yet, when thinking about something that could not be replaced, one's life, Takitsubo (a 4) had implored Hamazura (a 0) to save his own life. She had been more than willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a nothing like him.
Had that been the moment when he had achieved worth? Had that been the moment when the person known as Hamazura Shiage had grown fed up with the trash his life had become and decided to truly do something about it? Someone who was worth something had seen a fragment within Hamazura he had been unable to and had decided to save that fragment of something which had been within someone who was worth nothing.
It had been blinding.
Of that, Hamazura was certain.
It was blinding seeing Takitsubo act in the way she had, and her actions had truly saved him, given him worth and given him a place in the world where he did not have to think he was doing bad things to justify and have his existence noticed.
Simply by existing for Takitsubo Rikou, he had worth. Simply by existing, that was the only thing needed to have himself validated and confirmed as worthy for someone in their eyes.
Hamazura Shiage, in a way, was only Hamazura Shiage because Takitsubo Rikou had given him worth. Of that, Hamazura was sure and it was because of that that he had truly fallen in love with her. For anything else in the world, if it was for Takitsubo, he would truly become what he needed to be even if no one felt as though he was worthy enough for that.
The things Hamazura had right now were all because of Takitsubo.
ITEM, Mugino, Kinuhata, Fremea; all of them were things he had found worth in because of his decision to save Takitsubo and the life he had now was because he had found worth in the life he had saved and had the desire to be with her. It was no exaggeration to say that Hamazura was only here because of that one girl, his girlfriend, and even if it was the thinking of a boy in heat, he truly felt as though he needed nothing more than her embrace to feel as though he had everything in the world.
He loved her.
And he would do anything for the sake of what he loved.
For the sake of protecting those things he would do anything and for the sake of making sure he held those things tight, he would never let them go. Even if they would somehow leave his grasp, he knew he would do whatever it took to get them back, even if it was for the sake of Fremea, Mugino or Kinuhata.
But, in his mind, Hamazura felt as though if it was Takitsubo involved, then he would not hesitate to do whatever he could for the sake of her. Unlike those other two heroes he had met, Hamazura had made his choice. Even if the two of them had girls around them that maybe were in the forefronts of their mind, they all had different things to weigh, whether it be other girls or the family gained.
However, if it came to Hamazura, even if he cared for and would fight for others he loved, there was only one person in his mind and one person he had chosen. Just as she had chosen him, Hamazura knew he would choose her no matter what happened and no matter the consequence of such a choice.
It might be his emotions clouding his thoughts but it was that judgment which he held in his heart and would never let go. The things he had right now were because of Takitsubo and the worth he had now was because of her as well.
And even if right now, the path he had taken was a stony one because of the actions he had taken, he would never undo them. Because, if he did, then he would never know the worth of what having Takitsubo by his side would mean. No matter what happened, he would never regret that path because of how it had meant it crossed with Takitsubo's, even if it had consequences.
Even so though, despite the thoughts within that thug's head and the truth that came with it, the idea of Kamui unsettled him. Even if he had become a hero for the sake of Takitsubo and protecting her, it had been that decision which had led to the path he was walking now. Kamui having his sight on Hamazura was as a direct result of that path and if there was anyone Kamui would target, as Kamijou said, to break him, then it would most certainly have Takitsubo involved to some extent.
Even if Fremea, Mugino and Kinuhata might also be involved, if there was one certainty above everything else, if one wanted to truly break Hamazura, then Takitsubo Rikou was a must.
And the things Hamazura would do for the sake of protecting her if it came to that…
Hamazura stroked the edge of the cup of coffee, realising that in the right way, this could be a weapon in its own right. He shook his head though, taking another sip and realising the darkness of the thoughts he was having. Wanting to disperse them and think of something better (such as a dancing swimsuit Takitsubo-chan!), he turned his head to the side and frowned.
The large hole in the wall which had appeared mysteriously when Kamijou had arrived to clean out the fridge earlier today made a chilly air blow through and gave Hamazura a shiver. Even if he liked the fact he now had fresh air, the method in which it had been achieved was unreasonable and even if they had the budget of a Level 5 on their side, the costs to fix such a large gash in the wall were not going to be pretty.
Looking more like a cut in the fabric of the wall, barely fixed and only having tarp taped over it haphazardly, Hamazura rose and flicked the tarp absentmindedly before moving to the sink and chucking out the rest of his coffee. In the middle of the night when he knew he needed his sleep, the decision to drink caffeine was not a wise one but given the things he had to think about, it had seemed wiser to Hamazura to have a clear head to think.
The things he had now though were all because of a single girl and it was time, as the righteous boyfriend, to return to her side. Simply seeing her sleeping figure was more than enough to register in Hamazura's mind what he needed to protect and the things he would do if it came to that. Fighting Kamui and whatever he had in store was merely one of those things but as Hamazura dropped the cup in the sink, he frowned.
There was something…something odd in the air.
He blinked once, trying to identify it in the silence and doing so, only for his eyes to go wide at the hissing sound echoing through the air. He knew what that sound was and the source of it, having employed something that made the same hissing sound himself when he needed to during his time in the Darkness.
But now it was being used against him, he paled and yelled out its name…but already feeling the effects gushing into his body all the same.
There was nothing Hamazura Shiage could do as he tried desperately to grab at the sink but only managing to collapse against it and to the floor in a heap, gritting his teeth and desperately trying to focus on maintaining his consciousness.
He was barely even able to do that, darkness beginning to engulf him, but even so, he heard it.
The horrible sound of the front door to the apartment being kicked open without restraint.
The sound of the door being kicked open made Misaka Worst's eyes immediately snap open. Whether it be the way the sound resounded through her or simply because of her military training, the sound itself was such she knew it was not normal to hear in any environment, let alone the peaceful one she was living in.
As a member of the Third Season of the Sisters, perhaps even thought of as an advanced member of the Sisters as she had originally been planned as a 'replacement' for them in various ways, Misaka Worst could be thought of as being better than the original clones of Misaka Mikoto. Whether it be her Level or merely her military training, the lengths Academy City had gone to when ensuring there were 'improvements' in the new Sisters were by no means small.
For all intents and purposes, even if Misaka Worst had been born from the Darkness of Academy City, she knew and had experienced enough of the Darkness to recognise malice through even the smallest of actions.
And the sound that echoed through the apartment did nothing more than send a wave of nostalgia flowing through that clone of Misaka Mikoto.
(…Are these idiots serious? Do they even know who lives here?)
Misaka Worst frowned as she lay in bed but even if whoever had broken into this apartment did not know who lived here, the fact Accelerator had not instantly leapt at them to discern what was going on and what was happening was troubling to say the least. Even if the #1 was secretly a pervert whose depravity knew no bounds and was centred around small girls, the silence that now filled the apartment was troubling.
Even if Accelerator had not received the same military training as Misaka Worst, he was no means a light sleeper. Given his role and the fact his ability was no longer something he could use without assistance, his light sleeping was more of a defence mechanism than ever: to wake up whenever something even remotely sounding like trouble entered his ears so he could swiftly deal with the retards who had challenged him.
A few seconds had passed since the breaking down of the door.
But the absence of screams from whoever had entered the apartment made Misaka Worst grit her teeth.
(You have got to be fucking kidding me. What's the point of the #1 being here if he doesn't do anything? Why leave it up to Misaka?)
No, there was something else. The things Accelerator had here were things he would do anything to protect and Misaka Worst knew that more than anything. The way he had struck her when he was protecting Last Order revealed how dangerous he could be when the things he cared about were in danger but the fact he was doing nothing when those same things were in danger sent warning signals flashing through Misaka Worst's mind.
Something was preventing the #1 from acting.
Meaning that what was happening here and now was not some retarded break in or robbery.
These were people who belonged in the Darkness and had properly accounted for Accelerator in their plans when it came to whatever they had come here for.
And simply using process of elimination made it easy to understand the person these people were after. After all, one of the most important elements of a massive worldwide network was hidden within this very apartment and if these people were from the Darkness, there was no way they did not know and did not understand the importance of that small particular piece laying sleeping within.
The person who had the ability to infect the entirety of the Sisters with a virus that could send them into a meltdown. The thought of being able to control such a large force of espers was surely appealing but for what reason Last Order was being hunted for Misaka Worst did not care.
The only thing she knew was that if she let this be, she was going to have to answer to Accelerator as to why she did not do anything. And if that was the state of mind he was in, it was surely easy for the anger that should have been directed at these idiots charging into their apartment to be directed at her.
(You were taken out too easily, #1! You're going to have to owe me thousandfold for this!)
Misaka Worst clenched her teeth and slowly rolled out of her bed, touching her feet silently on the floor. As someone who had been given military knowledge using the Testament, she knew the importance of moving stealthily in a situation where you did not have the upper hand, which was definitely the case here.
Whoever had entered this apartment had managed to swiftly take out the #1. The method of doing so Misaka Worst did not know but on the off chance it would not work, they would surely be armed, even if that would do nothing against the power of Accelerator. Still, not being prepared for the height of foolishness in this case, Misaka Worst knew the odds were against her.
But as a Level 4, as a clone of the Railgun, Misaka Worst was by no means unarmed herself. With the potential to let loose lightning spears of 200,000,000 volts and use a pseudo-railgun (but not to the power of the Original), Misaka Worst was just a bad an opponent to face as Accelerator himself.
Moving silently, she gritted her teeth and slowly moved to the door, closing her eyes and pressing her ear against the frame to ensure she knew where the others on the other side of the door were. Understanding that would be the first step in planning her counterattack and holding her breath, Misaka Worst waited for the first sound of footsteps to indicate where the people invading the apartment were and how many of them were doing so.
It was not long before she heard something that caught her attention.
However, it was not a footstep.
It was the sound of the door to her own room being kicked open violently.
Wood splintered from the violent action and Misaka Worst went wide eyed, realising this was no time to be surprised. The enemy had known exactly where she was and had brought the fight to her. The element of surprise gone, the only thing Misaka Worst knew now was that instead of strategy, the overcoming of this obstacle was going to be achieved through raw skill…and whose inner Darkness was stronger.
The clone of Misaka Mikoto, given the knowledge of a soldier using a Testament and the soldier of the Darkness did not even bother waiting for the door to fully swing before they both reacted to each other. Even if Misaka Worst did not know how the soldier of the Darkness knew where she was, it had been the obvious action that told Misaka Worst where her enemy was going to be coming from.
Misaka Worst responded by throwing a lightning spear right in front of her, bluish white sparks giving the only illumination in the night. They lit up the sight in front of her, however, instead of being a person in the doorway, there was only one thing: a small metal rod about the size of her pinkie.
And like a magnet, the sparks raced towards it, the metal absorbing the electricity like a sponge.
(A…A lightning rod?!)
Misaka Worst went wide eyed at the primitive but astonishingly effective counter to her esper power but could not react in time to the counterattack. The battles Misaka Worst had taken part in were so fast paced and relied on the use of powers to such a large extreme that the thought of using equipment to do anything but attack had left her monetarily stunned, a small time for her enemy to take hold of the small gap and strike.
They rounded the corner, the silhouette giving the impression it was a male who was attacking, or a girl with an extremely small chest. Any jibes towards that though were not even used, something lashing out through the darkness and striking Misaka Worst in the throat, one of the spots vulnerable to anyone no matter their muscular build, one of the only other places being the eyes.
Misaka Worst gagged, finding a fiery pain racing through her throat and she stumbled, hitting the wall and finding hands on her chest, bringing her closer towards her assailant. Gritting her teeth and doing her best to withstand the blow coming, Misaka Worst held defiance in her soul as she was pulled forward and had her head slammed into the head of the person in front of her.
Stars swum in her vision but as she was pushed back, she reacted, sending a knee in between the legs of the assailant. There was a grunt, but no cry of pain and for that alone, the gender of the person attacking her was confirmed. It barely mattered though, the gamble Misaka Worst had taken being entirely useless before she found an elbow racing towards her nose and causing it to flare with pain.
Back against the wall, she could not even stumble as she took another two blows to the solar plexus, both winding her and causing her sore throat to beg for air. Each strike was precise and co-ordinated, the skill of the soldier in front of her making Misaka Worst grit her teeth in frustration at the position she was standing in.
But as was said before, this was a battle of skill.
And physical prowess and using close quarters combat were not the only skills Misaka Worst held.
"Don't you dare…mock me, you bitch!" Misaka Worst choked out and, preparing herself for the next blow, stabbed a finger forward and letting lose whatever electricity she could muster out of the extended digit.
It sparked but barely enough due to the pain interfering with the calculations but it was enough. Just from seeing the equipment and the skills used by this member of the Darkness, it was clear they had an inherent knowledge of the occupants of this apartment.
Going for Accelerator first, using a lightning rod to block the electricity Misaka Worst used; they were prepared for any eventuality if it was one they might come across. But the main problem with preparing for something was that if it was unexpected and you came across it knowing full well the risks, then you were surely going to react in the way you knew how to counter it, no matter how big the threat may have seemed.
Letting loose the small amount of electricity was not going to harm anyone.
But with this soldier knowing the abilities of Misaka Worst, it was clear they were not going to take any chances in what could potentially knock them out, or worse. Even if it was the slightest spark, the fear they felt when seeing the bluish white light would mean they would react in only one way to prevent themselves from being hurt.
A flash of metal appeared in the air in the light of the electricity generated by Misaka Worst and, just as expected, the lightning rod absorbed the small amount of voltage created.
But it was the fact they had reacted in that way even though the spark was barely a threat that gave Misaka Worst the opening she needed.
She slammed her head against her assailant, a cry of pain erupting from their mouth and it was finally that Misaka Worst managed to kick off the wall she had been pinned against. She grabbed the lightning rod on the ground, the small spark entering through her but barely enough to cause her to seize up and sent as much electricity through it as she could, the bluish white hue causing the room to light up and give sight to the face of the attacker.
She was an older girl, around the age of a girl who had just left high school but without the figure to match. Not much to look at in the chest area, her long grey hair had white streaks and black tips, a large ahoge on her head too. Her blue eyes were open in surprise as she stared at the charged up lightning rod. She stepped back but Misaka Worst had already made her approach, a grin on her eyes as she stared at the girl.
"That shitty look in your eyes… Misaka thought she had gone rusty, so Misaka really has to thank you for this!"
Misaka Worst yelled and thrust the lightning rod forward but even so, the look of surprise of her attacker soon changed into a fierce grin as the girl reached for another lightning rod and nodded.
"I suppose I have to say you're welcome then!"
The assailant cried out in a cheery voice but Misaka Worst could have cared less, sending the lightning rod for a straight thrust towards the girl. However, the lightning rod she had grabbed she used to parry despite its small size, the electricity charging through the conductor and more than ready to transfer and surge through the body of the other girl.
But she did not fall.
Misaka Worst's eyes went wide as the bluish white sparking of the electricity transferring from her to the assailant revealed the items she had protectively put onto her hands to protect her in the case of something like this, something so laughably simple that Misaka Worst felt as though she was being endlessly mocked for it.
The perfect insulator for electrical currents.
With no way of getting the electrical volts to the assailant who had used conductors to absorb and redirect attacks and simple insulators to block them, Misaka Worst felt her eyes and body cloud over with rage. Instead of using any abilities whatsoever, this bitch was using counters you could buy for cheap at a basic convenience store!? Anger filling her features, Misaka Worst prepared to say something but never managed to, taking a strike to the face with the forehead of the other girl.
The bluish white light filling the area dissipated and Misaka Worst stumbled, fining herself going too far, not hitting the wall where she had thought she would go but going through the doorway. Expecting to hit the wall but not doing so, she fell backwards and landed on her butt, eyes glancing to the side and going wide eyed as she saw, through the dimly lit room what was laying on the ground near the couch.
Accelerator lay on the ground, his eyes blank and vacant as they stared into space, drool going down his mouth and landing on the floor. His crutch was by his side on the couch, but the mere pitiful position of Accelerator sprawled out on the floor like a vegetable was something few had ever seen nor would they even believe if it had been shown to them. To think that the person over there lying so pitifully was the #1 was laughable and yet, rapid thoughts flew through the mind of Misaka Worst as Accelerator vacantly stared at her, clearly not understanding what he was looking at.
(They interfered with his choker?! Are you kidding me!? How prepared are these sons of bitches? No, this goes beyond just this. Since when has Academy City been able to so easily rip apart the peace the #1 has obtained?!)
It was true and unadulterated mocking.
Using nothing but conductors and insulators and avoiding moving too far away that Misaka Worst could use projectiles to attack, these people had enabled themselves to get into a basic blind spot of hers provided they had superior fighting skill and abilities.
And by using simple technology to interfere with the calculation device of Accelerator, they had been able to easily render him in the state he should have been in without the choker itself.
A long time ago, that boy had suffered a wound to his head, rendering him incapable of doing particular tasks related to speaking, motor functions or his ability without the help of the Misaka Network through the use of his choker. With many weaknesses involved in such though such as being unable to use it underground without the ability to receive the signal and being unable to operate if a jamming signal was used, it was the latter Accelerator had noted and attempted to fix using the crutch by his side.
After the interference with his choker at the hands of GROUP, finding a counter to any interfering signals was easy: by modifying his crutch he was able to block specific wavelengths that would interfere with it, however, the main weakness with such a counter was that the only way to understand what wavelengths to block in the first place meant that one had to use that wavelength against him to begin with.
It had been used against GROUP: when they had tried to interfere with his choker, Accelerator had managed to block the interfering wavelength because he knew the wavelength to block. But with this right now, whoever these people were, they had managed to cut out Accelerator's ability using a wavelength he had not been able to block.
And the result?
The pitiful form of the boy lying on the ground in front of Misaka Worst, unable to utilise any of his cognitive functions relating to speech, his ability of even basic motor functions. It was questionable if he even understood what was going on in that state of his given how he was looking at Misaka Worst, but the reality of the situation only sank deep within her.
Had Academy City always had this in their pocket? Even if they could only use this method once given Accelerator, now he had been exposed to the interfering wavelength, could block it, had they always had this method of destroying the #1's peace in their hands?
The peace Accelerator held was one he treasured beyond anything else and yet, without there being any major ability user in this and only using basic tech, Academy City had managed to take that all away from him in a single swoop. Despite the planning, despite the safeties and despite how much he had wanted to hold onto that single moment of peace, taking it away from him had been so…easy.
It was disappointing and it spat on the face of the effort that boy had made when it came to protecting the one thing he could not afford to lose. It laughed at him for trying too hard and it mocked him for having done and for that alone, the form of the #1 on the ground only seemed all the more pitiful.
For all his genius, for all his faults and for all his desires…
Having all he wanted ripped away from him, having everything he had been driven to protect taken from him hadn't been that hard at all.
Misaka Worst, in the face of that, could only feel raw anger, an unknown rage filling her beyond anything else. Being the outlet for the negative emotions of the Misaka Network, Misaka Worst was no stranger to things such as anger or hate, but simply seeing what was in front of her made her burn with an uncontrollable rage she could not identify.
Was this it?
After everything he had done to protect it, after everything he had fought, after everything he had stained his hands with for the sake of protecting what he had wanted to protect, was this it? Was this all that was needed to render him helpless and take what he loved away from him?
Misaka Worst would not accept that.
She would laugh at him for this. She would mock him for this with ill intent and she would drive it into him again and again when he least wanted to hear it, but the only reason she knew it was safe to do so was because she knew it was a crisis he had overcome. It was a crisis he had challenged and made through with whatever consequences that had to follow but overall, it was a hurdle he had jumped and cleared.
But this was no laughing matter.
The things he wanted to protect were so close to being ripped from him so easily that Misaka Worst could only grit her teeth and turn to look at herself and how powerless she was in this single moment with nothing to do but be defeated.
Would she accept that?
Would she let the peace and the things that boy loved so easily be ripped away from him?!
Misaka Worst had only one answer.
Defiance, along with rage filled her and she roared at the top of her lungs, turning and facing the assailant who had already crossed the space between them and lunged, fist clenched. There was only one thing she could possibly do now as an idea filled her head, one she was not sure was right or not, but she did not care.
She had to fight this.
She had to oppose this!
And given there was no way she was going to be given another chance at this, she did not hesitate.
Something rose within her chest, an energy she did not know what to do with save for release.
And ironically, this was something Misaka Mikoto had once used against Kamijou Touma, not to protect but to attack.
Like an explosion centred on her chest, electricity burst out of her in a massive wave, engulfing anything and everything electronic. The lights above her burst apart, the glass window shattered and the rice cookers within Yomikawa's apartment also sparked dangerously. The assailant heading towards Misaka Worst was struck in the chest but instead of being thrown back, the force at which she was heading for Misaka Worst meant she fell forward, her fists colliding with the face of Misaka Worst.
There was a crack as Misaka Worst's head impacted the floor, the girl's body limping underneath the weight of her assailant.
And Accelerator saw it all.
Electricity surged through him and he back arched, a wordless scream coming from his mouth as he struggled to deal with the feeling surging through his body. His limbs tingled and he felt as though he would be fine spasming on the ground in pain for the next few minutes but he barely had the energy to do that.
Glass, from the exploded lights above him and the windows, fell to the floor of the apartment or the ground outside, but Accelerator personally did not care which. The only thing his mind was filled with was a clearing haze, the words, scream and final action of Misaka Worst being the only thing that filled his mind.
The burst of electricity had affected everyone, even the assailant of Misaka Worst who was writhing on the floor as if she had numerous insects within her. It seemed Misaka Worst's final stand was not one which had knocked everyone out: whether it be because it was nothing more than a desperate attempt to strike back at these motherfuckers or merely because she had taken too much damage to properly make use of the calculations, she had barely been able to generate the right amount of energy to knock people out.
The burst of electricity had likely affected those not used to such blasts unfavourably; Accelerator imagined the otherwise quiet Yoshikawa Kikyou was out for the count and nothing could be said for Last Order.
Accelerator blinked, his racing mind trying to clear but even in the midst of his confusion, picked up on that one name and what was associated with it.
He could know her name and attach meaning to it.
He could imagine her smile and feel warmth in it.
He could imagine her existence and feel the want to protect it.
(I can…I can think?!)
Accelerator's hazy mind eventually reached that conclusion but the confusion within his mind was unable to think of a reason why it was the case. Barely able to feel his limbs because of the attack, he registered the fact he could move his limbs slightly, getting feeling back to them when he had had none (or could not register it) before.
He had been taken out. His choker had been interfered with using a method and a signal he had not been exposed to before and hence, had not been able to counter using his modified crutch.
But now that he was lucid again, able to think, breathe and calculate, the only thing that came through him now was not the desire to answer the questions before him.
The only thing that came to him was the pure rage that sought to see the people in front of him dead for what they had done to Misaka Worst and what they were probably going to do to Last Order.
Things he had seen but had been unable to comprehend until now came back to him with meaning.
There were two of them. That fact alone burned through the heart of Accelerator that only two of them had been able to take him and Misaka Worst out and head for their target: Last Order. While one of them had gone to deal with Misaka Worst, the other had headed for Last Order's room. How they had managed to know the location of the people in this apartment beforehand was something Accelerator was not privy to, but he imagined it was infrared or something along those lines.
But he did not care.
They had hurt Misaka Worst.
And they were after Last Order.
That was enough.
The simple fact they had threatened his peace and what he had fought for and had managed to do it so easily sent a single thought filling his head, one he released despite still adjusting to the electricity release of Misaka Worst in her defiance.
The assailant on top of Misaka Worst went wide eyed at his scream, looking at the boy and desperately trying to stand up but, like Accelerator, it seemed as though the blast of electricity had done a number on her movement of limbs as well. Barely even able to feel his own Accelerator watched as the girl stared at him and now heard a cry from Last Order's room.
"Faith! The signal interference device! It's - !"
Accelerator went wide eyed, gritting his teeth in both frustration and anger at the method in which his powers had been sealed. Indeed, while he had formed a counter for signals that interfered with his choker, he needed to know beforehand what wavelengths to block in the first place before he could even think to counter them. That had been a problem during the chaos with the microwaves which had assaulted Academy City but despite not yet having found a solution (after all, how could you find a solution to a problem you did not yet know existed?), he now knew the bastards who had attacked him had used such a method to incapacitate him.
But also, it revealed the point of Misaka Worst's cry and the final attack she had created.
In order to be able to attack them with such a signal in the first place, they had to have a device that allowed them to do that. While the size of such a device was proportional to the range it could have, the size and the range of such were entirely unknown, however, from the words just said, it seemed as though these bastards had brought it with them for this job.
Did the device have small range then? Accelerator did not know but the fact of the matter was they had brought it with them…and Misaka Worst had destroyed it with the pulse of electricity she had just released. How had she known it was going to be on them in the first place? Had something about these bastards led her to believe they had built the device out of materials you found at a convenience store or something?
Her final attack had been a gamble and a bet, but it had worked.
And now that Accelerator had his powers back, he knew there was only one thing he had to do.
But with his choker off and not set for being able to use his ability, there was nothing he could do.
Misaka Worst's attack had done a number on the clarity of his mind and being able to properly move his limbs, but it was with gritted teeth that he moved his hands which were just barely able to move towards his neck, his red eyes glaring and teeth grinning as he stared at the assailant who had just realised the danger.
She (or 'Faith' as the other bastard had called her) tried to stand to reach Accelerator, her blue eyes wide open with fright but also energy. She barely managed to get feeling to her legs though, having been closer to Misaka Worst's blast and fell forward, landing roughly on the ground.
Faith didn't care though, dragging herself along the ground, using what energy she had in her body to push herself towards the fallen boy on the ground who was staring at her and forcing his hands to move to his neck. Neither said anything but it was clear what this battle was going to be decided upon.
Not skill or ability.
But whether two pitiful people could move to their destination.
Accelerator's red eyes burned with an anger he found hard to control and stared at the approaching blue eyes. Faith's hair had white streaks that reflected Accelerator's white hair and the ahoge on the top of her hair was moving from side to side in a rapid fashion as if moving in time with her heartbeat. And despite the fear her eyes showed, they also showed a sick sense of amusement, the adrenaline coursing through them both pushing them both along to their required victory conditions.
Accelerator to reach his choker.
And Faith to stop him.
Struggling to find the energy to lift his hands even, the boy gritted his teeth, chewing down on his lip while staring at Faith who was doing the same. Using the pain gave more feeling to the rest of his body and he clawed with his hand against the carpet to reach his choker, Faith doing the same but to reach Accelerator's hand. Both used their fingers like small caterpillars, crawling them to their targets, pushing themselves to make it their destination before the other.
He was halfway there, Accelerator could feel it, but Faith was closer than ever now, crawling with a fanaticism to reach him before he touched his choker. Red eyes wide, he screamed at the top of his lungs, willing and reaching his hand to reach his choker before the girl in front of him did.
Accelerator roared and Faith did the same, the two pitiful individuals screaming at the top of their lungs as Accelerator used what energy he had in his body to lift up his hand and push his failing limb to its destination, staring at it as it were water within a desert. He could feel it before him now, almost touch it and it was with those same red eyes that he willed his hand to find the energy to be lifted further up and towards the choker.
It touched the black box on the side and Accelerator's heart and anger leaped as he reached for the switch –
Only for something to swat his hand away helplessly.
His hand fell to the ground pitifully and Accelerator stared at it for an instant, before turning towards the girl who had reached him before he had managed to flick the switch of his salvation in time.
"Th-This isn't the first time I've been electrocuted. Sorry, but did you really think you could win?"
Faith said with a smile on her sweaty face and it was all Accelerator could do to hold himself together as he screamed.
He tried to grab at her face with his hands but his inability to move his limbs much served to be the source of his defeat. Misaka Worst, in her own way, had saved Accelerator…but had also doomed him. It was with that knowledge in his mind that the #1, no, the boy who was on the verge of losing everything used his teeth to tear at the ahoge of the girl who was so close out of sheer defiance, spotting in the corner of his eye the approaching hand clenched into a fist heading right for him.
He was too weak.
Despite having all this power, the little feeling he had in his limbs and the greater feeling Faith had in her limbs meant the conclusion was already set in stone. No matter how much the boy hated it and how much he cursed this and wished it was not true, there was simply no changing what was going to happen.
It was just a bitter pill to swallow.
But even worse, despite being so immobile due to him having his cognitive abilities taken from him and because of Misaka Worst's burst of electricity, the one thing he spotted out of the corner of his eye past the fist made him realise just how shitty the world was for having taken the peace he had longed for and maintained so easily.
The limp figure of Last Order being weakly carried by the other person entering his view was enough to make his heart stop.
But the defiance that came from his mouth was short lived.
Blackness was the only thing that came as the clenched fist collided with the boy's face. And in his weakened state and the fact that Faith was clearly more adjusted to this and stronger, the #1 could only feel the coldness and the harshness of the world wash over him as he faded away into nothingness.
He could barely keep it out.
But for Hamazura Shiage, the darkness was so inviting he just wanted to let go and be one with it.
The only thing preventing him from doing that was the unyielding desire to make sure he could stop whatever bastards had decided to harm what he loved.
Gritting his teeth and holding himself up on the floor was a feat in itself and he could barely even move. His eyelids felt like lead, the hazy mist all around him of whatever gas had entered the room prevented good visibility, but even with it, Hamazura was unsure whether he would be able to see in front of him: he was that out of it.
Footsteps came into his ears as he struggled desperately to maintain a hold on what realms of consciousness he could hold onto. They came closer and closer, lights doing the same, probably from pocket torches as they shined down on him in their mocking. Shadows came with them and Hamazura could feel the stares looking down at him before they passed and went to another target: clearly having no interest in him.
Hamazura pounded a fist into his leg to try and get any sense of feeling there but he felt nothing. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep but the uncertainty of what was happening and how things were going only meant he could not afford to do that. He had to hold onto whatever he could for the sake of fighting against whoever was here but he stumbled as he crawled along the floor towards the one person he feared for the most.
He never made it to Takitsubo's room though, someone standing in front of him and squatting. Hamazura could barely even lift his head but someone did it for him. The person grabbed his hair and lifted him up, the boy only seeing a gas mask wearing individual staring down at him. But even through that, the green eyes were clear.
They stared at Hamazura in a look on triumph and a voice came through the mask, muffled not only because of the material in the way of the mouth but also because of Hamazura's fading senses.
"You know, this is the second time I've been here. And both times, I managed to take something from you. Given the things I have heard about you, I expected a challenge, but from what I've seen, the only thing you've given me has been disappointment. Is this Hamazura Shiage? I've not even sure anymore."
This bastard had been here before? Hamazura struggled to get his thoughts together, managing to piece something he had forgotten in the very back of his mind.
Yes, that was right.
Hadn't something like this happened before? Strangers had come into his room and had stolen someone precious from him. And it was happening again although the people who were coming into this room now were no strangers: having come here before.
From the mere overconfident words from the boy (judging by his voice) in front of him, Hamazura knew what was happening and who these bastards were.
The remnants of that group though were not what stuck out to Hamazura. He knew them more by a different name now, something else and his eyes went wide despite their fading clarity as he associated something else with that group.
When MINUS had been here last, they had stolen Mugino Shizuri away for Kamui's own ends and right now, something similar was happening once more. Something similar was happening right in front of his eyes and, just like before, there was not a damn thing Hamazura Shiage could do about it.
Like last time, were MINUS and Kamui using LV-Drop, although this time in gas form to incapacitate him and the others of ITEM? Hamazura could not say but the only thing he could do to keep his frantic mind together was focus on the enemy in front of him…and who he worked for.
(Kamui… On the same day the Boss warns me about him, these guys…come?! Are you…fucking kidding me!? Has another Kamui with the intent to break me…already appeared?)
Hamazura barely kept his thoughts together, the boy standing over him raising Hamazura's head further into the air and regarded it coldly through the gas mask.
"I want to kill you. I really do. However, orders are orders. And the only person we need to focus on right now is not you but rather someone else. I just…wanted to let you have a good look at who we're going to be taking. It's petty, cheap and cruel…but I like winning. And I like telling everyone else I'm winning too. Even though we fucked up Plan A, I'm liking how Plan B is going."
Hamazura could barely even let loose words, his eyes barely staying open. A slapping on his cheek kept his eyes almost open as voices throughout the apartment resounded back towards him and the boy holding him. He could barely make them out but was sure that was more because of the effects of the gas, figures making their way towards him and holding a girl in their arms roughly.
Someone was talking to him but he could not make out the words: he had already been too exposed to the gas and he knew he was going to be out with a few seconds. But even with the distorting vision and hearing, the sight of the person who was being pulled through the mist, when they came into his vision, made his eyes go wide.
Her head was slumped and the way her prominent chest rose up and down with the sight of breathing made it clear she was alive. Even wearing a tracksuit when sleeping, the form of Takitsubo Rikou was as beautiful as ever but right now, the sight of her sleeping was more haunting than comforting.
Hamazura now knew who they were taking.
And in his heart, he knew he could not give her up without the struggle he needed to show.
His head began to twist in the grip on the boy holding him but he was holding Hamazura too tight and Hamazura was too weak. He tried to bring up his hands to grab the bastard but could barely raise them, silently berating himself for how weak he was and wanting more than anything else for the power, the strength to absolutely murder this bastard where he stood.
The boy holding Hamazura, at his futile attempts, looked down at the boy and Hamazura could feel the grin through the mask being directed at him. The boy let go, Hamazura's head falling to the ground like a weight where it lay without moving, Hamazura's eyes desperately trying to stay awake and desperately trying to reach for Takitsubo being held by the two people carrying her.
More words. There was speaking but Hamazura could barely make it out. His vision was fading and where there was once people nothing remained, the mist becoming too thick to make out anything and Hamazura's vision too limited to see through it.
Was he alone?
Hamazura was unsure but for whatever frustration he felt, the only thing he knew he could do was lose himself in whatever fragment of energy he had left. He could barely move, barely think and could barely rely on anyone but the only thing he knew he could do was selfishly rely on something else to get him out of this situation in the first place.
He spoke, his voice barely a whisper but hoping to whatever higher power (if there existed any) in this world that there was a chance he would be heard.
He spoke the name of the one thing in this world he knew would not be affected by this gas which was sucking more out of him than he felt possible.
He never got out another word as his entire body slumped, giving in to the effects of that gas that pounded at his body and letting the darkness wash over him in its horrifying embrace.
"What the hell is this?!"
Kamijou Touma had to repeat those words into the night, feeling a chill for more reasons than one. The stunned silence he was filled with though was broken as he realised that what he was looking at was not something to be ogled at, instead racing towards it and feeling his heart pounding in his chest. A truer fear than anything Kamijou had felt filled him as he reached what had terrified him so and leaned down to pick it up.
It was a baby.
No, it was more than that…
It was a baby in almost the exact same conditions as the one he had picked up and given to an officer of Anti-Skill earlier this evening.
The baby looked as if it was a year old, maybe more and with blue eyes. Unlike the baby he had seen earlier in the evening, this one was not so young it had barely developed any features nor was it completely naked. A nappy was strapped to its lower half and small hairs were appearing on the baby's head, white with a few light pink strands here and there. It felt as though the baby were holding onto him itself and while the conditions this young child found itself in were better than the one he had found this evening, there was something else of note on the baby he could not just deny.
It was the symbol carved into the skin of the child's stomach.
Although the child seemed livelier than the one he had meet earlier in the evening, he still felt a chill staring down at the symbol carved onto the skin of the child. A circle with a line going through it, Kamijou knew it on sight and felt something course within him as he stared down at it, the baby in his arms clearly having no idea what was wrong with it.
Kamijou knew though. He had seen the exact same symbol earlier in the evening, that same symbol in the exact same place and prevented himself from screaming out in despair.
The uppercase Greek symbol for phi.
Although the child it was on was different, as this one was marginally older than the one he had seen this evening, the symbol was the same, carved into the stomach and so old it had turned black.
It was more than that, Kamijou realised as he reached down to touch the skin where the mark was. Unlike with the baby he had held earlier this evening where he had not touched the mark for fear of an infection, upon touching the mark on the baby, Kamijou realised it was not just carved into the skin.
It was the skin.
Not painted on or a tattoo, the black mark on the fair baby's skin was most certainly something that had been there since birth. For some reason, Kamijou was sure of that fact but he did not bother questioning it or thinking more about it, staring up in the alley for the sight of anyone who had dropped this baby here.
But he found no one.
Like the streets outside, there was no one to drop this baby here nor was there anyone to help. The baby, just like Kamijou, was alone in the darkness of Academy City and Kamijou felt a bitterness racing through him.
There were things he knew.
This baby was older than the one he had picked up this evening, meaning it was a different one and not the same baby he had given to Officer Tsutsumi Yukiji. He was glad that was the case as it meant the Officer had not dumped the baby off somewhere instead of dealing with it but the point of similarity between the babies was a point of concern.
The phi mark on their stomachs. While Kamijou had assumed it had been carved into the stomach of the other baby earlier, was it, in fact, part of the skin like it was with this baby? Kamijou did not know but the reasons and how it felt like a brand instead of a natural mark made him feel sick.
Was this happening elsewhere in Academy City? Were children, at birth, finding themselves with a mark on their stomach and being cast out because of it? Kamijou had no idea but as a hunch, he reached for the mark with his right hand, but nothing happened. The baby groaned, making strange sounds with its mouth and Kamijou lightly smiled but still rose his head and looked around himself for a safe place to put the baby.
(…I can't deal with this. I know it's cruel to say that, but Orion is out there, and I can't let him do whatever he wants with the peace of someone else. I can't! I need to find an Anti-Skill station or a hospital!)
Realising he was absolute scum for wanting to pass this off to someone else, Kamijou knew he knew nothing about caring for a child and hence was inadequate for dealing with the baby in his arms, whose gender was unknown. He wasn't going to go and check either but the only thing he knew was that he needed to get this baby to safety as soon as possible.
(What is going on? Two babies in one day, both with a phi mark on their stomachs? Is this some kind of Dark Side phenomenon? I find it hard to believe people think the babies were cursed. This is Academy City! But still…does a mark like this really happen naturally? No...)
Kamijou shook his head.
(Thinking about this doesn't help this baby. But…was it because I helped another child earlier this evening that I noticed something was wrong?)
His thoughts scattered, going back to the inhuman chill he had felt when passing the alleyway and the calling he had felt from it. Without those things, he never would have noticed the child now in his arms but even then, the reasons for why he had felt those things escaped him. Was it because he had subconsciously noticed something was wrong?
Or something else?
Again, realising that thinking about this would do nothing, Kamijou reached for his phone to try and figure out where exactly he was in District 7 to then determine which was closer: the Anti-skill station or the hospital. He felt a small smile as the baby, unlike the one earlier, made a sound with its mouth and reached for his left hand, wrapping its hands around his left thumb, much like the baby earlier this evening had.
That baby had been much smaller than this one and younger. Barely being able to speak and looking as though it was clinging onto life, Kamijou had been that child's only source of warmth in this cruel world and right now, it was exactly the same. Even if this child seemed livelier than the other one, Kamijou stared down at the small life in his hands and grit his teeth.
Who could cast out a life like this? What type of justification did you need to do something like that?
Kamijou did not understand but knowing that the baby took priority, took out his phone with his right hand and opened it, beginning the open the map function but stopping halfway through.
His phone rang, getting a call and displaying the caller ID, something that made Kamijou frown.
He opened the phone and placed it to its ear, realising he was getting distracted and turning down to look at the baby in his arms –
Only to go wide eyed.
It was gone.
The baby had literally disappeared. Nothing came from the phone and Kamijou felt his heart race for more reasons than one, turning around on the spot and looking down in case he had dropped that small life but finding nothing. Questions and a freight train went through his mind and heart respectively, a massive headache coming through his head as he was forced to suddenly comprehend something that made no sense.
Where had the baby gone? No, how had it disappeared in the first place?!
Kamijou had no answers and the silence from the other end of the phone was just as unnerving, trying to deal with two things at once, both serious and finding his head was barely able to keep up with it in the first place.
Kamijou asked into the phone, turning on the spot once more with a frantic sweat going down his face before pausing and going wide eyed.
At the end of the alley, the opposite end to where he was, was the small baby. Whereas it had been lying on the ground before, it was now on all fours, moving slightly to the left of the mouth of the alleyway and disappearing from sight.
He wasted no time, racing down the alleyway with the phone still pressed to his ear.
"Hamazura? Hello? Is something wrong?"
Kamijou reached the end of the alleyway, turning his head to the left and almost dropping the phone in shock.
The baby was gone.
Whereas he was both bigger and faster than the small child, it could barely have gotten a metre at the crawling speed it was managing and yet it was gone from where it was supposed to be. Rising his head and turning it around in a pointless action to search for the child in case it had gone somewhere it shouldn't have, Kamijou's eyes went wide as he realised it wasn't so pointless after all.
At the end of the street where the baby had been crawling in the first place, crawling away to the right of an intersection in the distance, was the very same baby.
(What…the hell? A Teleporter? No, I was holding it with my right hand before, so that's not possible. What the hell is going on!?)
Kamijou sped off at a run, mind turning and head hurting as he tried to process what was going on, unable to do so fully as he spoke into the silent phone once more.
"Hamazura?! Is something wrong?! Damn it, answer me!"
Worry came through his heart for his friend, but he found himself equally worried for the small child moving in the distance. What the hell was going on here?! Nothing made sense and Kamijou's heart raced through his chest, unable to properly conclude anything about either Hamazura or this baby who kept on disappearing and reappearing in his vision.
Kamijou was basically yelling into the phone now, reaching the intersection and turning it rapidly, looking down where the baby would have been…but finding nothing.
Sweating and finding his heart was pounding more out of nervousness and a fearful sweat racing down his face, Kamijou could hear his out of control breathing and turned his head up…going wide eyed as he spotted exactly what he thought he would see but finding it insane anyway.
(What the - ?!)
The same baby.
Walking instead of crawling.
As if it had aged or matured instantly before his eyes, the same baby, instead of on all fours was moving slowly towards the end of another intersection in a waddling fashion. No, was it appropriate to call it that anymore? The toddler walked past another intersection, Kamijou watching it go and standing in shock, unsure what to say but finding his mouth dry.
(That baby… Did it just…age within a few seconds? B-But that's - !)
Despite Kamijou's thought, he knew that thinking in the realms of normality was impractical in this situation. During his fight with Freyja, he had been more than willing to consider the possibility that an unborn child was a magician and was controlling the mother's body but when given the prospect of instant aging was going to reject it? Wasn't that what happened to the Sisters in the first place?
No, that was different than this.
The…child Kamijou had seen had instantly gone from one stage of development into another. Going from crawling on all fours to walking on two feet (although just barely) was not the only thing that happened to children between those two stages. The amount of development socially, emotionally and cognitively was immense and yet, within an instant, he had seen it happen, although not before his eyes.
But the sight in front of him now opened up another possibility.
If the child in front of him now had gone from crawling to walking within an instant…
Then was the child he was chasing around the same one he had picked up earlier this evening?
If the instant aging that had happened before him had happened earlier, then wasn't it possible that that baby was the same one he had picked up earlier in the evening and given to Anti-Skill, only older?
It made sense; the improbability (Kamijou would have preferred it being an impossibility) of parents dumping children everywhere around District 7, the same uppercase Greek phi symbol on the stomach, the same blue eyes and just the feeling he got when the child had gripped his left thumb like the baby earlier this evening, the similarities were too many to think of as a coincidence or as different children.
(So is that baby the same baby as the one earlier this evening but with the aging process added to it? It can't be magic like Luca and her regulating her own age; this is more than that! My right hand would have negated that! So, what, is this natural!? No, that's impossible too!)
What had happened to that child after he had given it to Officer Tsutsumi Yukiji? If that baby who had just walked around the corner was the same as the one he had given that Officer, what did that mean?
Come to think of it, the circumstances of their first meeting earlier this evening if it was the same baby were just…unnatural.
Why had Kamijou been in that alleyway where he had tripped over her in the first place? Yes, while he had had a lot to think about after Yume had talked to him about how to deal with his PTSD and desensitisation of his own death, why he had he been in that alleyway? Had he been 'called' there like he had with this baby now and followed it without thinking because he had been focusing on something else? And had that happened now when he had been 'called' to another alleyway again?
Kamijou did not know but he stepped forward, realising his leg was shaking. He looked down at it, almost transfixed before shaking his head side to side and punching himself in the leg.
(…Who cares, damn it!? Something is going on with that baby with the phi symbol on her stomach! Instant aging? What happened after I left her with Officer Tsutsumi? In the few hours I saw her first, she went from being brittle and on the verge of death to lively and crawling and then walking!? I realise there are other things at stake here, but I can't afford to ignore this! Instantly aging babies?! Either I've gone insane or this City really is that crazy!)
Still holding his phone to his ear and waiting for a response from Hamazura (that was just as frustrating in not knowing what was going on with that boy), Kamijou raced after the instantly aging baby, realising that more questions filled his mind than answers, especially given what he had seen.
(A teleporting instantly aging baby?! I really hope it's this City that has given into its insanity because there's no way I'd hallucinate something that weird! It would have to be a dorm manager all the way!)
Making a joke was the only thing Kamijou could do calm down his racing mind as he held the silent phone against his ear, speaking into it as he started for the corner and began to round it.
"Hamazura, I realise you might think you can say nothing, but I have other things right now I have on and have to deal with! I'm sorry to say this but – "
There came a response as Kamijou rounded the corner but he barely listened to it, rounding the corner to chase after the toddler who had rounded it –
Only to find himself go silent, staring into the distance.
He saw something.
Something that made him forget everything: the toddler he was after, Hamazura on the phone and the questions that came with both. The only thing he found himself lost in was the sight in front of him, taking a moment to pause and change gears in his mind to appropriately respond to it.
Kamijou Touma did so by hanging up the phone (realising it was rude but not caring) and breaking into a run, focusing on the one thing he knew he had to focus on but had forgotten about with the chaos that had happened to him in the past few minutes.
As he ran, he screamed out the name of his target into the night.
Orion Phoenix, the boy who had said he had business elsewhere and had been about to rip apart the peace and smiles of strangers Kamijou did not know because it was his 'job', turned and went wide eyed at the boy racing right for him. He was standing at the back of a parked black van, the boy visible in the streetlights and was about to walk into the open back and drive off into the night, never to be seen again.
But Kamijou had found him.
Had the toddler led him here? If so, where did they go? If not, why was Orion here? Questions filled Kamijou's mind but the only thing he knew was that Orion had hinted at two things: that he had business elsewhere and was more than willing to rip apart the smiles of someone else and that he knew about the condition between Shutaura Sequenzia and Meigo Arisa.
The former, Kamijou Touma could not accept. The latter, Kamijou Touma knew he had to hear more about.
And it was for those reasons that Kamijou Touma ran after his Bad End, more than willing and focused to stop him from getting away, if only for the answers he sought and the smiles he wished to protect from being harmed by this Bad End.
Kamijou was close and gaining.
Orion yelled at the driver and with a screech of wheels the van's tyres dug into the asphalt and started to move but Kamijou was already too close, having yelled out to Orion when he had known he would be close enough to catch the mercenary even if he tried to get away.
Kamijou leaped through the air as Orion desperately scrambled to get into the back of the van, Kamijou managing to reach his target first. He grabbed the boy by the legs, noticing that the interior was filled with other people wearing black tactical gear and no one else wearing anything else. Feet dragging along the road, Kamijou's weight caused Orion to cry out and fall forward, slamming his nose onto the floor of the van and was dragged out of the back, turning and facing Kamijou with surprise but not before yelling at the top of his lungs.
"Close the door!"
Orion began to take off his battered and ripped trench coat, the soldiers inside complying as they closed the doors to the back, catching the sleeve of the trench coat and trapping it. Kamijou and Orion fell onto the road but before the van could escape into the distance, Orion grabbed the material of the trench coat, moving along with the van with Kamijou grabbing him by the leg into the night.
Both boys skid along with the van at high speeds, being dragged along the back of it, one holding onto the trench coat material trailing behind the van and another holding onto the leg of the other. With the part of the trench coat Orion had grabbed being level with the road, the two of them were basically tobogganing after the van, Orion glaring at Kamijou with an irritated eye.
"I'm only going to ask you once, Mr. Kamijou. Let go of my leg."
"You've got to be kidding me!" fired back Kamijou. "Do you really think I'll let you do whatever the hell you like to whoever you like!? You said you have another job. Well then, you can think of me as being the person to stop you from harming the smiles of anyone else!"
"Is that so?"
Orion was silent for a moment before reaching into the body of his trench coat and grabbing what was inside, Kamijou going wide eyed as he was made to forcibly remember what lay within that piece of clothing.
Orion Phoenix, the Bad End and failure, did not mince words as he brought out the revolver and pointed it right at Kamijou's face.
"Then I'll just have to make you."
And as Kamijou Touma stared down the barrel of the gun, he knew there was only truth in those words.
"…What exactly are you doing in the middle of the night, Shokuhou?"
"I could ask you the same thing, Misaka-san. Is it not the free will ability of myself to take a stroll in the middle of the night?"
"Usually, that refers to late evening, not when it actually is the middle of the night. And unlike me, I don't think you're working for Anti-Skill or helping with Judgment in any way. No offence."
"None taken. Although I could say the same for you. Following me around isn't exactly doing either of those things is it? Unless, of course, you would like to join my clique?"
"Ugh. Don't give me chills. I'm just keeping an eye on you in case you do something…unsavoury."
"Ah, I take offence to that, Misaka-san."
"And I took offence you would even suggest to me I would want to join your clique."
"…As I thought."
"…Yeah, nothing's changed."
The two Level 5s stared at each other and spoke simultaneously.
"I don't think I can get along with you."
"I don't think I can get along with you."
Whether it be because of their pride as Level 5s or merely because they could not accept the way of living the other girl had despite them being so similar, they both spat out those words more than they said them and turned their heads to the side. The man in front of them in a black bodysuit gave a shiver at that, hurriedly trying to move along but also staying a distance away that Shokuhou could see him.
Misaka Mikoto frowned at Shokuhou Misaki in the corner of her eye and at the man in front of her. She had seen them both when she had left the 177th Judgment branch for some fresh air given the things they were looking into and the chaos of the past few days. To say that her mind was occupied with a lot was an understatement.
What with the weaponisation of antimatter, Uiharu's future to be decided in Judgment, the massacre she had been a witness to, the bombings that had happened today (technically, it was yesterday) and the brewing darkness in the City that was possibly centred around the remnants of MINUS and an 'anti-esper' group called Harmonia's Cradle, Mikoto knew there was no way she was going to get any sleep and had popped out of the branch for a breather.
Only to spot Shokuhou and the man she had been following.
It was rare to see Shokuhou out so late and even rarer to see her following anybody given how she could easily claim superiority over anyone else using her power and it had been the strangeness of seeing Mental Out out so late at night that Mikoto had called out to the girl.
Less than pleased to see her and making no show of hiding it, the two of them had walked out of District 7 in silence before rounding back to it in an awful hurry because of something the man Shokuhou was following had heard on his radio. Mikoto was sure she spotted a holster on him, but the relationship Shokuhou had with this man was both mysterious and also not something Mikoto was sure she wanted to delve into.
It was the conversation they had just had that had been the first words spoken since they had met, walked out of District 7 only to go back here in a hurry but how the two of them found themselves bickering even with the slightest of conversations only illustrated exactly why they spent so much time away from each other.
Still, Mikoto could not exactly find herself uninterested in what was happening. Telling Shirai Kuroko that she was turning in for the night when she had been helping them given the numerous things Judgment had been involved in under the guise if 'civilian assistance', Shirai had not questioned it and bid Mikoto goodnight, allowing her to do as she pleased with Shokuhou here.
But even so, what exactly Mental Out was up to and how she was not exactly chasing Mikoto away gave her cause for concern.
"What's going on here Shokuhou?" Mikoto asked calmly, trying her best to ascertain where the two (actually, the three) of them were going and for what reason. "Where are we going?"
"Nothing special, Misaka-san. I imagine we're near to our destination. As for what is going on here, let me simply say my power is requested."
"Mental Out, of course. Simply put, there are individuals who would like me to read the residual memories of a bodysuit or a person to find out the last location that bodysuit or person was."
"You're trying to find the past location of someone?" Mikoto frowned, the questions only increasing. The fact Shokuhou had not indicated whether she knew what she was going to be 'reading' was a person or thing was troubling let alone the fact that if it was the latter case, there was no problem asking said person where they had once been. Reading their memories was not something that would have to be required…unless of course there was some reason someone would be unable to give that information voluntarily.
Warning signals flared within the mind of Mikoto, the girl pausing but the other two not even bothering to stop. Mikoto had to barely run to catch up to Mental Out but the expression on her face told anyone she was not going to leave unless she got a proper explanation.
"That doesn't answer my question, Shokuhou. What's going on here? What are you involved in!?" Mikoto felt her voice rising but then again, given the troubles Shokuhou had gotten her involved in on more than one occasion in the past, she knew that dealing with this girl and her troubles was misfortune in and of itself.
But at the same time, Mikoto could not deny that the things Shokuhou got into were not mere trifles and had seriously threatened more than just one person and their peace.
Mikoto reached out and grabbed Shokuhou by the arm roughly at the silence the other girl was giving her, staring her in the eye.
"Shokuhou, answer me. Because from the last thing the two of us got involved in together being the incident around Kongou-san, if you're even remotely caught up in anything else along the lines of that…!"
Shokuhou paused and stared down at the hand grabbing her arm, finding that Mikoto's expression was tense. Indeed, it should be given that the massacre that had happened as a result of the incident with Kongou Mitsuko was a horrifying experience and one that had lasted in the minds of both girls for some time. Not only that but it had given both girls a single glimpse into the darkness slowly brewing under the surface, both girls having made their own steps towards fighting it.
Misaka Mikoto was working with Judgment to try and identify the source and solve the problems that had appeared.
Shokuhou Misaki had blackmailed Kongou Mitsuko into researching the project her company had been running that her trio of fake fiancés had been desperate to try and stop although at the cost of their lives.
The idea Shokuhou was also moving like Mikoto against that darkness they had seen made Mikoto tense, unsure of what to think of the girl and her actions…and the possible fallout that would arise as a result.
Was it fear behind the emotions Mikoto was feeling and expressing now? Fear of losing someone precious to her and fear of someone she cared about once more finding himself caught in the crossfire and being unable to escape, this time facing true and permanent consequences?
Shokuhou was silent as a result of the force Mikoto was using, slowly reaching down and grabbing the fingers of Mikoto, prying them off one at a time.
"Misaka-san," The name was said with an almost seething tone behind it, as if the name being said were a curse. "Unfortunately, I do not know much about what is happening. In fact, personally, I wish I had nothing to do with it in the first place. However, in the interest ability of ensuring someone precious to me is not destroyed, I have decided to move with everyone else towards ensuring a swift resolution to this incident. Although, if I am honest, I believe that if I see this incident to its end, the safety ability of this City might rise a few percentage points."
"…Can I trust you to tell me the truth?" Mikoto's question was a horrible remark to say to someone who she knew but Shokuhou paid it no mind, turning and facing Mikoto with a look so icy that even the Railgun felt a chill up her spine.
"I could ask you the same thing. I have said this to you before, Misaka-san, so I will say it again. I don't trust anyone whose mind I cannot read. Which means that, even now, I'm not even sure if the anger you're directing at me is real or not. The only thing I need to validate what I do is my own personal feelings. Not yours."
Mikoto and Shokuhou stared at each other for a single moment before the latter turned away, leaving Mikoto there for a single moment, stunned in silence.
Shokuhou did not care though. This incident she was involved in related to MINUS to some extent and Shokuhou herself was sure that delving further into this would uncover and possibly destroy the darkness silently brewing underneath the surface. By helping Shutaura Sequenzia and telling that girl where the location of MINUS's hideout was, there was surely going to be a few lives saved.
But, above all else, the reason she was involved in this was not for her sake.
But rather for Kamijou Touma's.
During the incident with Kongou, he had suffered because he had not known anything and moved anyway. And knowing him and his personality, there was no way he was going to ignore the problem facing Shutaura right now. So, if only to ensure it minimised the chance of him getting hurt given he knew what was happening all the way and was not pushed to the side, Shokuhou was get him involved.
And to ensure he was safe, she would get involved too.
It had nothing to do with Misaka Mikoto. Even if it was contradictory in that Shokuhou was pushing Kamijou into danger to prevent danger, it was the personal feelings and to ensure that Kamijou was safe that she did what she did and acted how she acted.
Slowly rising her hand to the precious whistle tied around her chest, Shokuhou clenched it and fell silent for a moment before turning back around to face Mikoto head on.
If there was anything she had to say in this moment and anything her personal feelings were driving her to say, then it was these words within her heart that she directed at Mikoto.
"My feelings are the only things making me act right now, Misaka-san. Nothing else. And it's because of those feelings and a miracle granted to me that I don't have to feel jealous of you anymore and your position. I can catch up. I can make up for lost time ability. I can be remembered. And that alone…that alone is what powers me to protect that which I failed to protect last time. It won't slip through my fingers again Misaka-san and I'll hold onto it even if my hands turn to dust. Even if you don't trust me…I hope you have the sense to realise that I want to protect the same thing as much as you."
Mikoto's question at Shokuhou's vagueness made the girl smile but only turn back the way she came and shrug nonchalantly. Even if Mikoto did not understand what exactly she was talking about, that did not mean either one of them would not go to any lengths to protect the one thing they knew had to be protected.
Even if the world crumbled around them, Shokuhou knew they would turn over any rock and do any deed for the sake of protecting that one boy and save him from harm.
It was for that end that Shokuhou had decided to act, even if it was contradictory that she was doing so.
And she was sure that it was for that end that it would be enough for Misaka Mikoto to fight too.
After all, it had been enough for the both of them to face a massacre and plough through it just to see if he was alright.
But then again, this was also Shokuhou Misaki's foothold.
She could now be remembered.
Which meant she did not have to fall behind anymore, even if she was rebuilding her relationship from scratch. She could make up for lost time and did not have to feel jealous about Mikoto and the relationship she had with that boy anymore.
Shokuhou Misaki could have the miracle she always wanted.
And she would ensure it never left her hands no matter what happened.
Even if the vagueness meant Mikoto did not understand what exactly Shokuhou was talking about, that did not limit the extent of her feelings, or Shokuhou's. It just meant the declaration to not fall behind was only known to Mental Out instead of the Railgun.
"Whatever the case though," Shokuhou said with a shake of her head and a carefree air. "Misaka-san, if you plan of joining me and involving yourself in this incident then… Misaka-san?" Shokuhou stopped, frowning as she realised Mikoto had stopped walking. She turned around and saw that Mikoto had stopped dead in her tracks, staring off into Academy City with eyes wide and a deepening frown.
"Misaka-san?" Shokuhou asked before Mikoto held up a hand to shush her.
"…Did you hear that?"
"What?" Shokuhou frowned, straining her ears but unable to hear anything. No…there was something, an echo of someone shouting but it was hard to pick up and identify who it belonged to if it was anyone actually speaking so Shokuhou just dismissed it as white noise. "No, nothing. Why?"
"That sounded like…!" Mikoto's eyes went wide as dinner plates and she paled, turning and racing the other way, leaving Shokuhou standing there in the dust. She went wide eyed as she saw Mikoto leap into the air using magnetism and cried out herself in partial shock.
"You go ahead of me! I have to check this out!"
"But – !"
Shokuhou cried out but never managed to get Mikoto to listen who quickly disappeared and left the girl standing there in the middle of the Academy City night.
(…Should I have told her it had to do with MINUS? That would have surely attracted her attention ability.)
Realising there was nothing to be done about it now, Shokuhou shook her head and turned, seeing that her escort, Crow 27, was already racing ahead. After hearing the report Shutaura Sequenzia was going after Crow 1's tracking device in his bodysuit, he had immediately abandoned all prospects of going to District 14 for Shokuhou to use her power and decided instead to go to where his leader was, Shokuhou being forced to drag her unathletic body through the City once more.
Already sweating and regretting her choice to get involved in this, any complaints to the contrary were ignored by Crow 27 as she was forced to move once more, chasing after the man until they reached their final destination. It was easy to see: the group of people and the ambulance's flashing lights making it clear where she had to head towards.
You would be hard pressed to find a more suspicious group of people. With most of them wearing bodysuits, one of them being severely injured and a nun, calico cat and half dressed doll among them, it seemed as though the peanut gallery was in town, Shokuhou realising the presence as a Level 5 only added towards it.
And yet…where was her Prince? Not to mention his cousin. The absence of the former worried Shokuhou deeply but it was as she approached that one of the people spotted her, the girl recognisable on sight as she approached Shokuhou.
"We found him. Crow 1. You can read either his bodysuit or his memories. You choose." Shutaura Sequenzia did not bother to mince words. As a soldier, the job was the only thing she was focused on but as the mere civilian and finding her heart race, Shokuhou was focused on other more important things, at least, to her.
"…Where is Kamijou-san?"
"Off chasing a dead end." Shutaura was blunt, not even bothering to explain but adding, quite quickly, Shokuhou had to note, "He's safe though, I'm sure. Call him and make sure of such yourself. In fact, read my mind and I can assure you it is the case."
Shokuhou was about to retort that she could not do so without a remote to focus her power but Shutaura giving her something was the only thing that made Shokuhou realise Shutaura was perfectly serious.
It was her purse.
Confiscated and filled to the brim with her remotes.
That in itself was more than enough to trust the soldier's words on the matter about the safety of Kamijou. The relief in her heart was immense, even if there was no certainty. But, as Shokuhou herself knew, there was no point battling the soldier on this.
She was here for a job.
And for the safety of Kamijou Touma and Academy City, she was going to do it.
She reached into her purse and brought out a single item, of which there were many, spinning the remote in her hand with a smile on her face.
"If that's the case, then I think it's time to do what I do best! Just one thing…"
"Try and hold in your amazement ability!"
Shutaura Sequenzia had to force herself not to punch Shokuhou Misaki, her tongue poking out of her mouth while winking and holding a peace sign to the side of her face.
And there we have it!
What did you think?
In various ways this chapter was an action packed one but not in the usual sense because of the character focuses. While this is still Shutaura's arc, seen in how the focus at the end and this incident is related to her and what happened to the other characters is as a result of the failure of what happened with her, there was still a bit of a strangeness in this chapter in the focus more of the cast which has really taken a back seat up until now. Usually with the arcs, unless there is a specific focus on the characters, others take the side but with the growing cast and the focus of the story, that has expanded.
This chapter really focused a lot on the characters of Accelerator and Hamazura. Given there was more explained in the Accelerator parts that were then reused with the Hamazura, his were shorter but I hope you found the insight into their own characters and what they find has worth to them just as engaging as the usual monologues with the characters we have.
In various ways though I wanted you to use this as an insight into the differences between the people and what the heroes have chosen here. For Accelerator, his part was not just limited to himself but also incorporated the perspective of Misaka Worst to show how his family is bigger and how he has chosen a lot more than Hamazura has who was only focused on the one thing. In this way, unlike Touma and Accelerator, Hamazura has come out on top given he has chosen something of his own and wants to prioritise one thing over anything else: Takitsubo. While Accelerator has a similar thought when it comes to Last Order that is revealed for what it was in the fact that when Misaka Worst enters in the picture, Accelerator also feels conflicted to save her just as much as Last Order given her role in his 'family'.
But already the #1 and Hamazura were taken out! Hamazura is just a normal person in his own right so using an already established method of LV-Drop on him to take him out was no problem, but the issue then became one with Accelerator and how to take him out in the first place. But that method was hinted back in Part 3 with the way Hayashida could build a signal interference device to get into the choker given Accelerator had not developed a way to counter that particular home-made interfering signal. But now he has been exposed to it, he definitely can counter it which is what makes the method of taking him out so unique in my opinion: it only works once and requires planning and perfect execution of the operation with no mistakes. In this way, the fact Hayashida planned for such reveals how much of a monster she is in her own right, doesn't it!?
But did you like the small bit of tension where Faith and Accelerator were having their own small battle to stop him from reaching the choker?! I'm not too sure whether you felt it was obvious from the conclusion but I can really think of this as a proper loss for the both of them in the fight against MINUS and this underground war. Last arc, Touma lost something at the hands of Kamui so this arc, to merely give that sense of urgency to the two heroes who were brought in, I had them lose something this time too.
Yet, given that Touma got his arm back, is there the chance they will recover and save Last Order and Takitsubo in time?! Just like Touma losing something was 'easy', I also wanted to have that reflected in a cruel way this time with the other heroes…
There was also the Touma bits. What did you think of them!? The introduction of the lost baby with the phi symbol on their stomach probably felt as though it came out of left field and even more so this time when Touma meets it again and it develops both mentally and physically in front of his eyes, like instant aging. As you can probably see, although the mystery here is still forming, it is an underlying plot line for the series and I hope you found yourself thinking "What the hell is going on here?!" along with Touma when he saw the child almost 'evolving' in front of him. But putting that aside, he's reached Orion who is working with those who took Last Order and Takitsubo!
I hope you can look forward to the fight scenes in the future, where things go from here and the characters that are going to be involved too!
And that final part with Shokuhou and Mikoto. While that was important in the sense that it reminds you they are not forgotten, at the same time, there was a line of Shokuhou's I really want you guys to note and think about: where she says that she doesn't have to feel jealous anymore and catch up to Mikoto.
As you can tell from just the character focus, the underlying theme of this arc is miracles. But even if the way it was described in the beginning was cynical, miracles themselves are by no means bad things and that can be seen in the words of Shokuhou herself. Her ability to feel the things she is feeling now and the chance to spend time with Prince is a gift she is not going to waste and a gift she wants to last so for that alone, she is not going to let it slip through her hands, no matter the cost. The want to hold onto it and treasure it is a miracle itself and for that alone, she is not going to waste a single moment given to her.
Now that she has the chance to spend time with her Prince, I hope you can look forward to the small moments she can have now and in the future.
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 the Science side has been active for a while, there is another side that has stayed silent for now…