Greetings to all!
I'd like to apologize for the time it took to bring this chapter out. Most of the ideas I had set up for this little arc. kinda got jumbled around a bit. Trust me when I say that ideas are good in thought, but are difficult as crap to put down on paper(document). I've had to reevaluate a lot of things and events to fit the direction I wanted things to go, so that's the main reason behind the delay. But fear not, for most of the set up here is now completed, so I shouldn't have many problems from here on; though I could be wrong(which I hope I am).
Anyways, I hope you all enjoy the first update of 2014 of A Certain World of Darkness!
How often in life does one find themselves face-to-face with a crisis? Many could claim to have been in such situations, but the term itself was loosely used in this day and age. People usually viewed a calamity as something petty like the loss of their phone, a web-site being shut-down for a couple hours, or things of that nature. That wasn't to say that people were stupid and did not know the difference between an minor inconvenience and a literal disaster, but the truth was that the term 'crisis' was often used too lightly these days.
Going by that standard, everyday was a crisis for Kamijou thanks to his lack of fortitude; but he at least knew that, for the most part, it didn't go to any extreme lengths like it had in his youth. Like a disability, he had learned to live with it, accept it, and ultimately adjusted himself accordingly. So, while indeed every day was bound to have some bumps along the road, he at least had the luxury of knowing that things could have always been worse. It was all a matter of how much fate wanted to mess with him was all, and typically it didn't go out of its way to put him in a real state of crisis.
But the situation at hand went far beyond what Touma typically expected fate to dish out at him.
He wasn't about to be soaked to the bone by sprinklers, his bank-card getting jammed in an ATM, or any of the usual occurrences that usually occur to him on a daily basis. No, he was currently being taken through his own home and towards the balcony and be thrown off of it by people didn't know or meet prior to today. Now he knew his luck was bad, knew it because he had experienced it all his life, but he had not been put in a critical situation such as this before. There was the incident last Saturday, and that had been a life-or-death situation itself, but the circumstances were vastly different in comparison to what was currently happening to him here and now.
He had chosen to get involved with what had happened at the Seiren facility; fully aware of the risks and dangers of that decision. But this was different, what was happening now was occurring in his own home and something that caught him completely off guard. With everything happening so abruptly and escalating so quickly, Touma didn't have the time or the means to properly grasp the situation. Not that he had time to really think deeply on the matter to begin with now that he was aware of what these boys planned to do. Subconsciously he was, but finding a way out of this situation was on the forefront of his mind for obvious reasons.
Self preservation was always a top priority, especially in a situation such as this; which is why human beings possessed something called 'Survival Instincts' or the 'Fight-or-Flight Instinct'.
One can already assume which of the two options Touma chose to go with.
Even with the combined effort of two people supporting him, the teens were still having issues in terms of lifting him up properly. Among the two of them, only one of them had successfully managed to sling Touma's arm slung over his shoulder while the other was still mid-process of doing the same. Because of this, coupled with the adrenaline being released into his bloodstream, Touma was able to use this opportunity to his advantage. Wrenching his right arm free from his capture's hold, he used the brief moment of freedom to blindly launch his fist at the person to his immediate left.
The wheezed grunt from the teen beside him was the only warning he received before his arm was released, leaving him with nothing to support him and causing his body to collapse to the floor shortly after. Not that Touma was complaining, having shifted his weight to land on his side before making an attempt to get back to his feet. Of course, Touma in his haste forgot about the teen that had been behind him the entire time and was promptly tackled back to the floor before he could stand. Not long after he collided with the floor, a second set of hands made it a point to recapture his arm whilst the teen still on his back pinned his other arm behind his back while pressing his face into the floor.
"I swear to god if he got away…" These words, though heard, went largely ignored by the spiky haired youth as he continued to make a vain attempt to escape the hold the boy's had on him. Even if he knew it was pointless to try due to the arm-lock sending jolts of pain up to his brain, making an attempt was much better than doing nothing about it. "Do I really need to do everything myself here?"
"Fuck you." Several coughs followed this particular statement coming from the teen he had attacked a few short moments ago. Had he cared enough or known, Touma may have found it ironic that he had knocked the air out of the person who had done the same thing to him upon entry.
"Oh quit bitching and hurry up before someone catches us!"
"What is this all about!?" Yelled Touma, having finally spoken and voicing the first thought had entered his mind since this whole thing began. "What's with you people!?"
As to be expected, nobody was all that inclined to answer him given his current state. By all accounts, they were in control of the entire situation so they were not obligated to listen to a word their victim said. Not that they would have in the first place, having instead chosen to just continue with the task of trying to keep Touma subdued. The teen in question, however, didn't make that task an easy one for them; having tried several times now to break out of the arm-lock. It wasn't until the teen's patience had reached its end that he was repeatedly struck in the ribs; not enough to break anything, but enough to keep him from being too persistent.
And though nothing was broken, Touma's pain-filled cries were more than enough satisfy at least one of the more vindictive members of this little group.
"Hahaha, this guy cries like a bitch!"
"Quit slacking off and help you worthless fuck!"
"Alright, alright, I'll jus-"
The teen speaking didn't even get a chance to finish his sentence before he was suddenly struck in the back of the knee. Since this particular teen had been closest to the screen door, he had been facing the group directly. As such, he had no way of knowing that someone next door could have snuck onto the balcony and, by default, sneak up behind him. Said person didn't even wait for the teen he attack to fully collapse before grabbing him by the hair and throwing him back into the glass panel behind him.
Upon hearing the sound of shattering glass, all occupants inside the room shot their attention to the point of origin. Unfortunately for the one on Touma's right, he was only able to gain a brief glimpse of the new arrival before said arrival's fist colliding with his face. Since the person had made a mad dash, the forward momentum of the sprint forward only further added to the overall power of the attack; thus causing a loud cracking noise to fill the room; courtesy of the teen's nose breaking.
Had any of the boy's who were still conscious at the moment been looking at him, they would have seen the sightings of Kamijou grinning satisfactory over this sudden development.
Without missing a beat, Touma broke free from the teen's hold on his arm and just as quickly scrambled out from under him. Once out, he just as hastily got back to his feet, only this time successfully and uninterrupted. Not long after reaching his full height, Touma had been forced to evade the attacker whom he had just gotten away from; though it was a task that was hardly difficult. Now that he wasn't outnumbered and able to actually fight back, Touma realized the severity of how reliant these people were on using numbers to their advantage.
Because, to be frank, not a single attack that was made on him had connected while Touma himself had yet to even throw a single punch in retaliation.
That, however, was quickly redeemed when the teen overextended his reach with a wild haymaker that was swept aside by the spiky haired teen; leaving a gaping hole in his guard that was just begging to be exploited. Unable to resist the call, Kamijou acted on it and thus slammed the same fist used to parry the attack into his opponent's face, forcing him to stumble backwards. Unrelenting, Touma didn't waste a second in throwing left cross into the teen's face once again, this time connecting right in the center area of his eyes and nose, before putting his opponent down with a heave kick to his diaphragm; effectively knocking the teen back into his bookshelf and onto the floor with the shelf's contents joining him shortly after.
"Well this is a first for you isn't it Kami-yan?" Upon hearing this, Touma couldn't help but shoot the blonde sunglasses-wearing friend and neighbor a rather dry stare due to the mirth that was evident in his tone. In the short time it took to deal with his own attacker, Motoharu had already dispatched his own; seeing as how the last of them was huddled up next to the wall in obvious agony. "I mean, I know your harem is diverse, but I never thought that you'd have gone down the yaoi route nya~."
"That's not funny, Tsuchimikado."
Based on the wide grin on his friends face, he thought it was humorous enough. Of course, anything that happened to Touma out of misfortunate was amusing in his eyes; which was apparent even now. Having taken a glance about the room, three of the four teens that attacked him were a groaning mess of flesh and bones. The one that was struck by Motoharu upon his entrance was completely unconscious; something that was to be expected given the ferocity of the blow he had received.
"Nya, I guess I shouldn't joke; I mean you wouldn't have called me out like that if it wasn't serious."
By calling out, Motoharu was of course referring to Touma's yelling and later outcries of pain through the walls of his dorm.
While the dorms were relatively good in terms of space, the walls that made up these dorms were not that thick. It didn't take much for someone in the dorm next door to hear what was going on in their neighbors' room. While in most cases it was a bit of an annoyance when people are generally loud, today Touma could do nothing but thank the architect for making things this way. Otherwise, his neighbor would not have heard the ruckus going on in his room. That was the reason why he was yelling out his questions, and crying out when he was hit, even though he could take much more abuse than what was given. Bear in mind, it still hurt, but under usual circumstances Kamijou wouldn't have been as vocal after receiving pain of that degree. That was just a ruse so that Motoharu could hear him and, hopefully, peak his interest enough for him to investigate.
Kamijou still could have done without the blonde breaking his screen door, but that was a small price to pay for him coming to lend him a helping hand.
"So, what's with this Kami-yan? Usually you don't have punks like these follow you back to the dorms." Though his expression didn't lose the mischievousness Kamijou was used to seeing, he could still note that a good portion of it had been lost and substituted with legitimate concern and seriousness. "What did you do?"
"That's what I want to know." Mumbled the spiky haired boy, rubbing his bruised ribs while surveying his room, which was now in shambles. "They just showed up at my door and attacked me for no reas…wait."
Stepping over to where his friend was standing, Kamijou took a moment of his time to survey the teen against the wall; taking note of his attacker's appearance entirely before shifting his gaze towards the only unconscious one amongst them. While the other two weren't nearly as familiar, there was no mistaking it now that he had a good look at them. These were some of the very same people he had attacked in the alley earlier in the day. That realization itself was something that honestly surprised him, which soon gave-way to heavy concern as he frantically began searching through the mess created to find his phone.
"I recognize at least a few of them." Hastily retorted the teen in question, having found his phone after a few moments of dely. "They were trying to kidnap some girls a few hours ago. If they found out where I live, then they that means they know where they live too."
"Nya, Kami-yan, just calm down for a second."
"I can't calm down; not when these guys were going to throw me off the balcony." While he may have appeared calm, Touma was anything but that; a factor Motoharu picked up on the longer he observed his friends actions. "If they were going to do that to me, what do you think they're going to do to those girls?"
His blonde friend grew silent after that, either unable to find the right words to retort with or merely out of choice. Whichever the case was, Touma didn't know nor care due mainly in part to his own paranoia and concern for the safety of the people he had helped earlier on in the day. Though the possibility stood that Kamijou was overreacting a bit as a result of his near-death experience, but given who he was he would not have believed so. What had transpired along with the grain's worth of insight he gained was more than enough to warrant his concerns. If these guys had found him, a Level 0, then what was stopping them from finding the other girls as well? What was stopping them from calling more friends to do worse things to them? Some would find it unlikely, but that was not something Touma was going to put any amount of faith in.
Precautions needed to be made to ensure the safety of the people he had previously helped; less they too become subjected to the same thing he did or experience something much worse.
As for Motoharu, well, he had his own concerns and speculations regarding the new bit of insight that was gained from here.
He as well as anyone knew that these common-place thugs couldn't have gotten access to a student's private information without some form of help. Given, there were several simple ways of gaining a person's address so long as it is available for the public to see. But doing it that way would mean that these guys knew Touma's entire name, which he doubted these punks would know. So the only other conclusion he could come to was that someone was helping them, specifically pointed them in the direction they needed to go. Add to the fact that they were supposedly out to kill his neighbor only further supported this theory.
This led Motoharu to conclude that these guys weren't here for something as petty as revenge. From his standpoint, the obvious answer he could come to was that these boys were carrying out a hit. In which case, either someone paid them to do this or they were specifically told to eliminate Kamijou for some reason or another. Regardless of which option, Motoharu knew exactly what course of action needed to be taken.
Touma, a key-strike away from calling Anti-Skill, briefly paused in his actions as he caught sight of his friend picking up one of the barely conscious teens from the floor and proceeded to head out his door with the teen in tow. His interest peaked, Kamijou made a move to follow only for his eyes to widen as he witnessed his friend push the teen over the railing outside his room. Given, his attacker was still being held by the collar of his shirt over the railing, but even he could hear the sounds of tearing cloth from where he stood. With such a sight right in front of him, Touma all previous activities were immediately dropped as he rushed out to where his friend stood.
"Stay back Kami-yan!" That level of seriousness, that display of foreign coldness in his voice, was what ultimately made Touma freeze just as he entered the doorway. "I'll take care of this; you have a phone call to make don't you?"
"Tsuchimikado, this is-"
"Payback, Kami-yan, they were going to do the same to you, right? It's only fair that he finds out for himself what it feels like to be thrown over a ledge wouldn't you say so?"
"W-what the hell has gotten into you!? I don't care about things like that if it ends with someone getting killed!"
"Then if he spills his guts like a good boy, he won't have to fall to his death, now will he?" This particular statement was not specifically addressed to Touma, rather it was being directed more so to the teen who's only lifeline was hands gripping his shirt. It was to be expected that the teen in question was fearing for his life given his current predicament, but there was still a hint of doubt in his mind that the teen holding him would actually do what he said he would. "So, who told you about this place and where can we find them?"
"Y-yeah, like you have the balls to do it specks."
A predictable answer befitting to that of a pawn who didn't want to sellout the group he was a part of. Understandable considering how most low-end groups tended to black-ball anyone who had a history of allowing information to slip from their loose lips. The underground was an unforgiving place to be a snitch, as it was a fast track to an early end if word got out about it. It didn't matter what kind of group or organization one worked for, giving out any information of any sort was going to end up putting a target on their backs for the rest of their lives; which were usually cut short in a relatively short span of time.
Though grunts didn't usually have the most valuable information one could gain, they were at least a means leading to someone who did.
And Motoharu, who knew this, also knew that these types of people were usually the easiest one's to break.
"I've got three other punks like you I can get the information from." Based solely on his tone, even a casual observer such as Touma could tell that the blonde wasn't making an empty threat. To both Kamijou and the other teen's growing realization, it was a clear indication that Motoharu was more than willing to turn the teen into a smear on the concrete if he refused to answer him. "Then again, maybe it would be a good idea to set an example. If one of you gets thrown off, I'm sure the rest will figure out how serious I am and how far I'll go to get what I want."
To emphasis this, Motoharu relinquished one of his hands being used to hold the teen's shirt; thus allowing the said boy's body to tilt backwards. This erected a startled cry from the teen in question, especially when the fabric of his shirt made another tearing sound due to being forcibly stretched beyond its limits.
"My arm's gonna get tired soon."
At this point, Kamijou had enough of the sight in which he was witnessing and actually made a move to put an end to it himself. Though this treatment may have been justified given how he was almost a victim of the same fate, he was not willing to have another person's death on his conscious. What kind of person could live with themselves if they simply sat and watched as another person's life ended right in front of them? What kind of person would he be for just allowing it to happen without so much as lifting a finger to stop it? So what if the guy had tried to kill him, what did it matter if he got a few bruises at the end of it all?
Kamijou was still alive, so in his mind there was no reason for him to die over something that may have happened opposed to what actually did happen.
"A-Alright, alright fine, the guys overseeing the job gave us the address!"
And just like that, Motoharu pulled the teen's body back up to relative safety. He was still keeping the teen suspended a bit over the edge, yet not as much as before where he couldn't be caught in the event that Motoharu released his grip entirely. It was also during the course of this time that he acknowledged Kamijou's presence behind him, the boy's steps again coming to a halt once the teen began to speak up. Since the teen wasn't taking any action to stop him, he could only assume that he too was interested in what was to be said; even if he felt reluctant to accept the method being used to attain it.
"Go on, who are they and where can we find them."
"T-They just told us to get rid of the guy, didn't matter how as long as we weren't caught, call them, and then disappear. We weren't supposed to meet them after the job, we never do, so I don't know where they are; they just contact us."
"I'm not hearing any names. You also said they're overseeing the job, so that tells me they are nearby which tells me that you're lying."
"N-NO! I-I never even met them in person, and nobody except the boss knows who they are! They're never around for these jobs, they're just in charge of giving out the orders they get from the boss, I swear!"
"And who is the boss; who's the person giving them the orders?"
"Oh come on man, they'll gut me if I-" His complaints were effectively pushed aside once the blonde began loosening his grip, causing him to lean back further away from the ledge. "Q-Queen, everyone just calls her Queen!"
For two entirely different reasons, both Kamijou and Motoharu gained a particular interest in the obvious alias that was provided. One showing blatant bewilderment at the strange choice of a name, while the other concealed astonishment. During this time, both boy's briefly exchanged glances, with Touma shrugging his shoulders which was mimicked by his friend before returning his gaze back on the source of this information. Said source was now a sweating mess, which absentmindedly made them wonder if it was out of fear of falling or fear of his boss, not that either of them would know.
"Alright, one last-"
The abrupt halt in question should have been indication enough that something had caught the blonde's attention in that moment. Touma, unable to follow his gaze due to his sunglasses, was left momentarily confused before he caught site of something as well from the corner of his gaze. Technically speaking, he could hear it before he had fully turned to see it; the thing in question being sirens coming from Anti-Skill vehicles rounding the street corner. His other neighbor must have heard the commotion too and called a bit sooner, not that it would have mattered if Tsuchimikado hadn't come to his aid. Still, surprised as he was by their arrival, relief soon surfaced on Kamijou's face at the sight of law enforcement.
Motoharu, however, was not relieved in the slightest and for good reason considering what he had caught a glimpse of. Pulling the teen back to solid ground, the blonde wasted no time in pushing him to the ground and plowed his knee into the downed boy's sternum.
"Tsuchimikado, what the hell are you doing!?"
"We need to leave." It wasn't a suggestion, nor was it a just a statement either. Whatever it was classified as, judging by the tone in his voice, the words carried with it a meaning that went beyond what Touma was accustomed to dealing with. "We need to leave and we need to do it right now; it's not safe here anymore."
"Wai-what do you mean not safe? Anti-Skill is right-"
"Kami-yan, if there was ever a time for you to just shut up and trust me, now would be the time."
There was no arguing the fact that the blonde was being deathly serious at this point. So serious it actually made the spiky haired teen wonder if this was really the same person he knew and hung out with on a daily basis. This wasn't the open Sis-con that fantasized about maid-lolis and was consistently gushing over his little sister. The Tsuchimikado he had come to know in his day to day life never acted this seriously about anything, and it was clear as day that he wasn't messing around either. While the things he had threatened to do a few moments ago should have already told him this, this was the thing which really hit home to Kamijou.
This was not the Tsuchimikado Motoharu he had come to know; this was a like an entirely different person from the boy he was friends with and that was something of significant concern to him.
Even so, in light of recent events, did he really have a choice?
On one hand there was Anti-Skill and on the other was the person who had prevented him from facing certain death.
One way or another, a choice had to be made here and done so now.
And so, Kamijou made his decision, albeit it was one which was filled with trepidation.
"…Let me get my shoes on."
"That guy aint normal…"
For the second time that day, Shougo couldn't find it in himself to disagree with Akatoki's assessment. That blonde was not your typical commoner in this vast sea of students, not by a long shot. The fact that he caught on to them watching and was making an effort to vacate the area showed that he was far beyond what they perceived as normal. He knew that staying there was a bad option, knew it and acted accordingly and even took their target with him. That told both boy's something about this new development, something that neither was going to like.
"You think he's…I dunno, like us?"
"Which one, the blonde or the guy we're trying to get?"
"Aint you supposed to be smart guy here?"
Instead of getting upset as pre-usual, Shougo responded with a careless shrug of his shoulders. Strange as it may have seemed, he was not as upset about this as he very well should have been considering the simplicity of the operation. The reason for this was based on the suggestion his partner had offered onto the table. If the guy was like them, in the sense that he wasn't like most students that made up the city, it would at the very least explain why their target had escaped. Someone who knew how to act accordingly in a situation that could mean life or death was far more acceptable than some commoner successfully throwing a wrench into their plans without any awareness at all.
Shougo was still upset mind you, that much went without saying, but he at least understood that it was only because the blonde knew what he was doing.
"This changes things." Mumbled the brunette to himself, combing his fingers through his hair as he tried to think of a way to approach this new development. "We still have the element of surprise, but only by a small margin. Specks will be expecting anything at this point, so probably the best thing we can do is try and get them to separate."
"Yea, spike-head'll be a sittin' duck on his own." Adding in his own two-cents, Akatoki also seemed to be in thought himself; a sight that would have left Shougo in awe if done at any other point in time. "We could take 'em out ourselves."
"Or we could round up a few more guys to do it for us and keep a low-profile."
In the end, it all boiled down to how differently the approached things which made Shougo and Akatoki bump heads more often than not. Akatoki was someone who believed that the best way to do a job is to do so personally. He didn't like the idea of letting someone else do something and risk the chance of it failing and instead do it himself. In his mind he believed there was a lesser chance of things going wrong, and to some extent it was justified. His faults and quirks aside, he was good at his job, could coordinate the troops well enough and was not afraid in the slightest to get his hands dirty if needed.
Shougo, however, was the more reserved one; taking a preference to keeping himself as far under the radar as possible at almost any given point in time. Some would call him a coward for it and maybe those people were right. Nobody said anything about it though and as irksome as it was for Akatoki to admit it, even their superior sought his opinion from time to time. That alone showed that, though he was admittedly spineless, he was a decent tactician and noticeably smarter than anyone else that made up their group. He was no genius, but he had a good sense of judgment and was knowledgeable in the fields practiced in.
Based on these facts, it can all be chalked up to a battle of brains vs. brawn; each side having their own advantages and disadvantages to bring to the table.
"How many guys we got 'round here?"
"Not sure, I'd have to check in and ask…which means I'd need to call Queen."
"Ya sure ya wanna do that?"
Shougo couldn't help but grimace upon hearing this and discarded the notion shortly after; bringing his forefinger and thumb to the bridge of his nose in irritation. They were just given orders, when it came down to the job itself then it was left to their discretion. That is until the boss herself checked in and either bitched them out over the choices they made or chose to tackle the job herself if it became clear that they couldn't handle it. Typically when the latter occurred, neither boy's left her presence with just a slap on the wrist. If they were lucky they would only get a severe verbal lashing and that was if she was in a good mood.
Needless to say, neither boy wanted to be the subject of the Queen's wrath anymore than the other; especially since they had already messed up on one job earlier in the day.
After several moments of thoughtful silence between the two of them, the brunette let out a sigh as his hand moved away from his face, red-tented lenses staring back at his partner across from him.
Someone once said that it takes great courage to admit that they are a coward. Though Shougo himself didn't know where he heard that saying or who said it, he was not inclined to agree with the statement. Because he felt no amount of courage in admitting his spinelessness, fact he didn't feel anything aside from a bit of shame. He was a coward, he knew it as much as everyone else, which ultimately led him towards making a decision based on that lack of courage.
"Alright, you win; we'll do it your way."
Reluctant as he may have been, he would much rather go with Akatoki's suggestion rather than face the ensuing wrath of the Queen.
"Tsuchimikado, I know you told me to trust you and everything…but what exactly is going on with you?"
Following his friends instructions, Kamijou had made the choice to follow in his blonde friend's shadow as he led him away from the dorms and into the open streets of the city. While it still baffled him as to why they were avoiding Anti-Skill, the teen chose not to raise the subject and opted instead to ask him at a later point in time. Of course, that wasn't all that he was going to ask once they were deemed 'safe', as this sudden and unexplained change in attitude was certain a subject worthy of discussion. Until then, however, he had simply followed along in his friend's pace, doing as instructed and containing all questions until this whole event rolled over.
On that note, whatever was going on apparently had Motoharu a bit on edge due to his odd behavior as they moved about. Kamijou may not have much experience in reading people, but based on the faintest of moments he could tell that the blonde was taking in more than just what lay ahead of him as he walked. He was scouting, looking for something that he had yet to divulge to him yet; possibly looking for whatever it was he had seen back at the dorms that got him spooked to begin with.
Throughout the time they were moving about, Motoharu made it a point to stick to the few scattered crowds that were still out. Even though nightfall was quickly approaching, that still didn't stop the student body as whole from being out. Large crowds weren't as abundant sure, but there was still pockets of them about the streets as they walked and those were the ones which the two boy's mixed in with. It was only when those packs of people began to thin out that they had to worry; in which case the two boys would find the nearest store to take temporary refuge until another group approached.
That was the formula in which Motoharu seemed to be going with; but in Touma's eyes it just made his friend appear far more strange and paranoid than anything else.
As things currently stood, the two were half-heartedly browsing the selection of attire in a small clothing shop that sold cheap clothing for an equally cheap price. Offhandedly, Touma took notice to how the store was pretty behind in comparison to the items he had seen at the Underground Mall. Both of them were not particularly close to the entrance, but were still well within visiual range to see what was occurring outside.
"Now really isn't the best time to ask me that Kami-yan." Retorted the blond calmly, though occasionally shooting a glance near the entrance but otherwise sifting through the selection while feigning interest. This did nothing but increase Touma's climbing unease due to the lack of exhilaration his friend usually had an abundance of. "If anything, I'd like to know why they're so pissed off over you stopping some random kidnapping."
"You and me both, I still don't know who's so angry at me to begin with." Disgruntled by the lack of answers, Touma let out a sigh as he too spared, though painstakingly obvious, glace over towards the entrance before turning back to his browsing. "Do you have an idea who this Queen person is?"
"I could make a few guesses, but nothing solid. Maybe if we can catch one of those overseers-"
"Hold it, stop, are you really saying what I think you are?" Even if his voice was hushed due to the threat of being overheard, it was easy to see that if he could he would have been more vocal in his objections. "Have you lost your mind? The guy at the dorms even said that they didn't even know who they were, let alone know where they are. If they don't even know who or where these guys are, how are we supposed to find them? In fact, why do we even want to find them in the first place if they're trying to…well…you know."
Motoharu had to give his friend credit; for someone who was nearly murdered he was taking everything in quite well. The fact that he was keeping his tone low and not outright saying things that would draw attention were indeed beneficial to them. Subconsciously, a small part of him was glad that his friend wasn't as dense as he originally pegged him being; otherwise things could have been much worse.
"I'm pretty sure I am thinking clearly enough Kami-yan, make no mistake in that." Began the teen, his tone growing more sober with each word uttered, almost sounding as if he was dreading what he was about to say next. "As for how we find them…well, let's just say I'm counting on your misfortune to bring them to us rather than the other way around."
Based on the face the teen was making; the idea itself was none-too pleasing on the ears. It couldn't be helped; there were few options he could take given the lack of information present. He could assume all he wanted, but unless he had something that specifically pointed in one direction then it would all be fruitless. They needed someone who knew more, they needed someone who worked directly under the person giving out these kinds of orders. Though there existed a few shortcuts he could exploit to get the details he was looking for, using them would probably lead to a dead end and could possibly produce more enemies for the both of them.
Not that he cared, he had enough enemies as it was and he was still alive and kicking. But Kamijou was different, he didn't have enemies, he didn't do much to make any until today, and exposing him to that was not something he wanted for him. Call it a preservation of innocence, or just him genuinely giving a damn about the well-being of his ignorant neighbor. Whatever one chooses to call it, the fact still stood that he would do what he could to keep the spiky haired boy safe as much as he could.
"Listen, Kami-yan, I'm not throwing you to the wolves here but it isn't just your problem to deal with anymore. I got involved and so I'm probably on their hit-list too, which means we're in the same boat here." Assured the teen the best he could, though it was hard to determine a person's sincerity who constantly hid half of his face behind a pair of sunglasses. "So if we want to get through this, if we want to avoid any more problems with these guys, we need to take action and find out who's in charge. Once we know that, we can inform the right people and put this whole thing behind us."
The final portion was a lie spoken for no other reason than to ease Kamijou's mind. Once he found out who was actually in charge he would make it his mission to end them as swiftly as possible. It had little to do with his relationship with Kamijou that acted as the incentive to act this way, though he would be lying if he said it wasn't part of the reason. The true purpose behind his motives was the repercussions of his intervention in the murder of the boy. As he had previously stated, he was most likely on their shit-list now, either that or he would be soon enough. Should that be the case, then that also meant his sister would also become a target as a means to get to him; something he could not and would not allow under any circumstance.
One way or another tonight he was going to put an end to all this before it escalated any further.
"I guess…wait, how do you know that? Anti-Skill was there when we left; so how could they know about you when they weren't even there to begin with."
"You'd be surprised, Kami-yan." Was all he had to offer, which unsurprisingly left Touma with more questions in his mind than answers. Perplexing couldn't even begin to describe how jumbled the boy's head was, and it was in good reason as well. His friend's odd behavior and the avoidance of his questions only further entrenched his feelings of unease towards the teen beside him. Those thoughts and feelings, however were shortly quelled once he caught wind of a specific sound. Specifically, it was the sound of someone sniffing the air and it was coming from the blonde that stood beside him.
Because of that, Touma himself managed to smell of something in the air, a stench that clearly didn't belong in a store of this nature. It didn't take neither of the boy's very long to determine that the resembled that of propane. But between the two of them, it had been Motoharu who reacted first and wasted little time in rushing to the door, Kamijou following his example shortly then after. Asking questions was pointless, he wouldn't be getting much if he did; so he just went with the flow of things.
If Motoharu started running, then it would be wise of him to do the same for the sake of his wellbeing. At some point in the future, Kamijou would reflect on his thoughts during this moment and be grateful for making the right choice. Had he failed to do so, the odds of him leaving the place relatively unscathed would not have been in his favor. For a powerful mass of imperceptible force suddenly struck him dead in the back just as he was passed the doorsill. This sudden force that struck him was also accompanied with a wave of scorching hot air, making him feel as though he had standing too close to a heater without actually touching it.
Though neither of things mentioned were pleasant, it had been the dull ringing in his ears which was causing him the most problems.
Dazed, Touma quickly came to realize that the momentum created by the explosion had flung him off the sidewalk and onto the side of the road. Most of the vehicles had, at this point, ceased to move as a result of the blast; something which he barely noticed but thankful for nonetheless. As he tried to stand, he took note of the scrapes on his hands and arms, a byproduct of skidding along the pavement, along with the sharp pain that shot up his right arm when he moved it. Thankfully, at least as far as he was aware, the rest of his body was relatively fine or as fine as it could be considering he was basically thrown like a rag-doll into the street.
"-an! Ka..i-ya!" As the dull ringing in his ears began to subside, a familiar voice could be heard, its source still undeterminable as moving his eyes or his head made him feel lightheaded. "Kami-yan!"
Before long, blue eyes finally caught Tsuchimikado as he made his approach, undoubtedly looking as bad off as himself was. The only confirmation he could give in response to the call was the raising of his left hand, which was probably enough to assure the blonde that he was for the most part okay. This non-verbal response prompted his friend to use the hand raised as a means to pull him up off the ground. At which point Touma realized that, in his daze, his entire body was shaking from head to foot, so much so that he could hardly stand up right without Tsuchimikado's support.
Every part of him in that moment felt weak, from his toes, his quivering legs, his limp arms, all the way to his twitching fingers. He didn't need to question why he felt this weak or what the reason was behind his shaking. Everyone who could possibly see him would know the answers to both those questions; hell even a child could answer them. But when Touma's eyes set on now completely demolished clothing store he was just inside; it struck him harder than any physical sensation he had ever experienced.
For he now had actual proof of how far these people were willing to go to kill him. Kamijou now saw the greatest extent of their capacity and willingness to eliminate him and do so without any remorse in the process. In bearing witness to the chaos which was created in an instant, Touma sincerely became scared for his life to a degree no person should ever have privy to experiencing. This wasn't the type of scared you could laugh off or the type that your friends would poke fun at you about later down the road.
No, this was real; so real he began to think it wasn't real. Like this was all just one big dream, that at any moment he would wake up in his home with drool on his homework paper and curse his misfortune.
But as much as he would have liked for it to have been just a fabrication of reality conceived by the subconscious mind, Touma knew better than that. He could delude himself all he wanted, but in the end it didn't change the fact that everything that was taking place here and now was no dream. This was reality at its fullest, it was his misfortune at its worst, and it was all a result of someone's desire to have him killed. Accepting that this was all really happening was not something that could be done easily and without repercussions. That was to be expected given until this point Touma was just your average, normal, teenager whose biggest concerns revolved around school work and tests.
"Come on, Kami-yan, we need to keep moving." Beside him, Kamijou could hear Tsuchimikado uttering these words to him as he continued to support his frame as they shuffled away from the scene as best they could. The task itself was made much harder due to the lack of strength in his legs compiled with the shock the explosion had caused. "Don't freeze up on me now Kami-yan, stay focused here."
"They're trying to kill me, Tsuchimikado." At that, the blonde haired teen took a moment of his time to glance over at his friend. Had he been without his glasses, one might have seen the look of pity in his eyes as he look on at the pale, heavy shaking, teen he called a friend. "They're really trying to kill me…w-what the hell did I do Tsuchimikado to have this happen to me?"
For a moment, Tsuchimikado wanted to do nothing more than just leave him here to be picked up by Anti-Skill or the hospital. He would have been more than happen to take care of things on his own and avoid putting someone such as Kamijou through his whole ordeal. Lord knew he was more than capable of taking care of everything on the teen's behalf so long as he was out of harm's way. But the problem still stood that, even if the authorities did take him someplace safe, he was not guaranteed absolute safety. If the people pursuing him were willing to do something like this just to kill him, what was stopping them from doing things equal or worse in nature?
"I don't know, Kami-yan." Was the answer he chose to respond with as he commenced to shuffle away from the scene before the authorities arrived.
Perhaps it was wrong of him to count on Kamijou's misfortune to bring out the people who were after his life. Had he known that this was what it would have wrought then he would have most likely chosen an alternative method to approach things. But what was done was done, there was no taking it back and thus he had to pay for the consequences made by his choices. As much as he'd rather not drag Touma further into this world, leaving him alone was not an option for him anymore. If he was to be taken by anyone at this point, then the chances of surviving the evening were slim to non-existent.
Though his chances weren't any better with him around, they were a much better option that leaving him alone. Motoharu lived in this world, he understood it better than most, and so it only made sense for him to be the one who protected his ignorant friend from the dangers within it.
"Don't worry, we're gonna do something about it before the night's over."
Touma had no way of knowing just how serious Motoharu was when he said this. Nor would he have any way of knowing that, after tonight, he may have trouble looking at the boy in the same light ever again. What he did know in that moment, however, was that he was grateful to have him there to help him at a time like this. If he wasn't, then he more than likely wouldn't be here right now and would have been dead long before now.
But the night was still young and his enemies, from the small fries to the big fish, were still lurking in dark in wait for their prey.
The only question that he could bring himself to ask was where or when would those predators strike again.
Typically when a person takes a bus or any form of public transportation, it is occupied by at least a few people and isn't completely vacant. This held more truth during daylight hours than night, but generally there are at least more than one person utilizing the public transportation system; excluding the driver of course.
The thing was, when it concerned District 10, it didn't surprise anyone that few people were found going to or coming from that district. With such a poor state of urban decay and the Skill-Out gangs being dominant in that area, it was anyone's guess as to why the city even bothered to allow the public transports there to begin with. Regardless, whoever was running things at least had enough insight to know sending an actual driver would have been ill advised, so most of the buses that went through that district were automated for the sake of avoiding any future problems with their drivers.
What this inevitably meant was that, at times like these, the few who used it were given a great level of privacy that couldn't be gained under normal circumstances.
With no driver and no people around to hear, it made an ideal spot to move about while simultaneously speak to specific people without running the risk of being overheard.
"I've been giving you both very easy jobs today, and somehow you were able to botch both of them. So if you don't have a damn good reason why he isn't dead yet, I'm gonna gouge an eye out of your skull, show it off to you, and cram it down you fucking throat!"
It was a good thing this wasn't your average bus transport; otherwise the people that would normally be seated inside it would have likely started dialing Anti-Skill. Though it undoubtedly wouldn't have stopped her from saying it in the first place, she probably would have been less vocal about it.
"Well!? I'm waiting for an explanation here! Or have you already accepted your punishment and just wasting my time!?"
By most standards, hearing such vulgarity from a young woman like herself would have been heavily frowned upon by society around her. Frankly speaking, while her attire did fit her attitude, her looks were a great contrast to her personality. The pale skin, long black hair and piercing emerald green eyes alone often gartered the attention of most men who saw her, and that was if they focused on her from the neck up.
"…ho really? You're trying to tell me that some punk with specks is in the same line of work as us?"
Crossing her legs, the raven haired woman pinned the phone to her ear with her shoulder as she adjusted the strap on the sling used to secure her right arm; flinching slightly obviously out of pain.
"Well, well, now I'm interested; tell me more about this massive fuck up you two have gotten into."
While sightings of hostility were still present in those emerald eyes of hers, a certain amount of disinterest also displayed as well. This was primarily shown in her choosing to momentarily space out as she stared out the window of the bus during the course of Shougo's explanation. If she had to be honest, she would have preferred to have Akatoki give her the details rather than listen to the long-winded version from Shougo. The only reason she didn't was because the latter was far more thorough in his explanations than the former; that and she could actually understand him opposed to the Yankee.
It wasn't until he reached a certain point in his explanation that the raven-haired teen regained her interest in the topic they were discussing.
"So…you're telling me you blew up a shop they were in, and yet both are somehow still alive…huh."
With clear signs of intrigue on her features, the girl took a few moments to ponder the next course of action, her eyes gazing up at the roof of the bus in thought. After several moments of silence on her end, Shougo's voice through the phone cut her off from her musings, resulting in the girl clicking her tongue as she made her decision.
"I can rightfully assume you're still tracking their movements as we speak, correct?" Shortly after the inquiry was made, she received the confirmation that she desired to hear which prompted her to continue her line of thought. "In that case, I'll take part in this little operation personally; since you two are obviously incapable of handling this shit on your own."
This announcement was apparently something Shougo wanted to avoid; given how hasty his response was once he heard it. He had every right to, considering the implications that came with it should she personally get involved and succeed where himself and his partner had failed. She knew it, he knew it, and he knew if he was to hinder her in any way the punishment for his actions would become far more severe than what they already were.
"I used to find your excuses cute; now they're just annoying. Kill them before I get there or start prepping yourself to lose an eye; that goes for Akatoki too."
Not even waiting for a retort, the young woman ended the call before readjusting herself into a more comfortable position in her seat. Shortly thereafter, she produced a particular metal object from one of her black denim jean pockets. Halfheartedly, the woman began to fiddle with the object, causing several loud clicks and clacks to reverberate throughout the otherwise silent and vacant bus. Not once during this time did her gaze leave the window, lost in her own little world as she carelessly toyed with what was easily a dangerous object.
The sound of that particular object may as well have been the anthem played for the Queen's approach to the battlefield.
Welcome to the bottom.
As stated above, this chapter was a mess to write out considering I had set plans for certain characters who take part in this arc. Though most of the issues I had I found would resolve themselves in the next chapter, I'm still a bit plagued with uncertainty about this particular chapter. It just feels kinda off to me, though that might be due to the change of pace and the antagonists of this arc. not making an actual appearance yet. Maybe that's what it is, but I can't be sure here. At the very least we have our favorite troll and bit of tension going on now, right?
Now then, in regards to Touma's reaction in the last scene. I'ma be honest; any normal person would have flipped-shit over that and wouldn't have been un-phased by it. I just want to remind everyone that this isn't the Touma we are all accustomed to. This is the still semi-normal Touma we're talking about, the one that didn't flirt with death all the time and all that good jazz. It's not him being cowardly, its him being a normal guy with people after his head; which would utterly terrify anyone who was in the same predicament as him.
Mind you, I'm not doubting anyone's ability to come to that conclusion themselves, make no mistake in that. But for those who aren't, well, the above is for you.
And finally, yes, the queen has shown herself and its not who everyone has been suspecting. Sorry, but I needed to put that to rest before I got your hopes up any higher. Misaki will show up in this story, don't worry about that, as I do plan to lampshade on her and Touma's history. So everyone asking about it can rest easy knowing that it will happen.
As usual, if there are any inquiries, thoughts, or concerns that arise in your mind, feel free to address them to me and I'll do what I can to answer them. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed my little piece of work and have a good Christmas this year.
Goodbye for now.