I do not own nor claim ownership of To Aru Majutsu no Index.

#

Touma's right arm felt uncomfortable. A gentle numbness seemed to have settled on it, yet his sense of touch remained unhindered. He felt as if his arm was recently doused in cold water, yet no chill was detectable. It felt feeble, powerless, but he could still move and use it without error. There was still something that felt wrong about the arm, however, and Touma lifted it close to his eyes and examined it. But whatever the problem was, it remained elusive, inexpressible. He could not articulate why he even felt he had a problem.

Granted, not everyone had their arms severed and reattached within the course of a few hours like Touma did. He decided he would never revisit Misawa Cram School again, regardless if an insane alchemist resided there or not. Simply seeing Stiyl's organs splattered across the ceiling like some madman's planetarium was rather persuasive.

The door to Touma's room creaked open, and he could see his Doctor enter the room in the early-morning light that passed through the hospital windows. He had a frown on his face and clipboard in his hand that he checked repeatedly as he walked towards the side of Touma's bed. With a click of his tongue, he lifted his head and looked at Touma, his face adopting a more neutral expression.

"Good morning, young man. How is your arm and shoulder feeling today?" The Doctor gave a small smile as he said this, though that quickly receded.

Touma ignored the disconcerting feeling he had in his arm and answered, "It feels fine, it works just as well as it used to, actually."

The Doctor chuckled and said, "Good. I'm not a thaumaturgist, but my work on you was rather miraculous. You're a very lucky young man."

"If I was very lucky, I wouldn't have had my arm cut off in the first place. This Kamijou is never that fortunate," Touma said, sighing.

The Doctor gave another small smile. "Well, your plaster is off, so I daresay you're fit to leave my care today." His then averted his gaze and shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. "Though I do feel obliged to tell you something more. It's rather sensitive, so you'll have my full confidentiality." He then muttered, so quietly that Touma strained to hear him, "Though that won't stop some people."

"Sensitive? What are you talking about."

The Doctor leveled a careful gaze on Touma. "Let me be blunt with you: Your body is currently producing AIM." A simple statement, and while Touma's previous memories were irrevocably altered, he still possessed his semantic memory and had been in the Power Curriculum Program long enough to understand the implications of what the Doctor was saying.

"Doctor, that's impossible, that can't happen…" He compulsively looked at his right arm again. "With my condition, you know that's impossible. Esper powers and all the rest of that stuff don't work well with me. You should know this, you've treated me before." A stutter entered his speech, and his eyes roamed the room.

A pitying look settled upon the Doctor's face, and he said: "Knowing your previous condition, as you call it, I would have been inclined to agree with you. Having run the tests numerous times, however, has given me sufficient reason to believe that you are now an esper, both legally and technically."

"But that can't happen, my ability would stop any AIM produced in my body. That's what it did before, wasn't it?"

"Before, yes, you are correct. But perhaps this 'ability' of yours doesn't function the way it used to, or it's broken. I can't tell; it's beyond the scope of my expertise. Regardless of your previous state, you still went through the Power Curriculum Program. You went through the chemical therapy, metacognitive training and other measures, so without the suppression of your esper training you can produce the AIM you were conditioned for."

Touma turned his gaze to his arm once again, studying it. 'Imagine Breaker, gone?', he thought, flexing his hand. He did not know its significance, its history, or its purpose but it had already saved his life numerous times. Without that protection, that counter to espers and mages, what did he have? He was only an ordinary, powerless high school student now. Well, maybe not completely powerless.

He snapped his head up, the Doctor flinching slightly at the motion. Touma said: "You said I'm an esper now, right? Do you know my ability? What it does, its weaknesses, whatever, just tell me!"

The Doctor frowned slightly at the note of desperation in his patient's voice. "I have no idea; you've never demonstrated your ability before me. It's influenced by your personal reality, but that doesn't help you right now." The Doctor looked down at his clipboard and scribbled a few lines with a connected pen. "I'd suggest going through standard training procedures and test what your ability is at your school while under supervision. It's a required policy in esper development."

Touma looked down for a second, his face rapidly transitioning between numerous emotions before settling on resignation. "Alright, I'll inform my homeroom teacher when I can." He then grimaced. "Hopefully, it'll work out properly. Knowing my rotten luck, probably not." He shook his head and looked at the Doctor. "Anything else you need to tell me?"

"No, that should do it. You'll be released later today." The doctor turned and walked out of the room, nearly tripping as he passed the doorway.

"Are you alright, Doctor," Touma said, confusion etched on his face. What was that about?

The Doctor stood still for a second, carefully examining the floor. He then let out out an embarrassed chuckle. "Yes, I'm fine. I must be rather clumsy today." He gave Touma a mock-glare. "I hope for both of our sakes that your purported bad luck isn't contagious."

Touma scowled at him. "I may be misfortunate, Doctor, but don't blame me for your clumsiness. I'm not contagious." Even as he said that, he thought he could hear Pierce in his head chanting that such a phenomenon would only be the second, and ultimately less dangerous, iteration Kami-yan disease.

He had to stifle a sigh. The memory loss was already suspicious enough, and he didn't need to add a potential mental disorder to the list of reasons to never trust poor Kamijou again. So Touma dutifully ignored the voice; it was likely the result of stress from his confrontation with Aureolus Izzard.

The Doctor merely grinned at Touma's retort and left, closing the door behind him. Touma kept his gaze upon the door for a moment, and returned to his attention to his right hand. The disconcerting feeling within it had intensified and became something close to pain, and he glowered at it in the early morning silence.

#

The plan had gone awry.

Aleister Crowley prided himself on always presenting a calm, collected facade to the, admittedly limited, number of people he interacted, cultivating a mask able to deceive others even in moments of emotional turbulence. It was an invaluable skill, one he sometimes considered even more important than his once renowned magical prowess.

The information he gathered from UNDER_LINE was severely testing that treasured ability of his. It was all he could do to stop himself from outright panicking and overreacting, though if he were to be honest with himself he would know there was no appropriate reaction either.

How was his plan supposed to work when one of the most valuable pieces on the board abruptly decided to leave? It had stayed within his city comfortably up to this point, content with the schemes and tribulations its wielder suffered. He had counted on that consistency, believing it to be one of the more immutable elements in the game he was playing. He thought he understood it enough to guarantee its complacency within his mind.

So why did it leave?

Aleister reviewed the information in his pod, minding freely melding with machine, parallel processing multiple feeds of information within the digital extension of his consciousness the windowless building provided within its impenetrable, labyrinthine corridors.

Sifting through UNDER_LINE and more mundane surveillance methods, Aleister replayed the night of Izzard's defeat in the Misawa Cram School and focused on the moment blood arched in the air and an arm impacted the floor. He all too easily picked up the noises that signified the tearing of flesh. He didn't care about that. He cared about the more metaphysical aspects of the scene.

Ignoring the magician and wielder's defeat of the alchemist who claimed omnipotence, Alesiter examined the now ignored arm bleeding on the other end of the room. He examined an image recreated from recorded infrared light, visual light, audio and vibratory stimuli, and conjecture to paint a picture of departure. If Imagine Breaker decided to leave its wielder, that would have been the ideal time. The question was why.

Aleister knew that the "ability" (for lack of a better word) had some traces of sentience, if not a will and sapience. It had its preferences in determining its wielder, its own preconceptions of an ideal vessel. Whatever those were, it evidently found a candidate amongst the Earth's population more deserving of its power.

The question was who, really. And how to obtain him or her. Aleister would not let the Protestants, Catholics, and Anglicans, the Druze, the Gnostics, or any other religious and/or magical institution that was interested in a power to negate the miracles of any deity; to rejects the spiritual aspect of creation.

And so, Aleister knew he had to hunt and persuade. And if the wielder, assuming Aleister ever found it, proved unwilling to cooperate, destroy and contain.

Aleister decided to contact an old associate of his. She was normally partial to tools that benefitted her organization, but if Aleister planted certain ideas into her head of the danger the subject posed, maybe she would just wash her hands of the matter and leave it to him.

After all, Imagine Breaker had already defied two of her most powerful agents. It was clearly a danger.

Aleister decided to keep an eye on the previous wielder, despite his failure. One still felt wary of a swordsman, even if disarmed.