Friday, 31 January 2014

[FF- To Aru] Traces of Your Tears [Chapter 7]


~By Shadrala~
This is an Alternate Universe To Aru Majutsu no Index/ To Aru Kagaku no Railgun fan-fiction.
Read and Review please! Constructive feedback most welcome.
Disclaimer: The canon characters, canon plots/ ideas, anything canon- do not belong to me, but the creators of the original To Aru universe.

Warning: Fanfic Rated M


CHAPTER 7:


Rays of early afternoon sunlight scattered over the shiny pavement like sparkling diamonds, revealing not a single fleck of loose dust in sight. The neatly rowed streets were deserted apart from the small trees bordering them, the silently rustling leaves upon their branches stretching elegantly across the sky.

A shadow of a girl lingered watchfully just around an alleyway that was formed by two medium-sized structures. Brown eyes peeked out cautiously from behind a brick wall, carefully shifting this way and that. After a long minute, a light sigh that was almost inaudible escaped from between her shadowed lips and the figure finally stepped out fully into the light.

Mikoto began to walk along the street at a leisurely pace, trying to loosen up her tense shoulders. It was difficult to relax. She wasn’t sure what she was more edgy about—the possibility of seeing Accelerator again or the fact that she hadn’t seen another single soul since her last encounter with him. And she was still without her abilities—a hard truth that only made everything seem a thousand times worse.

Three relatively uneventful nights had passed since that time she had almost strangled the albino with her bare fingers. She had slept in secluded corners of buildings she had explored, paranoia that he would come back for retribution keeping her wide awake for long intervals. Sometimes, she had a weird feeling a strange presence was silently watching her from just an arm’s reach away, tucked unseen within the deep darkness. In the fitful periods of sleep she managed to have, nightmares haunted her relentlessly.

During daytime, Mikoto explored as much as she could, partly out of curiosity and partly out of the need to keep the nightmares from her mind. Despite being largely disorientated without the usual electromagnetic fields to guide her, she had managed to deduce some basic information about this place they were in, although many things still remained a complete mystery.

The location she was wandering around in was no doubt Academy City. In fact, this was exactly where Accelerator and Mikoto had last faced each other before the strange storm of light—District 17. Even now, a sign hooked up against a tall fence stated as such, and Mikoto trailed her eyes along the letters and numbers as she slowly passed it by.

When the girl had first realised this fact, she had immediately raced to the edge of the district. The map of Academy City clearly visualised in her mind, Mikoto envisioned herself crossing to District 9 and then District 7, where the place she called home—The Tokiwadai School Dormitories—was located. She wondered if this strange occurrence was happening throughout the City, and hoped that was not the case. Feeling energised at the prospect of seeing friendly faces again and finding out what was going on, her drumming heart had almost leaped to her mouth in shock at what she saw.

Beyond the boundary of the district was a void.

Just nothing, an empty blackness leading to nowhere.

Mikoto had skidded to a stop, raw fear coursing through her system. She stared at the black void with wide eyes, unable to believe what she was seeing, yet knowing perfectly well that this was the terrifying truth. She stood shivering for a long, frozen moment. Then a sudden boldness mixed with frustration swept through her, and before she could even think about what she was doing, Mikoto was running straight towards the void with gritted teeth.

She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but she hadn’t been prepared for the collision with an invisible barrier. A wave of shocking pain jarred her senses and when she next opened her eyes she was looking up at the grey sky, a few metres away from the edge of District 17 that was marked by an ominous wall of black.

Mikoto had despaired then, knowing that her hopes of escaping the district was crushed by something she couldn’t even begin to understand. She followed the boundary but quickly realised that any hopes of escape by this method would be futile. It was also stupid to keep trying to cross, for she had no desire to taste the attacks that the barrier let loose again. Her body was already bruised and tired from the weeks of fighting for her Sisters, and she knew she had to conserve her strength for when she really needed it. The empty void appeared to surround the entire district, a giant black wall of nothingness. Even if she did cross, her rational mind was terrified of being lost within the impenetrable darkness, unable to return, even to this strange world.

‘Is somebody playing around with us?’

The sudden thought had floated into her mind many times since that incident, but she had quickly dismissed it every time. It was stupid. What kind of science could make everybody disappear within a district, neutralise all Esper abilities and create a huge barrier of nothingness around it? Academy City made many things possible through technology, but this was just beyond ridiculous.

But then… What was this?

‘Why Accelerator and me?’

They had seen each other. And yet, for the past three days, Mikoto had not met another soul. Despite all the strangeness, this was unarguably District 17- a place where many of the factories and buildings were self-automated and thus harboured only a small population. Even so, it was only logical that under the normal circumstances she would have run into somebody during the time she had been stuck there. Why was it just the two of them? The only similarities between them that Mikoto could see were that they were both Level 5s and had both been involved in the Sisters Project. The brown-haired girl's forehead crinkled with disgust at that thought. She hated the mere fact that she could be grouped with somebody like him.

Perhaps “God” was punishing them both for the unnatural creation and massacre of the Sisters. 
Perhaps they had both died already and this was some personalised version of “Hell” for both of them.

Unable to help herself, Mikoto sniggered softly at the wild and random ideas.

She hardly even believed in the existence of a God.

It was amazing what kind of illogical conclusions you could draw in the face of desperate situations.

‘Although… This ‘desperate’ situation is illogical in itself…’

Mikoto immediately sobered up at the thought, the silent breeze that brushed against her arm leaving uncomfortable goose bumps along its trail. She continued to follow down the perfectly aligned street, her eyes still roaming around nervously for any signs of movement even as her mind wandered—a multitasking habit she had perfected over the past three days.

It was no use speculating on something that hardly left any answers. Instead, she had to focus on her present survival and gather what clues she could find. Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult to find the necessities even in this supposedly empty place. District 17 was a highly organised industrial section, full of self-automated agricultural buildings and factories that produced various goods for Academy City. Strangely enough, these specialised machines appeared to be fully functioning, even though nobody was apparently around to look after them. The small retail shops scattered around the district that Mikoto had peered into had always been stocked full of goods so far, but not a single shopkeeper had been in sight.

Mikoto’s head turned to her left and her eyes fell upon a sign in the distance, its white lettering standing out starkly against the black background.

“Quick Stop Clothing Retail”

She stopped, glancing down at her tattered uniform. She noticed how terribly worn her school skirt, blouse and jumper were, pieces of thread hanging off where they were frayed and torn from the rough treatment she had received from Accelerator. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to obtain something new for her to wear.

Besides, a change of clothing could act as a semi-disguise and might even give her some degree of advantage if she were to face Accelerator again.

It was good to be prepared for anything, especially with all the uncertain factors involved.

Her feet moved with renewed strength, determined eyes set on the shop ahead.


**********


'Perfect! I’ll take this one.’

Mikoto held up a shirt, a genuine, bright grin pulling up her rosy cheeks for the first time in weeks. The navy blue clothing had a large picture of a pale purple bunny on the front, one of its blue eyes squeezed into a cute wink. It held out one of its paws in a victory sign, and Mikoto thought its smiling face couldn’t be any more adorable.

‘Waaahhh~ It’s so cute!’

The shop surprisingly had a lot of goods, considering it was only supposed to be a small retailer for the tiny minority of the city’s population who lived in District 17. For the past hour, Mikoto had found herself completely immersed in trying out various clothing. It was difficult not to enjoy yourself when there was nobody to judge you of your tastes. It was a rare chance. She could try on anything she wanted, without having to worry about what other people would think. Nobody was around to see her rejoicing over the cute animal characters she so loved, and she took this opportunity to fully enjoy every moment of it.

An eyebrow twitched when the familiar, exasperated voice of her junior rang in her mind.

‘Onee-sama! You really need to abandon your childish tastes! It’s a disgrace to your title as the Ace of Tokiwadai..!’

Mikoto sighed, her grin fading as her shoulders drooped. A sudden pang of isolation pierced through her chest. Despite the peace from her junior's usual scoldings, she realised how much she really missed Kuroko. And her other friends.

‘I wonder what they are doing now… Do they even know I’m missing…? Or are they all in the same situation as I am?’

She took the pair of black denim shorts, the white singlet top and the pair of comfortable running shoes she had chosen earlier, and stepped into the changing rooms. Although nobody was about, Mikoto didn’t want to take any chances getting changed out in the open. Especially not when she knew Accelerator could be roaming about nearby.

Standing in front of a tall mirror, Mikoto checked out her new outfit with a satisfied nod. She eyed the blue and purple bruises lining her neck with distaste, and hoped that Accelerator was dealing with the same kind of pain. With a grimace, the girl neatly folded and piled up her battered Tokiwadai uniform together, hesitating when she came to the skirt. A hand fished out some metal coins from the skirt’s side pocket, and held them out in front of her, staring with contemplative eyes.

Only three coins.

She had purposefully understocked that day, believing she would not need them during her final showdown with Accelerator. Now she almost wished she had brought more, even though they were of no use without her powers.
The metallic coins clanged together harmoniously as she dumped them quickly into her shorts pocket. Although she couldn’t use them anymore, just having them there made her feel better.

Mikoto bundled up her old Tokiwadai clothes and school shoes, hiding them in the corner of the shop behind some empty cardboard boxes. She did not want to leave an obvious trail of her presence behind. It was a precautionary act, just in case.

‘Gekota!’

The girl’s eyes grew as wide as saucers when they caught sight of a dark blue cap upon a mannequin in the corner. Upon its front surface was the face of a smiling green frog—Mikoto’s favourite mascot of all time.
Without a second thought, she lunged for it, her eyes sparkling like stars with joy. Grabbing a black hair elastic from the nearby displays, Mikoto quickly swept her hair into a high ponytail and fixed the cap on her head.

The girl glanced into the mirror again, grinning to herself with hands on hips.

Now, she was more than satisfied.

And definitely ready for investigation round two.

Mikoto suddenly spun around on her heel, her mind shooting to high alert. Narrowed eyes scanned the streets through the glass window as she ducked into a defensive crouch. Something had moved on the edge of the mirror she had been looking into, reflecting the outside through the transparent glass wall. She stood frozen as the seconds ticked by, eyes quickly darting to the sides in the absolute silence. The streets were completely empty, just as she had left it when she had entered the shop.

Cold sweat dripped down her back.

What was it?

Mikoto relaxed, lengthening her spine to stand tall. She shook her head.

Maybe she was just being paranoid again. It was probably only her imagination overworking.

Whatever it was, she couldn’t let it get to her.

‘It might be Accelerator trying to put me on edge,’ she considered carefully. Her trembling hands clenched tightly into fists by her sides. The girl wasn’t sure what she would do if she saw him again. The boundary between her anger and fears was too fragile, and the balance of her morality swung like a crazy pendulum. Ever since she had let him go, the ultimate question full of doubts and semi-regrets had been throbbing in her head restlessly—was it justice to kill him after all?

Squaring up her shoulders, the Tokiwadai girl pushed the question away to the back of her mind as she had done about a thousand times already.

In the end, she had nothing to be afraid of. While they were stuck in the same confounding situation of lacking Esper abilities, Accelerator had proven himself weaker than her during their last encounter. Perhaps his reliance on his powers had been greater, a backfire of being the stronger Level 5.

A confident grin filled with her usual pride slipped back in place.

The only thing Mikoto had to do was take advantage of that and tackle each situation as it arrived. After all, she wasn’t called the Ace of Tokiwadai because of her abilities alone.

‘Okay, time to find more clues!’

Re-strengthening her resolve, she stepped out of the shop with steely eyes.


**********


A stray strand of wind whipped by, and the pale silhouette flinched visibly. He was shadowing his eyes with his hands, jaws clenched against the needles of sunray piercing his vulnerable skin. A large, casual backpack was slung over his shoulder, bulging with the valuables he had obtained while rummaging around the district for the past three days. Their combined weight burdened his muscles, but he forced himself to bear it. They would surely come in handy later.

Right now though, he could only rely on his senses.

Accelerator stood on top of the tall building, looking out over the area with an expression that was a puzzle of pain, delight and serious contemplation. He had spent the entire morning climbing up the flights of stairs leading to the attic, wanting to gain a wider view of District 17. It had been a torturous task for the skinny boy, and he had cursed himself many times along the way.

But now, his patience had proved to be worth it.

He was overlooking approximately half of the district, its maze of streets stretched out before him like a solution to a puzzle. His predictions had been correct. This strange place definitely had the full layout of Academy City. To his left, he could see District 20, its characteristic sports fields allowing him to confirm its territory even from such a huge distance. Although a taller building blocked his right side, Accelerator knew that direction would eventually lead to District 21. Straight ahead, District 9 stretched out before him. His grey eyes scanned onwards further, zoning on what he was really interested in.

District 7.

Right at the centre of it was a gleaming white beacon, reflecting the sun’s rays and shining like a pearl in the distance.

He felt the invisible presence lingering behind him again, but he ignored it, knowing by experience that it was pointless to turn around.

It was the only way to keep his sanity intact.

Accelerator smirked against the beating sunlight, his stormy orbs squinting between his long, pale fingers.

He had everything ready.

He just had one more thing to collect before setting out towards his goal.


**********


The late afternoon sunlight artfully sprayed strands of reddish light on the white asphalt, drawing copper-hued lines upon it. Mikoto stood among them, her shadow darkening the red glow as her skin became tinted by stripes of dark orange. On either side of her were rows of windowless buildings—self-automated factories and industrial workshops that she had spent the last two hours exploring without finding anything particularly useful. Her attention was now held elsewhere. Looking up at the painted words on a wall ahead with a frown, her stomach growled as she read:

“Fresh Burgers- Open 24 Hours!”

She suddenly realised how absolutely starving she was. She wasn’t sure when she last had a proper meal. With her anxious mind constantly worrying about the horrific experiments since she had discovered their occurrence, Mikoto had often forgotten to eat for days. When she did remember, she could only manage a few nibbles, her churning stomach unable to handle anything more. This was also true of the past three days she had been stuck in District 17; Mikoto had snacked upon a few muesli bars she had looted from a convenience store. Other than that, she had been too busy exploring and seeking an escape to even consider eating properly.

Now though, it was a different story. There was no point in rushing on with the investigation. And she was certain that if the other shops had been fully stocked, this one would be packed with what it was advertising.

‘I seriously need to recharge my strength,’ Mikoto thought, eyes locked hungrily on the sign, ‘Nothing’s happened yet, but I don’t know when I’ll need it…’

A few minutes later found Mikoto peering through the glass door of the food shop. The lights were turned on brightly in a welcoming gesture, the small tables freshly clean and set for meals.

Pushing the door open, the girl stepped inside.

“Hello?” she called out, although she already knew there would be no answer.

On the far side of the shop was a counter. Beyond it was a rotating bar that presented an endless row of neatly wrapped burgers. Each had a small paper tag with a label attached to it, dictating what kind of burger it was. Mikoto glanced at each of the typed labels passing by with interest, marvelling at the wide variety offered. Academy City was indeed a place of experimentation, and this was true even with food.

‘Fried prawn and anchovy burger; Triple cheese garlic burger; Fruity mix burger; Prune & carrot mash beef burger; Tomato double ham burger…’

The list was really endless.

Mikoto leaned forward over the counter, wanting a closer look at the machinery that so diligently worked the rotating bar without any aide. The other half of the large spinning oval was covered by complex metal parts that prevented Mikoto from seeing the inner workings of the machine, but she could deduce from the network of metal pipes connected from above that the burgers were being constantly replaced by newly wrapped ones. Perhaps they were even releasing new varieties every so often.

Grinning, the girl leaned over the counter and grabbed a wrapped package without hesitation.

“Roasted Vege-Chicken burger” the label read. It sounded like it was one of the more “normal” varieties.

Uncaringly, Mikoto sat down at a nearby table, automatically crossing her legs in a manner fit for a Tokiwadai lady as she hastily unwrapped the food. Her stomach clenched at the mouth-watering aroma, at the sight of fresh vegetables and the large slice of roasted chicken elegantly pressed in between two bread-rolls.

She took a large bite in a hurry, sending her taste buds into bliss. The burger was perfectly made; it had just the right amount of mayo sauce, and the beautifully cooked meat was delicately balanced by the crunch of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and beetroot. Unable to hold back her hunger any longer, Mikoto continued to gulp everything down at top speed.

With only a few bites left, her eating speed began to slow. Her stomach felt satisfyingly full for the first time in a long while. Chewing thoughtfully, she glanced around, her scrutinising eyes sweeping over the spotless walls, furniture and floor for any further clues she might be able to gather.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

At least, not by the current standards of the situation.

Mikoto popped the final leftover piece of the burger in her mouth as she leaned back on the chair she was sitting on, shoulders drooping lazily. The smooth texture of the chicken along with the crunching of vegetables between her jaws soothed her in a weird way. She swallowed the last mouthful and stood up, taking the burger wrapping between her fingers. Even though there was nobody around, Mikoto didn’t want to make a mess. Apart from being the good citizen she believed she was, she again, didn’t want to leave an obvious trail around if it could be helped.

Just in case.

As she was about to toss the wrapping into the trash bin, small printed words on the corner of the thin paper caught her attention. Eyebrows knitting together into a small frown, Mikoto flattened the scrunched up wrapping between her hands, pupils trailing along the tiny letters.

“Produce of Academy City, Districts 4 & 17.

“Product Contents: 484-engineered yeast3B2, space carrots, genetically improved lettuce#3, genetically modified tomatoes#32…”

It was all nonsensical information really, of no consequence to her. The words soon began to ramble on about the top quality produce of Academy City, their tone noticeably becoming more patriotic. The girl’s eyes continued along their trail, forced to read to the end just because of the growing curiosity.

“…used cloned chickens, genetically perfected by top science and created to fulfil our customers’ high expectations...”

Mikoto’s eyes grew wide.

“We are artificial bodies with artificial hearts…”

“At the cost of 180,000 yen each…”

“We are nothing more than laboratory animals…”

“For experimentation…”

Mikoto clutched her forehead with a hand, jaws grinding together at the loud echoing voices. Why was she so shocked? They were cloning humans to be butchered. Why wouldn’t they be cloning animals for food?

A crimson fountain erupted as an arm was torn away…

…the opposite leg following suit, ripped away violently…

“Misaka was born for this purpose…”

Her pupils dilated, and her hands furiously began ripping the wrapping into shreds. She tore through the disgusting sentences describing the cloning process apart until they were little more than insignificant flecks of dust, and threw them angrily into the bin.

…the splintered end of a white femur…

…spurting the deep red liquid from its surrounding mess of mangled muscles…

“It’s like they were born just to be killed by me!”

The room was suddenly too small, the stale air stifling.

She had to get out.

…a terrible scream wrenched from the girl’s throat…

…she gurgled, widened brown eyes staring…

“They are just a bunch of dolls for me to break, you have a problem with that?”

Mikoto ran in a daze, hardly realising her feet had taken her outside. It was still too claustrophobic, her deflated lungs refusing to take in any air. The terrible churning of her stomach made her hunch over, and she swayed sideways dangerously, collapsing against a metal fence with a thud.

…tossed away like a ragged doll…

“…created to fulfil our customer’s high expectations...”

The world was spinning. She slid down, falling onto her knees as she desperately hugged herself. A sickening sensation rose up to her throat and she felt as if she was choking.

…the weirdly-angled neck…

“…created to fulfil our customer’s high expectations...”

Cringing forward, her fingernails clawed at the concrete ground. A couple broke with a snap, leaving thin trails of crimson liquid, but she never even noticed this pain. The unmistakable feeling of overwhelming anger and desperation bubbled, threatening to explode out of her.

…a pool of dark red spread rapidly…

“…created to fulfil—“

Mikoto threw up suddenly, expelling out everything she had just consumed. She retched again and again until she could expel no more, although her sick stomach continued to twist madly as if throwing a tantrum. Long after the vomiting stopped, she remained in that position—her weak legs folded beneath her body, the Gekota cap upon her drooped head darkening her pained expression, and her tightly-clenched, bruised fists grinding against the rough concrete surface. A thin sheet of sweat covered her like second skin, making the panting girl shiver with each small breeze that coldly brushed past.

She felt completely exhausted.

And yet, the rage was still there, crackling recklessly within her and begging to be let loose. This place was a curse. No, the entire Academy City was a curse. The place she had called home with pride, and had protected with all her might for years... Had only betrayed her in return.

She slowly stood up, her fingers curling around the thin cylindrical bars of the fence into a death grip. She felt the need to destroy something, to wreck and hurt those who had taken advantage of her weaknesses and had stripped her of her innocence. She could destroy the entire city in her rage, and nothing and nobody would be able to stop her. This city was a living nightmare for everyone whom it could exploit.

''I'll burn it to the ground! Turn everything into ashes! Destroy it all!'

But the electricity never came forth.

Mikoto shuddered and shook against the imploding anger that raged to be released through her powers. Her heavy head ached horribly and she felt as if her burning brain was going to blow up. Every nerve in her body was screaming for release, every cell bloated with excess energy that had nowhere to escape. The steel bars in her fists began to bend from the sheer force she was punishing them with, but the girl hardly noticed.

‘Why? Why? Why?! Why?!! Why?!!!’

The word replayed over and over without any answers, growing desperate with each second ticking by.

“Hello? Are you okay?”

A hand lightly brushed against Mikoto’s shoulder. The girl immediately jerked around, an angry growl pulling her lips apart to reveal tightly gritted teeth. A hand found the front of their clothing, and she roughly grabbed the fabric and pinned them against the fence. The person let out a pained yelp, but Mikoto did not care. Her anguished eyes rounded on the being that had dared to come close to her. Her vision was blurry and she couldn’t see clearly. But it didn’t matter.

She had found the one responsible at last.

The one responsible for all of these nightmares.

The prey in her iron grip struggled.

“Please let me go! Please let me go! I swear I didn’t mean to startle you! Please!”

The panicky, high-pitched voice threw Mikoto off her progressive trail of rage, confusing her. The uncontrollable demonic fire that had been rapidly spreading within her abruptly died out, and she hesitated. The pair of brown eyes blinked slowly, and the foggy blurriness gradually cleared from her vision.

The figure before her swam into view properly, and it took Misaka Mikoto a few seconds to fully register what she was really seeing.

Pinned between the fence and her fierce grasp was a girl, staring back at her with terrified golden eyes.



Sunday, 29 September 2013

[FF- To Aru] Traces of Your Tears [Chapter 6]

~By Shadrala~
This is an Alternate Universe To Aru Majutsu no Index/ To Aru Kagaku no Railgun fan-fiction.
Read and Review please! Constructive feedback most welcome.
Disclaimer: The canon characters, canon plots/ ideas, anything canon- do not belong to me, but the creators of the original To Aru universe.
Special THANK YOU to Cundou, who has provided me with inspiration and motivation to continue this story! Cun was also the beta reader for this chapter. She's an amazing writer, and has composed some awesome Railgun fanfics, that are MUST-READ for any To Aru fans! Her stories can be found via the following links:
Please check them out!
Warning: Fanfic Rated M


CHAPTER 6:

‘I was nearly killed...! I almost got killed..!"

Panicked words were echoing frantically in his mind as adrenaline pumped his skinny legs forward. He had no idea where he was going, but that hardly mattered. His trembling grey orbs roamed wildly, unable to focus on anything within the bewildering maze of grey walls that surrounded him. 

The only thing he knew, was that he had to get away.

Away from that monster who had tried to kill him.

A discarded glass bottle that had been sitting so innocently in the middle of the alleyway caught his shoe, and Accelerator was sent tumbling forward. His thin figure skidded across the hard concrete, an eruption of pain sending bright stars cart-wheeling across his vision. The overwhelming sensation was bewildering and hateful. The swell of anger fuelled him as the albino quickly righted himself on his tired legs and pushed onwards.

He had no idea how long he had been running for. Seconds and minutes and hours melded together, forming a senseless tunnel of existence. As he continued to flee, the albino gradually became aware of how exhausted he really was. With every movement, his fatigued muscles screamed in protest. Each fibre strained and struggled to contract and stretch, contorting painfully in submission to his agonised will. They burned in warning, but he continued to push on heedlessly, his laboured breathing harsh against his own ears. Every gulp of air he took seared his lungs without mercy. His heart thumped in an erratic rhythm, its loud pounding jolting his very bones.

He wanted to get away from this horrible pain—pain that he had never experienced before.

And so, he continued to flee.

The dark shadows that had long been looming suddenly vanished as the maze abruptly opened out before him. The stale smell of congested air that had persisted abruptly turned fresh in his nostrils. Harsh sunlight invaded his pupils, forcing his grey irises to constrict. His arms immediately lifted to shield his eyes from the rays, but it was already too late and he was momentarily blinded by the searing whiteness. Strange, new sensations bombarded his perceptions, enhanced further by his lack of sight.

He could feel the sun’s rays tearing through his skin, each thread of light piercing through his pores like acute needles. The blood flowing beneath his skin reached the boiling point. It bubbled in frenzy and threatened to explode out of their veins, each cell a charged-up atomic bomb. He thought he could feel his white skin slowly turning red from this torture, suffering from the scorching heat inside and out. He was trapped within his own body—an inescapable cage that was uncomfortably hot and stifling.

The feeling of sunlight dancing on the skin.

It was a sensation that other people experienced every day.

But it made Accelerator feel as if he was being burned alive.

Confusion slowed his mind as he clawed at his skin in a vain attempt to stop the all-consuming fire. Why was his vector-reflect shield not working? He had always had it on around himself by default for as long as he could remember. The shield had always managed to divert away these hateful rays of sunlight without fail.

Why was it not there? Why was it not working?

There was no time to figure it out though, he was burning and he had to do something quickly.

Or else, he was going to die.

Focusing past the mess of bewilderment, Accelerator quickly reapplied the calculations necessary for the reflect shield.

No matter how many times he tried, it simply did not work. The needles continued to stab into him ruthlessly, his pores spitting fire.

Panic struck hard, gripping him in its pitiless clutches. Still unable to see properly, he helplessly stumbled around in the daze of sunlight, having lost all sense of direction. He tripped over his own foot in his disorientation and cried out as he sprawled hard onto his side. Through the haze of agony, Accelerator began to crawl, trying to gain his bearings by feeling the rough concrete ground with his hands and knees.

Twisted shapes slowly began to form around him and he blinked furiously. He could discern that the world was darker to his left. Feeling a rush of victory, the skinny albino hurriedly lunged towards that darkness, wanting to get away from the overwhelming sensations that the sun alone had elicited in him.

The coolness of the air relieved the burning pain somewhat as he re-entered the maze of shadows. He could still feel the echoes of that boiling torture, but most of the burning sensations had died away into a dull throb. The skinny figure huddled into himself against a wall, eyes slitted open as he waited for his vision to return. His laboured breathing slowed in sync with the drumming of his heart. His entire body trembled with fatigue as his strength drained out of him. It was an exhaustion Accelerator had never experienced before; the only thing that was keeping him upright was the concrete block he was leaning on.

‘Dammit… Just what the fuck’s going on…?

The albino took a deep breath, closing his grey eyes as he let his body sink into the concrete wall heavily. He realised he had made a fatal error already in this crazy situation—he had allowed himself to succumb to panic.

That had just been pure stupidity on his part.

What he needed to do now was to think clearly, to think back and work out logically what had happened.

‘That’s right… My powers… They’re…’

He peeked his eyes open, glaring down at his pale hands.

The light and the swirling wind…

When Accelerator next became conscious, he had found himself lying sprawled across the ground in a dark alleyway. The disorder in his mind and the accompanying pain had driven him to his feet immediately. He had barely moved his sore head to look around when he realised that something was very wrong.

His vector shield, the automatic redirection field he always had around him for protection, was gone and no amount of calculation could bring it back.

The albino had tried everything.

He had tried to crush the walls, he had tried to accelerate a rock’s momentum, he had used his arms, his hands, his legs, his feet…

If he wanted, he could bring down a thick stone wall into a crumbling heap within a matter of seconds. If he so desired, he could turn a pebble into a rocketing projectile that could fly to Saturn with a simple touch. If he wished, he could tear apart a person into shreds with his bare hands... He could manipulate anything with a vector, which meant he could change the physical world around him however he wanted…

Invincible.

But now?

Nothing.

Nothing at all.

A fist slammed onto a wall angrily. It lacked force, a painful reminder of his weakened state. The disgusting pain made Accelerator reel away, and he curled into himself further, the bruised appendage carefully cradled in the other.

His powers were completely gone.

He was Accelerator. The feared Number 1 of Academy City, the most powerful being in the universe. The one who was supposed to become Level 6.

The one destined to be a God.

And now?

He couldn’t even fucking do anything without curling up like some pathetic worm.

Anger swelled deep inside once more, growing steadily like the rising magma of an active volcano. The rush of hatred and fury made his head feel light and he gritted his teeth against the dizziness.

Pathetic.

Even sunlight had freaking scared the shit out of him.

He was pathetic.

His powers had always been there, to do as he pleased. They had always obeyed his every thought, his every command, his very will of existence. He was the power, and the power was him.

Without that power, he was nothing.

He was just a dead corpse without a purpose.

His jaws tightened as a certain face swam into his head. The face he had seen 10,032 times, twisted in agony until their very last breaths. In his mind’s eye, it transformed into a contorted expression of terrifying rage… A monstrous hatred deeply embedded in those narrowed brown eyes glaring so murderously at him…

Railgun.

He tensed impulsively at the mere thought of the name, his body shuddering against a sudden chill that had crept upon him.

Taking a deep breath to keep his emotions tightly under control, Accelerator closed his eyes again as he let his head loll to the side and rest against the wall. Looking back on the moment the girl had tried to kill him with a clearer head, the albino realised something important. Much to his annoyance, his memory was rather foggy, most likely the result of his panicked reaction to the unexpected turn of events at the time. However, he was pretty certain of one thing—that the Railgun herself had not used her powers either.

Accelerator pondered this over with a slight frown. This probably meant that the monster couldn’t use her abilities either, and was in the same predicament as he was.

Unless…

She had just wanted to kill him with her bare hands.

The latter thought somehow amused him and a slight smirk pushed his lips upwards. The smirk immediately faded however and was replaced by a frown when he remembered how close she had actually come to killing him that time.

Nobody… Nobody had ever come that close.

‘Tch… That little chit…’

She had almost murdered him and he had been completely powerless to stop her. Never ever had he felt so helpless as he had then. It was little wonder he had panicked, although that was still an unforgivable slip-up on his part. Never again would he allow himself to succumb to such a stupid weakness, no matter what the situation was.

‘She fucking touched me…’

He paused in his thoughts, his eyelids parting open to reveal gleaming grey eyes glaring into the dark shadows.

He remembered how the Railgun had released her deathly hold on his throat just as he was about to fade. And then, she had let him go.

Why? Why had she not killed him? She had been so, so close. She had been in a privileged position nobody else had ever been in before. What made her pull away from him when she had been the one with absolute control?

It just didn’t make sense to Accelerator.

It was obvious enough the girl was completely enraged at him for being the centre of the experiments. She had even been crazy enough to challenge him to a fight multiple of times just to defend those dolls. So then… What had shattered her resolve in the last second? There had been nothing stopping her, nothing preventing the monster from squeezing with her claws until every drop of life was sucked dry from her worst enemy.

He had seen the pure hatred blazing in her eyes.

It was a simple fact that the Railgun absolutely loathed him.

And yet…

She had just watched as he had run away.

It made Accelerator feel even more pathetic now, realising that the Railgun may have had actually allowed him to escape. Perhaps she had been simply mocking him. Playing around with him, to show that she had absolute control. Was she having a good laugh at him now, by herself? Was she plotting more ways to torture him now that she found herself to be in the advantage?

Accelerator’s teeth grinded together with a crunch.

“That bitch! I’ll fucking rip her apart when I get my powers back…!”

Energised by fury, he slowly stood himself up, leaning against the wall for support. His legs felt steadier, although his stinging calf muscles screamed in protest against his movements. Ignoring their complaints completely, Accelerator stood tall and looked around.

For the first time since becoming conscious, he took a good look around at his surroundings. He refused to go out into the sunlight, but glanced out between the walls, out into the streets ahead. A metal fence ran along a concrete footpath, and a small white building stood beyond. Trees and street lamps were lined up neatly in two perfect, straight rows.

Accelerator narrowed his eyes.

Nobody was in sight.

‘Misawa Cram School…’ He read from a sign pointing further east. His forehead creased into a small frown of recognition. ‘That means we must still be in Academy City…’ He glanced up at the blue sky above, ‘But it’s day time…’

Something didn’t seem right.

Although he still wasn’t sure what that light and tornado had been about, he knew something strange had occurred. Of course, there was still the possibility that the Railgun had planned all of this, but the sheer confusion that had been present in her eyes when he had confronted her earlier had been too real for it to be an act.

Without his powers, the albino knew he was vulnerable. He really didn’t fancy facing the Railgun again for a while in his current condition. But he needed to know where he was and what had really happened. Staying around in one spot wasn’t going to help solve anything.

Using the wall as a support, he slowly began to move, taking one step after the other. He did not dare go back out into the sunlight but headed back in the direction he had come from. He was disgusted at how weak he felt and at the slow pace he was making, but he knew it couldn’t be helped.

‘I need clues… I need to work out what’s happened, where I am, and a way to get my powers back.’

Something suddenly moved in the corner of his vision and he froze instinctively. At first, he thought it might be Railgun, but something felt different. Although he had no powers, he sensed an eerie presence watching him, making every hair on his body stand on its end. With a low growl, Accelerator whipped his head around, trying to find the person. As soon as he turned however, the presence abruptly vanished, leaving only the uncomfortable feeling of uneasiness behind.

His grey orbs swivelled this way and that in the shadows, trying to discern any further signs of movement.

Everything was still and silent.

A bead of sweat ran down his brow and he wiped it off with the back of a hand.

“Tch… Now I’m fucking jumping at shadows.”

Scowling, Accelerator continued his slow progress, trying to shrug the incident off as nothing. The uncomfortable feeling continued to prickle his skin though, and he wondered if it had actually been more than just a figment of his imagination.

‘What the hell…’

Suspicions were consuming his mind, eating away at his subconscious. Every little sound bothered his ears, every shift of the wind brushing against his skin put his teeth on edge.

He could not trust anything. Everything about this place—the mysterious apparition, the Railgun’s motives—piqued his paranoia. His apprehensive eyes roamed over every nook and cranny as he walked, wanting to miss nothing. He was quite certain that the Railgun had also lost her Esper powers, but that did not necessarily equate to zero possibility of further attacks on her part.

She could be just around the corner, waiting to pounce on him again… And this time, maybe she would kill him for real…

The chit thought she was better than him now that both of their powers were gone. It was true, as the Third-rate had proven, that she was physically stronger than he was in this current state. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he would be a fool not to see that the Railgun was in a more advantageous situation than he was.

However…

‘It’s only temporary,’ Accelerator thought with gritted teeth, ‘Only temporary until I find out a way to restore my powers… Until then, I need something to protect myself with.’

Righting himself from a dangerously close half-stumble, the albino let out a huff of annoyance and continued on his way, entering deeper into the dark alleys.

‘I need something to gain the upper hand here. Something to show her that I won’t be messed with...’

His pale lips twisted into a condescending smirk at the dark thoughts occupying his mind.

‘I’ll soon put you back in your place, Railgun.’