Wednesday, 7 May 2014

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


~By Xasharla~
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.


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

~By Xasharla~
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.’

[FF- To Aru] Traces of Your Tears [Chapter 5]


~By Xasharla~
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 5:


“I’m sorry for making everyone worry.”

They were sitting together at their usual place- Joseph’s Coffee and Restaurant. Their favourite treats lay neatly arranged on a wooden table dressed by a delicate tablecloth, the beautiful desserts and drinks looking every bit inviting to the taste buds.

“It’s all on me,” Mikoto said brightly. She gestured towards the delectable contents on the table, urging her friends onwards. “Go for it!”

Nobody moved.

In the awkward silence, Mikoto’s carefree smile gradually dissolved into an expression of uncertainty to match the other faces worriedly peering at her.

“Misaka-san…” Saten Ruiko was the first to eventually speak up, “where were you last night?”

For the briefest moment, Mikoto’s face blanked. It was a change of masks so swift and smooth it was almost impossible to detect. In a flicker it was gone, replaced by a secretive smile of a dreamy and romantic teenaged girl.

“I wanted to see the stars,” she said simply.

The others stared, bafflement oozing out from their unrelenting gazes.

“Huh?”

“The stars?”

The brown-haired girl nodded, “Yeah, don’t you sometimes get sentimental like that?”

She had secretly hoped they would be satisfied with her answer, but had also realised at the same time that it wouldn’t be enough. Judging from the bewildered looks on her friends’ faces, the lack of an explanation really needed attending to. So she obliged, a hand cupping her chin as she leaned onto the table. The soft curving of her lips enhanced the dreamy look in her eyes as she gazed off into the distance wistfully, staring longingly at something none of her friends could see.

“Sitting on a swing in the park alone, humming a melancholy tune, wanting to just stare at the starry sky forever…” She whispered softly. Mikoto swept a swift glance around the group. “You know that kind of mood?”

Her heart sank when she was met with nothing but blank faces and shaking heads.

“Nope.”

“I don’t get it.

“R-really?” Mikoto breathed deeply through her nose, averting her eyes away. She wished that this subject matter could just be dropped.

“Well,” she shrugged lightly, “it doesn’t matter. I just felt like it.”

She could feel them exchanging silent but meaningful glances as she focused her vision on the view of the streets outside through the window. She knew they were confused and anxious, perhaps now maybe even judgemental. Although she had been lying regarding her activities of last night, she hadn’t been completely lying about her feelings. There had actually been times in the past when Mikoto had felt these sudden urges to go out alone and daydream the night away under the shimmering starlight. Now she recognised that she may have been completely alone in these feelings after all, that it was just a weird, personal fantasy that could not be shared, not with anyone.

Even this simple realisation caused a familiar ache in her chest that she had known for much of her life.

‘Why am I so weak…?’

“By the way,” Uiharu Kazari suddenly spoke up, “did you find out what that code you asked me about yesterday was for?”

Mikoto’s heart lurched and her mouth suddenly became dry. This was one question she had not been expecting. In fact, she had completely forgotten about it when she had played out this scenario in her head earlier. Now she wished she hadn’t involved Kazari, even though her help had been extremely invaluable.

It was too late for such regrets though. And she was having way too many of those lately.

“What code?” Saten Ruiko questioned Kazari directly. From the surprised looks on everyone’s faces, it was evident the flower wreathed girl hadn’t told anyone about Mikoto’s late night phone call.

“Well…”

“O-oh, that?!” Mikoto quickly interrupted, wanting to gain control of the situation. She didn’t want Kazari informing them of the code or alluding to any part of it. She felt guilty enough having gotten one friend involved. She didn’t want any of the others to know anything if she could help it.

“That was… Uh… That was…”

Her hands tightly gripped the cup of coffee on the table before her. She hardly noticed its scalding surface painfully burning into her reddening skin. She could feel everyone’s eyes fixed upon her, trying to decipher her every movement and expression. All of the muscles in her body felt tense and tight, and she stared into her gently steaming drink refusing to meet their eyes. She suddenly felt as if she was on trial, desperately seeking excuses, a way to redeem herself.

The girl wished she did not have to lie to her friends anymore, but knew she had no other choice. If she told them the truth, there was every possibility it could expose them to great danger.

‘No… I can’t let that happen… They might face the same… The same…’

A ripped-out leg on the ground, swimming in a pool of red…

Eyes of cold steel, their emptiness reflected by the silver moonlight…

A pale figure of death, whispering taunting words in her ear…

“Onee-sama?”

Mikoto was suddenly aware of how tense she was, hunched over with jaws clenched together. She focused on breathing deeply, working to unhook each finger squeezing the teacup in a deathly grip. Beside her, she felt Shirai Kuroko shift in her seat, trying to meet her eyes.

“Misaka-san, are you okay?”

She could hear in Ruiko’s tone of voice that no positive answer Mikoto gave would be able to convince her now. It was pointless to answer anyway. It didn’t matter whether she was okay or not. Not when the Sisters were being killed mercilessly because of her foolishness years ago. She had been so na├»ve back then, so willing to trust, that she had turned a blind ear on the rumours that had shadowed her, and a blind eye on the small hints that had followed afterward. If only she had listened… If only she had paid better attention..! But it was no use wishing when time was long gone and passed. What she could do from this point onwards was what she had to focus on. Because now…

“I can see them…”

They were like the stars.

They had always been there, shining and silent. She just hadn't had the ability to see them, as they had been obscured by her ignorance, and her stubborn refusal to acknowledge their existence.

They were like the stars.

From a distance, they all appeared the same. But Mikoto realised now that they would all have their individual lives, their personal stories and experiences to tell.

Since last night…

“I… I can see them all now… That’s why…”

Still, Mikoto could not completely accept them as humans. She did not care much for the Sisters’ nonchalant attitudes towards their own deaths. She could not understand them, but she knew she had to defend them whatever the cost. It was her fault they had been created into their miserable and measured lives in the first place. And thus, it was only natural that their deaths stained her hands as well.

“Onee-sama…?”

She was in a mess. A mess she had placed herself in. The only person who she could rely on now was herself, and no one else. She was fully prepared to embrace a death similar to those of the Sisters if that was to be her punishment. However, she wasn’t about to let her friends be immersed in such a world of darkness and pain. A world in which she now belonged to.

“The Arcade!”

“?!”

Confused by Ruiko’s sudden outburst, Mikoto finally looked up, weary eyes meeting her friend’s smiling ones.

“Let’s go to the Arcade Centre, Misaka-san!” the long-haired girl elaborated with a nod. “I want another round with you on that punching machine!”

And suddenly, as if a silent spell had just been broken, the others joined in.

“That sounds great! Let’s go to the Arcade!”

“Can we take another picture in the photo booth?”

“Oh, that’s a great idea!”

“Let’s do it!”

Mikoto’s head swung this way and that, following the chorus of enthusiastic voices. She felt numb and bewildered, not understanding their sudden change of mood and the abrupt shift in topic.

“Let’s forget about it that way,” Ruiko said quietly, looking directly at Mikoto.

The Tokiwadai girl’s eyes slowly widened as an understanding of what her friends were doing dawned upon her.

“I…”

“Just don’t forget this: we’re here for you, okay?” Ruiko smiled, a gentle and encouraging expression of openness. “If you can’t handle it yourself, just tell us whenever. That’s what friends are for.”

A swell of emotions erupted in Mikoto’s chest and her throat suddenly felt tight. A brilliant warmth grew from deep within, and she opened her mouth to form words of gratitude and apology. But she did not know where to begin nor how to express herself without sounding like a fool. So, with eyes shyly cast downwards above two rosy cheeks coloured by embarrassment, her lips produced a single word of acceptance instead.

“Yeah.”

From their smiling eyes, Mikoto knew they understood.



**********


The world was black.

The darkness surrounding her was peaceful. It demanded nothing from her, coexisting in harmony with a silence that enveloped her with a sincere sense of tranquillity. Floating calmly in this endless void, she felt an unexplainable contentment to remain there forever. She could not remember who she was or what she had been doing, but none of that seemed to hold any kind of meaning or significance. There was no sense of responsibility, no sense of time, no desire nor fear nor any kind of feeling… But she was perfectly fine with that.

Nothingness.

Forever drifting away in time.

What did it matter anyway?

A spark of light suddenly grew in the darkness, the pale orb pulsing before her blankly staring eyes. It gradually neared her, hovering like a ghostly apparition. She stared at it senselessly, and only a vague thought of curiosity slid through her quiet mind. When the orb of light approached ever closer however, she felt a gentle warmth radiating from its brightening brilliance. She shivered violently, suddenly realising how cold she was. Wanting to feel more of this beautiful warmth, she reached out her arms, desiring to grab the light so she could keep it with her always. 

As her hands closed around the warmth greedily, colourful images began to flash before her widening eyes. They were bright and bewildering, full of people and places, of thoughts and feelings and dreams. She could not understand them. She wanted to return back to that serene tranquillity of nothingness, for the vibrant colours and the confusion that accompanied them were too much for her to bear. Her eyes filled with tears and her heart clenched painfully, but she could not understand why. If not knowing hurt this much, how much more painful would it be if she knew? She didn’t want to find out…

No matter how hard she tried though, she simply could not tear her gaze away. An unknown force fixed her body in place, refusing to relieve her from the torture. The colours continued to torment her dilated pupils, and her heart continued to shudder sporadically in response. Her helpless situation suddenly became apparent and she wondered for the first time, what she had been doing there in the first place.

As soon as she questioned, the answers came. One after the other, information she hadn’t cared to know previously suddenly flooded into her mind, unlocking the door to her memories. Everything came rushing back. All she was, all she knew, all she had. What made her Misaka Mikoto. The light continued to grow and grow, the colours burning brighter and brighter in her eyes. They entered her and rejuvenated her, integrating to become the very essence of her being. Wet pearls glided down her cheeks, but she hardly noticed as her mouth opened into a soundless expression of all that she could feel.

Alive.

She was alive.

Joy. Sorrow. Love. Hate. Anger. Desire. Every pore on her body tingled with the emotions of life. It was so wonderful, but very much terrifying at the same time. It consumed her entire being, yet proceeded to make her whole. The indescribable feeling seemed to continue for all of eternity- she, forever suspended in the middle of this wilderness full of emotions and memories…

Then suddenly, the strings that had been holding her abruptly vanished and she was falling, falling, falling…

Pain exploded everywhere as Mikoto suddenly impacted upon a hard surface. The previous elation she had felt was quickly replaced by an unforgiving weariness that pulsed in her very bones. As the pain slowly dulled into a throbbing sensation, she became aware of how she was lying face down upon what felt like rough concrete.

It wasn’t the only uncomfortable feeling.

Without even opening her eyes, Mikoto knew something was terribly wrong. Something very much important was missing, a seemingly simple yet vital part of her that she could not yet quite identify. It kept nagging at her, the unpleasant feeling churning inside and growing unmistakably.

Her lips parted and an involuntary groan exhaled out. Mustering all of her strength, the girl pushed herself to a sitting position, chestnut-coloured eyes fluttering open to observe the world around her.

‘Where am I…?’


She appeared to be at an entrance of a small side alley, huge concrete walls dwarfing her on either side. Ahead, the narrow space opened out into an empty street, various shops neatly lined up with trees and street lamps. Something seemed off about her vision though, and her foggy mind sluggishly tried to identify what it was. Her eyes turned heavenwards to gaze wonderingly at the blue, cloudless sky.

‘How strange… Wasn’t it night time…?’


With a sigh, Mikoto stood up, leaning onto the closest wall for support. Her knees shook from exhaustion, and her heavy head felt groggy. But she managed to keep standing, eyes turning back to the view of the main street.

For a long moment, she remained completely still, taking in the sight before her with a blankness that was associated with incomprehension. Then gradually, she began to notice everything that was wrong and everything that didn’t make sense. One particular fact stood out- a fact so disturbing that everything else paled to insignificance.

She was clearly in a city, but there were no electromagnetic waves.

During her development as a high-levelled Electromaster, Mikoto had acquired the skill to see electromagnetic field lines. When she had first attained the ability, they had seemed more an obstruction to her normal vision, but she quickly grew accustomed to it and began to appreciate their undeniable usefulness. She could recognise each line like the back of her hand, and they soon became a friendly map of the world around her. They provided easier ways for her to understand and navigate her surroundings, allowing her advantages others could only dream of. Countless times had seen them get her out of sticky situations, but she had always taken this special sense of hers for granted.

Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined it would one day just disappear.

The Electromaster blinked furiously, wondering if her eyes were at fault. But it wasn’t just her vision that bothered her. The gentle hum and buzz of roaming electrons in the air, and the comforting feeling of her favourite element constantly brushing at her senses, were also missing. They had always existed on the edge of her consciousness for as long as she could remember, and for the Electromaster who had lived in Academy City since early childhood, this was the natural state of the world.

A whir of panic struck, sending her mind reeling. It was as if someone had suddenly gauged out a large portion of her eyes, leaving her feeling blind and vulnerable. Her Electroperception had been a vital part of her, both as an Esper and as a person. This was something she only realised now, only when it was too late and lost.

‘Why…? I don’t understand… But…’


Mikoto stared down at an open hand, large eyes full of fear.  A single, terrifying possibility haunted her. She was scared of what it would mean should the theory be proved correct. Raw dread twisted in the pits of her stomach like a writhing serpent.

‘No… I can’t start thinking like this…!’


Her sweaty palms clenched into tight fists and her mouth set into a determined line. Jaws crunched together. Taking in a large lungful of air, she loosened her shoulders and made herself grow taller, gathering in positive thoughts. Then, with eyes full of self-empowerment, the Esper produced a set of quick and familiar calculations, anticipating the blue sparks that were sure to follow.

Nothing.

Mikoto blinked, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Or rather, what had just not happened. She reapplied the calculations, wanting to believe that she must have made some kind of a mistake.

Again, nothing.

The dread exploded into a wild panic. Again and again and again she tried, each time producing nothing. No crackling of sparks, no tingling electricity in her veins, no familiar sense of power...

Absolutely nothing.

She couldn’t think. Her teeth were clenched together tightly, nails painfully digging into her palms. All she knew was that she couldn’t give up, that she had to keep trying and trying no matter what. She was the number 3 Level 5, one of the most powerful humans in Academy City and possibly the world. She was the strongest Electromaster, the famous celebrity Railgun- it was unthinkable that she couldn’t even produce a tiny spark. What was she without it?

Nothing, came the simple but truthful answer.

She was nothing without her ability, nothing without her powers.

What was she, if she couldn’t be the Level 5 “Railgun”?

The wild panic grew and grew, consuming her mind. She grabbed a fistful of hair, tearing at the chestnut strands as her body slumped back onto the wall. Something was obviously wrong with her. Was it a sickness? Was this condition temporary, or would she have to live with it always? Her entire body trembled in terror at the thought. To live the rest of her life without her powers…?!

“DAAAMMIIIT!”

With an enraged scream, Mikoto began to punch and kick at the concrete block beside her, putting all of her feelings of fury and helplessness into the strikes. Her hands began to bruise and bleed, and the surface of her school shoes began to abrade, but the girl took no heed. She needed something to vent out her anger on, and that was all she could care about.

Eventually though, she stopped. Breathing heavily, she leaned against the wall she had assaulted for the past minute, closing her eyes tiredly. Her bleeding hands hung uselessly by her sides, flecks of crimson dripping onto the ground. She took a couple of deep breaths in an attempt to calm down.

‘Get yourself together!’ Mikoto chastised herself. ‘It’s not something to lose it over! Think logically! Something must have triggered this. It can’t possibly be permanent- I won’t accept that so easily!’

Not bothering to open her eyes, the girl thought back to the events that had lead to this mess. It had all happened so fast, but she vaguely remembered the flash of light and the roars of the terrifying tornado. Were they somehow connected? It had been night-time then. Had she actually been unconscious for hours? She didn’t even know where she was… She thought she was still in Academy City, but Mikoto couldn’t be certain…

Something suddenly ran into her, slamming her head hard against the stone wall. Mikoto’s eyes flew open, her vision becoming littered with bright stars of shock and pain. She felt something snake around her neck, locking it into a death-grip. Her airways squeezed together and Mikoto’s mouth opened in a frantic effort to regain oxygen. Disoriented, the girl clawed at the offending hands, widened eyes desperately searching for her assailant.

“You bitch! What the fuck did you do?!”

Confused brown eyes met enraged grey ones. Her pupils dilated as a familiar, pale face swam into her teary vision, its features horribly contorted with anger. His name passed through her mind, sending a shiver of terror down her spine.

Accelerator.


“What the fuck did you do?! Answer me, you fucking maggot!”

He was shouting at her, shaking her like a rag doll by the neck. The back of her head slammed against the concrete repeatedly, making her yell out in pain. She had no idea what was going on, what Accelerator was even referring to or accusing her of. All she knew was that something significant had happened, but she had no clue what or why or how, or what it all meant. The frustration in her mind exploded out, her voice full of venom despite the lack of air.

“I didn’t do anything!”

The tips of Accelerator’s thumbs dug into her windpipe, crushing it mercilessly. Mikoto’s eyes widened, her teeth gritted against the burning sensation.

“Shut up! Shut up!” She heard his rough voice scream and echo in her ears. “You’re fucking lying! I know you are! You did something! That light and the wind-- I know you fucking did something!”

As he shouted out his accusations, Mikoto writhed, trying to eel out of his brutal clasp on her neck as her fingers worked to pry his hands off.  The desperation and her will to escape grew, and she hardly heard his words anymore in the din of her ringing head. All she knew was that she had to get free… Somehow… In any way…!

In a moment completely fuelled by desperation alone, Mikoto kicked out with a sudden burst of strength she hadn’t known she possessed. She felt the sole of her shoe dig into his soft stomach and her eyes rounded with surprise. The grip around her neck loosened as the albino flew away backwards, slamming into the opposite wall with a cry of pain.

She stared, unable to believe her eyes.

Accelerator slid down the concrete, coming to a sitting position with a groan. His eyes were squeezed closed, the white eyebrows above them knitted together by heavy threads of agony. He gasped for air and his skinny frame shuddered, depicting a strange picture of frailty that Mikoto found difficult to believe.

For a long moment, the girl simply stared, not understanding what had just happened. Was he acting, pretending to be in pain? Did he let down his guard by accident? He was Accelerator. The strongest. The unbeatable Level 5. How could someone that powerful be cringing on the ground, obviously in pain from just a single kick? It just didn’t make any sense…


The staggering realisation hit her then, heavy with implications. Her widened eyes glanced over at the agonised figure before her- the jaws tightly clenched together, the skinny fingers curling to clutch at the area of pain, the scrunched eyelids hiding those cold grey eyes…


A grim satisfaction suddenly swept over Mikoto. She looked down her nose at his crouched form with eyes hardened like ice.


It was obvious now, although he wouldn’t admit it. Just like her, for whatever reason neither of them could fathom, Accelerator could no longer use his powers. And as the strongest Level 5 who had always relied upon his powers for everything, he was a nobody without his powers.


Accelerator.


He was the cold-hearted, sadistic murderer who had killed more than 10,000 of her Sisters without a thought. He was a monster without a conscience and he deserved this pain, this agony, this feeling of weakness… But…


Was this punishment enough?


No, came the immediate answer. A single kick to the gut didn’t do any justice. A simple loss of power just didn’t cut it. Compared to what the Sisters went through…


Baring her teeth as a hot fury rippled through her, Mikoto approached the albino slowly, step by step. Cold brown eyes were upon him, not a drop of pity to be found. She saw his eyelids part open, revealing pinprick pupils staring up at her in terror. She saw him lean away, cowering into the wall behind him, obviously wanting to disappear from her presence. She saw all these things and they made her heart soar. A wild thrill that was a mixture of anger and excitement coursed through her veins, leaving her head pulsing in its wake.


She was powerful. He was weak.


She was going to punish him.


A twisted smirk erupted, oddly enhancing the sudden maniacal rage in her eyes. With a step, she crossed the remaining distance between them. Accelerator looked up again as her shadow fell ominously on his trembling form. A wheeze of panic left his lips and he pushed himself off the ground in an attempt to run away from the impeding danger.


He didn’t even manage one step.


A brutal kick landed on his stomach once more, ripping a scream of pain from his throat. Before his body could even hit the ground, another kick hit him, sending him sprawling against the wall. Again and again she attacked, as if he was just a ball for her to play with. And with each display of violence, her ferociousness increased tenfold, the words of hatred pouring out from her mouth.


“Are you in pain?! Are you now?!” she screamed at him, “You fucking bastard, I’ll show you pain! I’ll show you what my Sisters went through because of you!”


He fell to the ground as the final kick pounded his ribcage. He gasped for air, eyes roaming dazedly in panic, confusedly wondering if it was over. But the relief was only short-lived.


The Railgun pounced onto him like a cat, slamming him against the wall. A claw-like hand clamped around his throat, squeezing his trachea. His eyes flew open as the back of his head crashed into concrete, and he was forced to look into the Railgun’s murderous eyes glaring down at him. Panic seized and he flailed wildly in her grasp. It was futile. She was much stronger than she looked, her grip relentless and unforgiving.


Mikoto crouched over his sitting form, leaning in towards him. She breathed in deeply, her tongue darting out to lick her lips. She could smell and taste his fear in the air and it was simply delicious. The wild excitement was still running deep in her veins, stimulating her senses. The feeling of power was intoxicating and wonderful; she didn’t need any kind of Esper ability after all. She could make the strongest cower away in terror, and held his life in her very hands. Right now, she was the strongest in the universe, a force to be reckoned with- unstoppable and undeniable.


“Look who’s the weakling now,” she sneered mockingly. “You look pathetic!”


An arm replaced the hand holding his throat as she leaned in further, squeezing his neck against the wall brutally. He choked and gasped, trying to push her off, but he found his physical strength lacking compared to hers. A dry smile thinned her lips and her glinting eyes narrowed dangerously at his fruitless attempts to escape.


“What’s wrong?” she snarled at him. “Are you sorry now? Are you feeling worthless?”


He answered with a gurgle, his pale face gradually turning a distinct shade of sickly blue.


A surge of rage flowed through Mikoto again and her vision clouded in a crimson haze.


“Answer me, you sick bastard! You should be feeling worthless! You should be feeling sorry! But you know what?! It’s too late! It’s bloody too late to be sorry now!”


An abrupt bubble of laughter burst from her mouth, the sound bouncing eerily between the two walls of the alleyway. It was the sound of madness, of a hysteria impossible to return from.


“That’s right…” her head lowered as the last echoes faded away into silence. A dark shadow fell over her eyes, hiding her expression, “It’s too late to be sorry now…” Her jaws clenched together with an audible crunch and she continued to speak through gritted teeth. “It’s too late… That’s why… That’s why…!”


Crazed eyes filled to the brim with killing intent were revealed as her head snapped back up. Ruthless fingers swiftly replaced the arm that had been holding him in place, fingernails digging into his throat without mercy. His blue face was now slowly turning purple, but Mikoto observed this colour change with cold and empty eyes. A ghost of a smile danced on her lips, revelling in the vision of sweet retribution unfolding before her. The sounds of his dying breath were like beautiful music to her ears, those grey eyes staring back her slowly fading into darkness…


“I never thought you… A murderer.”


Her eyes widened as a familiar voice suddenly rang in her mind. Her body froze, breaths coming out in quick gasps. Dark pupils dilated, eyes unseeing of anything as memories of a certain spikey-haired guy swirled in her thoughts.


A muderer… A murderer…?


He had called her a murderer…


Her confused mind spun. Why had he called her that? She wasn’t a murderer…


Mikoto blinked. Her bewildered eyes slowly trailed back to the figure in front of her. Accelerator’s face was completely purple, his eyes and mouth wide open into a picture of agony and horror. She was suddenly aware of how his strained neck muscles were pushing against her bare fingers, of how close she was leaning into him… And a cold shiver ran down her spine. She looked into those faded grey pools, and saw a pair of widened eyes reflecting back at her.


The eyes of a murderer.


Her own eyes.


Mikoto stumbled away backwards until she hit the opposite wall. Her back sank onto the cold concrete, desiring to put as much distance from the slumped figure of Accelerator as she could. She clutched her head, a burning pain throbbing in her brain. Her fingers twisted and tugged at the tangled locks of brown hair.


‘What am I doing…? What the hell… Am I doing?!’


She couldn’t even answer herself.


Mikoto pushed herself flat against the wall as Accelerator slowly stood up. Her large eyes were fixed on his rising figure, her heart racing in fear of what he would do now. He raised his head with a groan, leaning onto the wall for support. A sideways glance brought the Railgun in his field of vision and his posture immediately stiffened.


Grey eyes met brown, mirroring each other’s terror.


An eternity passed and Accelerator tore his gaze away with a shudder. With a desperate cry born of panic and pain, the skinny albino broke into a run, fleeing into the deeper parts of the alley. Mikoto stared after him with rounded eyes, left behind in the echoes of his wordless cry.


As his back vanished into the darkness, Mikoto slumped against the wall tiredly. Her mind was a mess of emotions, a jumble of chaotic thoughts that could not be put to order. Questions circled around and around in her head, unable to be answered. She couldn’t believe she had just tried to kill him. And yet, didn’t Accelerator deserve it? He had killed and tortured her Sisters, didn’t that justify her actions?


No, she told herself firmly. Not like this… Never like this…


‘I don’t… I don’t want to be like that… Like him…’


A burning feeling rose up to her chest and Mikoto fell onto her hands and knees, retching violently. Again and again she heaved, nothing but bitter bile forcing its way up from her empty stomach. For a long while, she remained crouched on the ground, shuddering and cringing as sobs racked her body. She leaned against the wall and curled into a tight ball; arms bringing her legs up to her chest protectively, to hold herself together against the searing pain that threatened to tear her apart. Tears fell steadily, dripping onto her cheeks and onto her uniform.


Tears continued to fall, but Misaka Mikoto had no idea what she was crying about, or who she was even crying for.