New Worlds 01 (REWORKED)
Warning: Villain Othinus. People who expect her to fix the world prepare to be disappointed.
Summary: Touma finds himself in a new world, accompanied by a Gungnir-toting Othinus. He wished he could've explored at least one of these new realities he finds himself in, but he knew even after he could understand his companion that he still needed to watch after her to make sure she doesn't overreact to anything. Still, these new espers called parahumans are quite interesting.
Author's notes: This takes place after New Testament 9 from the Index franchise and after Gestation from Worm.
"So we're in a new world?" Touma asked his companion while checking the mirror. He had just finished taking a bath, and wore a blue towel robe. He had spiky black hair which resulted from experimenting gel brands when he was younger, a young Japanese face and a slight scar from his chest hiding into his robe. They had rented an entire floor in the hotel they were in, which meant they or rather Othinus was paying for every room. There was a time when Touma thought that was mindboggling and needlessly expensive. After spending some time getting to know Othinus and her ability to reshape the world at her leisure, he changed his mind.
Touma frowned and traced the scar. "You know it's weird of me having to say this, but I thought that after you remade my body I wouldn't have any of my previous wounds?" Well, it was more like he assumed he still retained his mind but lost his body after she destroyed it a thousand times over.
He looked at his companion. Her name was Othinus. She laid on the luxurious king size bed, naked. Her slender arms were wrapped around a pillow, covering her face with it. Wavy blonde hair trailed down her bare back, which led to the waist down her body covered in red silk satin blanket. Her green, cat-like eye observed him and he half-expected her to say something cliché.
"Don't come back to bed," she said; her voice teasing as she flashed him a smirk.
Touma bit back a chuckle. No way was he admitting that was funny. He felt she knew anyway. "I'm going to explore this new city. Brockton Bay, was it?" He had already spent three days getting to know each other better, and now it was time to see the world.
"Want me to hold your hand while you're at it? You'll get lost without a guide who speaks English, after all."
Right, Brockton Bay was in North America. Land of the free, or so he heard. In his original world there wasn't a single magical organization that existed in the United States. If watching the news last night was any indication, this world proved very different.
"I'll take my chances," he said. Othinus rolled her eye and waved her hand. Gold light exploded in the middle of the bedroom. When it vanished, it revealed three people. One of them was a silver haired girl with Caucasian features and wearing a white nun's habit. The person beside her was a Japanese girl with short brown hair, a curious expression on her face and her body donning a light brown vest, dark brown skirt, brown socks and black shoes.
Green, brown and red eyes looked at him.
The two girls were Index and Mikoto, respectively. Touma was surprised by their sudden appearance, but more surprised by the third.
He had white hair, pale white skin, a white jacket, black trousers and sneakers. "Accelerator?" Touma called. He looked at Othinus, a little disturbed. "You took all three of them from our original world?"
Okay, he had to admit, he should've expected that. While Othinus said she couldn't bring them back to their old world, she didn't say anything about bringing people from their world into this new one. Did he have to watch out for her every word? Again?
He thought they were over this?
"They're not the real people. They're exact replicas with minor differences. Created by me, yours truly." She sent him a flying kiss. He blushed at the double entendre. Maybe he shouldn't have bitten her last night like a hungry dog.
"Weird," Touma said, stepping closer to Mikoto. "They look almost like the real thing."
He poked her cheek.
She scowled and slapped his arm. "Because we're almost like the real thing, you idiot!" Electricity sparked from her hair. Oh boy.
"Whoops! Um, sorry?"
An electric charge lit up the room.
"It still feels pretty surreal," Touma said, walking alongside Accelerator. While back in Academy City delinquents and criminals might've gawked and pointed and shot at Accelerator due to his strange features, here in Brockton Bay no one so much as looked at him at all. Hair dye and eye contacts were the most probable explanation for his features.
They had left the hotel some time ago, with a strange greeting from the clerk behind the desk down at the lobby. Touma remembered Othinus rented an entire floor with money that previously didn't exist. If she created money using magic, did it count as counterfeit?
Touma replaced his blue robe with a windbreaker of the same color, a white shirt underneath it, denim jeans and black running shoes. He also carried a smartphone with Othinus' number on the contacts.
"What does?" Accelerator, or a near identical replica of him, asked. "That you're sleeping with your enemy, or having me as your guide?"
"I'm curious why you're following Othinus' orders at all."
"Perks of being her creation," Accelerator said. "Do you really say no to your god?"
"Um, should I take that in a sexual manner or-"
Touma sighed when Accelerator rolled his eyes. The two explored the area known as Downtown, as the clerk called it, assuming them to be wealthy tourists wasting their money by being in Brockton Bay. At least, that was what Accelerator told him. "Still, the place seems nice," Touma remarked. People in suits and students in uniforms made their way to buildings, schools and just getting on with their lives.
"It's because you haven't seen the ugly side of it yet," Accelerator said. "Be it this random shithole or Academy City, there's always an underbelly greasing the wheels and making money. Come on, stupid, don't forget that you encountered them."
'Wish he just called me by name. I don't need two Mikoto's running about,' Touma thought. 'Them' referred to the underworld of Academy City, aka its dark side. Manufacturing clones, massacring them, experimenting on said clones and other people, Academy City did it all. He still called it Academy City, because the perpetrators of horrid experiments were also parts of its covert government branch. While he doubted there existed a nebulous, secret organized criminal conspiracy in this world, human nature still prevailed.
"Come to think of it, the clerk said we shouldn't go at the docks, either. Wherever that is," Touma said. Skyscrapers, bars, and expensive restaurants filled his view. The traffic was as bad as that in Academy City, which surprised him. Academy City had to fit everything in a small space due to its nature as a city-state. He thought North America was different, owning to its large landmass.
"Wanna go to a bar? I need a drink," Touma said. Accelerator pulled down the sleeve of his jacket and looked at his wristwatch. "It's 9 A.M."
"You have a watch?" Touma asked. "Why don't I have a watch?"
"Othinus gave you money, right? Go buy your own fucking watch."
"You're such a prick. Are you sure Othinus didn't make a mistake and instead of creating a copy summoned the real one instead?"
Accelerator answered by raising his middle finger.
Still, none of the expensive places interested Touma. If he wanted that, he wouldn't have left the hotel. So they just kept walking.
They eventually stumbled upon an odd location. Touma and Accelerator inspected the area. The window was broken. Glass was shattered and scattered from the porch to the sidewalk. The door was open. There was a chance of forced entry. There was yellow and red graffiti on the wall. ABB, it read. Azn Bad Boys, Brockton Bay's local gang.
"Hey," Touma said. "How long have we been walking?"
"For a couple of minutes now. You didn't even notice when we went from the good side of the city to the bad?" Accelerator rolled his shoulder. "The line between downtown and the docks wasn't as big as I thought."
With no worry for potential danger, the two espers, or rather the esper and the esper-esque caricature entered the broken house.
They were greeted by three ABB gangsters.
One of them was a girl. She wore a tank top under a black jacket, cut off denim pants, and black shoes. A red bandana was wrapped around her neck. Her hair was tied in braids. The two guys were twins, muscular, with mohawk hair and wearing red and green shirts, respectively, brown cargo shorts, and white shoes.
They were all Asian.
"Ah," Touma said. "You're the ABB?"
The girl tilted her head. "Are you two joining?" She checked Touma up and down, and then Accelerator. "Nice dye."
"It isn't," Accelerator grumbled, running his hand through his hair.
"We're just looking around," Touma said. "I'm guessing this house isn't yours?"
"It was already abandoned before we got here, sorry. If you were looking for some action I suggest looking elsewhere. Like downtown? Maybe?"
"This isn't part of downtown?" Touma asked. "The names of these areas are confusing."
"Ah," one of the twins spoke up, the one wearing a green shirt. "The line's blurry, actually, between the two areas. There's a line, for sure, between the good areas in Brockton Bay and the bad, but lines change. Like borders, you know?"
"Dude," the red shirt said to his twin. "No one likes your metaphors."
"Shut up," the green shirt said.
"You know," Accelerator interjected. "For a couple of thugs you three sure are cordial."
The girl shrugged. "Well, yeah. You two are Asians too, right? Can't scare potential recruits."
"Oh?" Accelerator grinned. "What makes you think we're joining?"
"Why else would you walk into a house that was clearly ABB territory?"
"Curiosity," Touma said. The house was dirty. Rain and dirt carried by the rain unfiltered by the windows mixed in with dust. Cobwebs filled the area where the walls met the ceiling. There was a wooden stairs to the second floor, missing a step.
"Just wondering since you're oh so being nice and all," Touma said. "But I'm guessing you three aren't here just to lay in an ambush on new recruits."
Footseps were heard on the second floor. Accelerator looked up the ceiling. "Ah," he said, his grin turning sharp. "You didn't tell us we have company."
"Hey, hey, hey." The girl laughed and clapped her arms. From behind her the twins extracted guns from the back of their shorts. Glock 19s. "Why don't you two just walk away now and stop snooping around. The ABB isn't actually as violent as what the news would like you to believe, fyi."
"You're right," Accelerator said. "I'm sorry." Touma looked at him in bewilderment. The Accelerator he knew never apologized, nor did he back off from a fight. This ersatz nodded at him and waited for him to leave the door to the porch, with Accelerator behind him.
When they were back at the sidewalk, Touma said, "That was weird. Are you sure you're really an exact copy of Accelerator?"
"Othinus would kill me if I let anything happen to you," Accelerator said. "Those motherfuckers think they can threaten me with guns? Sons of bitches. Stay here."
Accelerator was out of character. Just not in the sense of being more cowardly. The real one wouldn't have been worried if Touma was caught in a firefight, believing him capable of protecting himself. Was it the nature of being Othinus' creation that made him value her opinion?
Accelerator opened the door, revealing the three thugs in the living room. Without looking back, he closed the door. Touma imagined the girl talking to him, wondering what he was thinking and asking him if he was going to join.
It would probably lead to shouts when he got closer.
It did. The girl was shouting at him to back off. It was followed by the louds bangs of gunshots. And then screams of pain, from the shooters' bullets being redirected into their guns or skins.
And then it was quiet.
Accelerator opened the door. He was unharmed. Not a speck of blood was on his clothes or skin. He nodded at Touma. "You can come in now."
He followed Accelerator into the living room. A line of blood trailed from the floor to the wall, where the three tugs sat against it. The girl was spotting an ugly bruise on her face. There was a crack above her on the wall. Accelerator must've slapped her and sent her flying. The twins on either side of her were much worse. Gunshots tore through their legs. Their fingers were crushed, probably when Accelerator grabbed their guns and squeezed it in his hands. They were clutching their knees and groaning in pain.
Accelerator kicked the girl's leg. "Hey. Who's the guy up stairs? Tell me or I'll break your body. I'll start with your left hand."
"I didn't know you were a cape, man. I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She kept repeating. Accelerator scowled and reached for her wrist. "No, no, no!" She cried and tried to slap his hand away. His power activated. The moment her body met his, the kinetic energy from her own hand was redirected from his body, and sent into hers. Her fingers curled with the sound of bones breaking. She screamed.
"Just check him," Touma said. Accelerator stepped away from the girl and left the three wannabe gangsters. He went up the steps to the second floor.
"I'm sorry about my friend," Touma said. "He's a bit rough, sometimes."
Well, not his friend but a near exact replica, if he was being pedantic. Semantics.
"A-are you a cape too?" the girl asked.
Touma tried for a calming smile.
He grimaced. He wasn't that ugly, he hoped.
Shouting's were heard from the second floor, probably from the bedroom. Gunshots followed, and more screams. Same as the first. And then he heard the sound of the thud of a body hitting a wall.
It was a big guy that Accelerator dragged down the steps by his arm. The big guy's hand was wounded from where the bullet that shot Accelerator was redirected. An ugly hole opened from the back of the hand to the palm. Blood dripped from the gunshot wound.
"There weren't any drugs upstairs. No guns. No money. Nothing." Accelerator was thinner and smaller than the big guy, but didn't have any trouble picking him up by his neck and throwing him into the floor. He groaned but remained unconscious. "That makes me curious as to what you four are actually doing here. If there's nothing to protect or someone to threaten, then there's probably a package that's going to be delivered, right? That or you love hanging out in derelict areas because it's your thing, which is weird, I guess."
"You know it was pretty weird that this guy didn't go downstairs when the shooting started," Touma said.
Accelerator nodded. "Weird indeed. You think he's deaf? Let's check his ears."
"Wait!" The girl said, finally speaking up. "Don't hurt him. J-just, shit." She cried and held her face. "It wasn't supposed to go like this."
"Hey," Touma said in an attempt at a soothing voice. "Don't worry. We won't kill you. Just tell us the truth."
The girl cried harder.
"You know Panacea?" One of the twins asked.
"Who?" Touma asked, and then shook his head. "Nah. We've got a healer of our own." In fact, she could bring back the dead, good as new. He could attest to that. Touma took his phone from his pocket. "Othinus, can I ask you for a favor?"
"No," she said, and then hung up.
The girl cried even harder.
Touma pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to ten. The phone rang. He checked the caller. It was Othinus. He answered her call.
"Sorry about that. My boyfriend's touchy," she said, probably grinning.
"Lucky man," Touma said. "Anyway, I've got four people here. Badly hurt. Think you can heal them?"
"Think I can heal them? Yes, I think I can."
"I mean, can you heal them? For me?"
"Fuck you." She hung up again.
Touma laughed. Not because he thought it was funny, but because it was starting to get irritating.
"Your girl has a mouth on her," the red shirted twin said. Accelerator stepped on his bleeding leg. He cried. "I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry!"
The phone ringed a second time. It was a video-call from Othinus. He answered it. He could see bright light from the phone. He looked at Accelerator, who took his leg away from the thug. Touma made the screen face the wounded man. Gold light illuminated his entire body. His wounds disappeared. He did the same to the girl. The bright light burned the bruise from her skin. She gasped and rubbed at her face. And then noticed her healed fingers and hugged her hand. The green shirted twin was bathed in the light as well, but he remained impassive.
The big guy was bathed in the golden light. The wound on his hand closed without so much as a scratch. Whatever bruise or broken bone he obtained from when Accelerator hit him was most likely gone.
"Better?" Othinus asked, once the healing was over. She was on the screen, laid on her side on the bed. Her elbow was propped up, and her hand was holding her head. Her blonde hair was behind her back, revealing the eye-patch covering her right eye. She was dressed in a red negligee. She glanced at her thighs, and then back to him. "I was serious, by the way, about fucking you."
Touma blushed and smiled. So did Othinus.
"When I get home," he said. She winked and cut off the feed. Touma shook his head.
"Are you a crew?" The redshirted twin asked. "How come we haven't heard of you before?"
"A crew? You mean a gang? Hmm." Touma tapped his chin. He imagined asking Othinus to help everyone in this world live happily ever after. She'd more likely ignore his wish or pervert it into a mockery of what he wanted. Othinus desired him, true, but that didn't negate her nature as a god. She lived through human history and saw a lot of good and bad. When he asked her once why she never went out of her way to help people, she looked at him in bemusement and answered, 'Why would I?'
Touma shrugged. He can't ask Othinus to help him directly, but what if he tried an indirect method? He wasn't usually one to go out of his way to help people. He only aided those back in his original world because they were right in front of him. He wasn't a soldier who participated in wars or a doctor who failed to save their patients. But he couldn't just ignore bad things either. And most bad things here had guns.
"Yeah, I guess we are. This is our debut." He crouched in front of the girl. "Now come on. Tell me why you're here."
She sighed and looked at the big guy. "Did that cape heal his hearing too?"
"Oh, yeah. She did." Touma grinned. It was Othinus' selfish desire to please him that made her heal someone's ailment. Despite being self-centered, just by doing what she wanted she helped others. Out of his league, yet she chose him. Funny how things turned out.
"Jun Yoo," the girl said. "Son of a bitch hurt my sister. Thought because we were in the same gang I wouldn't fuck him up. I took my crew and we were going to beat him. Probably doesn't even know I'm here."
"This Yoo, what does he look like?" Touma asked the girl. There was a knock on the door. Accelerator answered.
"Pretty face. His hair's dyed white, kind of like your friend. Usually wears nice clothes expect when hanging out with us. He's rich, Christ. Why is he even a member of the ABB?"
"Step back," a deep voice said. Accelerator did so, with his arms raised. There was a gun with a suppressor pointed to his chest. The black barrel of the silencer lengthened the reach of the gun. It was a FNX 45 Tactical. It had a 15 round magazine. More than enough to kill them all if they were normal people.
The gunman was a black man, with a bald head and a slightly wrinkled face. He was probably in his 40's. He wore a black coat, zipped up, trousers and shoes.
The gunman eyed all of them, and then stopped at the girl. "There's blood on the floor, but none of you are wounded. If I go up will I find a body on the bedroom?" he asked. He mistook Touma and Accelerator as members of the ABB.
"Sir Jun's dalliances with the ABB come to an end today. He held the belief that Lung was unstoppable, but recent events have reshaped his mind. Like, for example, the battle last night." The gunman inspected Touma and Accelerator's clothes. "You two do not fit the standard ABB dress-code. Are you two new, perhaps? Let me recommend you to go home and focus on your studies instead. I am only here for these four. If you so much as try to look me up my masters will make your life not worth living."
"Okay," Touma said, looking at the girl. "We'll take our leave."
"You know what he's saying is bullshit, right?" she asked. "You've seen his face. He won't let any of you out alive." She laughed and shook her head. "Not that it matters, I guess."
"Just before we go," Touma said, facing the gunman. "Can you tell us who's the rat?"
"Excuse me?" the gunman said.
"You couldn't have known they were here. Not unless someone told you, or more specifically Jun about it. And the only reason they'd blab about the location is if there's something in it for them. So, given Jun's rich enough to hire a personal hit man…" Touma looked between the four ABB thugs.
The gunman smiled and nodded. "Well done, sir."
"Mind telling me who it is?"
"Yes, I do mind." He swerved the gun, aiming it at Touma.
Accelerator took a step towards him. Changing his mind, the gunman turned to him instead and pulled the trigger. The bang was like an explosion, this close. Touma covered his left ear and closed his left-eye. The bullet was redirected to the gunman's thigh. He gasped. Before he could fire another one Accelerator reached for the gun in his hand and crushed it, alongside his fingers.
"So tell me more about Lung," Touma said, standing beside the bed. He was more interested in Jun Yoo, but to his disappointment the guy never told the four hoodlums downstairs his home-address. Accelerator had the gunman carried back upstairs by the twins, and then left on the dirty mattress by the bedroom. At least the window wasn't broken in the dusty room.
"I'm sorry?" the gunman asked, while he was holding his thigh.
"Lung, the leader of the ABB?" Touma asked. "Look man, we all know you're going to prison. There's no escaping that. I'm not going to kill you, and I won't ask about your boss or their son. You're the butler, right?"
The gunman widened his eyes in surprise. "Are you a thinker?"
"No, it was just a bluff." Touma let out a breath. "I didn't actually think that would work."
"What gave me away?"
"The way you address Jun Yoo. Who ratted them out, by the way?"
"Michelle," the gunman said solemnly, as if it meant anything.
"Who?" Touma asked.
"Michelle Mou? Zou's little sister?"
"Zou? As in the girl downstairs?" Touma asked. He didn't even know her name.
"Wait, she didn't even introduce herself?" The gunman raised a brow. "Wonders never cease."
"So, the sister did it." Touma scratched his head. "Zou told me that her sister's boyfriend, Jun Yoo did it. Was that a lie?"
"It was. Sir Jun Yoo would never hit his girlfriend. The two love each other too much. Her wounds were self-inflicted, to distract her friends. They decided to elope sometime ago, but needed a window of opportunity or at least a way without Lung to chase after them. After tonight, well, a window opened. Jun was horrified when Michelle struck herself. But she needed an excuse to have her sister and her group of friends to otherwise leave her alone. They're a good lot, despite the path they've found themselves in. I was actually here to scare them off yet give them money, from Sir Jun as a way of apology for taking Zou's sister for himself. The two are long gone by now, I'm afraid."
"That's nice," Touma said. He just asked the validity of Zou's claim, not for the gunman to give an exposition-dump. "I'll heal you too. But first tell me about Lung."
"You know Panacea?" The gunman asked.
Touma was getting curious about this 'Panacea' person now. A little check on google, and he was surprised this world had a search engine, told him that Panacea was a cape that could heal anyone she touches. And she spent most of her days on the hospital too. How kindhearted.
"No." Touma checked his phone. Othinus had left two messages. He read the one that arrived one minute earlier. 'I know you'll be asking me to keep healing people so I came prepared. Just open the next message. It contains my healing. Check it as unread after you open it.' Touma exited the message and opened the next one. Words were typed in gold color. 'Heal thou.'
And then it enveloped the screen in gold light. Touma basked the gunman in bright light and checked how long it would last. He counted up until ten and then the light vanished. The duration was ten seconds. He exited the healing message and checked it as unread. That'll be useful.
"That was amazing," the gunman said, gasping for breath. "It was like I was touched by a heavenly being."
"Try a god," Touma said. "Now tell me about Lung."
The gunman looked at Touma wearily. "I have to ask, sir. Are you going to take over the ABB? With powers such as yours, you could become a hero. Join the Protectorate instead. I implore you."
"I'm making a group," Touma said. "A support group that doubles as a neighborhood watch."
"A neighborhood watch," the gunman said, dryly. "With that lunatic downstairs?"
Touma laughed. "Okay, that was cringe-worthy. What I meant is that I'll be helping those who need it. We're going to be an independent group and people might mistake us for a gang, but we're not here to deal drugs or guns, but to give another chance to people like Zou. Not everyone's cut out for this life. You just need to give them an olive branch. I wasn't able to do anything much back in Academy City, but now I have the resources to actually make a difference in the world."
He still remembered the Omega World. A paradise for all but him. It was perfect, even if it was made for a selfish purpose. He envied Othinus' power, but now she was willing to help him. With breadcrumbs, true, but he wasn't going to go far if he expected someone else to do everything.
"Academy City" The gunman repeated in confusion, and then shook his head. "Never mind that. Yours is a noble sentiment. But your companion downstairs, the albino, was the one who set up my alarm. I wasn't going to shoot you, just tell you to back off. But the reason I pulled the trigger on him was because he was full of bloodlust like he couldn't contain his desire to hurt me."
Touma nodded. The original Accelerator back in Academy City was no longer that kind of person. This Accelerator being Othinus' creation and a perfect or at least ninety-nine-percent replica of the original Accelerator meant he was the same. The minor difference was his nature as Othinus' creation. It must be her orders that make him go after other people.
Othinus actually spoke to Accelerator while Touma was changing in the bathroom. She must've told him to protect Touma, and be subservient to him. Two orders with the potential to conflict, in which case the order to protect him would win out, which also explains why Accelerator took him out of the house earlier before he trashed what he perceived as threats. Accelerator was also willing to entertain the gunman's misconception that a bullet could hurt him, but the moment there was even a chance Touma could get hurt Accelerator incapacitated the gunman. That was his guess, anyway. Accelerator, the real one, doesn't like hanging out with him much and was a loner by nature. This one wasn't, or at least didn't have a chance to express his personality.
"Relax. As long as you're not a threat he won't do anything to you."
"Now tell me about Lung," Touma said, for the third time and feeling like a broken record.
Lung was, apparently, a powerful parahuman. The biggest badass to ever badass. He fought against entire teams of superheroes and went undefeated, or at least uncaught. He could also turn into a monster. He transformed, little by little over the course of a fight. Strength, durability, size, and even his healing factor increased as more of the fight went on.
And he could breathe fire.
"So Armsmaster kicked his ass?" Touma asked.
The gunman nodded. "Word on the street is Armsmaster dealt a lethal blow by poisoning Lung, and unsatisfied with poisoning also tranquilized him."
"Geez. The guy sounds like a maniac."
"Tell me about it. Though, comparing Armsmaster and your fellow downstairs to yourself and Panacea, I wonder if some people are just more predisposed to violence than others."
"You think I'm like Panacea?" Not even close. Just by reading about her Touma already felt inadequate. Someone who dedicated their entire life helping others shouldn't be compared with him.
"Well, you're a healer, aren't you?"
"Oh… My power, gotcha." Touma understood. The gunman assumed his power was the ability to heal others through the light of his phone. If only the gunman knew the truth. The healing light wasn't his, the phone wasn't his, and even Accelerator's company wasn't his. They were all Othinus' creations. Even now she was helping him.
Now there's a thought. If ever people found Touma with a crew he was going to form, he could pretend to be the healer behind them. That is if he could stop himself from charging headfirst into danger. Othinus can stay in the shadows. She wasn't interested in the spotlight. She's apparently had millennia having worshippers and was sick of having more.
"And tell me," Touma said. "What happens after Lung is imprisoned?"
"Probably a gang war with the Empire Eighty-Eight. Those white-supremacists have wanted more land in the Docks. Lung was the sole reason they couldn't. He was too damn powerful. But now that he's gone, for however how long he'll be gone, the E88 would attempt a takeover. They're greedy little shits like that."
"And if we were going to replace him?" Touma asked. "Make no mistake. We'll probably break a few bones in this crusade." He chuckled at using the word. "But if it helps, right?"
"You do understand that some drug addicts are too far gone, correct? I believe your albino friend is strong enough to make people back-off. But the supply and demand must be met. Gangs like Lung's and Kaiser's do not just pop up with no reason for it. Gang culture is formed from the uneducated needing a source of income, and addicts needing a high. If you're going to go down this silly path of playing hero, then you'd best prepare for a lot of people that's going to express their dislike, and they won't do it in words."
Touma felt the gunman was an idiot with a bias against the poor. A classist. He didn't voice it out. He just nodded and smiled.
"You can go now," Touma said.
"What about those four?" the gunman asked, referring to the twins, the big guy and Zou.
"We'll offer membership. You interested in joining?"
"No thank you." The gunman made a wry grin.
"You're kidding. It was Michelle?" Zou asked. "I'm gonna need some proof."
Touma gave her the phone from the gunman. He had left it and escaped from the window. He apparently did not want to face Accelerator ever again. The phone played a video of Michelle and Jun hugging as they faced the camera, giving an apology to her sister, the twins and the big guy. Touma then handed an envelope of money, to be dived between the four.
"Stupid liar," Zou said, sighing. "She could've been honest with me. We would've helped her."
"What do we do now?" the big guy asked.
"You can work for me," Touma said. "I won't be smacking heads or having turf wars. The worse I'll make you do is go back to school. But hey, I've got unlimited resources." Said unlimited resources supplied by Othinus. "And nothing to spend it on. What do you say, fellow gangster? Wanna go back to school?"
"Well…" The twins shared a glance. "Working for Lung did kind of suck. We're in."
"Same. Oh and thanks for healing my ears," the big guy said.
"Well, that's all of us." Zou shrugged and made a salute with her right hand, and then laughed. "What's the plan, chief?"
The plan was for them to stay in a room in the second floor, which Othinus also rented, as the clerk informed Touma. The clerk was all too happy to give her entire floors to pay for. As long as they were getting paid, they didn't care. At this rate Touma wouldn't be surprised if by tomorrow Othinus would buy out all the rooms in every floor. And this hotel had twelve!
"Here's some money," Touma said, handing Zou four rolls of $100s in tens. "Consider it an advance. None of you need to be the ace of your class. Just pass, okay? This is like a scholarship."
"For gangsters," Zou added with a grin.
"Yeah, for gangsters." Touma pointed at her and nodded in agreement. "But not just for you. Philanthropists like me just aren't satisfied helping a certain set, you know? Next I'll be helping the homeless and the junkies and the poor and whatever." He rolled his eyes. "Which school do you go to?"
"Winslow," Zou said. "It's a shithole, though. Say, boss, you aren't from around here, are you?"
"No? What gave me away? Is it my constant questions about everything related to this place? Or just how I rub shoulders and get friendly with delinquents?" Touma then looked at the twins and the big guy. "I never did get your names."
They introduced themselves. The red shirt was called Reed, the green shirt Gin, and the giant Kyojin. He asked any of them if they had stuff to bring back from their homes. To his surprise they all shook their heads in the negative. They had nothing, it seems, and Zou said Michelle was better off now, with her prince charming Jun Yoo.
There was a slight bitterness to her voice, but Touma didn't call her out on it. It was none of his business. And he had the feeling he would meet the gunman again. Interesting people were never a one-time deal in Touma's life. They were bound to reunite.
He left the three to whatever rooms they'd choose, so long as they kept it clean. He took the elevator to the third floor.
When he returned to his room he found Mikoto in the living room, lounging on the red sofa. Index was reading a book by the armchair adjacent to the sofa. A black coffee table was in front of it. A flat screen TV was mounted on the wall facing them. On it was the news, reporting about how lethal Armsmaster was at injecting Lung with both poison and tranquilizers.
"Hey, Touma!" Index waved at him. She changed into a white, oversized t-shirt that he was sure belonged to him.
"Hey," Mikoto said, smiling, and then paused for a bit, choosing a word for him. "You," she said, settling on it. Touma snorted, clapped Mikoto's hand and rubbed Index's head. She purred like a cat. He wondered if Othinus created a cat, would it have human intelligence?
"Found the ice-cream." Accelerator emerged from the kitchen, holding a bucket of vanilla ice-cream and three large spoons. "I just talked to Othinus on the phone."
"On the phone?" Touma looked at the bedroom. She was right there. He was about to ask Accelerator what they talked about, and then stopped. "You know what? I'll ask her later."
"Make some space or I'll kick your legs," Accelerator said. Mikoto grumbled and sat up as he sat beside her.
"Yay! Ice-cream!" Index cheered and sat on Accelerator's other side. He passed the two spoons to them and the three began eating.
"No way," Touma said, gasping. Accelerator, Mikoto and Index sharing an ice-cream was the most surreal thing he had ever seen. The real Mikoto and Index never got along, and while Index was better with Accelerator, Mikoto wasn't. The two despised each other.
He shook his head. They weren't the real ones. They were replicas created by Othinus to do her bidding. Even if they were exact replicas, the addition of their nature as her creations would mean they would do things their original selves wouldn't do. Like stay in one place and talk to each other and hang out.
He entered the bedroom. It was dark, save for the small candle-lights illuminating the area in orange. He closed the door. The candles were in pairs, with a space between them, leading into the bathroom. Touma took off his jacket and dropped it on the floor.
He was naked by the time he reached the bathroom. He held the shower curtain and pulled it to the side. Othinus ensconced in the tub. Her hair was wet, half of it submerged in the water. Her skin from her shoulders to the top of her neck, to her beautiful face glistened. One slender hand was outside the tub, holding an empty wineglass The rest of her lithe figure was under the water, bubbles and rose petals. Her green cat-like eye was glazed as she looked at him.
"Touma…" Othinus spoke his name with yearning. She dropped the cup on the floor next to a bottle of wine. "Come here," she said. The candlelight danced in the sparkle of her eye. He gulped and raised one foot over the edge of the tub, into the water, between her thighs, and then his raised his other leg to do the same. There wasn't any foreplay. He just sat his ass on the bottom of the tub, held her hips and pulled his smaller girlfriend towards him. Her lovely legs opened and squeezed his sides when his throbbing cock impaled her wet, hot pussy. She sighed and pulled her wet hair back behind her face. A rose petal covered one part of her chest. He flicked it off and was rewarded by the sight of her perky nipple. He cupped a small breast, rolling the red nipple between his forefinger and thumb, and pinched the other. He took one into his mouth, licking, flicking and biting the nub. She pushed his head and fingers off and sighed when he put up a fight, tightening his bites and pinching her nipples until he was satisfied, letting go with a final flick of his tongue and finger. She leaned against him, rubbing her breasts on his chest, and wrapped her slender arms around his back, lowered her chin on his shoulder and purred on his ear. He held her hips and thrust inside her. Her gasps and moans were music to his ears. Her purrs were much rarer, and on the few times he coaxed them he would increase his pace. Touma lost count of how long they were fucking when he trailed his hand down her spine, drawing a shiver from Othinus, and both hands gripped her ass. She sunk her teeth into his shoulders. Touma nibbled her ear and pinched her ass cheeks. His thrusts grew stronger as he felt his limits approach him. With a groan he came inside her. Othinus shuddered and raked her fingernails down his back, her pussy walls squeezing his cock as she climaxed alongside him.
For a minute the two were in deep breaths, their chests heaving for air. And then Othinus kissed him in the lips and the cheeks and told him she loved him over and over. She rested her head on his chest, her hands on either side of his thighs and he held her smooth backside as they basked on the afterglow of their lovemaking.
"So, what did she tell you?" Mikoto asked, after finishing all their ice-cream. She licked the vanilla remains from the spoon, savoring the flavor. She extracted her smartphone, Othinus gave all of them ones as gifts, and checked the camera for any stain. There was a leftover on her lower lips. She stretched her tongue and licked it clean. She grinned. "Good as new!"
Accelerator placed the bucket on the coffee table, and the three dropped their spoons inside it.
They leaned back on the sofa. Mikoto propped her elbow on the armrest and leaned her head her head on her hand. Index hugged a cushion. Accelerator closed his eyes. The tranquil ambient atmosphere was so serene it almost made them doze off.
"Does it feel weird? Us, hanging around like this?" Mikoto asked. "My memories of you two aren't the most flattering."
"We're not the people we were based on," Accelerator said, his eyes still closed.
Index nodded. "Yeah. I love lady Othinus and like you two. Still, I do enjoy my memories with Touma, even if they're from another me."
"Same," Mikoto said.
"I killed clones, or at least my original self did," Accelerator said.
"That isn't you, though."
"So we get to choose and pick which memories we like and which ones we don't?"
"Yup!" Index said. "And no moping around!"
"Why do you call lady Othinus without her title?" Mikoto asked, scrutinizing Accelerator's face for any emotion. There wasn't.
"She ordered me to. I wouldn't disobey anything she commands, of course. She wants us to be as close to our original selves as possible, to put Touma at ease. Kind of hard when it contradicts her other order, to keep him safe. My original self and my current iteration are violent people. The moment someone tries to hurt me, the first instinct I have is to crush them completely. Is it ever a wonder why my other self was the number one of Academy City?" He opened his eyes and grinned as he glanced at Mikoto. "Other than being the smartest person there, that is."
She narrowed her eyes. Sparks charged from her hair. It was accompanied by the hum of electricity. It was like a cacophony of one thousand chirping birds.
"Come on. You've seen our memories. We've fought before. If not on these bodies then in our original selves. You've seen the outcome. You want to try again?" Accelerator chuckled. The electricity receded. Mikoto harrumphed, crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
Index slapped Accelerator's shoulder. "That's not nice."
He made a lazy shrug. "You asked me what lady Othinus told me, right?" That drew Mikoto's attention. "She wanted me to kill Lung."
The two girls nodded. If this was their original selves, Accelerator would sneer at the thought of someone else telling him to do something so evil. Mikoto would scream in anger at the cruel idea. Index would vehemently deny the mere thought and both girls would try to stop him. All three of them had been victims by the callousness of mankind and would refuse to become what they so hated.
The likely paths of what the original selves would do passed through their minds, but it was overruled by their wish to please their creator. To them her desires were the reason for their existence. She alone decided their fates and the fates of this world, and all others.
"And then?" Index asked, tilting her head.
"That's it?" Mikoto asked, raising an eyebrow.
They didn't bring up the obvious idea of telling Othinus to do it herself. She had enough power to achieve what she wanted, but if she wanted was for one of them to do it in her stead, then they would happily do so.
"Let me finish," Accelerator said. "She asked me what would please Touma more. I suggested keeping him out of the loop. She agreed, and changed her mind. She wanted us to bodyguard Touma instead. She'll create others to do her bidding behind the scenes. That's what took so long. Not because I couldn't find the ice-cream."
"Well, if lady Othinus agreed with your ideas then they must be right," Mikoto said, smiling.
"Mhm!" Index nodded and gave a thumbs-up. Accelerator slouched on the sofa. "So, where are you two sleeping?" He didn't want to ask them to stay with him on the couch because that would make him sound clingy, but he didn't want to be alone.
"Here's fine." Mikoto looked at Index. "You?"
"It's fine!" She bit her cushion, and then smiled at Accelerator. "You?"
He tried to sound cool and uncaring. "Wherever." Mikoto rolled her eyes and Index stifled a laugh, knowing otherwise.
The air was cold when Accelerator woke up. Mikoto's head was laid on the armrest, her arms dangling by its side. Index's head was slightly tilted towards him. The cushion was between her legs. A line of drool could be seen from her lips.
Accelerator checked the time. It was 12:07 PM. He slept for three whole hours? He didn't really know how long he had been out with Touma, but if he assumed it was thirty minutes he still slept for 150 minutes.
'Do as you please in the time between jobs,' his creator had told him. Accelerator nodded in reverence. He could do as he please, and right now he wanted to eat. He got up. "Hey, Index. Mikoto." He poked their shoulders.
"W-what?" Index slurred.
"Grr…" Mikoto growled.
"Wake up. Let's go and eat. I'm hungry."
He waited for the two to change, which confused him. Maybe Index, because she couldn't go out wearing nothing more than a shirt. But Mikoto was already in her uniform. He waited for them in the corridor outside their room.
By their room it was not Othinus' room but their own. They chose a room closest to their maker. Othinus had already given them a suitcase full of clothes for each when Touma and Accelerator had left. Mikoto and Index made him carry the suitcases to their new room. It was the same as Othinus', only less holy because she wasn't in it. Still, it made do.
The two emerged, Index in a green dress shirt, white trousers and shoes. Mikoto picked a brown cap, a black shirt, denim shorts and sneakers. While Index's hair was loose, Mikoto's was tied to a ponytail.
"Come on!" she said, dragging the two of them by their hands to the elevator. "Let's look for someplace nice."
They entered the elevator, pressed the button to the ground floor, and waited for it to close. It opened a floor down, revealing the former ABB gangbanger known as Zou. She wore a sleeveless black jacket, denim pants and white rubber shoes. She looked at Accelerator, and then at Mikoto and Index. She put two and two together and said, "You're his teammates?"
For a moment, it was quiet. Mikoto and Index stared at her, weighing the cons of killing her in the corridor versus the pros of eliminating a potential leak. It was an out of character for their original selves, but understandable when the potential fallout of the reveal threatened the secrecy of Othinus' existence.
"Relax," Accelerator said; his voice slow and smooth. The elevator tried to close, but he raised a pinky and kept it open. "She won't tell anyone, will you Zou?"
She flinched and shook her head. "N-no." She was probably recalling his callous treatment of her and her crew.
"Where are the others?" Accelerator asked.
"There was room service so we called a waiter over to give us some food and beer to party. The waiter joined in and now all four of those assholes are drunk and flat on their ass in the room."
"Sounds like the waiter knew how to have a good time," Mikoto said. "So, Zou, is it?" Zou hastily nodded. "Care to join us for lunch? We're pretty new to the Bay. Maybe you could show us all the good hot-spots?"
Index clapped her hands. "That would be lovely."
"You heard them, Zou." Accelerator pointed at the elevator floor. "Get in here." She did, after which he released his pinky on the elevator and let it close.
"W-where's the boss?" Zou asked.
"Touma? He's busy doing something," Mikoto said. The entendre made Index giggle and Accelerator smirk.
"So you're all parahumans?" Her question was met with three nods. The elevator dinged and the door opened. Zou left the lobby, with the three creations behind her. "I know a place," she said, while they waited at the sidewalk in front of a pedestrian lane. The traffic lights turned green for the pedestrians and they crossed the street. "It serves good Chinese food. You'll love it."
The diner was at the docks, but surprisingly thriving. There were Chinese characters in a board dangling from the rooftop ledge. It apparently read, 'Li Ben's eatery, here to serve you.' They entered the diner. Wooden tables were spread all around the establishment. Customers sat on benches, eating bowls of noodles with chopsticks, a plate full of vegetables and meat with a fork, and deep-fried chicken in a spicy orange sauce.
The customers ranged from the young to the elderly, but they all had one thing in common; they were Asian. Some wore the red and green colors of the ABB, but other than some glances at Index none of the customers bothered them. "It's alright," Zou said. "No one fights in Li's place."
"Zou!" A forty-something man dressed in white shirt, with a black apron and a hairnet covering his black hair greeted her with a hug.
"Hi, Li!" She hugged him back.
"Who are your friends?" he asked, checking Accelerator, Mikoto and Index.
"Hi," Mikoto said, offering a hand. Li shook it. She introduced herself, and then her companions. "We'll have some Sesame chicken and Mongolian beef, please."
"Coming right up!" Li went back to the kitchen. The four of them chose a table by the corner of the diner. Accelerator sat at the edge, and could jump out and start hitting if people tried anything stupid.
"You two seem close," Mikoto said.
"Like, father-daughter close!" Index added.
"Li raised me and Michelle when we were younger," Zou said, rubbing her shoulders. She was lonely, but only for a moment. She grinned. "And now that I'm in better company, I can give back what I owe Li!"
Mikoto nodded, thinking of Othinus. Accelerator knew because he thought the same. But Zou didn't know that. As far as she knew Touma was their leader, which wasn't far from the truth but wasn't completely accurate either.
Someone dressed similarly to Li, only younger, served the food. The four of them began eating the delicious meals. Accelerator stopped halfway and passed his plates to Index, who cheered and thanked him. Right, he remembered his other self's time spent with the girl during September 30, just before he fought Kihara Amata. She ate a lot then, and she was sure to eat more now.
Mikoto ordered four more plates, divided between her and Index. Zou ordered another one for Accelerator. After eating, they drank some soda, with Zou paying for the food and left the restaurant.
"It was pretty good," Accelerator said.
"Yeah! Thanks for showing us the place, Zou." Index beamed at her. Zou blushed with the compliment. Mikoto clapped her shoulder.
"Not bad," Mikoto said, rubbing her belly. "I was actually full. We should take Touma here." Touma and Othinus, she meant. Any recommendation from them was sure to get Othinus' attention.
"Hey Zou!" Someone else emerged from the restaurant, a man dressed in a red jacket, running pants and slippers. "Where'd you get the money, huh?" He must've seen her extract her rolls of cash from her pocket. Not smart, Zou, not smart at all.
If Touma was here, he would be preaching for them to help the man through his problems and ignore the fact he was threatening a teenager. Luckily, Touma wasn't here. Accelerator stepped beside Zou. "Sir, I'm going to ask you to step away."
The man laughed. "Oh, yeah, thin guy? What if I don't?" He pulled a silver revolver from his jackets' pocket. "You're all obviously rich and loaded with cash. Tell you what. You can all give me the money in your pockets, and then Zou and that silver haired girl can stay with me and you can come back with more cash. Empty your bank accounts while you're at it. Sounds good to you? Good." He pulled the trigger.
Accelerator knew the tactic. Shoot one of them, and make the others feel helpless. 'He wasn't going to take Index as a hostage. He was going to take me.' Remove the largest threat and convince the others he meant business. Whether or not it worked with normal people or just had the survivors run for their lives and abandon their friends, he didn't know.
What he did know was that it failed to hurt him. The bullet was redirected from his chest and passed through the man's forehead, tore through his skull and brains and exploded from the back of his head, staining the streets with brain matter and skull pieces and blood.
Other customers emerged from the diner, their phones already out, and were taking pictures and videos of the scene of the murder. No doubt at the end of the day Accelerator's face would be on the web, with Mikoto's and Index's as collateral.
Mikoto raised a finger. Sparks burst from the smartphones. Some people yelped in surprise and dropped their devices while others were already looking at the source. "I've made an electromagnetic pulse. Not that it'll stop them from talking if the cops show up."
Accelerator stepped on the sidewalk, and put a little pressure into his foot. Cracks spread like a spider-web. "If any of you talk about our faces, I'll come for you," he said. "Understand?"
"Get back inside," Accelerator said. The streets emptied in seconds. Accelerator took out his phone, which thankfully wasn't affected by Mikoto's EMP, and dialed a number.
They chose to wait on a derelict building while waiting for their ride. Accelerator kicked a pebble into a rusted vehicle that was missing its wheels. Index had found a chalk and was drawing stick figures on the sidewalk. Mikoto was furious at the casualty. "Who was that guy?"
Zou leaned against the wall and looked at the bright sun. "A drunkard by the name of Bai Xinhai. Asshole. He got what was coming to him. He was a rapist, too. But his victims were all poor and threatened by his status as an ABB."
"Those poor girls," Mikoto said.
"Boys," Zou corrected her. "Bai liked boys, and he liked them young. One of them's Kyojin. The big guy. He always watched after me and Michelle, back when we were younger. Li couldn't keep us in the diner forever, you know? Bai wanted a taste of girls. Kyojin took a swing at him. The rest… Well, we missed him one night, and the next morning he had a bruise..." She kept to herself and didn't continue. She was probably reliving some bad memory and shivered. "I'm glad he's dead. Piece of shit. Should've spat on his corpse."
"Come on. Let's get out of here."
A few minutes later a black SUV arrived. The window buzzed down. The driver was the clerk who greeted them at the lobby. Mikoto opened the door and all four of them fit in the rear bench seat, with Index beside Mikoto, Zou beside Index, and Accelerator beside Zou. Accelerator glanced at the rear-windshield and found no one spying on them. The car drove them back downtown, into the indoor parking lot behind the hotel and parked between a blue Crown Vic and a white pickup truck.
"When did you get the clerk's number?" Mikoto asked when the clerk was the first to leave the car.
"While Touma was talking to Zou and her buddies," Accelerator said. "I'll send you his number, and that of the waiter's. Contact and backup are essential when you're in trouble. Zou, we're getting you and your boys some burner phones too. You can get better ones after you've saved up some money."
"Okay," Zou said. Mikoto and Accelerator opened their doors. Zou and Index got out after them. They closed the doors and left the SUV, following the clerk towards a backdoor into the hotel. The clerk took out their keychain, which was a karabiner with a keyring and ten keys attached to it. The clerk inserted a key in the keyhole, turned it open, and pulled back the key. The clerk turned the doorknob and entered the corridor, followed by Zou, Index, Mikoto and Accelerator.
"Crap!" Mikoto said. The clerk had already left them to return to the lobby. Zou turned to look at her. Mikoto bit her lips and smiled nervously. "You can go on ahead," she said, waving Zou away. When Zou left, Index and Accelerator waited for her to continue. "We forgot to buy Touma and Othinus anything!"
"Oh no!" Index said, overreacting as she covered her mouth and gasped. Mikoto held her waist and scowled at her. Index wasn't able to keep the act for long and broke down giggling.
"I think you're right. But those two have room service, and each other." Accelerator shook his head and went ahead. "I say we should do something about the news of an albino who could reflect bullets and a girl in a cap that could jam phones."
"You think they got a picture of us?" Mikoto asked.
"I doubt it. But it was the docks and we were in a hurry. There could've been other witnesses or security cameras just around the corner and we weren't careful because we were in a hurry to run. You know it was pretty stupid we ran at all. We could've claimed it was a suicide."
"A bunch of strangers claiming that in front of people who knew the drunkard? And on the day he suddenly regretted raping kids."
"He finally saw the light. A shame it's a train on the other side of the tunnel." Accelerator extracted his phone. "I'm sending lady Othinus a report. We need a cleaner if we're going to keep doing things like this."
"Ah," Mikoto said. "I know someone that could save us a lot of trouble."
In the restaurant of Li Ben's eatery, Bakuda was in her civilian clothes and eating some fried breadsticks, dipping the cakwey in hot sauce. She loved them sweet rolls spicy. She also ordered some dumplings and a fortune cookie for good luck, all put in a paper bag for takeout. She had heard about the attack on Bai Xinhai and was interested in his killer. She munched on her food and wiped the grease on some napkins on the table. She thanked the cook, left some money on the table and left with her takeout.
Plastic surgery had its advantages, and now despite holding an entire university in ransom she could walk the streets without worry. Granted, the streets were derelict and the people were shady in the area known as the Docks, but it would make do.
Things just weren't the same since Lung was arrested. She was tempted to break him out of prison, but foresaw her co-lieutenant Oni Lee up to the task. Instead, she would experiment with her bombs and kill the capes that put Lung down. Capes, as in plural, because she knew Armsmaster wasn't up to the task.
She had an apartment downtown, if only to keep the hobos from disturbing her. Upon entering the door Bakuda greeted her college neighbors who were descending from the stairs to have a party and declined their invitation with a shy smile and a cross of her arms, waved at them as they left the apartment, knocked on the landlady's door and offered her the takeout with a smile, climbed up the second floor and whistled in a jolly tune as she pirouetted from the hallway to her room, closing the door with a kick. She locked the door and placed a bomb on the floor to serve as a landmine and an alarm in-case anyone unwanted would show up. She wasn't so stupid as to tinker bombs in her own house. She simply made blueprints in a wooden table that served as her study.
She didn't know who those capes that killed Bai Xinxai were, and wondered if they were related to the capes that put down Lung. If they were sending her a message, then she would respond in kind. Taking out several empty papers and a sharpened pencil from the drawer, Bakuda began drawing the schematics of her new bomb.
'Lady' Othinus read the report and sipped a drink from her wineglass. Her hair had been tied to a bun to make it easier for Touma to scrub it clean with soap. She now sat on his lap in the tub and leaned her back on his chest. Touma was munching on a burger with bacon and cheese. They had ordered room service and asked the waiter to just leave the food outside their door. Othinus then teleported the meals into the bathroom and now an empty tray held crumbs on saucers and half empty plastic cups of sodas.
After he was done eating, he threw the paper wrap on the tray and held Othinus' stomach. Touma felt good. "Say, wanna get out of here?" Othinus pouted at him. "Not like that! I mean just making love somewhere else. Like our bed, maybe?" She made a wicked grin and gyrated herself against his hips. They were still connected, and her pussy walls already felt his hard-on. Touma groaned and cupped her left breast as he thrust inside her. Othinus sighed, put a forearm on the tub's ledge and leaned forward, as if getting away from Touma. She wasn't, of course. He pulled her back by her hair and growled into her ears. Othinus felt her cheeks heat up and smiled. She liked him when he was dominant. Touma took the cup from her and finished her drink and dropped it on the floor. The water in the tub receded with how long they were in the bathroom. Touma nibbled on Othinus' shoulder, pinched her nipple and dug his fingernails into her stomach, raking a line as he dragged his fingers up towards her other breast, drawing a gasp when he flicked her nipple. She raised a hand from under the water, throwing splashes into the wall as she cupped his cheek and turned for a kiss. It was brief and passionate. Their lips parted with a trail of saliva and the two looked at each other's eyes. Touma then inserted his forefinger and thumb into her mouth, letting her coat it in spittle, and held her tongue, pulling it out. He thrust inside her, held her waist and pushed her to the other side of the tub. Othinus already knew what he wanted and held the ledge, getting on her knees as he took her from behind. His eyes were hungry, his voice guttural with his grunts, and he leaned over her and sunk his teeth into her neck like a wolf marking its bitch. Othinus moaned and gripped the tub, shuddering in her climax. Her pussy walls squeezed Touma's cock and she whimpered as he kept pounding her until he emptied inside her. His hot cum dripped from her pussy into the tub, mixing with the water. They shared a loving gaze and kissed.
Othinus did not need to be in a certain area to use her magic. In fact, due to the scope of her magic, she could do it anywhere in the world. She had created a few more beings in her time with Touma.
One of them was a group of espers who stayed in the second floor, led by one Mugino Shizuri. They chose the room next to the former ABB gangster Zou. She sat on her bed, with her back against the headboard and traced her lips. Hamazura slept beside her on right, and Takitsubo sat and was eating some french-fries on the bedside to her left. Saia was taking a shower.
'Capes, huh?' Mugino had her orders.
Another creation was Shokuhou Misaki, a cute blonde girl with star-like eyes. She also had a room somewhere in the hotel, and she was currently in her bed, with a gold silk blanket wrapped around her attractive body. She was smiling goofily in her sleep, dreaming of happier times with Touma. On a laptop by the nightstand the screen was focused on a picture of Armsmaster, the Slaughterhouse 9, and the Endbringers.
A man in an immaculately suit was seated at the center of the lobby. People took notice of the odd orange armchair, and the even odder man with green hair and reading a book. He snapped his fingers and said, "Ignore me," and so the customers pretended as if he never existed. The alchemist hummed, intrigued by the tales of this being called Scion.
On another part of the hotel, on the penthouse overlooking the city, he observed Brockton Bay. He was interested in battling all the capes and seeing how their abilities stacked up against his, but for now he lay in wait. Fiamma had his orders.
New Worlds 1.2 (REWORKED)
Shokuhou Misaki had one job: learning people's secrets. With powers like hers it was a no-brainer. She was a dual existence like two sides of a coin: That of the Queen of Tokiwadai and the 5th level 5 esper on one side, and being the creation of Othinus on the other.
Her existence was devoted to Othinus, but her identity as Misaki was the active personality. Her devotion was usually dormant and only awakened in relation to her god.
Right then Misaki was spending time at a mall in the city with the other person she loved.
"Uh, my hands are tired." Kamijou Touma struggled to walk behind her. Two shopping bags on both arms weighted his body. Her handbag was nothing compared to those. "I think my hands are broken." Still, he looked good in a blue suit. She was clad she managed to convince him to dress nice at all, although by the looks of it he overdressed.
He didn't remember their past, but he was no longer affected by whatever ailed him back in Academy City, maybe because she wasn't the original Misaki. She didn't think she wasn't real, and she knew if she met the original she would acknowledge that iteration as the one that came first. But she was still her own being, and the benefits of getting to be with Touma made her feel like she was on a sugar-high.
"We didn't even buy clothes," Touma groaned. Misaki spotted a café and decided to give him a break.
"Let's stop here," she said. With her hands behind her back and a mischievous glance over her shoulder she winked at him and giggled when he blushed. They entered the café and chose a green booth surrounding a white table. She waited for Touma to sit in one side and lower the bags to the floor, sighing in relief. And then instead of sitting opposite him she snuggled next to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulder, pushing his own between her breasts.
"Urh. Why did Othinus even allow you to hang out with me?" Touma asked.
"God works in mysterious ways," Misaki said in a sing-song voice. "That, and I already found a cape."
"Really?" The interest in Touma's voice made her grin. "Who was it?"
"Just some nobody with superpowers who's having a moral dilemma."
"I sweep through people's minds, skipping them like books and found the one page that caught my interest. It's more like tendrils, really. Long, invisible tendrils that poke into your soul." She giggled when Touma made a face. "And about that nobody, they're already being and monitored by Item." She combed her honey blonde hair behind her shoulder. "Of course I need the remote for the more advanced methods of my power." Well, formerly, that was. "But simple stuff like mind-reading doesn't require it. Take that café-worker." They glanced at a man in white clothes and a green apron and cap. "He thinks you're a lucky son of a bitch to have someone like me giving you my attention and want it all for himself."
Misaki continued scanning the café-worker's mind. He wasn't focused on her as much as her clothes. She wore a white turtleneck, black trousers, white gloves and black flat shoes. She also donned a gold rosary leading down the swell of her breasts, the cross snuggled between them. The café-worker even thought about buying a wig with gold hair like Misaki's and star-shaped eye-contacts.
"Oh," Misaki said, turning to the café-worker. He was a redhead, with freckles and brown eyes. "You're a drag queen." Though the thought she saw reminded her more of a cosplayer. The café-worker was also a college student and took the job in the café as a part time work. He was living on his own in a studio apartment and was on a scholarship in the local university.
"And jealous," the café-worker said. "My name's Ronny and I wish I could wear those things as fabulously as you can." Misaki covered her lips and giggled.
"Well, Ronny." Misaki smirked. "Are you ready to take our orders?"
"Sure thing. But before that, how did you know?"
Misaki read Ronny's mind. "St. Louis, Missouri. Last year you were one of the participants. Your dressing-ability was fabulous."
"Thank you. Now what can I get you two?"
They ordered pizza, poached egg, some bacon, two yoghurts and iced-tea. The food was delivered five minutes later. Misaki's star-like eyes twinkled with delight at the food. She loved sweets, but she also enjoyed a good meal.
"I can't believe Othinus would just use me like some prize," Touma said, shaking his head.
"She knew you'd enjoy my company," Misaki said, letting go of his arms and nudging his shoulder with hers. "And you do, don't you?"
Touma grumbled. Misaki poked his shoulder. He crossed his arms over his chest. She flicked his ear. He caught her wrist and pulled her hand to the table. "Kinky." She grinned. He was smiling in amusement. He released her hand and shook his head.
"What is it about you that makes me like you?" he asked. "You do a lot of stuff that should piss me off. But it doesn't. Are you using your power on me to make me like you?"
"That's a tempting thought." She took a fork and poked her food. "But I doubt lady Othinus would tolerate such shady methods. My mental abilities aren't as strong as hers."
'That, and I think she wants me as a mistress. For whom though, I don't know.' Misaki didn't miss how Othinus looked at her and was curious if she was to be her sow. It would bring her to the height of ecstasy being the bearer of Othinus and Touma's children. She rubbed her thighs.
"Misaki?" Touma asked, breaking her from her reverie. Feeling hot, Misaki took a sip of her iced-tea.
"Hmm? I'm sorry, I was distracted. Did you say something?"
"No. You just looked deep in thought. I was actually wondering what Othinus is doing."
Misaki pouted. "Talking about another girl while you're on a date? My, Touma, you sure know how to set the mood."
He raised a brow and tapped her nose. "I already have a girlfriend, Misaki. Plus I think she'd kill you if she heard you say that."
Misaki laughed. "I think she'd do the opposite, but let's agree to disagree."
Touma rolled his eyes. "You're delusional." They finally started on their meal. A few more customers entered the establishment. Misaki was absentmindedly skimming their thoughts when one caught her attention.
'I'm going to pull my gun on the barista or whatever they're called. Threaten to shoot people if they don't give me the money. Shoot someone anyway just so prove a point and then run out of the mall.' The thought came from a man in his forties, with a brown hair tied into a short ponytail under a blue cap, a beard, a baggy jacket and black trousers. Digging into their past, she learned they had done been a mugger killed over nine people, three of them teenagers, before leveling up into a robber.
Misaki thought about controlling the man into surrendering to the cops. But then she remembered how Touma had to pay for their food. A mischievous idea formed in her head. She didn't want to control good people into losing money, but maybe she could convince them to treat Touma for free and engineer some publicity while she was at it.
She opened her handbag and fiddled with her remote, although at this point it was just accessory and influenced the would-be-robber into stepping next to their booth. "Touma," Misaki said. "I'm a little thirsty. Can you get me some water?"
"You're so lazy," Touma said, but didn't decline her request. She laughed as he maneuvered around her and was trying to ignore how their bodies rubbed before he escaped the booth.
He stood next to the would-be-robber. Misaki allowed the thug to finally enact their plan. The would-be-robber pulled out their gun, and instead of using it to shoot the person closest to them, which was also the greatest threat, the would-be-robber aimed at the ceiling and said, "This is a robbery! I want everyone in the floor, now!"
Touma took a one-third of a second to gape at the thug, two-thirds to clench his fist, and the third to aim at the would-be-robber's throat. The man gurgled and wrapped his throat. Touma followed it up by kneeing between the legs and scything an elbow to the nose. The would-be-robber dropped their gun and fell to the floor, crying as they clutched their balls. Their nose was broken, blood staining their face.
The crowd clapped and applauded Touma. Misaki propped her elbows on the table and held her cheeks as she smiled at him. She already saw the title of tomorrow's newspaper: Not all heroes wear capes. It would praise Touma for thwarting a crime that was to be committed while not using a power to achieve it.
More ideas formed in Misaki's head. Yes, she knew how to spend their day already.
"Congratulations, young man!" An old man with balding white hair and eyeglasses approached Touma and clapped his shoulder. "You did us all a service by putting scum like him down. How would you like me to pay for your meal?"
"Sir, that's not necessary," Touma said.
"He's humble too!" The old man laughed. "I insist. That's the least I could do."
"No, I couldn't-" Touma said when he was interrupted.
"He's right," another customer said. "Take the reward, boy. You've earned it."
"Ma'am, I can't just-"
"There's no need," Ronny the café-worker said. "Because they're getting their food for free!" The crowd of customers and even onlookers who saw Touma's heroic feat from outside the café cheered.
Security guards arrived on the scene ten seconds later. "What happened?" One asked.
"This young fellow here did your jobs for you is what happened," the old man said. He kicked the would-be-robber's stomach, earning a groan. "If it weren't for him this maniac would've killed us all."
The security guard looked at Touma. "Is this true?"
"No buts about it. You did a good job, kid." The security guard shook Touma's hand. "We need more people like you."
Touma sighed and forced a smile. "If you say so. I don't think I should be praised for something anyone would've done if they were in my shoes."
The security guards hauled the would-be-robber outside the café and confiscated his gun. Policemen arrived two minutes later, congratulated Touma and took the crook into their police car to jail. Touma didn't even finish his food before he insisted they leave the café before the paparazzi arrived.
They had a driver with curly blond hair tied to a bun and shades with a black SUV waiting for them in the parking lot in front of the mall. Touma was sure that man was a clerk at the hotel. Since when did he become their driver? Those were the thoughts Misaki gleamed through a glance at Touma's expressive face. The driver opened the rear-door and Touma put all the shopping bags inside the car before closing the liftgate.
Touma and Misaki got in the back of the car and pulled their seatbelts. Misaki took the moment to unfasten hers and buzz her window down. "I wonder what it looks like to poke my head out of the window." She did so, and her hair was windswept and slightly raffled when she pulled it back it. She laughed when she saw Touma's worried gaze. "Relax, you worrywart, I'm not just going to die."
"You were checking the wind like a dog! The only thing missing was sticking your tongue out and you'd make the perfect golden retriever. Don't do that, Misaki!"
"Oh?" She traced her lips which curled into a smile. "Is that what you want me to do?" Touma's blush made her heart race and her cheeks feel warm.
"We're almost short on fuel. I'll be stopping at the next gas station." The driver parked beside a pump, got out of the car and pulled the fuel dispenser, opened the gas tank, unscrewed the gas cap, and pumped into the fill spout.
Misaki spotted a convenience store and her eyes twinkled. "Touma, let's have some candies."
"Misaki, we can have them at home."
"But I really want to."
"Fine," he said, giving in. They got out of the car. That was when Misaki's power warned her. It had a passive function like tendrils or tentacles with her at the center, inspecting the minds of those approaching her. She saw through one tendril the mind of a threat in the form of a dirty looking man in a beanie. He was clutching a silver revolver in his pocket and looking at them from ten meters away.
He was also a junkie from the Merchants looking for a high and having just found his next source of income. He had already spent bullets the night before, fighting off vagabonds and taking their drugs, leaving three bodies in an alleyway with headshots and missing shoes. Misaki glanced at the man's feet. He wore a sneaker on his left and slippers on his right.
Fortunately, he ran out of bullets.
The junkie was two meters away when he took out his revolver, pointed at them and said, "Alright, t-this is a stick-up! Give me your money or the whore gets it!"
"Touma, he doesn't have any bullets!" Misaki said. Touma didn't doubt her words, immediately trusting her and he rushed the junkie. The junkie's combat skills were less than impressive thanks to their drug-dependant degraded body. The junkie took a swing with their revolver. Touma ducked under the attack, his left arm rising for an uppercut and he struck the junkie's chin. The junkie was already falling when Touma followed with a fist to their sternum.
The junkie fell to the asphalt, their body twitching from withdrawal, and filled the air with stench from their pants. Misaki covered her nose. Touma grimaced. The driver, who watched the entire fight, sniffed the air, nodded and said, "Yup. He shit himself."
The driver said he would call the cops, leaving Touma and Misaki to have some free time. When Touma asked the driver what he'd use for gas money, the driver rummaged the junkie's pocket and found a roll of cash and said he'd pay with those. Why the junkie tried to rob them when he already had money eluded them. Of course the slot at the pump only took cards. Misaki told the driver to step aside, politely, and took out her debit card from her handbag, inserting it in the slide and paying for the gas. After taking her card she also took the silver revolver and fit both in her handbag.
"Why did you do that?" Touma asked.
"Spoils of war."
"Why not use your remote?"
"And reveal my mental abilities? No thank you."
"You'll dirty your gloves."
"Touma, this is just in case, okay? The criminal abilities of some people in this city is beginning to tire me."
"I think it's stupid, and what you're saying doesn't really make sense but..." Touma's hand found hers, interlaced their fingers and squeezed her hand. "Don't worry. I'll protect you." Misaki almost cried on the spot, but managed to suppress herself. Her eyes glistened but she wiped it with the back of her gloved hand and her face was warm as she smiled.
"Oh, Touma," Misaki said. "You're right," she added. "I could just use my remote. But for once I want to scare these miscreants with their own tactics because it infuriates me that they think pointing a gun at people should be enough to scare them into surrendering." She closed her eyes and lowered her head. "Forgive my unsightly self."
"Don't be sorry," Touma said. "It's fine. In the end you might encounter people that are immune to your powers too." She opened her eyes and raised her brow. "I mean, bad people with powers like mine. And who knows. A gun might come in handy." Touma didn't use guns himself, but he wasn't going to discourage others from self-defense.
They entered the convenience store and immediately found two masked robbers at the counter at the far end of the store. One was pointing a gun at the cashier and the other was emptying the cash register. The robber with the gun already noticed Misaki and Touma, but she ordered him to ignore them. She gave the same order to the other robber and pressed her forefinger to her lips, winking at the cashier and telling them to keep quiet. The cashier nodded, their arms raised, and their face nervous.
Touma, unaware of Misaki's influence, glanced at her handbag. She understood and took out the silver revolver, handing him the gun. He had a befuddled look, probably wondering why she gave him the weapon instead of using it herself, and then sighed. "Drop your gun!" Touma said to the armed robber. Misaki's fingers drummed her handbag. The robber complied and kicked the gun towards them where Misaki picked it up. The other one got on their knees. Misaki sensed a presence behind the door for employees only. It was a third robber, holding the doorknob, pointing a Glock 19 at the door and waiting for Touma and Misaki to put their guard down before ambushing them, planning on shooting them dead.
"Touma, there's a third thug behind that door," Misaki whispered. Touma nodded.
"I know you're in there!" he said. "Don't make us shoot!" The robber wasn't giving up without a fight, so Misaki eased them into the idea. The robber threw their gun in the corridor leading to another door, probably the manager's office, and opened the door, raising their hand in surrender.
"Tie them up," Misaki ordered the cashier, who was only happy to do so. She learned through the cashier's mind that the manager took a sick leave because of a fever. Fortunate for the manager, not so much for the cashier. But today was their lucky day for Misaki and Touma was there to save it. The cashier went to the manager's office and came back with three handcuffs in pink fur. The manager was into some kinky stuff. The robbers were all cuffed and kneeling when the policemen arrived.
"Good lord," one policeman said, recognizing Touma. "It's you again."
"Oh no," Touma said. "Um, you must be mistaking me for someone." He looked at his gun, and then at Misaki's. They rolled the guns in their hands, offering the grips to the officers. "The revolver belongs to someone else outside, by the way."
"Yeah, we caught him. Our car's gonna stink though," the policeman said, taking the guns from Touma and Misaki's hands. "These guys already cuffed? Good job." He read the robbers their Miranda rights and two more entered. They escorted the robbers out of the convenience store.
"Come on, let's hurry!" Touma grabbed Misaki's wrist. She yelped as he ran out, dragging her with him. They got into the backseats of the black SUV, which was finished refueling. Through the rearview mirror the driver's reflection grinned, turned on the ignition, moved the gear stick, held the steering wheel and drove them away.
"I don't want to get out of the car anymore," Touma groaned. "At least not until we get into the hotel. Then I can just delude myself into thinking today didn't happen."
"Um." Misaki looked at his hand, still holding her wrist. He apologized and released her. She smiled and rubbed her wrist. "No, I don't mind. But why did we run out of the store? I didn't even get to buy my sweets."
"I'm sorry. It's just, I don't want to get too much attention in this city. Even my idea of forming a group to help people was only going to form under the condition that I work behind the scenes," Touma admitted. Misaki looked at him in surprise. He made a tired smile. "I used to be the center of attention, back in our old world. My life was a whirlwind of chaos and terror that culminated into something so obvious I should've seen it from the moment I woke up in that hospital room."
"What was so obvious?" She had an inkling, but she wanted to hear it through his own words.
"The end of the world."
"Ah. Lady Othinus? You know, back in Academy City in late November I found an Urban Processor that told me of Gungnir and lady Othinus. It didn't make much sense at the time, but I wasn't a copy made from the memories of the original combined with the divine magic of my creator either."
Touma frowned and leaned closer, making Misaki cover her breasts and lean back as she blushed. "Touma?"
"I always wondered what it's like," he said. "I didn't see it at the time when I was with Mikoto and Index, you know, in the hotel. But I felt like the relationship between them and Othinus was weird. Accelerator was acting even weirder. Those two I could brush off as eccentric, but Accelerator was always concise and practical when the situation called for it. Why he decided to obey her mystified me. I didn't really understand the relationship of creatures and their creators at all." He pulled away. "But I always made excuses for it because they're my friends. But you, I don't even know you. Or at least I think I don't."
Misaki's heart wrenched at his words, but fluttered a moment later.
"Did I know you? Before the accident?"
A long time before that, spanning an entire year, she wanted to say and then grab his shoulders and shake him around and scream at his face and curse him for letting her suffer so in loneliness for so long. Instead, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said, "Yeah. But that was the past. You're curious about how I view lady Othinus?"
When she opened her eyes, it was to see him nod.
"She is my maker. The reason for my existence. I am a copy of another Shokuhou Misaki from another world, but designed to worship my god. Fitting, isn't it? Because she truly is a god, one who wields great magic."
"Isn't it weird?" Touma asked. "How you're little more than her slave?"
Misaki vehemently shook her head and denied his words. "Why would it be? Remove my back-story, remove my abilities, remove my appearance all of which function as aesthetics and flavor text, I am simply a creature that was created and in contact with my maker."
"So you're not Shokuhou Misaki."
"I am," she said, holding her chest. From the bottom of her heart she knew what she truly was. "I am both the 5th level 5 esper and the creation of lady Othinus. I could have been anything, but I was made in the image of this girl. And so I am. My god sculpted and molded me from the clay that is her magic with the intent of having this form. To be anything less than accepting of my existence is an insult to her greatness."
"So it's the same with the others? If it was the real people I'd be against it, but you're all essentially clones…" Touma sighed. "I guess I'll never understand."
Misaki rolled her eyes. "Even after being with a god, you're still an atheist, Touma?" She turned her nose up and sniffed like a pampered aristocrat. "How disenchanting."
"That's what I do." He raised his right hand. "I free people from illusions. I thought you'd have realized by now."
She covered her mouth and giggled. She held her hips and faked a scowl, pretending to be angry. "So any more questions, wise-guy?"
"Just one. What were we?" He looked curious.
She paused. "Friends," she said. "Best friends. I love you and you love me. You were always my companion and the person who brought me out of the darkness my power sunk me into." The darkness of human experiments, callous research labs, and apathetic scientists. She hugged herself, as if recalling the past events that logically shouldn't even affect her due to her nature as a mere copy. But she was a perfect copy, and so completely felt the throes of the original. "It killed me, over and over again to watch you from afar. That's why I'll be thankful to lady Othinus for letting you remember me again, even if it was unintentional."
He apparently didn't know what to say, and so said nothing. She felt strong, warm arms wrap around her body and pull her into his chest. He was like a pillar for her to lean on. Misaki hugged him back and nuzzled his chest. Tears leaked from her eyes and her cheeks took a tint of red even as she made a blissful smile. Like this, just the two of them, she could treasure the memory eternally.
And in this city, Brockton Bay, she hoped to make many more.
"So where are we going now?" Touma asked. Their ride stopped in front of house in the suburbs of Brockton Bay. Touma didn't have the benefits of Misaki's telepathy and was unaware of the specific area they were in due to being new to the city. But even a cursory glance could give the impression it was on the poorer side of town. Garbage bags were spilled on the side of the house. A raccoon was rummaging through its contents, spilling rotten food into the open. The stench was horrible, but it was filtered out by the smell of smoke. Something was smoldering from the backyard.
"To meet someone interesting," Misaki said, holding her hands behind her back and skipping ahead. "I was a visit to some of the people who were connected to the crimes we've encountered today."
"Ah. Right, that was stupid of me," Touma said. "I forgot this isn't a movie where if you stop the bad guys everything's over. An operation requires a mastermind or someone in front of a screen, right?"
"Nothing so sophisticated," Misaki said, wagging her forefinger as she grinned at him. "Just one of the causes of the junkie who sullied his own pants."
"A drug dealer?"
"And a member of the Merchants. Not that there's much coherence to their organization. I don't quite understand it myself. But that's what happens when drug dealers and superpowers mix." Misaki shrugged.
"Come on," Touma said. "Let's greet our criminal friend."
Misaki skipped up the steps, turned and offered her hand. "Take my hand if you want to live."
"My hero," Touma said, accepting her offer. "If I didn't know any better, Misaki, I'd think you just wanted to hold my hand." He gave her a squeeze.
"What makes you think I don't?" Misaki asked. Her cheeky smile didn't help matters. Touma frowned and reached a hand, squeezing her cheek. "Ow, ow!" He let go. She rubbed the spot he squeezed and glared at him. "What was that for?"
"No reason," Touma said.
"Hmph!" Misaki broke eye-contact but didn't release his hand. The porch was dusty. To one side a rocking facing the street was missing an armrest. The window behind it was broken. A vertical slash was on the door, looking like it was made with a knife. The doorknob was rusty, covered in stains of red paint.
Or is it blood? Misaki used her power. Mental Out wasn't merely limited to human beings. It functioned similarly to psychometry and could extract the 'memories' of objects in the last twenty-four hours with her right hand. Misaki removed her glove by biting her fingernail, pulling it off her hand with her teeth, ignoring Touma's surprise. She touched the damaged surface of the door, tracing her fingers down the mark. It was recent. Just twelve hours ago. The perpetrator had been a drug-addict that got into a fight with the owner of the house.
She recognized the face.
That drug-addict was now a corpse in an alley. It was the same addict that was killed by the junkie who tried to rob them in the gas station.
'Are they all Merchants, I wonder?' Misaki thought to herself. A touch of the rocking chair made her collect the remnants of its memories. The same addict tore the armrest free and threw it inside the window.
"What? What did you see?" Touma asked. "A vision of the past? The victim's ghost? Did the door speak to you? What was it?" Misaki pouted and punched his chest. She wasn't even strong enough to make him feel the hit. Touma raised a brow.
"Don't make fun of my mental abilities," Misaki said after using her teeth once more to don her glove. "And all I saw are dead ends and horror stories. Sometimes I wish I didn't have this power, for at least a few hours so I could forget just how cruel humans are to each other."
It was either by accident or by design, but the junkie in the gas station killed the addict who threatened the drug dealer. Merchants look after their own, even if by accident and in a drug-fueled high.
This time, Misaki released Touma's hand and extracted her remote. Under most circumstances it was better than a gun. When Othinus created her she no longer had the limits of overhearing what other people thought or overloading her brain trying to absorb all their pointless memories. It was thanks to her rosary, which was a magical item gifted to her by her creator. She cupped the gold cross in her palm. It was proof Othinus was looking out for her.
The cross glinted.
"Finally," Touma said, focused more on her remote than on her cross. She released the cross and lowered her arm to her side. He was unaware of its magical nature. "I thought you'd never take that thing out. I was a worried mess, you know, when we met that robber at the café, or the junkie in the station or those masked men in the store. I mean, it was useful having you read their minds, but having the ability to stop them from hurting us is more reassuring."
She was going to ask him what he was talking about when she remembered he was also unaware that she no longer needed her remote. It was just for show, but she needed to hold something at least. Past memories of her holding her remote like a gunslinger would grip their pistol seeped back into her hand. She felt good.
Normally, in covert operations Misaki didn't want her companions to make noise and draw attention towards them. But she was with Touma, which already made her happy, and she had the rosary, which meant she was safe, and she had her remote, which meant level 0's weren't a threat. Level 0 was a term in Academy City for espers with abilities so negligent they might as well be nonexistent. She didn't hold anything against powerless humans herself, but she was aware of the gap between those who wielded power and those who didn't.
Touma opened the door. A fly greeted them. It buzzed and escaped from the porch, probably going to the trash scattered on the side of the house. The living room was a mess. Empty bottles of beer and boxes of pizza filled the entire floor, furniture, and even on top of the television.
"It's broken," Touma said, pointing at the TV. It had a crack on the screen. Misaki nodded. Her power spread out, like the tendrils of a sea monster making contact with passengers from boats above its surface. She found one thought-wave from the door leading into the bedroom.
"He's there," she said. They stepped over some pizza boxes and bottles of beer. She stepped on a bottle and almost slipped. She yelped, until she realized she hadn't fallen on her ass against the floor. Touma had caught her back with his arms. Misaki's heart raced. "I'm so happy," she whispered, feeling her cheeks warm. After steadying herself they continued into the bedroom, which was also open.
They found an empty needle. Misaki raised her remote and clicked a button. The man holding the needle sat on the side of the bed, his feet on the floor. He was balding, obese, and wore eyeglasses. There was an orange stain on his white tank-top shirt. Blood dripped from his feet, and when he raised it, revealed a glass shard underneath it. A cursory inspection of his mind revealed the broken window had been shattered by the addict who slashed the wall, and the glass pieces mixed with the trash, and being unable to find all of the shards made the drug dealer step on one on his way back to the bedroom.
"Touma," Misaki said. "Can you pull out the bag under his bed? It's a duffel bag. Full of money."
"Do we really need it?" Touma asked, approaching the drug dealer without a care. He wasn't worried that the drug dealer might hurt him because he trusted Misaki to protect him, and she did. Whatever the drug dealer was going to do, like pull out the pistol hidden under his pillow, was no longer permitted.
"What did he take?" Touma asked.
"Shot himself with cocaine. He's just living for that high. He was normal until the day he found his wife and kids murdered by robbers inside their own house. He went the deep-end and now sells drugs to kids. Even killed some who tried to steal from him."
Misaki was repeating that specific memory. A couple of fifteen-year-olds whipped out a gun and asked him to give them all his drugs and money. The drug dealer complied, and when the kids tried to shoot him revealed their gun wasn't even loaded. The drug dealer rushed back to his bedroom, took his gun, and chased the kids across the street. He shot them in the back of the spine and the head. Panicked, the drug dealer picked up their bodies and dragged them back into the house.
That was when he met Skidmark, who helped him dispose the bodies.
It turned out the cape was observing him and was impressed by his dedication to his trade and his pride in his status as a drug dealer. And then he joined the Merchants, and the rest was history.
The bodies had been chopped into pieces. The dead eyes of the kids stared into the drug dealer, who didn't care as he wrapped the pieces in meshes and gave them to Skidmark. Misaki wanted to shudder. Seeing too many dead bodies did not help the human psyche.
That was in his old home. This new one was
"You okay?" Touma asked, carrying the duffel bag in one shoulder. "I know some people did some fucked-up things, but I only get second-hand sources. You see things through their own eyes." He lowered a hand to her shoulder. "Tell me if it's unbearable, okay?"
Misaki felt all her worries melt. He was like sunshine brightening her day after a cloudy sky.
"Mhm." She nodded. She would normally feel a pang of guilt for what she was about to do next. Altering someone's personality was almost like killing them, but leaving the physical body intact. But this man had murdered kids who looked at him in fear, and then helped cover up their disappearances. He had watched news of their parents grieving and asking people to help look for their missing children, while eating chips and drinking beer.
Misaki destroyed his mind. Her telepathy wrapped around his mind like tendrils and dragged it into the depths of the sea, never to resurface from the darkness untouched by sunlight.
It didn't show in his outward appearance, but the drug dealer would no longer be capable of coherent thought. In medical terms it was called a persistent vegetable state, a wakeful unconscious state that leaves the patient sensitive and stimulated by the environment but never truly aware.
Touma called 9-1-1 using the man's phone. "You know we're going to have to throw that," Misaki said after he hung up. He left fingerprints and she didn't want to take any risks. Touma probably thought she was overreacting when they could simply wipe the prints with a cloth, but thankfully he was kind enough to humor her immense paranoia.
"There's a fire in the backyard," Touma said. Through the door to the backyard they found fences covering the land and burnt tires stacked together. Touma threw the phone on the tire-fire. Misaki spotted some eyewitnesses observing them and used her power to remove memories of her and Touma from their minds.
When they returned to the car, the driver was drinking a bottle of whiskey. He offered them a drink. They both declined. On their way from the suburb Misaki made sure to alter the memories of people who saw their car. Just in case.
The duffel bag full of cash had been placed on the area between the backseats and the liftgate, alongside the shopping bags.
"Remember those robbers at the convenience store?" Misaki said. "They had a getaway driver that bailed when he saw the cops."
"Why didn't you say anything at the time?" Touma asked. Their car stopped on the sidewalk of Brooder Street in the less expensive, but generally safer areas of the bay, at least in comparison to the docks. The building wasn't anything interesting. It was two-stories, gray and had a sign on the front called, 'Macey's apartment-hotel.'
"It might be interesting. Plus there's no tangible proof the driver even knew these men. Someone else formed their crew. The only three didn't know the mastermind, only the driver did. One of the convenience-store-robbers stalked the driver into his home for insurance in the possibility the driver double-crosses them." Misaki exhaled, and took a deep breath of oxygen. "That was tiring."
"Their ride's a white Subaru," Misaki said. "Let's check the parking lot first." She glanced at the driver who was chilling by the seat. "Or have him do it."
"Only if he's willing," Touma said, approaching the driver. Misaki cheated and made the driver say yes. She made a promise to give the driver some extra cash later as recompense. The driver left the vehicle and ran to the side of Macey's apartment-hotel, returning two minutes later, soaked and gasping for breath.
"I-it's there," the driver said.
Misaki found it odd. Logically speaking the getaway driver should've removed their vehicle to leave them free from incriminating evidence. But since they didn't participate in the heist they saw no reason to let go of their car. Touma and Misaki entered the lobby.
The receptionist behind a desk was a chubby girl with red hair and blue eyes. She glanced from her computer to greet Touma and Misaki. "Can I help you?" she asked. Misaki ignored her and moved up the steps. "Ma'am? Ma'am, you can't go up there. Ma'am! I'm calling security!" Misaki looked for security cameras. The receptionist must've pressed a hidden button under the desk. Four security guards emerged from the door beside the desk.
"Misaki!" Touma said, raising his hands in panic. "Do something!" The security guards unholstered their pistols and aimed at the two.
"How odd for security to be this tight in a quaint building," Misaki said. She had found the security cameras. There was one on the ceiling to the left corner from the entryway, another from the right, and a third above the receptionist. The security guards also wore body cameras, Misaki learned from skimming the receptionist's mind. Misaki didn't raise her remote at them because they might mistake it for a gun and open fire. She didn't need to, either.
From the moment the security guards appeared she already took control of their minds. But Touma didn't know that. Misaki pretended the guards weren't under her thrall and aimed her remote at them and clicked a button. She gasped, looked at her remote, and clicked again. "Touma," Misaki said. "My power, it's not working!"
"Don't you move!" One security guard stepped forward and said. "Bang!"
"Ah!" Touma covered his face in fear. Two seconds later he noticed he was still unharmed. He peaked between his fingers and found Misaki smirking, and the security guards sporting similar expressions.
"You should've seen the look on your face," she said, cupping his cheek. Touma scowled.
"That was not funny," he said. "You nearly gave me a heart attack. What the hell, Misaki?"
"I'm sorry." She bowed her head. "I promise not to do it again."
He flicked her forehead. "Bad Misaki. Very bad. No more remote for you." He didn't actually take her remote, but she hugged it to her chest and gave him a suspicious look anyway. Touma approached the receptionist. "Why didn't you take control of her immediately? That could've been risky, Misaki. The guards didn't shoot us then, which was lucky, a first for me. But next time you should control them before they whip out their guns."
Misaki wanted to argue that she already did. From the moment the security guards emerged she enthralled their minds. Alas, she couldn't tell Touma her secret that she no longer needed the remote. Not that she ever did, but back then her power was out of control. Now it was under her control, even without the need to distribute roles to multiple remotes that become outlets for various forms of her abilities.
She didn't tell him that, but Misaki stomped on the ceramic tile like a petulant child. She knew what image she was giving him and she didn't care.
"You're such a buffoon, Touma!" Misaki said.
"What? What did I say?" Touma scratched his head in bewilderment. "Sometimes I'll never understand girls."
"You realize you just stated an oxymoron?"
Misaki ordered the receptionist to delete the last ten minutes from the camera-feed and made the security cards turn their body cameras off. They were useful too. She could use them as sentries. Misaki left two security guards on the floor and had two lead the way up to the second floor. She compiled their memories and learned they had been taking bribes from the getaway driver. Whoever this man was, he had a lot of money. In the city of Brockton Bay she would be surprised if you didn't take bribes.
Based on the local powers that were the ABB, the Empire 88 and the Merchants, you had to align with one gang or another to avoid becoming their next target. Not that it stopped ABB from kidnapping women to force into prostitution, the Empire 88 from hurting minorities, or the Merchants from forcing kids into addiction and then having them work as drug mules in exchange for a shot.
Those were conclusions she came to after observing so many memories of criminals and their past. It wasn't even twenty-four hours since her trek from the hotel. And she's only encountered the Merchants. She wondered what the local neo-Nazis and drug pushers were like. They were most likely repugnant and vile.
They reached the top of the stairs. The corridor led to five doors. The security guards stood in front of the first door. Misaki had them try to open it first. Unfortunately it was locked. "Mr. Johnson, open up," the security guard said. Mr. Johnson was the alias of the getaway driver. The guards and the receptionist all assumed he wasn't using his real name. There was no answer. The guard knocked two more times, while his companion unholstered his gun. The first guard pulled a keychain from his belt loop and held out a spare key, inserting it into the keyhole and unlocking the door.
The guard turned the doorknob and opened the door. There they found Mr. Johnson. The chase was over. The job was done. He wasn't going anywhere.
Because Mr. Johnson was dead.
He was blond, muscular, with a cleft chin and vibrant blue eyes. If she had to guess he was probably on his twenties. He was also sprawled on the floor. His eyes were open, but the blue color lacked the vibrant signs of life. It was lifeless and dull. Blood pooled underneath his body. Mr. Johnson had been murdered.
Misaki was not a detective. She didn't know what professionals were supposed to do and compared to actual trained police officers she was an amateur. If she was limited by her physical body she was a frail amateur.
But she also possessed an ability called Mental Out. It was like a Swiss army knife. There were so many applications it was like she had multiple abilities. But in truth she only held one. Misaki removed her glove and crouched beside Mr. Johnson's body while ordering one guard to check the bedroom and the bathroom incase the killer was still inside. The other guard remained with them.
All she saw was a glimpse of Mr. Johnson gasping and then falling. "Turn him around," she ordered the other guard. The blood came from his back. They found a slash wound from the nape of his neck leading down his scapula. But there was also another wound from the lumbar vertebrae area. It was a stab wound, fatal enough to kill him. But the attacker hadn't been satisfied with that. No doubt the slash wound came after he was already dead, and then the attacker rolled his back to the floor.
Misaki guessed the killer had been the mastermind behind the convenience store robbery. After the three masked robbers had been arrested, Mr. Johnson had become a loose-end. If one of the robbers gave up Mr. Johnson's name, and one of them did know enough to give the cops a lead, then there was a chance Mr. Johnson would get caught and in turn give up the mastermind.
His murder made sense. But the consecutive attack on his back didn't. Misaki wanted to figure out more, and she knew just where to look. The first security guard returned, informing her of the absence of anyone else inside the room. "Touma, come on!" She grabbed his wrist and dragged him down the steps, the security guards behind them. They reached the receptionist and made her look through the backlogs of the security cameras.
There was a security camera monitoring the second floor. The feed was rewound three hours back. Someone exited Mr. Johnson's room. Misaki narrowed her eyes. The guest was a redhead with freckles and brown eyes.
"No way," Touma said, leaning forward. "Is that Ronny?"
Ronny was the café-worker who served them back at the mall.
He was also Mr. Johnson's killer.
But they couldn't confirm that. Not without an evidence to prove he had stabbed Mr. Johnson. Misaki cursed. If only she had dug deeper into the minds of the receptionist and the security guards she would've learned ahead of time that Ronny was the perpetrator.
"Call the cops," Misaki told the receptionist. She prepared an excuse for the security guard who touched Mr. Johnson's body. He had been worried for Mr. Johnson's safety and wanted to check if the man was still alive or some other lame excuse the cops would assume meant the security guard was pretending to be a detective. She made the security guard and the receptionist think it had been their ideas. She made them forget the last five minutes and with Touma left the lobby.
They returned to the mall, to the café where an aspiring robber tried and failed to make it big in the criminal underworld. Ronny was absent from work. Misaki found the manager instead, who informed them that Ronny had apparently left just minutes after they did. It corroborated with the timing of the murder. Three hours ago. They spent at least that much time driving from the mall to the gas station, and then confronting the junkie, and then stopping the convenience-store-robbers, and then driving to the drug dealer's house, and then to Mr. Johnson's. Out of everything they did it was mostly the traffic that burned their time.
Misaki wasn't really looking for justice. She just wanted to ask Ronny why he killed Mr. Johnson. For all she knew Mr. Johnson was moonlighting as a drug dealer and it had been a deal gone wrong. Or Mr. Johnson was biased against drag queens and said something rude to Ronny that set the redhead off. Or Mr. Johnson was blackmailing Ronny for sex and Ronny had had enough.
Or something. Misaki didn't want Ronny to be a criminal. He had been so likable. She just wanted him to tell her he had a good reason to kill Mr. Johnson, and Misaki would be glad for him to clear up the misunderstanding. She would then help him clear his name, and she would succeed, and if not through her power then through her creator's.
Misaki asked nicely for Ronny's address and sprinkled a bit of her power. The manager had been more than eager to tell them where Ronny lived. It was a studio apartment just a few blocks away. Misaki skimmed the manager's mind to help paint a picture of the location.
Touma suggested they walk. They drove there anyway.
When it came to arguments, Misaki always wins.
They left the car on a parking lot and this time the driver came with them to the studio apartment.
"Why though?" Touma asked.
"Because being stuck on the driver's seat is boring," the driver answered. "My ass hurts from all the sitting, and you two are having fun playing detective. I want win."
"Okay," Touma said.
"Sure," Misaki added.
"You know, I never did figure out why this Johnson fella paid the guards and the receptionist money," the driver said. "It just didn't make any sense. Why would he pay them anything? If he just kept secret about what it was he was hiding then he could've kept all that money to himself."
The driver was informed of everything that happened after each 'investigation' because he asked them about it while they drove to their next destination.
"Join the club," Touma said. "We don't know much of anything that's going on. You know what would've been fun though? If everything was connected. Just having the café-worker turn out to be the killer of the getaway driver of the people who robbed the convenience store was one hell of a coincidence. Too bad the junkie and the drug dealer weren't connected."
A dead child's eye flashed through Misaki's mind. She shuddered. "They are connected," she said. "To the Merchants. And I have a feeling we'll be encountering them soon. Just wish I knew where they buried the bodies…"
Those bodies were probably gone, fed to pigs or swimming with the fishes at the bottom of the bay. Or they were incinerated or destroyed with hydrofluoric acid. There were so many ways to get rid of a body. And the worse ones were just throwing them into scrapped cars in junkyards and compacted by a car crusher, leaving their corpses in the crushed car until they rot.
"Skidmark's going to pay," Misaki said.
Ronny's room was on the third floor of the studio apartment. It was the second door to the left at the top of the stairs. Misaki was tired by the time she reached the third, and was leaning on Touma's shoulder for support.
"You need to exercise, girl," the driver said.
"You need to shut up," Misaki said. She was almost panting, but refused to admit to the act. She was just heavily breathing from a weary exercise. That was all.
Touma knocked on the door. It slightly opened. Ronny peeked from the inside. "Can I help you?" Ronny asked.
Misaki's starry eyes twinkled. She read his mind. She didn't want to put Ronny in jail, but she couldn't just let a potential serial killer loose on the streets, either. If he truly did kill Mr. Johnson, then she needed to monitor him in the possibility he might kill someone else. She could just destroy the part of his mind that was a killer, but that was a last resort.
And then she wrinkled her nose. "Who are you?"
This man was not Ronny. He didn't have Ronny's memories.
Touma kicked the door. The impact of his foot sent the imposter flying across the room. A studio apartment fit a bed, a kitchenette, and a fridge all in one room. There was a small door leading to a bathroom, but it only had a toilet, a sink and a shower and nothing else. Studio apartments were cramped for space, choosing quantity over quality and usually had college renters.
Ronny was a college student. This imposter was not. Whatever he was, the imposter was also lacking in strength and was easily overpowered by Touma and the driver who held his arms and threw him into the bed. Misaki felt another living being with her telepathy and rushed to the bathroom where she found Ronny, the real Ronny. He was on the toilet seat with his wrists tied behind his back and a gag muffling his mouth.
Misaki sighed in relief. Ronny wasn't a killer. She waved a hand to the imposter, disabling them from using their arms or legs. Touma and the driver were about to start wailing on them with raised fists. It was better the imposter stop resisting before they get beaten up too badly.
"There's a knife on the back of his pants," Misaki said. "Get it for me."
"What did you do to me!?" The imposter shrieked. "Oh God. You're a parahuman!? Don't kill me, please!" Misaki removed the imposter's ability to speak, giving her a much needed silence. Touma followed her into the bathroom and passed her the knife. She used it to cut through the rope tying Ronny's wrists. When he was free he took off his gag.
"Thank you so much," he said.
"Who is that guy?" Touma jerked a thumb to the imposter stuck on the bed.
"My twin brother," Ronny said. He explained that he and his brother had grown up together, but separated when they were seventeen. While Ronny chose to go to college his twin joined the army. He returned a broken man. While his brother had a place of his own, sometimes he crashed inside Ronny's studio apartment and the two hanged out. They didn't really hate each other, but they did irritate each other. His brother apparently had the nasty habit of framing Ronny for things his brother had done. This was just the latest of his brother's fuck-ups. Ronny apparently had enough upon finding his brother cleaning a knife on the sink of what appeared to be blood and was going to call the police.
His twin didn't like that and tied Ronny to the toiled, apparently thinking of getting rid of the evidence and begging him not to tell the cops.
"I can fix him if you like," Misaki offered. "Remove the part of his personality that made him a killer." Misaki, Touma, Ronny and the driver all glanced at Ronny's twin on the bed, who freaked out and tried to speak but couldn't make anything more than muffled sounds.
"No thanks," Ronny said. "He was just looking out for me. The prick he killed was a stalker and he didn't like someone messing up his bro." Ronny rubbed his chin. "Say, you're pretty friendly for a cape, uh…"
"Misaki," she said, introducing herself, Touma, and the driver. She smiled kindly. "You want me to make your brother subservient to you and become your personal butler? Understood. It shall be done."
"No!" Ronny said, vehemently shaking his head and crossing his arms into an x. "Just give him a job or something, if you're willing. I mean, I don't mean to impose but you're being way too lenient on your master powers. Most heroes aren't like that so you're either a villain or a very apathetic rogue."
"You want Ronny to have a job?" Touma grinned. "I'm actually recruiting people into rehab."
"Is rehab a codeword for drugs?"
"No? Just giving an olive branch to people who need it. Your brother might be a killer, but he did it to protect you, right?"
"Yeah and then he tied me up. Asshole."
"Murder's a pretty big deal," Misaki said. "But your brother did it to protect you. So, Ronny, are you willing to give responsibility of his life to us? Oh, and if you're interested you can join in too."
Ronny looked between the two of them. "You know, when I thought I'd see the day I'd be recruited by a gang I never thought it would be one this friendly."
"We're not a gang," Touma said. "We're a support group and a neighborhood watch. We help each other, okay? That's all we do."
"Suuure," Ronny said. He shrugged. "What the hell. I need the money. You pay good?" Touma rolled his eyes and dug out $100 from his pocket and gave it to Ronny, who whistled. "I'm not dealing drugs, okay? Or any of the other fucked up things you gangsters do."
Touma rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Ronny. So, are you in?"
Misaki skimmed Remmy's mind. Remmy, or Remington, was the twin brother of Ronny, or Ronald. Ron and Rem. They watched each other's backs since they were kids. Well, it was more that Rem watched Ronny's back since Rem was the more aggressive of the two. Even their lifestyles showed their personalities. Through Remmy's memory she learned Mr. Johnson threatened Ronny if he broke up with him.
It was an abusive relationship and Ronny sometimes had black eyes or bruises on his forearm he tried to hide with sunglasses and long sleeved shirts. Remmy had enough and paid a visit to Mr. Johnson while impersonating his brother. Mr. Johnson was giddy and offered a drink to celebrate the mending of their relationship. That was when he struck. Remmy was a violent person that was trained as a soldier. It was a horrible combination that led to Remmy killing Mr. Johnson quickly and efficiently. His rage was the only reason he struck Mr. Johnson twice.
He had a noble excuse. Protecting one's family always mattered. And Misaki was enough of a shady individual to know when to look the other way when it came to other people's pasts. She only offered Ronny control over his brother because Remmy tied him up in the bathroom. Who knew what would've happened if Misaki and company didn't arrive sooner.
Having Touma recruit the twins into his little neighborhood watch was a good excuse for Misaki to keep tabs on them. A pet assassin was always useful.
Misaki implanted a failsafe inside Remmy. If ever he did something stupid, he would go into hiding and call her immediately. And he was to leave his brother alone, unless Ronny's life was also in danger in which case Remmy had to drag them both into the safe-house.
The safe-house referred to the hotel Misaki, Touma, Othinus and her other creations were staying in. Othinus was surely going to acquire the hotel property soon, given the way she was renting all the floors. It was safe in the sense that nothing could threaten its inhabitants. Their secret weapon was perched on the penthouse of the hotel, overlooking the streets. Good luck to whoever decides to fight him.
"I had a wonderful time today," Misaki said, running her fingers down her hair as she bashfully smiled at Touma. He had a goofy smile too.
"Same," Touma said. "Which is weird. Did we used to do this back when we were younger? Being stupid fighting crime?"
"You have no idea." And as far as she knew even after they grew apart neither of them stopped helping others in their own ways. Misaki wanted to wrap her arms around his head and pull him into a kiss. But she didn't. She settled for a hug, which Touma reciprocated, and winked at him as she closed the door.
She clutched her chest. Her heart was beating like crazy. She lost her smile, her face turning a deep shade of red. Her legs felt weak. She leaned against the door and slid down the floor where she sat, hugging her legs. She held a blissful expression hidden by her knees and her hair.
The gold cross glowed. "Did you enjoy your date?" Othinus asked.
"Yes," Misaki said, giggling slightly.
New Worlds 1.3 (REWORKED)
The target was Taylor Hebert.
The mission was to befriend her.
It was apparently a social experiment, yet one Othinus was willing to throw as many resources into. Any method short of directly mind controlling Taylor Hebert was fair game.
On the same day Touma and Misaki went out shopping, Item was on the move.
"I changed some things in the timeline," Othinus had said. "Something that should have happened a day after Touma and I arrived on this world will be delayed by twenty-four hours. Others, by forty-eight, and more by an entire week. I'm powerful, but I'm not all knowing. I am unaware of everything I've altered. Not that it matters, in the long run. Just wanted to let you know. I've created the people you've requested. Now do your job."
"Yes, my god."
Mugino had a direct line to her goddess, and not just in the sense that she had Othinus' number. She could call her creator if she needed anything so long as it was related to her mission. The report Misaki had given from the brief instance she managed to gleam from skimming Taylor's mind had been made into a dossier and entrusted into Mugino, who was the head of the operation to earn Taylor's trust.
In truth, it could have been anyone. They could've been committing this operation into any kind of cape, no matter their past. It just so happened that fate decided it was Taylor who was going to be their target, and so it was.
Mugino was at Winslow, with her group. Mugino checked herself in the camera of her phone. She had long brown hair, sharp brown eyes, a beautiful face. She closed her phone. She also wore a green dress-shirt, black stockings and flats. She was attractive, she knew, and the side-glances people gave her in the hallways cemented her belief in her natural beauty.
One of her teammates was Takitsubo Rikou, a short haired girl with a large rack under her pink tracksuit. Another was Kinuhata Saiai, a twelve year old in a bob-cut, orange hoodie and denim pants. Last but not the least was Hamazura Shiage. Face of a thug, but had the innate ability to make her feel like she was melting. He wore a red jacket, a white shirt beneath it, black trousers and white rubber shoes.
Their cover story was that of rich homeschooled kids that decided to enroll into Winslow on a whim. The money on white envelope she passed across the table from the principal helped too. And they always had the nuclear option: Mental Out. Unlimited resources meant the cooperation from the other creations so long as it doesn't interfere with their original missions.
Mugino closed her locker room and carried a notebook. She had a brown backpack slung on one shoulder and she held the notebook to her chest. She was about to pull out her phone when she noticed Hamazura looking at her with a constipated expression.
"What? Do you need to take a shit or something?" Mugino asked, more curious than angry.
"It's just weird," Hamazura said. "You being in school, I mean. Hell, any of you being in school. I never thought I'd actually see the day."
Mugino raised a brow. Takitsubo covered her mouth and yawned. Kinuhata poked his chest, which was impressive given their height difference. "What is that supposed to mean? You're like a super dropout, Shiage. Don't remind us of stupid things in the past, okay?"
"Hamazura has no tact," Takitsubo said, still calling him by his last name. It was pretty random with her.
"What she means, my charming friend," Mugino said. "Is that we'd rather not be reminded of the past, okay? We're not even our real selves. This is a new world, with new opportunities, under a new boss. One we all actually like."
"And worship," Takitsubo added, carrying her own backpack, which was red. Hamazura's was black, and bulkier. Kinuhata had the smallest, which added to the impression of a child. She truly stood out walking side-by-side with older teenagers.
"Yeah, that too."
"Okay?" Hamazura rolled his eyes. His lips curled into a smile and he gave Mugino a sly look. "I don't know. You were pretty enamored when I was talking about the past last night. You know, with candlesticks and flowers and an expensive dinner date."
Mugino snorted. "Hmph. If you think I was impressed you are sadly mistaken." She hooked an arm over Takitsubo's shoulder. "And you were trying to woo the both of us, you greedy little shit. Pick one and get it over with."
"Hamazura is a pervert," Takitsubo added, staring into his eyes. Mugino briefly closed hers. Her team's dynamic was a confusing one. It carried on original traits from their past world, but also added a new byplay due to their shared origin of being Othinus' creations.
Free from their past, they were simply enjoying each other's company. She always wondered if they didn't have powers where their lives would be, and briefly entertained a fantasy where they went into a regular high school and did all the fun things normal students got to do.
Well, they were in high school. Just the shitter one full of neo-Nazi's and drug peddlers and prospecting human traffickers. Among others.
Kinuhata walked beside Hamazura, laughing at his jokes and sometimes punching his leg if he went a little too far. Mugino was trying to mend things with Takitsubo, and the quiet girl didn't seem to mind. They didn't have the baggage of their original selves. It was a clean slate. And she needed to be chummy with the girl she was probably going to share Hamazura with.
They were codependent, unstable, too reliant on each other despite having an ugly past of trying to kill each other on more than one occasion, with Mugino as the common perpetrator. That was why she had always been possessive of her bond with Hamazura.
And maybe now she can be just as close with the other two people she was stuck for the rest of her life with. She wasn't going to force it, but she didn't mind if it happened either.
They entered Mr. Gladly's classroom. The underlings Zou, twins Reed and Gin, and the big guy Kyojin were in the second and third rows. Former members of the ABB recruited by their creator's lover Kamijou Touma. They had been informed of the plan, or at least their role in it, and gave a nod to Mugino as she glanced by them.
Based on the dossier, Taylor had been bullied for two years. She had triggered when a prank was pulled and her head was pushed into a locker. She learned her abilities in the hospital. Mugino read the dossier in her smartphone and wondered how much information Misaki truly 'skimmed' and if she considered it skimming, wondered what it be like if she read someone's entire life.
Taylor was also the one who took down Lung. Her and the Undersiders.
They took seats on the back of the room. Their target arrived. She was a scrawny girl with curly black hair and eyeglasses that gave the impression of a nerd in baggy clothes. She was a parahuman. The target chose the far right, front row seat nearest the door, probably to escape her tormentors if she needed a quick way out.
Mr. Gladly entered the room. Mugino almost mistook him for a student. "Class, before we begin I'd like to introduce some new students. No need to stand. Just give us an intro and then we'll start the class."
"Hi, I'm Shizuri Mugino." She made a wave.
"I'm…" There was a pause. "Rikou Takitsubo."
"Saiai Kinuhata. Nice to meet you!"
"Shiage Hamazura. Hope we all get along." He scratched his head and made a charming smile. Mugino didn't miss the squeal and blushes from the other girls in the classroom. It made her uncomfortable.
"So your first name's Mugino, right?" The one who spoke to her was Madison Clements. A girl with brown hair, sky-blue pins affixed to it, and otherwise uninteresting. She was also one of Taylor's bullies. Apparently she was 'cute'. Mugino scrutinized her. Students in this school had lower standards, apparently.
"Shizuri, actually," Mugino said. "We took into account the fact people might think a Japanese introduction as an English one. So we switched it around. Doesn't stop the confusion though, does it?"
Madison laughed. "No, it doesn't."
The class started. "Everyone, go into groups of four and share your homework. New students can pick a group of their choice. Just remember, this isn't just about grades but also about getting to know your classmates."
Taylor meanwhile approached the desk and spoke to Mr. Gladly. He gave her a textbook and she then joined a group with a long haired male sleepy-looking student and a stupid-looking one. Mugino decided to grace them their presence. As she stood up, she spotted Hamazura choosing Madison's group, just a table away from Taylor's. Kinuhata picked Zou's group, which was her and her gang. Takitsubo didn't pick any, choosing to lower her face to her desk and get some sleep.
"Hi. I already introduced myself. Nice to meet you," Mugino said.
"H-hi, I-I'm-" The stupid-looking one stammered his introduction. Taylor covered her face with her hand and sighed.
"He's Gred Veder. I'm Taylor Hebert. That's Sparky."
"Sparky…" Mugino waited for Taylor to continue. She didn't.
"Sparky. I don't actually know his name."
"Oh." Mugino sat beside Taylor. "So, what's this homework Mr. Gladly was talking about?"
"Capes and how they affected history," Taylor said. Another girl approached our group.
"Hi, I'm Julia," she said, offering her hand to Mugino. After the handshake she sat beside Mugino, intentionally ignoring the others, and spoke to her, Madison, and Hamazura. Hamazura was in Madison's group, beside theirs, and he was racking quite the attention from the other girls. Even Julia was affected by his presence. Mugino was very uncomfortable.
Taylor took out a folder from her backpack. It was a list of capes, dates and locations. Newspaper and magazine clippings had been referenced and even cut out and pasted into the work directly to make it look even more impressive.
"It looks nice, Taylor," Mugino said. She didn't even read it. She wasn't interested in the history of the world. Mugino preferred living in the now than reading the past. And the present was her target, who she wanted to gift-wrap and deliver into her god.
"Thanks," Taylor said, a little doubt in her voice, probably not at her work, but at Mugino's opinion. "What do you think, Greg?" She passed her work to Greg. He read her work.
"This is really good, Taylor," he said when he was done.
"Let me see," Julia said. Greg handed her Taylor's work. Taylor glared daggers at Julia, who handed it to Madison. There were a few giggles.
Mugino and Hamazura shared glances.
"Give that back," Taylor said.
"Give what back?" Julia asked.
"Madison," Taylor continued. "Give it back."
"Nobody is talking to you, Taylor."
The dismissal was enough to make Taylor give up. Although inside Mugino could see she was seething with rage.
The plan, Zou Mou's part in it was to offer protection to Taylor in school. Zou was already moving, accompanied by one of the twins, Reed. They stood behind Madison.
"Hey," Zou said, lowering a hand on Madison's right shoulder. She flinched. "Give Taylor's homework back."
"Or what?" One of Madison's companions asked. Not the brightest of the bunch.
Reed lowered a hand on Madison's left shoulder. He squeezed.
"Okay, fine!" Madison shrieked and threw Taylor's homework to Julia. "Now fuck off!"
Zou and Reed briefly met Mugino's eyes and Reed returned to his seat. Mr. Gladly had seen what happened, both of how Julia and Madison picked on Taylor, and how Zou and Reed strong-armed Julia in turn.
Mr. Gladly didn't do anything.
The reason why Mugino and her group, Item, didn't do anything by themselves was to uphold a 'clean' reputation in school. That was what Zou's group was for. She promised the former gangbanger that she would not be expelled from school. Misaki would make sure of that.
Technically all of Othinus' creations were on the same rank. It did not matter how powerful they were, they were all her servants and made to obey her.
However, under special circumstances some of her creations outranked the others. Circumstances like right now, where Mugino was allowed to use all the resources available to her, which was her fellow creations.
As long as her orders did not harm Othinus or conflict with the orders her fellows were following, she could ask them near anything.
Zou picked up the folder from the floor and handed it to Taylor. "Here, it's yours."
"T-thanks," Taylor said, too confused to add anything else. Zou nodded and went back to her chair. Madison glared at Taylor, but underneath it was fear for retribution from the former ABB thug.
School bullies amounted to jack shit compared to criminals with guns. Once you've tasted real violence on the streets, school drama just couldn't compare. Mugino had been the same with her status in Item under Academy City's thumb. They were more sophisticated, true, and they killed people for the wealthy and the powerful instead of ganglords on the street, but it was just aesthetics. Remove all the pretty differences and Mugino was a paid killer who indulged in bloodbaths. School life just wasn't interesting afterwards.
A shame she couldn't kill these little shits. She didn't want Hamazura to dislike her. Although their natures as Othinus' creations in addition to being copies of their original selves meant that if she did anything violent, so long as Othinus authorized it then none of them would care.
"It's okay," Hamazura said, comforting Madison. The loser hugged him and cried on his chest. Mugino's eye twitched. But it was a good tactic too, getting on their good side. That was why Zou was doing the dirty work. She was getting rewarded for it too.
Mugino just had to make sure Touma didn't learn about her machinations, at least, until Othinus rescind her words. For some reason she wanted to keep her operations clandestine and away from her lover. Mugino received an order. She would be a heretic to refuse.
"I won't let them hurt you," Hamazura continued. Madison didn't let go of him. Mugino gritted her teeth. The skank.
Mugino began typing rapidly in her phone and sent Hamazura a message. He stopped comforting Madison and checked his phone. Mugino had sent him a copy of Taylor's work in addition to what Mugino had gleamed from Misaki's dossier. Taylor was very knowledgeable about cape life in general, like she was obsessed. It was enough to help his group with their homework.
If Hamazura gained the image of a reliable person, people would be more likely to open up to him and tell him their secrets. It might prove helpful to Othinus.
"What was that?" Mugino asked, faking worry. Julia had run out of the room by then. No one cared. Taylor mumbled something. "What?"
"I said this is the status quo," Taylor said, shaking her head. "Don't be friends with me. You'll be disappointed."
"Those two looked friendly with you," Mugino said, pointing at Zou and the others.
"Yeah," Taylor said. "I don't know why."
'Why not use your powers on them, you wimp?' Mugino wanted to say, but she refrained herself. Not everyone was cut out for violence. Still, that made it harder for those that are. If she had to protect Taylor in her costumed form, then that would be a problem.
Mr. Gladly picked Mugino to do their work's presentation. She recited everything Taylor, which made her realize while she was speaking the parallels of earth Bet and her original world. This world was collectively a third-world country compared to Academy City, but the tinkers and their machines reminded her of Academy City's technology.
After she was done speaking, it was Hamazura's turn to represent his group. Mugino realized, excluding Takitsubo, all members of Item were called on as speakers. Kinuhata's answer was nearly as good as the one Taylor provided for Mugino, and that was with only a few minutes of research. Hamazura on the other hand read straight out of his phone, not even bothering to memorize what Mugino sent him. No doubt if Takitsubo were to participate in this stupid homework she'd have aced it too. Then again, it wasn't really that difficult.
Another group won, by virtue of the sheer number of things they had mentioned, although praises all around were given like candy to all of Item's groups. Mr. Gladly then continued his lecture. Mugino zoned everything out, focusing on the girl beside her. She wondered what it would take to have Taylor obtain her trust. Probably a lot, given she didn't defend her when Julia took her work away. But that was where Zou came in. If someone else obtained Taylor's trust, and as long as that someone worked for Othinus, even if it was through Touma, then it was a win. And Mugino could throw as many bodies into the situation as she pleased.
Taylor had mimicked Takitsubo and slept with her head on the desk. When the bell rang, Mugino nudged Taylor's shoulder. "Wake up," Mugino said. "It's lunch. I'm hungry."
"I'm waiting for you to wake up, sleeping beauty. Come on." Mugino ushered Taylor off her seat. The rest of the students sans Item had left the classroom. Mr. Gladly looked unsure, as if he wanted to approach Taylor. However the presence of other students made him pause.
"Hey there, Mugino," Hamazura said as he approached them. "Who's your new friend?"
"Taylor Hebert," Mugino said. "She's a cool girl," she added, winking at Taylor.
"I-what?" Taylor stammered. "That's not true at all," she continued weakly. Hamazura grinned.
"Nice to meet you, Taylor."
Kinuhata and Takitsubo joined them. Kinuhata made a small wave and skipped a step towards Taylor, making her take a step back in surprise. "I super like your hair," Kinuhata said.
"Really?" Taylor took in Kinuhata's appearance. "Aren't you a little too young to be my classmate?"
"I'm like, a genius." Kinuhata puffed her chest.
"Genius? More like a smartass," Hamazura said, ruffling her hair. Kinuhata slapped his thigh.
"Do that again and I'll rip your balls off," she warned him.
Takitsubo yawned and stretched her arms, her chest bobbing as she did so. Taylor immediately gazed into the most noticeable part of her body and shook her head in awe.
"We're kind of new here," Kinuhata said. "Mind showing us around?"
"If you're sure…" Taylor led the way out of the classroom, and then stopped. Mugino and Item stood behind and around her, noticing girls blocking Taylor's path.
Item stayed quiet and observed the situation. Mugino was surprised none of them stepped up to the obvious opportunity to defend Taylor by thwarting her bullies. She thought she was going to have to do it herself when Hamazura took a step beside Taylor.
"No, Hamazura-" Taylor said, raising an arm to keep him from interfering. Hamazura ignored her and looked around.
"Madison isn't here," he said. At the same time Taylor lowered her arm and hanged her head, dejected by the idea that her new acquaintance was worried for her bully.
"Well then, Taylor," Hamazura continued, without looking back. "Nice to meet you."
Mugino wondered what was wrong with him when she saw Hamazura tap one of the twins, Reed's shoulder. Reed sighed.
Mugino took the message and left, followed by Kinuhata and Takitsubo.
"Wow," she heard someone say. "Not even the new kids want to stick with her."
Reed approached the speaker, who was a redhead with a blooming body.
There was a sound of a punch; knuckles hitting flesh and a cheekbone followed by a cry of pain. Mugino glanced back to the crowd of girls. One of them was on her ass on the floor. Reed stood over the redheaded girl and tilted his head, looking at his clenched fist.
"What the hell!?" A black girl with an athletic body said. She grabbed Reed's chest and slammed his back to the locker. If he was afraid, he didn't show it. He most likely wasn't. He had been ready to shoot Accelerator dead, and witnessed the power of the number one esper who was ready to kill him. An athletic classmate just couldn't compete.
The crowd of girls, whatever their plans were, dispersed like the wind. They didn't want to be associated with a girl who was being targeted by what they assumed was a group of the ABB.
"I'm sorry, Sophia," Reed said. "But if you don't let go, my friends are going to hurt you." He glanced at Zou Mou and the others. 'Sophia' looked at Zou, who was every bit as sturdy as herself, to Gin, Reed's twin, and Kyojin. None of them were lacking in the muscle department.
Sophia counted her odds of winning against all four of them attacking her at the same time, came to a conclusion, and snarled. "This isn't over," she hissed at Reed, and then ran to the redhead, hoisted her by the wrist up and hastily pulled her away.
Taylor was surprised, again, by someone defending her. Mugino crossed her arms under her chest and nodded in satisfaction. She saw the whole thing from afar.
"Hey, wanna bail?" Zou invited Taylor, as she approached her. Taylor, by chance, turned to Mugino and the others. Rich kids who abandoned her the moment she was in trouble. And then to Zou and her gang, who came to be in Taylor's time of need.
"Sure," Taylor said, going with Zou.
"Hey, can I borrow your phone?" Taylor asked.
It had been five minutes since she went with Zou's group. They talked about random things. Their favorite food, their favorite colors, what they liked doing when they weren't at school. Just safe topics that didn't make anything awkward.
Mugino listened from an app Izzard installed in her phone. She was in the bathroom, facing a mirror and one hand holding the countertop of the sink. A bug that doubled as a tracking device had been given for Zou to wear. Their location was heading to the Central Library when Zou said, "Sure," and lent Taylor her phone. "What are you gonna use it for?"
"Probably to check for cat videos," one of the twins said. Either Gin or Reed. "I know I would," he grumbled. Probably Reed.
"Shut up Reed!" That was Gin. Mugino was right.
"Nothing wrong with cat videos," Kyojin said.
"Just going to call Mugino," Taylor chirped.
Mugino nodded and closed her eyes. It made sense, in a strange sort of way.
"Cool," Zou said, sounding happy.
There was something wrong with the picture.
"Wait, what!?" Zou asked. Mugino opened her eyes and raised her brows.
"A-and," Zou awkwardly laughed. "W-what makes you think I have her number? She's a transfer student, Taylor. Hello." Mugino imagined the other girl smiling awkwardly as she tried to get her phone back.
"Because before today none of you even talked to me," Taylor hissed. "And the only thing that changed in our classroom was the new transfer students. Ah, there she is."
Mugino's phone ringed. She checked the caller. It was Zou's number.
"Hello, Shizuri," Taylor said, greeting her with her first name. Strange. She called Mugino with her last name when talking about her with Zou. Item did that too, but with her team it was usually at random and for no other reason than they were close. "Could you mind telling me why you paid my classmate to hit Emma?"
"So that was her name," Mugino said. "Emma." She tried the name. It was bland and boring. "Honestly, Taylor, I wonder why you put up with that crap." She pressed the phone between her ear and shoulder, turned on the faucet and washed her hands.
"Did T send you?"
Touma? For a moment Mugino's heart pounded in panic. Othinus would kill her if Touma's name got into public!
Water continued washing her hands before sliding down the strainer filter.
No, it was impossible. There might've been an obvious connection between Item and Zou's group Taylor would've noticed due to the sudden change in her school-life, but there was no logical reason why that would lead her to jump straight to Touma. There wasn't a leak. Zou wouldn't out him like that. If she did Accelerator would kill her, was probably what Zou was thinking. In truth if she ratted Touma out Mugino would kill her, and then her friends. Probably hunt down her sister and rip her to shreds too. Make her sister's boyfriend watch her do it.
Think, Mugino, think. Which T was she referring to? What kind of person would send a bunch of thugs to beat up a school bully for the benefit of a parahuman? There was one other group based on Taylor's dossier that was very interested in having her join them.
Grue, Regent, Tattletale, Bitch. She was probably referring to Tattletale. Misaki had stressed based on the memories she gleamed from Taylor that Tattletale had known things about Taylor from a glance. Misaki believed Tattletale was a telepath like herself.
That could be a problem.
There was a flush from one of the stalls. Both Kinuhata and Takitsubo came out. They had carried an acid container, a box of matches and said they were experimenting on something. Mugino didn't want to know.
"Taylor," Mugino carefully chose her words. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Taylor might not know about Othinus or Touma, but she knew Mugino was keeping a secret. Worse, Taylor might've jumped into a conclusion when she accused Zou of knowing Mugino, but it was a bluff that paid off.
"Okay, fiiiine," Mugino drawled. "I paid Zou, okay? They were willing to do a little extra work for money. That's why we left your company earlier, to give them a signal."
"Taylor, the reason why I had Reed punch Emma was because I cared. I couldn't stand to watch a girl get bullied like that. That's wrong and evil and mean!"
"So to stop a girl from hurting me, you paid someone else to hurt her?"
"Well, she got you there," Kinuhata said.
Mugino dried her hands on a napkin Takitsubo provided, dropped it on a trash bin under the sink, covered the phone and said, "Shut up." She held the phone to her ear. "Taylor, I only hurt her to make her feel what it was like when she hurt you."
Besides, it wasn't like Emma had a trauma of being hurt by thugs or anything. She'll get over it.
"What's your real reason?" Taylor asked, still doubting her words.
Mugino sighed. "Okay, I didn't really care about you. I just wanted to hurt Emma. I was a victim too, Taylor. A victim of bullies." She wanted to laugh. Kinuhata covered her mouth and muffled her giggles. Takitsubo rolled her eyes. "I wanted to get back at the system the only way I knew how. And I already knew Zou. We go way back?"
"No! I would never join a group of thugs!" 'I'm already in one.'
"But you're willing to pay someone else to do it. Okay. Shizuri Mugino, is it? I don't know if this was your fetish or something, getting off on hurting others. But it ends today, okay? At least when it comes to me. Mind your own fucking business and keep your hands off mine. Goodbye."
Taylor hanged up.
Mugino bit her thumbnail. She turned on the listening device.
"Look, I'm sorry that I had to be paid to help someone being picked on," Reed said. "And I get that. You want to fight your own battle and shit."
"No, Reed. You don't get it," Taylor said. "I had been getting kicked in the ass for two years. Two fucking years. And you only help now because someone paid you to? That's it?"
"You gotta understand, Taylor. I wasn't in a good life either. I was a member of the ABB, remember?"
"It's true. And I'm sorry for the secrecy. I'm not asking you to forgive me. I'm just asking you to understand. I had to make ends meet somehow. We're not all rich, you know?"
"How much does she pay you? Mugino?"
Mugino knew Touma was paying them a lot of money just for hanging around. Reed must've taken out $100 or more. Taylor whistled.
"Even if I got suspended," which he definitely wasn't. "It was definitely worth it."
"H-how did it feel? Punching Emma?"
"It felt good."
Well, Taylor might further distrust Mugino's group, but as long as she didn't realize the depth between their relationship with Zou's, she might still trust Zou. Or at least Reed.
Hitting Emma really helped gaining Taylor's trust.
Mugino wondered if she could gain that too. There were a few other girls she could hit.
She had an idea.
"Uh oh," Kinuhata said, putting her hands behind her head. "I know that look."
Takitsubo nodded. "We're kidnapping someone." It wasn't the first time.
Mugino made a feral grin. "Where the fuck is Hamazura?"
Hamazura was waiting for them outside the bathroom. "I couldn't exactly go in, you know? Being a guy and all." Item left the school, disinterested in further subjects. They weren't here to study, but to make friends. Or at least befriend the target.
Taylor and her new friends ate a hot dog sandwich, sat by a bench, did some bird-watching, and then she left, but until she made them promise not to talk to Mugino or her crew ever again. She was bad news, apparently.
Mugino scoffed once Zou was done telling her what happened. "And then what?" Mugino asked.
"She went inside the library. We didn't risk following her."
"Good. I'll make sure you'll be handsomely rewarded."
"Thank you. Uh, just make we don't get suspended. I'm a little worried about that stunt Reed pulled. The idiot. Oh, and don't worry about the bug. I've passed it to Taylor."
"Alright. Good job. I'll see you later." Mugino disconnected the call. Their car was a 2004 black Ford pickup truck. Hamazura, being their designated driver, got on the driver's seat, with Takitsubo beside him. Kinuhata and Mugino took the backseats, closed the doors and pulled their seatbelts. "To the library!" Mugino said, pointing at the windshield. Hamazura's reflection from the rearview mirror raised a brow. "Just wanted to try that," Mugino said, covering her mouth and miming a cough. "Well? Get on with it."
"You know this whole charade makes me wonder why we're even doing it," Kinuhata said. "I mean, it's not like I'm questioning lady Othinus or anything. Just curious why she doesn't have Misaki just brainwash Taylor or Izzard create a million people to befriend Taylor with."
"Isn't it obvious?" Mugino sighed. "It's because it amuses our god. She doesn't need a reason. She could take the entire world if she wanted. But she doesn't. She wants us to play cloak and dagger instead. So long as that is what she desires, we're following her will."
"I know that. Just speaking my mind, geez."
Mugino was tempted to pinch her cheeks. She drummed her fingers on her thighs. "Ah. What the hell." She leaned towards Kinuhata and reached an arm for her face.
"Mugino? What are you doing? Ouch! What the fuck you super crazy bitch let go of me!"
The car parked across the street from the library. Kinuhata was rubbing her cheek and pouted.
"So we're just going to wait for her to get out?" Hamazura asked. "This is boring."
"Most stakeouts are," Mugino said. "It's like how cops wait for a suspect or how we track someone down. Remember Kakine?"
"Yeah, and how you fucked up Frenda when you killed her."
"That was the old me. I'm a new person," Mugino said. All three of her teammates gave her a blank stare. She shrugged. "It's true. And we could always ask for her to come back if lady Othinus is feeling generous."
"Hmm. That'd be awkward," Kinuhata said. "The killer bringing her victim back to life. Will Frenda confirm the afterlife or will she just be plucked out from an iteration before you killed her?"
"Lady Othinus is a god," Takitsubo said.
"There is a god. Ergo, there is an afterlife."
"That's not how any of this works, Rikou. Lady Othinus is a god, and I have no doubt she can create a dimension where our memories can be stored after our bodies stop sustaining our brain. But we are talking about whether a preexisting afterlife was already there, in our old world, containing Frenda's soul. Urgh. Just saying that word makes me feel like an occultist."
Needless to say, Academy City denizens were mostly atheists. Due to being Othinus' creations, they longer were, of course. But they were still skeptics about most of the supernatural and religion despite how stupid disbelieving it was because they had first-hand knowledge of being resurrected, or at least remade in their creator's will.
"You know this argument's pretty stupid, right?" Hamazura said. "It doesn't really matter if there's an afterlife or not. We're living proof there's an almighty being. After we get Frenda, let's ask for Fremea as well."
A chorus of agreements met his words. Fremea was the younger sister of Frenda, and for a time she was their ward. Mugino didn't want to admit it, but she missed the little girl dearly. Even if Othinus only summoned a copy, it was one they could hold and hug. That was all that mattered.
"Taylor's out," Takitsubo said. Mugino turned on the app and followed the tracking device Zou had passed on Taylor's body. "She took a bus." Mugino nodded.
"We'll follow her." The tracking device led them into a suburban area and stopped in one house. It was the Heberts residence, presumably. They parked from a distance. Mugino wasn't worried over Taylor finding the bug. It was impossible.
Two hours later, Hamazura said, "This is boring."
"Shut up, Shiage," Kinuhata said. Mugino agreed. That was the second time Hamazura had said those words. Kinuhata unfastened her seatbelt and got up from her chair, raising her arm presumably to smack his head from behind, when Taylor emerged from the front door and left the porch.
They followed her into the Docks, Brockton Bay's very own ghetto. It was a problem for Mugino and the others. Their car stood out. In the normal areas vehicles were dime a dozen. But in the docks you'd be lucky to find one without bereft of its wheels, seats, air filter, batteries, distributor, radiator and oil filter.
"We'll have to stop here," Mugino said. "We're too obvious. She'll see us a mile away." They instead observed the signal and listened to the audio device. Taylor had emerged with a costume that reminded Mugino of an insect, and left the barren streets. They lost sight of her, but not her signal. The bug stayed strong. The sound of footsteps clattering on metal hinted at either a fire escape or a building with a metal floor. There was a pause, probably Taylor inspecting whoever it was she had to meet in costume. And then finally, there was a voice.
"And she arrives. Pay up."
"They're the Undersiders," Hamazura said.
The three people Taylor met where called Brian, Lisa, and Alec. They betted on whether she would show up in costume or not. Lisa, the assumed telepath, had bet on Taylor wearing a costume won the bet against Alec. It wasn't the first time Alec betted against Lisa either. He was either stupid or careless. Brian was a little more careful about doing stupid stuff like betting against a telepath. Then again, it was basically a no-brainer. It was common sense to preserve one's secret identity.
Their byplay reminded Mugino of her own team. For a moment she looked at her teammates fondly. And then the moment passed. The dog-wielding person was Rachel, absent from the meeting. Based on Brian, Grue, Rachel didn't want an additional member into their team. She was either territorial or greedy. The meeting was apparently a show of trust. The Undersiders had offered Taylor $2,000 as a thank-you for saving them from Lung a few nights before and invited her to join their team
"Two thousand a month," Taylor said.
"No," Brian said. "That's just what the boss pays us, to stick together and to stay active. We make, uh, considerably more than that."
So the Undersiders have a boss. That little tidbit piqued Mugino's curiosity. The Undersiders had voted on the meeting with Taylor, and Rachel said no. Mugino was right on the money on Rachel. She was greedy and didn't want to divide their profit five-ways. It wasn't the first time they tried recruiting other capes either. A character named 'Spitfire' was mentioned, along with Rachel scaring her off. Someone else named 'Faultine' ended up recruiting Spitfire. There was another person named 'Circus' who was also invited, but declined on the basis that she worked alone. The reason why they didn't wear masks and gave Taylor money was to show her just how awesome of a team they were.
Brian further claimed that the aftereffects of Lung taken out of action, the ABB's strength were diminished significantly. It meant one of two things. Either the ABB relied on brute force, which Lung was, or Lung was a great leader without which the ABB would dissolve into infighting for the throne of being the boss. It was a power vacuum and all the local communities wanted a piece of the pie.
The Undersiders, Faultine's Crew, what remained of the ABB, Empire Eighty-Eight, solo villains like Circus and out of town teams and gangs that wanted a piece of the action.
"That's us," Kinuhata said. Mugino agreed. The only difference is, Mugino doubted any of the local gangs were aware of the scope of Othinus' powers.
Taylor controlled bugs, correlating with Misaki's dossier. She said it wouldn't be able to stop 'Alexandria', 'Glory Girl', or 'Aegis'. That was a lot of names. Based on what Lisa said, Taylor had sent Lung to a hospital with a lot of venomous spiders. Based on the tone of their voices, Lisa sounded excited or cheerful when she explained how Taylor brutally poisoned Lung, and Taylor sounded surprised and slightly regretful for doing it to him. Interesting.
Lung was a regenerator, fire manipulator and grew stronger as the battle went on. How Taylor defeated him at all mystified Mugino. But then again, Hamazura succeeded on pulling the same stunt against her, when they battled in Academy City and again in Russia during World War 3.
Another interesting fact was that Lung lost his balls. "Remind me not to piss her off," Hamazura said. They all chuckled.
"I'm guessing this girl's Tattletale," Hamazura said. "Wouldn't make sense for Bitch to go without her dogs. I mean, I assume those monsters are dogs. Misaki did too. If Misaki's right and Tattletale's a telepath we can't get close. We can't even infiltrate their base without her seeing right through us."
"Yeah," Mugino said. "That is a problem. Luckily, I've offered a solution."
"Kill Tattletale and impersonate her?" Kinuhata guessed.
"Join the Undersiders?" Hamazura counter-offered.
"Make our own team," Takitsubo said, her eyes closed, her voice bored. Mugino clapped her hands.
"Rikou's right on the money. Well, almost. We're not just going to make our own team. We'll also be having others. Independent villains, gangs, vigilantes and heroes spread throughout the bay."
"This seems a little overkill for some girl," Hamazura said. Takitsubo honed on his face, leaned towards him and flicked his forehead. "Ouch! The fuck, Takitsubo?"
"She isn't just 'some girl'," Takitsubo said. "She's lady Othinus' target, and should therefore be handled with delicacy."
"She's right, Shiage. Don't fuck up the mission or you sleep in the couch tonight," Kinuhata cheerfully said. That disturbed Mugino greatly. Kinuhata was underage, compared to the three of them. They bonded with her regardless, but some of her sex jokes didn't jell with Mugino at all. Add in the fact Mugino and Takitsubo had some weird relationship with Hamazura going on, and if Kinuhata was having the same feelings for Hamazura Mugino would vomit.
And her team misunderstood. The villains, gangs, vigilantes and heroes was something beyond either Taylor or Mugino's understanding. Othinus didn't state it directly, but she gave Mugino an idea of what she had planned for the future of this city, and then the world.
"W-what's that supposed to mean?"
Mugino ignored him.
From the way they talked, Mugino had pegged Lisa as a sarcastic, Alec as a wisecrack, Brian as a worrywart, and Taylor as a nice girl. She was even worried for her enemy. She needed to set her priorities straight and realize the cutthroat way of villainy wasn't cutout for her, and realize soon.
"How do you know this? Tattletale, or Lisa, or whatever I'm supposed to call you. How do you know this stuff about Lung… or about the fact that I was at the Library, or that the cape was on his way, last night?"
"One point to Shiage," Mugino said. "It is Tattletale." If they weren't sure about it before, now Taylor herself confirmed Lisa's abilities. Misaki was right. They couldn't infiltrate the Undersiders. Lisa was willing to tell Taylor the secrets of her abilities, but only under the prerequisite of joining their group.
"Alright, then, count me in," Taylor said.
"They're on the move," Mugino said. They waited until the Undersiders left, with Taylor in tow. When the signal stopped moving, their car started driving.
The signal was inside a red brick factory. It had a massive sliding metal door locked by a coil of chain. The building was large, stretching half a block, two stories tall. Mugino preferred private salons herself, but her backer was an entire country. She understood that not all people, especially criminals that can't afford to be frivolous with their earnings.
"So is this a clichéd supervillain hideout?" Kinuhata asked. "Where's all the skulls and active volcano?"
"Or the dungeon full of monsters," Hamazura said.
"Or a haunted house," Takitsubo said. When Mugino didn't follow up, Takitsubo looked around. They all stared at her.
"Rikou? I super think you're thinking of a horror film, not a superhero one," Kinuhata said.
Takitsubo looked up, as if deep in thought, and nodded. "Oh."
"Okay." Hamazura drummed the steering wheel. "Now we know they're all in there. So are we gonna do the classic and save them from a supervillain?"
"The classic? What the fuck are you talking about?" Mugino asked. "Never mind that. Let's listen to what else they have to say."
"Nice art," Taylor said.
"Thanks," Alec replied.
They made small-talk which was understandable, but boring. They had learned that there was some 'nice art', that Taylor was jealous, that Alec called her a dork, that she meant the place was cool, that Lisa clarified Alec's words, hinting at the depths of his articulation. It was teenage shows all over again. The frequent misunderstandings, sarcastic comments interlaced with serious discussions grated on Mugino's nerves. She knew she was being a hypocrite when she surrounded herself with the same sort of people, but she loved her group and she didn't give a shit about these strangers. Tribalism at its finest. There were three rooms in the far side of their hideout, which consisted of Alec's room, the bathroom, and Lisa's. There was another room for Rachel, her dogs and the storage closet. They offered to clean out the storage closet for Taylor to use, which she declined due to already having a place. Lisa insisted. Bossy much. She had an argument with Brian about it. Apparently he had his own apartment. Alec stated Taylor would be doing them a favor, taking the room, to which she acquiesced. They then discussed some girl named 'Shadow Stalker' and how she made Brian bleed all over the couch. Brian said 'Rache' was gone, probably walking her dogs. He asked Alec to move his legs, to which Alec declined. Note to self: Alec is a couch potato.
Brian explained how Taylor would earn her share. Two grand monthly for being a member, which meant she helped decide what jobs they were going to do, to participate on jobs, be active and receive their calls. Taylor didn't have a phone. Brian said they'll get her one. They apparently hauled in from ten to thirty-five grand a month. Not bad. But they divided it four-ways, now five. It wasn't enough, in Mugino's humble opinion. Brian inquired how much Taylor knew about their enemies. The other local capes. Taylor was apparently a cape geek, but didn't know everything about them. Theory versus application, Mugino guessed, based on how Taylor was blindsided by Lung's powers the first time they fought.
Mugino filtered everything out until Lisa said, "I do know everything. It's my power."
"Bullshit," Kinuhata said. "If she did she would've called us out already."
"Or suffer a panic attack from lady Othinus' existence," Mugino said.
"You're omniscient?" Taylor asked. To which Lisa declined and simply claimed she knew things and that her power tells her 'stuff'. Like reading other people's minds, perhaps? Lisa made some elaborate claims like how she could track Taylor down by breaking into the website database and digging through the logs to find Taylor's I.P. address, which explained how she knew Taylor was in the library.
So that was what Taylor did in the library. They needed a camera in addition to their bug.
"My power fills in the gaps in my knowledge. I generally need some info to start from, but I can use details my power feeds me to figure out more stuff, and it all sort of compounds itself, giving me a steady flow of info."
It was a nice explanation. Also probably a lie.
"She's like Sherlock," Kinuhata said, mimicking a British accent.
"Or she's a telepath stringing Taylor along," Hamazura said.
"No shit, Sherlock."
"For the record you're not funny."
Mugino wanted to call it quits and go home for the night.
That was when she noticed someone… peculiar.
Another girl was walking her dogs; an ugly looking Rottweiler, a German shepherd, and a hairless terrier with a missing ear. On closer inspection it was also missing an eye. They were being led by a muscular-looking girl with a face she'd thought belonged to a boy and a broken nose from too many fights.
The missing Undersider.
"Hello, hello, hello," Mugino said. Their car's windows were tinted black, which blocked people from seeing the interior of their vehicle. And they were parked a block away. Rachel, Hellhound, Bitch, whatever she called herself, took a door by the side of the building. Mugino was so focused on the Undersider she didn't hear the rest of what Lisa was saying.
Seconds later snarls and screams from the phone filled the car.
"Call your dogs off!" Brian shouted.
Mugino recalled what they talked about earlier. They tried recruiting someone named Spitfire, and Rachel scared the girl off. Rachel had three dogs she could turn into monsters, probably, and those three dogs were also under her control. Right now she was having them bite Taylor's limbs off.
"Call off the fucking dogs!"
"Should we charge in?" Hamazura asked, extracting a Beretta 92FS from the glove compartment. He took a revolver from his pocket, a Smith & Wesson Model 19, and handed it to Takitsubo. Mugino and Kinuhata both approved. Takitsubo was the most defenseless out of all of them and having a way to fight back only improved her odds of surviving.
"Yeah," Mugino said, unfastening her seatbelt. "The dogs are probably bulletproof. Kill Rachel if you have the chance. We still don't know the full extent of Lisa's powers. If she can mind control me it's going to be a problem. I'll kill her first, and then the dogs. Saiai you're the vanguard. Try to grab Brian if you can. His darkness powers might interfere with mine, and losing our line of sight is problematic. Rikou, behind me. Kill Alec while you're at it. You too, Shiage, okay?"
Not that it really mattered. The real plan was for Mugino to have a moment of seeing the Undersiders, and then flick her hand and tear their bodies into pieces another moment after. Line of sight was the only thing she needed, to make sure she doesn't kill Taylor by accident. She wanted to go alone, but knew her team would want a piece of the action too.
Remove all the fun and snazzy things that they did and you'll find a group of murderers and criminals. It didn't matter what universe they were in, human nature was bound to create people like them. If they were forced to spare the Undersiders, they would have to threaten them with the promise of death to keep them quiet. It'll be a problem with Taylor, but at least she would still be alive.
Honestly, in any other scenario Mugino would've watched the unfolding bloodbath while eating a bucket of popcorn. Alas, Taylor was her target, and not the usual kind. Mugino opened her door and stepped out of the car. Small green orbs coalesced from her fingertips, illuminating the street with a soft, green glow.
"Wait," Mugino said, looking at her phone. There was a whistle, growls, and then silence.
"I fucking hate it when you make me do that."
"Well done, Grue," Mugino said. Like a switch being turned off, the green light vanished from her hand as easily as it appeared. "He stopped Rachel from tearing Taylor a new one."
Kinuhata mimed wiping sweat from her forehead. "Whoo. For a second there I super thought we were going to find Taylor disarmed and amputated."
"Why the fuck did you do that?" Taylor's voice was calm. Rachel must've done something else that set Taylor off, or she just wanted revenge and an outlet for all the pent-up rage she accumulated in school. Brian swore, and there was the sound of something solid heating tissues and bones. Again and again, Taylor must've been hitting Rachel back. The beating stopped, replaced by canine growls. Mugino imagined Taylor protecting herself with an army of insects against Rachel's three dogs. If Rachel went all out and turned her dogs into monster Mugino doubted Taylor could stop them. But she could stop Rachel instead. Kill her by having the swarm enter her mouth and clog her throat, preventing her from breathing. That might return the dogs to normal, but it would still be more than enough time for them to tear Taylor's limbs off, and then bit her throat. Mutually assured destruction.
"Enough," Brian said.
Item returned to their car. "We need an Item-mobile," Kinuhata said. "Like a Batmobile, only for us instead."
"What the hell is a batmobile?" Mugino asked.
"Who the fuck is Batman?"
"A comic book superhero! He was all the rage back in our world."
"Saiai, I never pegged you for an otaku."
"I'm not!" Saiai said defensively.
"Neeeeerd," Hamazura interjected, his eyes on the windshield and hands holding the steering wheel.
"Fuck you, Shiage."
Back in the Undersiders' lair, Brian was trying to convince Taylor to stay. She was angry, of course, and wanted out, not wanting to be sharing a team with a psycho like Bitch. Brian was doing his damn hardest to keep Taylor from leaving. Now that was determination. He claimed that if it were up to him, he'd have kicked Bitch out and replaced with Taylor. But it wasn't up to him. This 'boss' character was someone the Undersiders relied upon for their allowances, information, equipment and fencing whatever they stole. They needed Rachel to be their muscle, and would lose a lot kicking her out.
What did that mean? Was Lisa telling the truth about her power? Or was she hiding it even from her own team? And if she was hiding her telepathic abilities, then Brian only saw a Sherlock Holmes-wannabe and not full on puppet master like Misaki. What did that say about Alec or himself? If Rachel was their greatest offense-oriented parahuman, they needed more parahumans. No wonder Brian was so desperate for another member.
Item's fighters consisted of Mugino and Kinuhata, Takitsubo functioned as their tracker and Hamazura as their support and janitor. It was a harmonious system that worked because of Mugino's firepower. But firepower only went so far. Like how the Undersiders relied on their boss, Item relied originally on Academy City, which possessed immense resources, and then Othinus, who possessed even more resources despite being less than a city-state. She was only one girl, but attained godhood.
"I wonder…" Mugino tapped her lips. What if they kidnapped this boss character? And kill Lisa while they were at it. Replace the boss with one of their own and they'd have the Undersiders as a new batch of puppets dancing around their fingers, with Mugino pulling the strings.
"Fine," Taylor said. There was a sigh. "But just so you know, I'm only coming back because she doesn't want me to. I quit, she wins, and I'm not fucking having that."
"I'll take what I can get."
Taylor returned to the Undersiders. Two points to Brian.
"Please tell me we're not staying here all night," Hamazura whined.
"You're such a baby," Mugino said. "But no. We'll set up someone to monitor the Undersiders' base. We'll have people track them down too. Brian has a home outside the factory, right? And Rachel takes her dogs on walks. Knowing their daily routine helps. Every bit of information does. Try to find their families while we're at it. How is Mr. Hebert?"
Beside Mugino Kinuhata called someone with her phone. "He's at their house."
"Good. Takitsubo, call three extra bodies to stay in the docks. Make sure they won't be detected by the local telepath. Hamazura, drive us out of here."
The parahuman was a girl in a white dress, boots, and a cape over her shoulder, and a tiara on her blonde head. She descended from the sky, feet first, and knelt on the asphalt, creating a crack and sending fragments to the air. She was kneeling, arms extended, the curls of her hair and her cape fluttering with the air from her fall.
She was strong.
He was almost excited to meet her, and wanted to fight her right away.
It was such a shame his creator wanted other things.
He was a slim man with a blond hair tied into a ponytail, a yellow hoodie, denim pants, black shoes and a domino mask over his face. The domino mask almost slid off his face. He winced and tried to press it back to his face. He didn't know how people usually stick these things to their skins. It looked so much easier in comic books.
He was perched atop one building and used a telescope to observe the fight.
It wasn't much of a fight so much as a one-sided beat-down. The parahuman's opponent was a Caucasian man with a shaved head, his dress shirt rolled up, jeans and work boots. He encountered men like this one before on his own world. With the magic he practiced, it was inevitable.
He continued observing. When the bald man bolted down an alleyway, the parahuman flew off after him. The environment shifted around the observer, changing from one vantage point to another. He glanced back at the building he was just on, now a few blocks away, raised his telescope and continued watching the one-sided battle.
They were speaking, most likely about the man's victim. If the man was anything like the ones from the observer's own world, then the victim was a minority. The observer didn't really think of them much. They were never a threat to him. Not with his magic. But not everyone was as strong as him. And to his fascination, this world didn't have magic or espers. He knew, intrinsically, there was something wrong with the nature of parahumans. He didn't know how he knew; only that he did.
The parahuman grabbed the bald man by his collar and flew up the alleyway, dragging him for the ride. She threw him to the back road of the alley, where he flew and hit the asphalt, and then rolled around.
Was he going to witness an execution? That would've been exciting. The sight alone pumped his blood and made him feel like he was on fire. How he longed to join them. He clenched his fists, sparks emanating from within. He stomped on the rooftop, leaving a crack with his sole. He buried his hands in his pocket and stepped off the ledge.
He fell down a ten story building. The world around him shifted. From the earth, to the buildings, to the glowing sky, everything changed. He saw through the sky, the atmosphere, to the stars beyond the blazing sun. Power coursed through his veins. His ponytail whipped his face. Electricity crackled from his hands.
And then he vanished, just before his back touched the sidewalk.
The observer found himself standing up, with the environment having changed again. He was now on the ground, on an alleyway leading into an empty street. He whistled and ambled to the ongoing farce of a fight. He read her file. She was apparently invulnerable. That was interesting.
He hasn't met pure invulnerable people before. Incredibly durable ones were a dime a dozen, but to be truly invulnerable was something else. Something magnificent.
"Ready to talk?" The parahuman asked. She hovered on the air, her voice carrying power across the alleyway. The bald man was a brave one, truly, giving her the middle-finger before he limped away. "Screw you too," she hissed and kicked the dumpster below her.
"That's not nice," the observer said. She whipped her head to look for the speaker, but by the time she turned the environment shifted and he was on the other side, in front of the bald man, and threw an uppercut to the dumpster, sending it flying over the walls above the alley.
The parahuman finally found him.
"At least we meet," he said, almost cackling. He stopped, of course. He looked behind him, to the bald man with a lot of broken bones. "Are you okay, sir?"
"I'm fine," he said.
"How long were you watching?" the girl asked.
"Long enough," he answered in a sing-song voice.
"S-she tried to kill me!" The bald man said.
"Shut up." Her words were filled with power, and it was almost like she was glowing as she spoke. What marvelous energy.
"It's so beautiful," the observer said, admiring her aura. She smiled, just a little bit.
"Look, I can see how this looks from an outsider's perspective, but you have to understand, he beat up a college student due to the color of her skin."
He made a sympathetic nod. "And so you take it upon yourself for justice to be met and decide to pulverize his skull."
"What? No! I'm not a killer! I'm just scaring him a little, is all." She made a nervous laugh, and relaxed when he grinned.
"I don't care," he said. The bald man behind him whimpered. He glanced and saw the bald man try to attempt an escape. He shook his head in respect. "Can you believe this guy? Determined to get out, no matter the odds."
The parahuman crossed her arms under her chest and snorted. "So, you want a piece?" She asked, smirking at him. Ah. She misunderstood his blasé attitude to that of someone who understands and sympathizes with her behavior. To be fair, he does. He wasn't one to shy away from using might to make right.
"I do," he said, raising his arm and clenching his fist. "But not him." He pointed at her. "You."
She raised a brow, and then made a haughty smile. "You want to fight? I mean, I don't mind. But fair warning, I won't hold back."
He laughed. "I like you already. What's your name? I go by many names, but you can call me Thursday." He pressed his thumb to his chest and winked. "Not my real name, of course. But give me a good time and you might just get it."
She laughed. "Please. I've seen better. Try a pickup line that actually makes sense next time when talking to a girl whose name is available on public." She rolled her eyes. "But okay. I'll play along. The name's Victoria Dallon, but you can call me," and there she mimicked his gesture and followed with a wink of her own. "Glory Girl."
"I wasn't trying to impress."
"Good, because you failed. Fine, I'll go easy on you. Last chance to back out."
"Please don't." He shook his head and pressed a fist to an open palm. She grinned and flew towards him, arms forward and fists aiming for his chest.
But she wasn't an idiot. She didn't know his powers. He saw through her real plan. She was fast, ascending up the walls, planning on leaving the alley entirely. Whatever byplay they had during their little talk was her trying to fish as much information as she could out of him before she retreated and called for backup. That was what he assumed she planned, and it was smart, too.
Not smart enough, though. If she'd only declined the fight, it wouldn't have come to this.
Once more, the environment shifted. The sky was behind him, the girl in front. The bald man gawked from the alleyway beneath them. Electricity discharged from his fingertips, forming an arc as it impacted her skin. She proved her invulnerability, leaving no scorched marks on her clothes. It was followed by his hand chopping her back.
Her body barreled into the asphalt, forming a crater.
"B-bastard," she moaned. He laughed and landed on his feet beside her. Maybe her invulnerability had a limit?
"I'll call a hospital," he said. She grabbed his jeans and shook her head. She took her phone from her belt, pressed some buttons before she fell unconscious. He knelt down, gingerly took her phone and checked the name on her screen.
Ames. He checked the name of the street and called her number. "Hey, I just found this girl unconscious. I think she was in a fight?" 'Ames' sounded worried and asked who he was, to which he gave a fake name and the address of the street. He hanged up, checked her contacts and added his number. When he was done he lowered the phone next to Vicky. At least, he thought she was a Vicky. She didn't peg him as a Tory or Ria. Vicky just sounded so much better.
"See you around, Vicky," he said. "Hey, wait up!" He said to the bald man.
"You really scared me there," the bald man said. "You're one of us, aren't you? The day, it's a pseudonym for Thor. The strength, the lightning, it all fits! Oh, man, this is awesome."
Thor laughed. "Really?"
This was it, his mission would start would this with this man, and then through this one, all of the others.
That was when his domino mask fell off his face.
It was like a leaf sailing down the air. Until the moment it touched the ground, there was silence.
The bald man gaped, and so did Thor. For just a moment the friendly smile vanished, replaced by a look like that of a desperate man wanting to keep a dark secret. And then it vanished. He laughed and knelt down to pick up his mask, returning it to his face.
"Relax, man. I won't tell anyone," the bald man said. "You got my back, I got yours."
Thor chuckled and nodded. "Of course you won't." He threw the back of his hand. The knuckles impacted the bald man's face. His head exploded. Blood and skull fragments smeared the wall of the alley behind the decapitated body. 'Because you'll be dead.'
"Whoops," Thor said, grimacing. He dialed a number. "Um, listen, I might've killed him? No, I'm not feeling guilty. I'm just following orders, after all. But there's evidence on the wall. Okay, okay, next time I'll hold back. No promises."
Golden light illuminated the smeared wall and the ground where the body lay. And then they vanished. Not a drop of blood would be found. Thank goodness. Thor sighed in relief. He heard footsteps approaching the alleyway and the environment shifted around him. He was outside the entrance and took a peek. He saw the back of a robed girl kneeling and holding Victoria.
The world shifted again. He returned to his spot, perched on a building overlooking the bay. He made a mistake, killing that guy. It would be problematic if he killed all of them. He needed someone to vouch for him, after all. It was the only way to succeed when it came to the mission to infiltrate the Empire Eighty-Eight.
Later that night, in Item's hotel room, Kinuhata slept early after witnessing the atmosphere between the three members. Mugino could see why.
She wore a green sheer mini-lace dress, lacy black bra and panties underneath, and black high heels. She crossed her attractive legs, drawing his attention. Takitsubo was more conservative, wearing a pink off-the-shoulder bodycon dress and gray sandals.
Mugino combed her brown hair behind her head, keeping her eyes on him. Takitsubo took a sip of her drink from a wine-glass on the table. They were on the dining room. There was a half eaten chocolate cake on a saucer on Mugino's side. An empty plate on Takitsubo's. A near empty bottle of red wine. Takitsubo drank most of it, tonight, giving herself some liquid courage for what was to come. Hamazura didn't even eat much other than a hamburger. The lights were off. Orange light from candlesticks illuminated the room in an intimate glow.
Fire reflected from Mugino's eyes, as passionate as the flames in her heart.
Hamazura wore a simple suit, no tie, and wasn't even able to comb his hair. Gods, why was he still so handsome. He was nervous, unsure of himself, sitting opposite them and facing the two girls.
"Ever since my reincarnation in this world," Mugino started. "I've regained my left arm and right eye. But it's not just my missing body I've obtained, Shiage, but an actuality to have my cake and eat it too."
She eyed him with desire, took the fork and impaled her cake. She ate it, chewed on her meal, and licked the frostings that remained on her fork.
"I have asked lady Othinus aid," Mugino said. Hamazura tilted his head. "About our little dilemma." She reached for the bottle, poured it on Takitsubo's glass, and took a sip. Takitsubo was flustered, be it from the alcohol or the situation Mugino didn't know.
"Lady Othinus has decided to resolve the issue, with both mine and Takitsubo's consent. Forty-eight hours," Mugino said, returning her focus to Hamazura. "Rikou and I will trade the roles of master and slave."
Hamazura blushed. Was this some sort of s&m thing the two were into? Was it their kink and they made Othinus their therapist? What the hell! He knew full well where this was heading. "H-how come I wasn't told of this?"
"You are, aren't you? As of this moment, consider yourself told."
"Why are you telling me this?" Hamazura asked meekly. He was so cute.
"Because you make me so hot," Mugino purred. "I want you, Shiage. And so does Rikou, although…" She cupped Takitsubo's cheek and made the other girl face her. Mugino traced her lips. If Takitsubo truly detested Mugino, she was incredible at hiding it. Mugino leaned forward and pressed her lips to Takitsubo's in a chaste kiss.
"I'm starting to like you too," Mugino said. "Do you want this, Rikou?"
Takitsubo didn't answer, but merely licked her lips.
"Let's go to the bed," Mugino said, staring into Rikou's eyes.
Hamazura gulped, not sure if he was understanding things or not. Sure, in the old world Hamazura and Takitsubo were dating, but that was then, wasn't it? They weren't their past selves. If this was Takitsubo's way of breaking up with him, and Mugino's way of mocking him by taking his own girlfriend, then he wasn't sure he could operate at full capacity in future missions working with his ex and his ex's lover.
The glass was left on the table. The two girls got up, spared one last glance at Hamazura and then left to Mugino's bedroom.
The door closed.
Back in the dining room, Hamazura gulped. Outside he looked nervous, but inside his feelings were a maelstrom of indignant rage at the breakup, self-pity their relationship was at his expense, and aroused by the fact the two hottest girls he knew were going to fuck inside that room, and slightly jealous he was left out, even though the last one was stupid. He took the empty bottle, hoping to lick some wine out of it, saw a piece of paper beneath it. He took it and read the contents. 'This is happening, with or without you. Mugino d:'
"Wait a minute. With or without me? Does that mean!"
When he finally managed to walk to the bedroom's door, he turned the knob and went in. The two beautiful girls were on the mattress, naked. Their clothes were left on the floor before the bed. They sat up, intertwined. Takitsubo's arms were propped on the bed as she leaned backward, Mugino cupping her breast, sucking her nipple. Mugino's knee rubbed between Takitsubo's legs.
There were candlesticks even here. Mugino and Takitsubo's bodies glistened with sweat under the orange light. It was an erotic scene, a sight to behold. His pants tightened watching their serpentine embrace.
Mugino looked behind her, giving Hamazura a smoldering glance. She slid down Takitsubo's body, dropping small kisses from her stomach to her thigh. Mugino gently pushed Takitsubo's back to the bed, spread her legs, and flicked her clitoris with her tongue. Mugino buried her face between Takitsubo's legs, eating her pussy, drawing a sigh from the busty girl.
Hamazura took his clothes off with haste, throwing it behind him. Takitsubo bit back a moan and watched him with desire in her eyes.
Hamazura crawled on the bed to the two, caressed Mugino's sexy ass, held her waist, and thrust his cock inside her wet pussy. She moaned in Takitsubo's pussy, pulling her face out. Takitsubo pushed her back in and moaned.
Mugino was so hot, her authoritative personality adorning her beautiful face, to her attractive figure, to her sexy legs. He fingered her pussy, touched her legs, stroked her midriff, and groped her breasts. He gave her tits a squeeze and pinched her nipples. He twisted and pulled her nubs, drawing a scream from Mugino's mouth even as she ate Takitsubo.
All the teasing accumulated inside him and he was finally having an outlet to let it out.
He increased the pace of his thrusts. Mugino added her fingers as she slurped Takitsubo's pussy. Takitsubo was moaning Mugino's name. Even then, Hamazura and Takitsubo maintained eye contact. He felt his limit nearing and growled. He bit Mugino's shoulder and marked her like a wolf marked its bitch. He used his weight and pushed her hips to the bed as he continued pounding her tight, hot pussy. It didn't take long for Hamazura to reach his peak. He came inside Mugino. Her pussy walls squeezed his cock, spasming with her own orgasm, and continued thrusting inside her until he was spent. His semen and her liquid dripped from where they connected. Takitsubo arched her back and rocked her hips. Mugino kept slurping until Takitsubo stopped moving.
The night was long. Mugino pulled away from Takitsubo's pussy and held a hand to her face, cupping Takitsubo's cheek. There was a line of spittle and juices from Mugino's mouth leading to Takitsubo's pussy. She pressed her lips to Takitsubo and the two shared a steamy kiss.
When they were done, Mugino smiled coyly, and Takitsubo shyly, turning to Hamazura as if to beckon him for more. Mugino's eyes gleamed with mirth, knowing full well he grew harder inside her. The night was young. He pushed the two to the bed, Mugino on top of Takitsubo with their breasts pressing together, leaned to steal a kiss from Takitsubo even as he continued fucking Mugino. Their kiss was passionate, Mugino's moans were hoarse, and when she sunk her teeth into Takitsubo's breast and thrust her middle finger inside Takitsubo's pussy broke their kiss and coaxed a scream from Takitsubo. These two were so hot, Hamazura thought. He pulled Mugino from Takitsubo's breasts, and smashed his lips to hers. They both moaned into the sloppy kiss.
This felt right, and if every day was like this? Well, it'd be wonderful.
New Worlds 1.4
"Shiage…" Mugino murmured in her sleep, cuddling next to him. Takitsubo laid on his other side. Their arms held his chest, as if fearing he would disappear, their breasts rubbing against his skin, and their legs wrapped around his thigh, intertwined under the sheets.
Hamazura was in heaven.
"Lady Othinus in an amazing therapist," he said. He yawned. "I wonder how she came up with the idea of an s&m relationship though…" Still, he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Othinus made a law, her creations would obey it. No wonder these two nymphs consulted their god. It was the easiest way to resolve whatever tension between the three of them they couldn't have done alone.
Hamazura disdained the gym in their hotel room. He wanted to go out and jog through the streets, but instead he was stuck in a treadmill alongside Mugino and Takitsubo. Worse still, he was already tired from half an hour of running while the two could still keep going.
Mugino, he understood. But Takitsubo? Where did her energy come from? She wasn't as fit as either of them. At least that was how he remembered it in their original world. Maybe when Othinus remade them she also removed Takitsubo's laziness and replaced it with energy.
He turned off the console and left the deck. The gym wasn't much of one. It was just a white room with three treadmills, barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. There were a few chairs too, and a bucket full of ice and water bottles on top of one chair and a stack of white towels on another. The clothes he wore: a sleeveless red shirt, blue shorts and white shoes made him glad there wasn't any air-conditioner in the room because that would be a pain to deal with.
Hamazura took a seat and opened a bottle of water, guzzling the cold drink down his throat. He sighed. It was refreshing. Now, he turned to the main attraction.
The view. Mugino wore a green tank top, black tights, and rubber shoes.
Takitsubo wore a gray shirt, pink shorts and pink running shoes.
Neither of them wore a bra. They shimmered with sheen of sweat. Their clothes clung to their skins, revealing perky nipples and the bobbing of their breasts as they jogged. Their attractive physiques were also accentuated by the combination of their clothes and exercise. Mugino was more voluptuous, with the body of a model, but Takitsubo had a larger rack. Mugino's ass was suppler, yet Takitsubo's was more filling, if that even made sense. Mugino's long brown hair was disheveled, but it only made her more beautiful. Takitsubo didn't have that problem due to her shoulder-length black hair, which added to her flustered face made her cuter.
The two stopped their treadmills. Mugino put her hands on her hips and scowled, while Takitsubo heaved for breath and leaned slightly to hold her knees.
"You just gonna sit there and stare, you lazy asshole?" Mugino asked.
"Admiring the view," Hamazura said. "Is that such a crime?"
Takitsubo sat on the treadmill, and then laid her back on the deck. Mugino left hers and approached Hamazura. "Just because you fucked two girls does not give you an excuse to skip out on exercises." She smirked and pushed his shoulder. "Lucky asshole."
Hamazura laughed. "You are so cute when you're in denial, Mugino." He passed her a plastic bottle, took another one, stood up and went to Takitsubo. He kneeled beside her and pressed the cap to her nose. "Boop."
Takitsubo pouted. "Hamazura, you are not funny."
"And you are very pretty," he said. She made an amused smile, closed her eyes and pursed her lips. He leaned for a kiss. Takitsubo moaned into it. The happy look on her face when their lips parted made his cheeks warm.
"Ah, Shiage," she said. "You're blushing."
"Let me see! Turn this way," Mugino said. Hamazura forced it into a scowl. Mugino grinned from where she sat on his chair, with a towel on her neck dangling down her shoulders. "Whoa, you are blushing."
Her goofy smile made him gape in shock. She never did that. "Am I seeing things?"
Her glare made him shiver, and from fear. He might've discovered a fetish. Mugino graced him with a smile and sipped her water. A bead of sweat trailed down her collarbone towards her breast.
"I see you, pervert," Mugino said, after she finished drinking. She closed her bottle and stood up. "Don't be such a prude. You have two girls throwing themselves at you." She sashayed towards him. "Man up and take us, or we'll be the ones dominating the relationship."
He was still on his knees when she stood before him. "Well? Which is it?"
"You're so dramatic," he said, standing up. He wrapped his arms around her back, drawing a shudder as he trailed his fingers down her spine to cup her ass. Mugino held his chest and made a coy look. She held his chest and stuck out her tongue.
"Bite me," she said, probably joking.
So he bit her shoulder.
"Ah! The fuck?" she hissed. He didn't stop biting though, and soon she was rubbing her thighs together and biting her lips. She was so beautiful. He sought her lips, and she pulled his head closer into their steamy kiss.
"Satisfied?" Mugino asked.
"No," Hamazura said. He glanced down, at Takitsubo, who gave him a curious look.
Ten minutes later, he sat with his back to the wall between the two treadmills. Mugino sat beside him, her breasts bare, her tights missing, semen leaking from her pussy, and bite marks on her skin. Takitsubo was much the same, with her shirt pulled up, her shorts gone, and her pussy impaled by his cock. Hamazura held her hips and tried to keep himself from coming too soon.
It was hard.
Takitsubo moaned. "Shiage, Shiage, Shiage…" She repeatedly spoke his name. Her eyes were half-lidded, her hands on his shoulders, and a slight drool leaking from her lips. Mugino had one too, a line of spit slobbered on her chin. She caught Hamazura looking at her and pursed her lips, expecting a kiss. He gave her one. He wanted his cock that was penetrating Takitsubo to be fucking Mugino as well. Just the thought of having two girls to fuck made him harder, and Takitsubo took notice with a moan.
He took one hand off Takitsubo's hip and squeezed Mugino's thigh. When their lips pulled apart she licked hers and smiled like a whore. His whore. "You're mine, Shizuri," Hamazura said. She nodded. His hand slid between her legs and he pushed a finger inside her pussy. His cum and her juices slid out as he continued fingering the girl. She grabbed his arm, moaned and squeezed his fingers as she orgasmed. It was so hot it coaxed Hamazura into one as well, which he unloaded inside Takitsubo. She closed her eyes and moaned, pushing her face to his left shoulder as she shuddered, coming alongside him.
They were all heaving for breath, then.
"Now that was a workout session," he said. Mugino sighed, followed Takitsubo and closed her eyes as she leaned her head on his right shoulder.
"You are so not funny."
They took a bath. It was intimate and erotic having to soap their bodies and shampoo their hairs, as well as sneaking some gropes here and there. He groped Mugino while Takitsubo rubbed her tits on his back and masturbated his cock in a handjob. Mugino sighed under the pelts of the shower, looking at him amorously. It didn't take long for Hamazura to push her to the wall and thrust inside her. Takitsubo pulled his hair, which hurt but stimulated him at the same time, and made him kiss her while he fucked and groped Mugino.
The explosive climax he released inside Mugino made her shake, and then fall on her knees. He then did the same to Takitsubo, facing each other and raising her leg as he fucked her.
That was ten minutes ago.
Item was on the dining room eating breakfast after having a nice sleep, some exercise in their gym, and a warm bath.
Mugino wore a green crop top that showed baring her lean midriff and black cycling shorts that accentuated her legs. Takitsubo wasn't even trying. She wore a black sports bra under a pink unzipped running jacket and gray shorts. At least Kinuhata wore appropriate clothes, a dark orange onesie with bear ears clinging to the hood.
Hamazura opted for a sleeveless white shirt and khaki shorts. Simple clothing for a simple man. He was seated on the table, eating some toast and eggs on a plate. Mugino was fiddling with her phone on his left. Takitsubo was using a spoon to spread strawberry jam on her toast to his right. On the other side facing him Kinuhata was eating celery.
"Do bears even eat vegetables?" Hamazura asked.
"I'm not a bear, Shiage. You super suck at deduction."
"The watchers said the Undersiders are going to rob a bank," Mugino said.
"I've got a balaclava," Takitsubo offered, alongside her toast.
"No," Mugino declined both with a shake of her head. "It's too obvious. They have a telepath, remember? We'll send one of our own to rob the bank. But in case Tattletale reads their mind, they won't have much to show her. Maybe we can ask lady Othinus to ward off the memories that could compromise her or something. I don't know." Mugino sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I feel incompetent just asking her for help."
Hamazura raised a hand.
"Yes, Hamazura?" Mugino asked. Takitsubo shook her head. Kinuhata snorted. It was a call-back to Hamazura's earlier days with Item, when he was a grunt following their orders. Mugino treated him like a student one minute and an idiot the next, not that he didn't deserve it. He was, after all, an incompetent grunt. He even ended up betraying his team.
Shit was crazy, back then.
"We should send Accelerator," Hamazura said, munching on his eggs on toast. The yolk burst inside his mouth, spreading with a delicious flavor on his taste-buds. "I think he's immune to telepathy. Well, more immune than you, the #3 or the #2."
Kinuhata shook her head. "This world's superpowers might not work like ours. It's super risky. I say we remove her powers or something. Telepaths are so unfair."
"True," Takitsubo said, and ate her bread. Kinuhata waited for her to continue, but after chewing and swallowing her food, Takitsubo just kept eating.
Kinuhata sighed. "Well? Let's put it to a vote. Anyone who agrees with me, raise your hand."
None of them did, not even Kinuhata. "Yeah, figures," she said, and munched on her celery.
"Aren't you eating?" Hamazura asked Mugino. She made a soft smile.
"Later. After the job." She stretched her arm and yawned. "I'll ask Misaki if she can create a ward or something. Like a good luck charm that wards off evil spirts."
"Or we could just use that guy," Hamazura said, referring to the man who gave them the near-undetectable bug to spy on the Undersiders with.
"Oh. Right. Weird how I forgot about him. Okay. Group plus one, then."
Aureolus Izzard was transfixed by the weather. The forecast said it would be rainy today. He didn't like the idea of his body being soaked in rain. True, he could prevent water from touching him with but a word, but that meant he was giving into the flow of the world itself, and not bending it to his will as an alchemist.
A raindrop touched his face and slid down his cheek. The clouds were growing darker by the second, indicating the coming of a heavy rain.
"Today no rain shall pass the streets of Brockton Bay," As he said it, and it was so. The sky lightened and sunlight warmed his skin.
He had something to do in half an hour, and all the time in the world to do it. For now, however, he was indulging himself in some of his vices.
Turning metal to gold.
He found a spot outside a bar. He saw skinheads here and there entering the establishment, nothing serious. Mere Nazis could not hurt him. There were pebbles and leaves strewn about. Cars and motorcycles were parked on its parking space. There were four oak trees on the east, north, west and south corners of the bar.
What he was interested in was the leaves. They were made of metal. He already turned them earlier, of course. Now, he turned them to gold. Izzard whispered a spell. A leaf flew up and floated before his face. He held his chin and observed the transformation. It began with the metallic base. What was the dull gray of metal became the shining color of gold. The color spread to the midrib, up the veins, towards the margin and then the apex.
Izzard gestured with his hand in a circle as if to say, 'carry on then.' The gold leaf spun, like it was showing off. Absolutely beautiful.
He was not worried about pedestrians witnessing the miracle of alchemy. He created a boundary with himself as the epicenter. It reached a kilometer wide. Anyone who gazed upon him, be it with electronics or their own eyes, saw someone else.
He could have simply changed his face, but that was beneath Izzard.
Despite its weight, the gold leaf lazily fell to the asphalt. Izzard took out his gold pocket watch. Oh dear. He really must be going. He wouldn't want to disappoint his maker. And wasn't that a strange thought.
Index was here too, alongside Touma. While he felt nothing for the man, he was glad Index was happy. And now his creator gave him a new purpose: to serve her.
"Nice watch," someone said. They came from the bar. It was a heavy-set man with a long beard and black leather clothes, the sleeves cut off to reveal his biceps.
"Why thank you," Izzard said, nodding to him. He could respect someone with a keen eye for valuable items, although he doubted this man was merely an admirer. "Are you a biker, perhaps?"
"Yeah." The biker pulled a switchblade from his pocket. "And you're going to give me your watch. Nicely." Izzard raised a brow and looked the biker up and down. He was overweight. Izzard doubted the man could catch up to him if he ran. An amused smile graced his lips.
"You're funny," Izzard said, turning around. "Don't follow me, and I shall spare you."
"Hey boys! Get out of here!"
That was when trouble appeared in the form of ten more bikers that emerged from the bar. Some of them were overweight, like the one with the switchblade. Others were muscular. Others were bald. They all wore black leathered clothing like it was a uniform.
One had a swastika on his shoulder. That tattoo as good as told Izzard where their allegiances lay.
"Let me start this with a preface," Izzard said. "I am an alchemist. What in this world is called a cape. I am giving you a chance to walk away. Leave me now, return to your bar and drink yourself unconscious. I shall overlook every tiny transgression you and your lot have made. Please, be gone all of you."
They all looked at him like he was crazy.
"Pfft." One biker broke out laughing. "You? A cape? Yeah right." The laughing biker pulled out a pistol. "Give us your watch, you bitch. And maybe we'll let you off the hook. After we take your wallet and clothes too. Let you leave naked as a warning to you and your kind."
"Yeah. You rich folks one-percenters thinking they can do whatever the fuck they want just because they're rich! Well, fuck you!" The biker with the pistol pointed to the sky and pulled the trigger. A powerful bang followed. "Get on your knees, you whore!"
"Leaf, kill him," Izzard said. The gold leaf flew faster than a speeding bullet and pierced through the armed biker's left eye, leaving the back of his head and dragging a chunk of his skull and brains into the biker behind him.
He was dead before he hit the ground.
"I did warn you," Izzard said. He no longer listened to their pleas of forgiveness and turning the other cheek. "Turn into birds," he pointed to one man. His arms, legs, stomach, chest and head all turned into a murder of crows which flew to the sky. To another he said, "Let your brain be beer." Brown liquid leaked from their ears, nose, and mouth, followed by blood. To another he said, "Become sand." Their face was frozen in horror as they became sand. A strong gust of wind carried their body away. "Become an oak tree." One screamed in pain as their legs became roots, the foundation of a tree, followed by their body which became its barks, their limbs which became its branches, and their head which became its leaves. "Be a giant werewolf." Fur grew from their skin. Their body grew larger. Canine features took their face. The werewolf howled and leapt up the bar, and beyond his sight. "Turn into a zombie." The man's eyes turned red, blood dripped from their lips, and they screamed and tackled the biker beside them into the ground, biting the throat and pushing their thumbs into the other biker's eyes. The throat-bitten biker rose again, and the two zombies killed the third. "Leave him," Izzard said, turning to the instigator of this conflict.
The three zombies ran into the bar. Screams from the inside followed.
The biker with the switchblade was gaping, frozen in fear from what he witnessed. Izzard took a white, silk handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his nose. "How distasteful." He muttered a word and walked away. The biker dropped his switchblade. The clattering sound followed the final beat of his heart. He gripped his chest and fell on his back.
Motoharu was a simple man. When you get a job, you finish it.
Back then, in Academy City, his job was his adopted sister Maika. She was his world and he devoted everything to her. Now, in this new world he had an additional one, to be the servant of Othinus.
The original Tsuchimikado Motoharu would not work with Othinus at all. The realization of what the Magic God planned to do to this city, and after it the world would make the original one shiver and side with the local heroes and villains to oppose her, or failing that, get a fake passport, some money from drug dealers he'd kill, and then fly off with his sister to somewhere safe and far away.
Considering some of the monsters in this world, that seemed unlikely. The second coming of the Nazis in Europe, the Slaughterhouse 9 on the States, the innumerable warlords in Africa, and all the other horrors between including the giant monsters known as Endbringers and the archangel Scion would ensure his and his sister's demise.
And beneath it all, lurking in the shadows was a god from another world, treating the lives of others like her toys.
He would be brought to despair, if he was his original self.
Luckily, he was also Othinus' creation and thus devoted to her just as much as he was with Maika.
"I'll see you later, then. Bye." She hanged up. He chuckled and buried the phone in his pocket.
Motoharu wore black trousers, a leather black jacket, and held a balaclava and a black helmet. The visor of the helmet was like a mirror, reflecting the surroundings and keeping people from seeing his face.
He ran his fingers over his spiky blond hair, removed his sunglasses, wore the balaclava and put on the helmet.
"Are you done?" Accelerator sneered. The albino was dressed the same, albeit in a sleek gray color. "I was getting sick of listening to you and your wife talking lovey-dovey on the phone."
"Don't be jealous you virgin. You have Awaki." He gave the aforementioned girl a thumbs-up. She raised a middle-finger in response. Awaki was dressed the same, but in white.
Mugino had instructed them to rob the bank. They were in a recreational vehicle on a street a building away. All three of them were at the back of the vehicle, on the table by the dining area, discussing their 'battle-plan'. Awaki was their resident teleporter and she needed line-of-sight for her powers to function. To that end, she was given eyes.
"It's like that stitch from Barry Lotter," Motoharu said.
"From Harry Potter, you dipshit," Accelerator helpfully added.
"I was joking, you moron."
The 'eyes' were white spheres the size of walnuts, with flapping, silver wings. There were three of them. One was monitoring the bank. The other two were floating on Awaki's left and right shoulder. One would remain in the car. That puzzled Motoharu.
"Awaki, your 'eyes' are connected to your helmet, right? Why not just stay in here and watch from afar? It would make it safer for you."
"No. Lady Othinus says I participate in the mission."
"Ah, okay." Motoharu accepted it without a second thought, disregarding the fact Awaki's self-usage of her power made her nauseous and sick. Or at least, it made the original Awaki gag and vomit. He wasn't sure about this one.
The nice side-effects of being Othinus' creation meant their devotion to her whims and adoration to her existence. Whatever memories they had were basically flavor text. Not that Motoharu didn't enjoy being with Maika, but the fact remained he wasn't the original unbothered him.
And that alone would've bothered the original Motoharu. But not him. He was an entity born from Othinus' magic. To question her will would be so sacrilegious to his entire existence he'd rather die than disobey her.
"Is Etzali in the bank?"
Awaki tapped the side of her helmet. "Yes. He took the form of an old, Caucasian man. Don't know where he got the identity from, don't care."
Motoharu inserted a magazine into his gun. It was a silver Smith & Wesson 5906. He had fifteen rounds, one magazine in his mag-pouch and an extra in his backpack on the table. Awaki chose an Ithaca 37 instead. The pump-action shotgun was on her lap as she cleaned it. She wore a magazine pouch to carry extra ammo. Accelerator chose a Rossi 352 revolver. It was small.
"You sure you're going to use that?" Motoharu asked.
"Size isn't everything," Accelerator said.
"Bet you tell that to every girl you've fucked," Awaki said. Accelerator wagged his revolver.
"I have a thing for the classics. A semi-auto might have better-"
"Everything," Motoharu interjected. "Less recoil, triggers are easier to control, aesthetically pleasing, and more ammo. Just to name a few."
"But a revolver is simpler and purer to the hand."
"Never took you for a poet," Awaki said. "You suck, by the way."
"Thank you," Accelerator said. "Bitch."
This was their team: Group. Four field operatives that solve their own problems and abandon their teammates that dragged them down. They didn't, of course, because they needed each other. But when their team was no longer needed, they broke apart without as much as a speech of how they'll miss each other.
Back then, they were blackmailed into working together. Now, their unifying factor was their creator. The simple fact they were all her creations meant they were more organized than before. They had direction. Right now, it was a bank.
"I wonder what we'll do," Motoharu said. "Once lady Othinus rules the world?"
"Die of boredom," Accelerator said.
"Old age," Awaki added.
"Or not die at all… Hmm…" Motoharu tapped his visor. "Touma doesn't know our name, right?"
"Nah. And even if he does the boss destroys electronic recordings and alters people's memories to keep them off him," Accelerator said. "That's my theory anyway. That's what I would do. Ruling a person with fear is pointless if you can directly hijack their mind."
Awaki stood up and nodded to them. They followed suit. It was time.
"Now normally, I'd chastise you both on how stupid your guns are," Awaki said. "But since Accelerator doesn't need his collar anymore, there isn't a time limit for his ability so he gets to do fuck-all. But Motoharu, you have no excuse. Here, I've brought you this."
She reached under the table and handed him another shotgun, same as hers. He holstered his gun and accepted the Ithaca 37. He would've preferred an assault rifle or an Uzi, but beggars can't be choosers. And she was right, he wasn't taking the job seriously because he expected Accelerator to do the heavy-lifting.
"Ace, letters taken from your name." Awaki said, pointing her forefinger at Accelerator. "Shades, for your sunglasses." She pointed two to Motoharu. "I'll be Shelter, which translates to Waki in Native American. Etzali will go by Venus. We all good?" They nodded. "Good."
The surroundings shifted from the interior of the RV to the outside. The streets were behind them. The bank before them. A stone fixture six stories tall, crenelations on the roof and balconies, stone gargoyles on the corner and iron grilles on the windows. They walked up the stone steps to the entryway, statues of rearing horses with wild manes to either side of them. Accelerator read the name etched into the stones above the doors. "Brockton Bay Central Bank." He turned to Awaki. She didn't show her past trauma, which meant Othinus erased her weakness. She had been given the road to the next level. Whether she would take the trek was up to her. "So, what's step 2?"
She shrugged. "Hold the fort."
"Where are your eyes?" Motoharu asked.
"My eyes are in here." She pointed with two fingers to her visor.
"Your other eyes, genius."
"They can turn invisible. Right now they're floating above your heads. Same with Venus. It's actually funny to watch. It's like being in a video game."
"Nifty. Lady Othinus gave you that?"
"Yup. Jealous?" Her voice took a teasing tone.
He was, a little bit. Logically he shouldn't be. It didn't fit the personality of Tsuchimikado Motoharu. But he wasn't just Motoharu, he was also Othinus' creation. He ignored her tease and entered the revolving door into the lobby, followed by his companions.
They immediately found someone on their way out. Motoharu pumped his shotgun. "Go back inside, sweetheart." They did.
No one was prepared for the sudden attack. The advantage of having a teleporter in the team was the element of surprise, in Motoharu's humble opinion. You teleport behind the target and shoot their head and then run away, again and again. It straight up ignores conventional defenses and allows you to kill your target without a fuss, or failing that just throw a bomb on them and watch the fireworks explode from a safe distance.
There were cubicles, tables and workers: bank tellers, loan officers, financial analysts and mortgage men and their clients dressed in expensive suits to stained and ragged clothes. It didn't matter where you were from as long as you needed money or someone to keep your money. The bank had customers.
There was a sealed vault door, like in the movies. But he doubted it had gold bars or mountains of money. Not in a shithole like Brockton Bay. No, the real prize were the people.
There were doors at the back, leading into the big expensive offices of high-paid workers like a chief-financial officer, finance director, hedge fund managers and if they were lucky, the CEO.
Motoharu wasn't a greedy man, but he knew investment when he saw one. Accelerator raised his revolver, pulled the safety off and shot into a chandelier. Incandescent light bulbs and translucent glass covers shattered and shards fell to the floor. People screamed.
"People!" Motoharu said. "Get on the floor. We only wish to speak with your superior officers." He aimed the shotgun at a mortgage man. "Take us to your leader, if you please."
Awaki tilted her head. Motoharu shrugged. If they didn't have a plan he was going to wing it. He doubted a bank like this contained more than a few million dollars, maybe. But he knew the bank president's personal account held much, much more than that.
Accelerator and Awaki stood back, content to let him lead the show. Etzali was part of the crowd. He didn't know where, so he eyed every Caucasian man with wrinkled skin and white hair. He couldn't tell Etzali apart from any of them. 'Letting us to all the hard work. Typical.'
That was when trouble came.
Three quadruped monsters barged from the back door into the room. They were large enough to tackle a fully grown man into the ground and bite his head off. Spikes of bones protruded from their skins, which pulsed with power. If Motoharu didn't know any better, these creatures were like dogs that took super steroids.
"Well, this is awkward." The masculine voice came from someone in a motorcycle helmet, same as them, and dressed in black. The visor was painted with a skull, and dark wisps emanated from his body like tendrils. "You planned today, too?"
More like they were ordered by their maker, but it was semantics. More employees were pushed into the room by another cape. The second cape wore a white mask, ruffled white shirt, black leggings tucked into knee-high boots. A silver coronet covered his hair. He held a scepter, probably synergizing with his powers. There were three more, and all of them girls. One wore black shell-like armor which resembled carapaces and yellow tinted goggles that hammered in the imagery of an insect. Another wore a simple jacket and a dog plastic mask.
It was the fifth cape that drew his attention. No, all of Group's. She dressed in a purplish black skintight outfit, blonde hair loose, and under her domino mask were inquisitive green eyes. She was analyzing them, and was focusing on Accelerator who stood in a relaxed posture, having come to the simple conclusion he was powerful.
The three monsters took a menacing step and growled at Group. Accelerator rolled his shoulders and stepped forward, accepting their challenge.
"Call them off, Bitch," the blonde girl said.
"Whoa," Awaki said. "A bit harsh to call your teammate that, huh?"
"That's her cape name." The blonde girl grinned. "I'm Tattletale. Shadow man's Grue. Bug girl's... Bug, and this majestic man deigning with us today is our majestic leader, Regent." She 'playfully' shoved Regent's shoulder.
"Ow." He stepped between two dogs, which were unnervingly focused on Accelerator. "Uh, yes. I'm the boss of this team. I'm guessing you're the leader of yours?"
"We're taking the money," Accelerator said in a bored tone. "You can all fuck off now." He approached a cubicle, ignored the cowering customer, reached over the table and effortlessly dragged a mortgage man by his shoulder. That was the same man Motoharu had threatened earlier. Accelerator pulled him from his desk and into the floor. "Your boss. Where are they?"
The man cried.
Looks like Accelerator was spun by Motoharu's idea in the face of competition and decided to play along.
"Not here," Tattletale said. "They took a sick leave."
"You a mind reader?" Accelerator asked.
She winked. "Something like that."
"Like hell you're taking our money," Bitch interjected. "We came here first. If anyone should fuck off, it's you assholes." The largest of the quadruped monsters stomped on a tile of the mosaic floor. Spittle dripped from its mouth.
Motoharu laughed. These punks have no idea who they're dealing with. He doubted he could have won alone, but if he was alone he wouldn't trap himself in such a disadvantageous situation against people with unknown superpowers.
He was laughing because he was in an advantageous situation. Accelerator was their firepower. Etzali was hidden in the crowd, functioning as their backup. Even if Accelerator's powers were somehow countered, Awaki could simply teleport them away. And they all had Othinus' number.
Unless these capes had their world's version of a Magic God in their team, he wasn't worried at all. Motoharu and Awaki aimed their shotguns. Accelerator sauntered to the monster. It leapt at him. He didn't even move his body. Bones shattered and flesh bled as the monster flew backwards, leaving a blood trail as it slid down the floor. Bitch sword. Tattletale took out her gun. A swarm of insects covered the room, followed by darkness.
And then, for a moment, there was silence. Motoharu's vision was blocked, his hearing muted. The cries of the hostages, the growls of the monsters, the buzzing of the insects, they were all silenced. It was like he was at the bottom of the ocean. He raised one hand, letting go of the shotgun pump, and looked at where it was. He snapped his fingers.
There was no sound. Interesting.
"Darkness, vanish," a powerful voice said, heedless of the effects of Grue's abilities. Motoharu recognized the ability almost immediately. He studied it back when he was growing into the fields of magic, and later the file of the only successful practitioner. Ars Magna.
Like a switch was flicked to turn on the light, the darkness vanished. "What the hell?" Grue asked. Wisps still slithered from his skin, but it no longer reached the room. A swarm of insects congregated on the enemy's side, on the floor between the monsters and flying beside them. Cockroaches, wasps, bees, ants, and a lot of black widow spiders.
Scary. Motoharu's plan had been to shoot blindly and rush out of the bank, hoping that the monsters would be drawn to Accelerator instead of him. Awaki didn't have a problem going in and out of danger, but he did. He was the weakest member of the team, in terms of capabilities.
Wait, he wasn't an esper anymore, but a creation emulating an esper. Maybe he should dabble on magic later.
Aurelous Izzard stood between their two teams, obviously pretending to be someone else. The alchemist wore a costume in the form of a black feathered cloak, a black suit, shirt and tie underneath, a white bird mask and a black top hat. "My name is Fenghuang, like the Chinese bird of myth. One of my virtues is that of benevolence. Let us all get along with each other and steal the money together, not as enemies, but as friends."
It was surreal, like a page taken straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Only instead of a rabbit and a hatter gathering for tea, it's costumed bank robbers coincidentally meeting in their quest to steal money.
Accelerator and Awaki didn't know Fenghuang's true identity, but they were calmed by his rationale. What surprised Motoharu was his inability to sense Izzard's existence. They were all created by the same god, so they all gave some sort of tell that they were similar in some way.
But there was none of that in Izzard, as if he could hide his existence completely.
He was actually more overpowered than Accelerator. If Accelerator no longer needed his collar, and Awaki was removed of her mental traumas, then it was possible Izzard's dependency on drugs to cast his magic effectively was gone as well.
But if Izzard was going here anyway, why send Group as well? It didn't matter because in the end they served the will of their god, and if she ordered them to do something useless for her amusement, they would follow her orders with their heads held high.
"How did you do that?" Grue asked, clenching his hands. Motoharu understood his caution, having experienced the loss of his own powers as well. Being unable to use his magic made Motoharu feel naked and vulnerable, the first time he became an esper.
"It matters not," Fenghuang (Izzard) said with a theatrical wave of his hand. "I have already heard the Undersiders introduce themselves, but have yet to hear your names." The bird mask glanced at Motoharu and the others.
"I'm Shades. The gray one's Ace. The white one's Shelter. Nice to meet all of you. Glad we could have this little get-together."
"Wish I'd brought popcorn or a camera," Regent said. The Undersiders' fearless leader approached one of the cowering hostages. "Do you have a phone I could borrow?"
"Like hell you're going a cut!" Bitch screamed. "You fuckers hurt my pack and now think you can waltz in here and take my cash! You can fuck off!" She whistled, probably making a signal for her monsters to attack.
"Your dogs won't hurt me," Izzard said calmly. And they didn't. The monsters acted just like docile dogs and one approached him. He offered his hand. The monster sniffed his palm. Bitch looked astonished by the fact.
"This is the second weirdest day in my life," Bug said.
"So Fenghuang, you've decided today of all days to rob the bank," Tattletale said.
"That is indeed the case," Izzard answered. "And I am sure the contents of the vault will be sufficient enough for all of us."
Tattletale snorted. "I somehow doubt that. But what the hell. It beats having to fight. We've got enough heat from heroes as it is. So, truce?"
"Truce," Fenghuang (Izzard) said.
"Whatever," Accelerator said. Which one of them will open the vault? Motoharu packed enough explosives to destroy the vault, but it ran the risk of burning the money. Etzali could disintegrate the lock with his magic, but it'll reveal his identity to the others, if Tattletale hadn't already read their minds. Accelerator could brute-force the vault by shoving it aside. Awaki could just teleport in and out.
"I'll open it," Tattletale said, approaching the stainless steel wheel. She paused, her hand an inch from the wheel. It spun by itself. She glanced at Fenghuang, who made a lazy twirl with his forefinger, and she stepped back. The door opened with a loud creak.
"Ace, Shades," Awaki said from behind him, holding the side of her helmet where her ear would be. "I've received step two of our mission."
Their interest for the money evaporated and Accelerator and Motoharu faced Awaki. "You can keep the cash," Motoharu said.
"Suit yourself," Tattletale said.
Group stepped away and huddled into a corner where Awaki told them the details of the plan.
It was crazy.
Motoharu was tempted to tell them Fenghuang was Izzard, but he kept it to himself. If Izzard's secrecy was by design, then he wouldn't question Othinus' master plan. Even if her only desire was to entertain herself by having three groups of bank robbers meet at the same time as a punch-line to a bad joke, he would grant her wish.
The Undersiders were helping themselves to the money. Tattletale was speaking to Izzard, probably trying to learn his powers. If Izzard was smart, he would've made himself immune to her telepathy. He only lost to Touma because of the nature of their powers, after all. From how he removed Grue's darkness and made Bitch's monsters docile, there was a good chance none of the Undersiders could actually do anything against him.
"So," Regent said, scratching the back of his head as he approached them. "Did you just wake up today and decide, 'Hey the weather looks nice maybe I'll go rob a bank,' or something. Because this 'coincidence'," and there he made quotation marks with his fingers. "Of three villains hitting the bank at the same time reeks of a setup."
"Surprised us just as much as it did you," Motoharu said. "Ask your telepath."
"Right," Regent said. He shrugged. "We were a little worried about the number of heroes that are going to respond to this stunt, but with powerhouses like Ace and Fenghuang I don't think there's anything to be worried about."
Accelerator tilted his head. "You think I'm strong?"
"Dude, I saw your power. You didn't even move when Bitch's dogs hit you. Is it some kind of tactile telekinesis or something? That or gravity manipulation."
"Something like that," he said, unintentionally echoing Tattletale.
Motoharu would've reprimanded Accelerator for giving potential enemies a clue about his abilities, but he didn't. Izzard was here, and that meant there wasn't much that could threaten them at all. And Accelerator was a smart cookie and could take care of himself. He always fixed whatever trouble he found himself in.
There was a lull. Group lost interest in talking and Regent was content keeping to himself. The monsters were docile around Izzard, which drew some interest from Bitch. Grue and Bug were inside the vault, hauling money into bags harnessed on top of their monsters. Tattletale was fiddling with a computer in someone's desk. The hostages wisely kept their mouths shuts unless they invited the wrath of eight bank robbers.
"Everyone," Awaki said, breaking the silence and called Fenghuang and the Undersiders. "We've got company."
"You saw them too?" Tattletale left the desk and joined Regent and Group. "So you've got some kind of surveillance power, Shelter?"
Either Tattletale was bullshitting or she wasn't a telepath. Awaki didn't have surveillance powers, but she was equipped with a helmet connected to three invisible flying eyes. Awaki nodded. "And you're Sherlock Holmes," Awaki guessed. "A deduction based ability. What gave me away?"
"Nothing. I just bluffed." Tattletale stuck her tongue out. Awaki snorted. Motoharu chuckled. "So how many are there?" The rest of the Undersiders followed suit, with Izzard in his feathered coat sauntering behind them.
"There's seven," Awaki said, a sudden cheer to her voice. She pointed to the ceiling. "Including a blonde girl on the roof." She held Accelerator's back. They were going to teleport on the roof and surprise the blonde girl with Accelerator's overwhelming power, taking her out of the fight entirely.
Grue sighed and tapped Tattletale's shoulder. "You're lucky there's eight of us here."
"Or else you would've thrown a bitch-fest?" Tattletale laughed. "So how are we going to get Glory Hole down? With the telekinetic or the trump?"
Trump was the local term for a parahuman with the power to affect other powers. By their logic Touma was a trump, negating other abilities. So was Othinus, with her godhood allowing her to recreate multiple superpowers. Izzard was in a similar vein. He already displayed multiple abilities: disabling Grue's darkness, calming Bitch's monsters and telekinetically opening the wheel of the vault. He used three powers that didn't have a thematic connection.
"Glory Hole? Oh, so she's Glory Girl," Awaki said. The name sounded familiar. Motoharu had researched most of the parahumans operating in Brockton Bay. Glory Girl was from an unmasked team called New Wave, which consisted of her family. She was capable of flight, strength and invincibility. The locals called it the 'Alexandrian Package', after their first flying tank, the superhero Alexandria.
So they were similar to Accelerator, then. He only had one power but he could emulate theirs.
"Hey, Sherlock Girl," Accelerator said, turning to Tattletale. "Your powers are based on deduction, right? From what you've seen, which one of us is stronger? Glory Girl or me?"
"Why don't you find out for yourself?" Tattletale asked. Accelerator laughed. It was an evil laugh. He vanished from view.
"He can teleport too?" Regent shook his head. "Man, that's just bullshit."
"It wasn't him," Tattletale said, eyeing Awaki.
There was a scream, a boom and a crash. The bank shook. The ceiling exploded. The chandelier, rubble and masonry fell to the floor. Amongst the scattered rubble lay a blonde cape in a dress and a crown. She was the superhero known as Glory Girl. "Fancy meeting you here," Tattletale said in a playful tone.
The Undersiders, Group, and Izzard surrounded her. She groaned and looked up at them. Her eyes widened in horror. Not at them, but at the figure peering from the hole to the roof. The sun shined on his gray costume, giving him a heroic image.
"She's not wounded," Motoharu said. "No bruise, cuts or broken bones. Did Accelerator really hurt her?"
Glory Girl spat blood on the floor and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She forced herself up.
Izzard opened his hand. Electricity crackled from his arm and surged into his palm. It discharged into Glory Girl, covering her entire body in a soft, blue glow. She screamed, convulsed and fell on her face. Her limbs twitched. Parts of her hair was fried, the ends singed. Her costume was charred black. Smoke rose from her body.
Motoharu was fascinated by the magic. He didn't hear Izzard say anything related to electricity or lightning, yet that was what came from his hand. Was it a spell prepared ahead of time?
"Vicky!" Someone said, panicked. All seven supervillains turned to the speaker. She was a freckled, brown haired girl. "What the fuck did you do to her!?" she screamed.
"You're from New Wave," Awaki said. "Tattletale, what's her name again?"
"Why Shelter, I'm shocked you didn't know. It's Panacea."
"You may relax," Izzard said, lowering his arms as he approached Panacea. "Your powers do not affect me, so I am unafraid. Be calm, small girl, for you have witnessed a miracle." When he was a meter from the girl she charged at him and touched his shoulder.
"Ha!" Panacea said. And then she gasped. "Why isn't it working!?"
Motoharu raised his shotgun.
"Whoa, easy," Grue said. "Let's not kill kids and draw the Protectorate's wrath, okay?" Grue's shoe tapped Glory Girl's shoulder. He pushed her to the side. She was still breathing. "So that makes what, four powers?"
"Telekinesis, darkness negation, animal manipulation and electric generation," Tattletale said, raising a finger with each power she listed. She drew four. "How much more are you packing, Fenghuang? Oh wait, now you're immune to biology manipulation too. That makes five."
"Would you like to join the Undersiders?" Regent shamelessly asked. Grue covered his helmet with his palm. Bug looked at the clouds through the manmade skylight. Bitch didn't voice against it due to her curiosity. Tattletale made a cheeky grin.
Izzard laughed. It was a kind laugh, the opposite of the dark avian predator looming over Panacea. "As entertaining as that is, I have other businesses to attend to." Izzard gestured with his hand. Glory Girl unconscious body rose to the air, floating towards Izzard and Panacea, who was still asleep.
"Undersiders, Group, I bid you adieu." Izzard tipped his hat, flickered and vanished. Glory Girl and Panacea disappeared were nowhere in sight.
"Did he just kidnap them!?" Bug exclaimed.
Grue shrugged. "We wouldn't have been able to stop him anyways. With the number of powers he had on us we would've died on the spot. How many heroes are still out there, Shelter?"
"Six. There's seven of us. Our team, Group will battle. The rest of you do whatever. Run away, I guess, now that you have the money."
Grue shook his head. "And miss out on seeing what you guys can do? Not a chance."
Tattletale sighed. "We also need to convince them that we didn't participate in kidnapping those girls. I mean, Glory Girl was going to be a pain in the ass, but I didn't think Fenghuang would actually take her."
Outside the heroes grew agitated. Motoharu laughed. "I'm guessing we can't use guns? Then I'm practically useless."
"Thinker buddies," Tattletale said, offering her hand for a high-five. Motoharu clapped it.
"You think I'm a thinker?" he asked. From what he gathered thinkers gained an enhanced perception of the world, obtained information from thin air and obtained fighting abilities without the need for training. Tattletale must've assumed he was a combat thinker.
"You're the only one packing a lot of weapons," Tattletale said, confirming his assumption. She was wrong, but he wasn't about to correct her. "I'm guessing some sort of power related to ranged weaponry?"
Actually, it was because he didn't have powers. "Sure," he said instead.
"So, battle plan?" Grue asked.
Accelerator jumped down the hole. Cracks formed on the rubble he landed on. He ambled next to Motoharu and Awaki. "Do we really need one?"
"Listen," Grue said, crossing his arms. "I get that you're strong, but unless you're like Fenghuang, who for some fucking reason has six freaking superpowers, you're not going to be able to handle the Wards alone."
"That sounds like a challenge," Accelerator said. "Tell you what. I'm going to fight them alone. If I lose in the first five minutes, you get a hundred bucks. If I win, I get it."
Grue snorted. "Sure, man. Be the alpha dog and prove how stupid you are."
Accelerator chuckled. "Fine by me." He faced the revolving door.
He kicked it open. The door flew from its hanger and careened towards one of the wards. They punched it aside.
With his hands in his pockets, Accelerator walked out.
When he was gone, Grue ran back to the vault, rushed to Motoharu and passed him a hundred dollar bill. "Okay, let's go," he said. The sly bastard. He knew full well what Accelerator would do and goaded him into taking the Wards by himself. It didn't matter if he won or lost, the Undersiders would have valuable time for escape. "You two going to wait for your brute?"
"Nah," Motoharu said. "So long as one of us gets results it doesn't really matter."
He wondered why he was here at all. But he wasn't one to question his creator's will. "Let's eat. I'm hungry."
Accelerator knew the Wards by memory. He scrutinized them, where they stood on the street. Aegis was a flyer with a body that didn't need its organs. He didn't feel pain and wasn't as threatened by physical force as the others. He was the easiest to beat.
So that was why Accelerator aimed for Clockblocker, who was the biggest threat with his ability to disable those he touches by stopping them in time.
And in the way he learned it was Aegis in disguise.
He had aimed the revolving door at Clockblocker, who wore a skintight white costume with interlocking panels of white body armor. There were clocks designed on his armor, some dials moving, others inert. His helmet was a faceless expanse of white.
But that wasn't Clockblocker, because Clockblocker would've frozen himself to avoid getting hurt from the projectile Accelerator had thrown. If he froze himself, he was out of the fight. If he didn't, he would've been wounded and thrown in the sidewalk across the street.
But instead he revealed his hand.
Accelerator glanced to his left, at the one wearing Aegis' costume. A rust red costume and a matching helmet, both with silver-white trim and a shield emblem. The actual Clockblocker. If he just fought them head-to-head, he would've lost immediately. He doubted Clockblocker could so much as touch him, but what if the superpower didn't need actual physical contact? Misdirection was the biggest advantage of superpowers, and surprises triumphed raw strength. In fact, it wasn't just in relation to superpowers. Surprise attacks were advantageous in general. And the Wards just lost theirs.
Now, they were no longer a threat.
There was a young girl, Vista, a dozen right to the real Clockblocker's left. A costume with a skirt, covered in wavy lines between white and forest green. She had armor. It didn't matter. There was another person floating on the air beside Aegis. Kid Win had brown hair, a red visor, body armor in red and gold. He stood on his hoverboard, which had a ruby glow underneath it. The item made Accelerator smile in nostalgia.
Kid Win gripped his laser pistols, which glowed like his hoverboard. He was agitated. They all were. There were two other heroes, someone in gunmetal and silver costume reminiscent of a knight, and another with a bulky body in spandex and a mask covering his entire face. Gallant and Browbeat.
"Where is she!?" Gallant's voice was loud as he asked.
Accelerator tilted his head. "Ah. Glory Girl." She was Gallant's girlfriend. They must've seen Accelerator teleport above the rooftop and drop a kick on Glory Girl that sent her falling into the bank. If Accelerator knew Fenghuang was going to take her, he would've stopped the man himself.
Still, honesty was the best policy. "She's gone," he said. "Some villain named Fenghuang took her."
"Is he with you?"
"Bullshit!" Bright beams of energy burst from Gallant's arms, striking Accelerator's chest. It was redirected from his chest and flew back to Gallant, doing nothing. What a strange power.
Accelerator agreed. Enough chitchat. It was time to work. He kicked on the ground and slid through the surface, redirecting resistance from his soles, and rushed towards Browbeat like a skater on ice.
Browbeat was a point black telekinetic. He was strong, but was he stronger than Accelerator? Accelerator ducked under a massive swing of Browbeat's arm and responded with a punch to his sternum. Browbeat gasped. The attack would've popped a lesser man's heart. His likely compressed between his sternum and spine. He either received an injury to the right ventricle or a rupture to the aorta. Behind him Kid Win rose on his hoverboard to the sky and aimed with his pistols. Accelerator gripped Browbeat's muscular biceps and swung him at Kid Win.
He struck Kid Win. The two heroes fell from the hoverboard with Kid Win taking the brunt of the ball, getting hurt from his back hitting the asphalt and from Browbeat weighing on his body.
Ace was the best starting pitcher on the team. Maybe Accelerator had a future in baseball. The air distorted, stretched and bended in odd angles. The street split in two. A meters extended into a kilometer. Space was being warped. Vista was gesticulating with her hands. Kid Win threw a bomb a couple dozen meters away. Space warped and it was suddenly on Accelerator's face.
It burst into light. Accelerator redirected the blinding light from his eyes. He remained unaffected. The street around him rose into tall walls. He stomped on the ground, causing an earthquake and shattering the distortion. The asphalt cracked and pieces flew. The streets shook. The tremor caused the parked cars to trigger their alarms. Blaring honks and horns followed. Accelerator stomped the ground again. The second tremor drew a larger crack. He was facing Vista in a contest of their powers.
Which one was superior?
Pieces of asphalt and concrete shattered from the street. Accelerator kicked the small pieces into projectiles, aiming at Clockblocker and Aegis. Vista extended the space between the projectiles and her teammates, removing the momentum from Accelerator's attacks until they fell to the ground. While he was distracted fighting Vista the distance between him and the others shortened, likely due to her power. They took a final step towards him. Clockblocker tried to grab him while Aegis threw a punch.
Accelerator clapped his hands. Wind burst around him, throwing Clockblocker into the air. Kid Win flew towards his teammate, catching him in his hoverboard. He ignored Aegis' blow. The kinetic energy was sent into Aegis' fist, cracking his knuckles and breaking his bones. Accelerator slapped his chest. He flew into the windshield of a parked Subaru. Flew back out, arms raised and speared towards Accelerator.
He rammed his body to Accelerator's own, hoping to take him down with the charge. It did the opposite. Accelerator remained standing. The vector from Aegis' own attack was distributed to his entire body. Bones cracked. Skin cut. Clockblocker's costume was shattered. Accelerator caught Aegis' face, shrugged off his attempts to break free and dragged him into the Subaru with the shattered windshield. Accelerator raised Aegis' body into the air like a lamb offered to the heavens, and struck his body to the grill of the car. The grill, headlights and bumper all shattered and broke. Accelerator followed with a downward chop, wind blasting into the engine. His second attack vaporized the gas tank, turning the gasoline into gas and creating a spark that led into a powerful explosion.
His entire body was wreathed in flames. He turned from the car and rolled his shoulders. He was unhurt from the explosion, but Aegis was not. Fire left his body alone as he walked away, leaving Aegis to sleep in the burning vehicle.
A shadow covered the ground in front of him. Accelerator turned and saw Aegis raise a fist into a strike. This was the term, 'heroic resolve' followed by the second wind which led the heroes of justice to triumph. Aegis was burned, his costume charred, and wounded, from all the attack redirected back to him but not out of the fight. He refused to give up. Had it been someone else, like the stupid idiot who managed to beat twice, Accelerator would've lost the battle. But it wasn't.
He watched Aegis break his burned arm in an attempt to penetrate his power. It didn't work. Accelerator grabbed his wrist, broke it, and grabbed the other one. He broke that too. He struck Aegis' chest, forced his back into the sidewalk. He kicked the right leg to the right side, breaking his joints, and then repeated the kick with the left. He kicked Aegis into a fire hydrant with a thud.
Step one of his mission was to beat the Wards unconscious, or failing that, incapacitate them. Having them escape was also acceptable, but he had a minimum of at least four Wards to disable.
"Aegis!" Vista screamed. "You'll pay for that!" she said. Space was pinched from where she stood next to a lamppost and the fire hydrant Aegis lay against. She knelt in front of her teammate and checked his wounds. He was fine, but that didn't stop her from being angry. Accelerator already lost interest in her. She couldn't even hurt him if she tried.
Browbeat was up, apparently unhurt. He remembered Browbeat possessed some sort of ability to control his own body. A biokinetic was the term. Browbeat tilted his head and walked straight to Accelerator, punching a knuckle into a palm. He wanted a slugfest. He believed Accelerator was a brawled like himself. Accelerator mimed boxing the air. He wanted to see how strong Browbeat was before he knocked him down.
Accelerator yawned and wiped a tear, facing up. They stood a meter apart. Browbeat was taller and looked down at Accelerator.
"You and me, right here, right now." Browbeat said. He was probably trying to buy time for the others to escape or make a new plan and was appealing to Accelerator's battle hungry nature.
"Like you have a choice." Accelerator struck first with a light jab on Browbeat's midriff. Browbeat took the blow head-on and responded with a left haymaker to Accelerator's head. The vector from the blow was redirected to Browbeat's fist. It shook. He growled and clenched his hand. Accelerator punched his left pectoral. He heard something crack. Browbeat jabbed his visor, and then his shoulder, raised his knee and struck Accelerator's chin. None of it worked. All the kinetic energy was sent back to Browbeat's body. But he was tough, maybe tougher than Aegis.
Accelerator inspected the other Wards. Vista was looking at their fight. Kid Win hovered above them, unable to get a shot without risking friendly fire. Clockblocker was nowhere to be seen. Aegis was down. Clockblocker was gone. Gallant couldn't do anything, so he might as well be a noncombatant. Browbeat would soon join his beaten teammate, and then Accelerator would move to Kid Win and Vista.
Accelerator took Browbeat's next attack, a powerful elbow swung to his cheek. It was powerful, alright. It shattered Browbeat's ulna, olecranon, and humerus. Browbeat screamed in pain. Accelerator grabbed the broken elbow and squeezed. He dragged Browbeat into his knees and struck his face repeatedly. At first Browbeat grabbed his jacket and tried to punch back. Browbeat's attacks became weaker and weaker, until he was just barely hanging on to Accelerator's clothes. Accelerator punched until Browbeat's mask was soaked red with blood. Accelerator's own gloved hands remained unstained thanks to his power. When Browbeat finally released his grip from Accelerator's clothes, Accelerator stopped attacking.
Browbeat fall to his side between the street and the sidewalk.
Something shimmered in the sky. Kid Win held a gun, fifteen feet long, with a barrel four feet across, turret mounted on a circular platform similar to his hoverboard. He swiveled the canon towards Accelerator. A bolt of light erupted from the canon and soaked Accelerator in energy.
It flew back to Kid Win, destroying his canon, his hoverboard, and his only means of staying airborne.
He was caught in the explosion of his own devices and his costume was on fire as he fell to the street.
"What are you?" Gallant asked. He stood defiantly as Accelerator approached him.
"Someone strong," Accelerator said. "Listen. I'm not in the mood to small talk. I'll just tap your head and be on my way, sounds good?" Gallant seemed reasonable. The errant knight might have boundless chivalry and honor just like those from myths and legends like King Arthur and the Round Table, the mother of all inspirations of knighthood.
Someone didn't even bother hiding their footsteps as they trudged from behind him. It was either Browbeat or Aegis. Those types never learned to stand down. He decided to ignore them. They can knock themselves unconscious hitting him. He was fine with that.
Gallant glanced at the figure behind him. Accelerator was curious as to who it was.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Does it really matter?" Gallant answered with another question.
"I guess it doesn't," Accelerator said. He turned around and saw someone in Aegis' costume.
Clockblocker was heaving for breath, leaning on the frozen brute as his body shook. That had been a risk, betting on the enemy's arrogance to allow him to bridge the distance between them. He couldn't run towards the gray clad villain in the chance he might've tipped them off. The walk was slow and agonizing, but it was worth capturing the enemy.
"Vista!" Clockblocker said, turning to their youngest member. "Quick, get a rope. Let's make sure this bastard never escapes."
"C-Clock…" She turned to him, worried. Kid Win was no longer on fire, but the burns on his skin looked sever.
"Crap." Clockblocker rushed to him, kneeled beside his twitching form, reached for his chest and froze his body. He stopped moving. "Gallant, Browbeat, you two okay?"
Gallant, ever the knight, was helping their muscular member up. "We're fine," Browbeat said. "What about Aegis?" Clockblocker looked at Aegis, with his back to the fire hydrant. Clockblocker rushed to his body and repeated the process.
When he stood up, something was wrong.
His foot burst into blood.
"Gah!?" He fell on his ass, clutching his wounded foot. There was a hole where he was wounded. He sought the source. It was an old man, Caucasian, with receding white hair and a wrinkled face. His blue eyes were hyper focused on Clockblocker's body. He held a sharp rock on his free hand, glinting menacingly, refracting sunlight.
'Don't tell me, it's another villain!?' They knew the attack was unnatural. No one just challenged the Wards like the gray clad villain did. If this one was from the same team, then that meant he was here to finish the job.
"No hard feelings, kid," the old man said, raising the strange rock at him.
"Gallant, take the others and run!" Clockblocker said, and then held his thigh and froze himself.
The Wards were gone by the time he came back to life.
Awaki stood beside him, holding a bloodied crowbar. Grue was also there, concentrating on something behind Accelerator.
"What happened?" Accelerator asked. He noticed he was surrounded in pitch black darkness, courtesy of Grue's power.
"Clockblocker got you," Grue answered. "Shelter grabbed me and teleported us here. She chased after the Wards. The unfrozen ones, I mean. She was incredibly determined to beat them senseless and even tested her teleportation against Vista's space manipulation. She caught Gallant, teleported him away from the Wards and made them watch her hit him in the head over and over again until he couldn't move."
"It wasn't my fault they watched," Awaki said. She dropped the crowbar; it clattered on the ground, held both hands behind her head and whistled.
"You're a real band of psychos, aren't you?" Grue said. "Shades too. He was so eager to shoot someone I was worried he'd go back and blow someone's head off. That's a one way ticket to having the Protectorate gang up on you."
"Where are we?" Accelerator asked.
"In the same street. We couldn't actually move you," Grue said. "But I've covered everything in darkness. Shelter, can you move us?"
Accelerator saw a figure in the darkness. He moved towards it. The darkness receded slightly. It was Clockblocker. He was frozen. There was a wound on his foot. 'Etzali saved me, then. Given Grue didn't mention him, he must've left before Awaki arrived.'
"Sure thing," she said, and held their shoulders. Grue dispelled his darkness and the environment shifted. What was a shattered street, a burning car, the frozen bodies of Kid Win and Aegis against a bloodied fire hydrant became two walls between a passageways. They changed costumes in the alley. Awaki had brought a bag.
Awaki pulled her pants off, revealing bare slender legs leading up to her thighs covered by tight black shorts, and then discarded her jacket, unveiling a green crop top. Grue was caught staring. Awaki took off her helmet and grinned at him. Long red ponytails fell behind her back. "Pervert."
"What? No." He shook his head. "Not that at all. I was just surprised you were a girl, Shelter." He shook his head. "You shouldn't have done that. What if I don't reveal my identity and blackmail you against yours?"
"Then I'll sick Ace on your ass. Call me Awaki." She made a teasing smile and offered a hand. Grue shook it.
Grue took off his helmet. He was a black man with cornrows. Based on Awaki's delighted grin, she found him suitably attractive.
"Brian. Nice to meet you."
They shared a long stare.
"Ahem," Accelerator said, taking off his jacket. He wore a white shirt underneath it. He had already removed his helmet by the time they turned to him. "Brian, you can fuck off now. You too Awaki. I'm the only one who followed our boss's orders."
"You two have a boss?" Brian asked.
"Not anymore," Awaki said. "We've been paid a sweet million to send a message. Someone really ticked off the wrong person there."
Brian nodded. "Makes sense. So are you three leaving town?"
Awaki shrugged. "Who knows? I'm pretty much set for life."
Brian was clearly attracted to her, or it was the hormones speaking, but Accelerator was sure what Brian said next did not come with rational thinking.
"If you want, you can join us," he offered, to Awaki, not to Accelerator. Either it was because he was obviously more interested in Awaki or he believed Accelerator didn't really need that much help was up in the air.
Awaki laughed. "Doesn't Bitch have enough trouble with just five of you? From how she was acting in the bank she really didn't want to share money."
"Don't listen to her. She's not in charge of our team," Brian said. "And I'm serious. We could use another fighter like you."
"What about me, you dipshit?" Accelerator growled.
"Oh, I thought you didn't need help. You interested too?"
"Sure, why not. I'm not averse to doing risky jobs, but our last boss was a little too crazy for my taste." Accelerator covered his mouth and yawned. "Those Wards really got me worked up. That was stupid of me to get caught in Clockblocker's surprise. Fucking idiot."
Awaki held her hips and nodded. "You are."
"No, you're the idiot," Accelerator hissed. "You saw him walking at me and you didn't do anything? What the fuck?"
"It's punishment because you were an idiot. You were too overconfident. Let that bruise to your ego teach you a life lesson."
"Yeah, it taught me not to trust you." Accelerator tapped his pants. It turned from gray to black, same with his boots. These were clothes gifted to him by Othinus, and as such are incredibly valuable. He tuckered his clothes into a duffel bag Awaki had provided for him, raised a brow when she buried her clothes there too, and sighed when Brian did the same.
"Here," Brian said, handing Accelerator a hundred dollar bill.
"What's this for?" he asked.
"The bet. You took on the Wards, and even if you were frozen they were the ones that ran away. Shades wanted me to give that myself."
"You actually took that seriously?" Accelerator wasn't one to decline free cash and happily accepted the money and put it in his pocket.
"Hey, man, a deal's a deal," Brian said.
"Whatever. I'm hungry. Who wants to eat? My treat."
"So, what do you think of my offer?"
"Let me sleep on it," Awaki said, hooking an arm over Brian's shoulder. "I have a feeling we'll be great friends, Brian." He gave her a charming smile.
The second step of their mission started now. It was simple, really. They just had to befriend the Undersiders.
New Worlds 1.5
Izzard informed Mikoto and the others the zombies would congregate around the docks, and the werewolf would rampage in the park bordering the docks and downtown. Izzard kept a few of the infected to himself in the event he needed another outbreak, but the rest were to remain in an area and keep the infestation from growing.
Mikoto was strolling down the street in a light brown hoodie, white shorts and shoes. A domino mask covered her face. She doubted it would actually protect her identity, but until she found a better costume it would have to do. She stretched an arm and held her shoulder, yawning as she closed one eye. She was bored. Trash littered the streets. Graffiti stained derelict walls and downtrodden buildings. Abandoned cars stripped of their wheels were scattered across the area. There was a population of gangbangers, crazies and vagrants living on the streets and squatting inside abandoned buildings. Now, there were only zombies.
She found two bodies in a corner by a broken lamppost. One knelt in front of the other which was lying on their back. Blood seeped the sidewalk. Their backs were turned to Mikoto. It was horrible and sickening, what happened to them. She was here to put them out of their misery.
Mikoto would normally be against evil pricks like Izzard, but after Othinus commanded her to follow a plan in store, Mikoto immediately obeyed. Her creator's will comes first.
The sound the zombie made as it feasted on the dead person's body was similar to that of a starving man finally having a delicious meal. The zombie licked its fingers from the blood of its victim and almost made a moaning sound. Disgusting. But then something much more interesting happened. The victim's eyes turned red. It clutched its throat, which had been bitten off, and started snarling.
The first zombie lost interest and stood up, turning towards her. It widened its red eyes in surprise. Blood dripped from its lips, forming a line down its chin. It had a beard, black hair, a beanie and dirty unwashed clothes. Its skin was gray, which alongside the red eyes were the signs of the symptoms of being undead.
It snarled and reached its arms out to Mikoto. It was swept in a vortex of black sand, accompanied by the sound of a chainsaw. The iron sand tore its body into pieces, and shredded those. What remained was swept in the air. Mikoto did the same for the second zombie. The black sand wrapped around the entire zombie's body, disabling it from movement, and then tore its legs, its arms, its head, and then destroyed its entire body.
She opened her hand. Iron sand took the shape of a black sword. Particles orbited her body. She inspected the interiors of the building beside her. It was abandoned. There were cracks on the floor and holes on the wall. She saw a large rat drag something that looked like a finger inside one of the walls. It came back a moment later, screeching and scurrying at her.
She raised her sword. The tip of the iron sand extended and with snake-like movements struck the rats' limbs, tearing them from its body. It continued hissing at Mikoto, clearly infected. Where did the finger come from? There was a trail of blood from where the rat dragged it. Mikoto followed the trail and found a broken door. Through the wall she saw a man with stumps for legs. He was infected too, but he wasn't able to spread the virus due to his disabilities. Something glinted around his neck. Sparks crackled from Mikoto's other hand, gesturing for the necklace to come to her. It broke free from the legless zombie's neck and was carried by electromagnetism to hover in front of her. It was a dog-tag. The man was a soldier. He fought for his country, and was repaid by becoming homeless, abandoned and ignored by those he swore to protect.
The legless zombie reached a hand out to her. Her sword darted towards it head, cutting its neck. The head slid down its shoulder and rolled to the floor. The decapitated zombies stopped moving. Mikoto grimaced. This was too much. She wondered what kind of life the man lived that led him into the ghetto of Brockton Bay. "How did he even get infected?" She was tempted to continue exploring the building.
She heard screams outside the building.
"Right," she said. "I have a mission to do."
Mikoto rushed out, light sparking from her bangs. Her sword dispersed into the air. Electricity crackled from the soles of her shoes, up her legs, through her torso and charged into her hands. She found a man running for his life across the street, being chased by three zombies. One of the zombies was a head taller than the other two, and far more obese.
The obese zombie saw her emerge from the building and wheezed as it ran towards Mikoto. "Oh, no you don't," she said. Electricity crackled at her fingertips. She raised a hand and from her palm discharged high-voltage electrical current that speared at its legs, its blubber of a stomach, and its fatty arms, hands and fingers, cooking its body. Another bolt struck hit its head. It fell on its face. Its skin was burned. The stench of feces and urine reached her nose. She almost gagged.
Despite being undead, some zombies needed a second death to release their bowels, it seems.
"Right," Mikoto said. "I'll stick to iron sand." Black sand generated around the other two zombies chasing the man, and shredded their bodies from the head down into their shins. When the iron sand dispersed, the feet remained.
The man fell to his knees, gasping for breath. "T-thank you," he said, turning to her. "Thank goodness there's a hero here. I need help. M-my family, they're in trouble." They must be squatting to live in the docks. He explained that a horde of zombies surrounded their house. He escaped through the window from the second floor and jumped into the asphalt before making a run for it. Two zombies followed him, and then the fat zombie she killed joined the party.
Mikoto nodded. "Lead the way."
She contemplated solving the homeless problem. It would take an enormous amount of money to do so, but Othinus has infinite resources due to her godhood. Mikoto just needed to convince her god later, then. There was a sort of irony due to her, being an atheist, now believing in god, but that was the difference between people who claim to have met their maker, and Mikoto who actually lives with hers.
They reached their destination: a two-story house that had seen some better times. It was a ruin. There was a hole from the rooftop. It was missing a window. A zombie tried to reach inside it. Another one was trying to break through the wooden door. There were cries from the inside.
"My wife and kids," the man said. "They're in there." A horde of zombies surrounded the house. She counted twenty-three heads, all of them adults, growling as they tried to break into the house to eat brains. The scene was something straight out of zombie movies.
Mikoto whipped her sword. Iron sand passed through every single zombie like sand in the wind. Heads fell from necks and the decapitated bodies scattered across the area. Mikoto clapped her hands and smiled at the man. "There. Problem solved."
Granted, it wouldn't have been a problem in the first place if Izzard didn't kick-start the zombie apocalypse, but Othinus commandeered the situation and so here she was.
The man fell to his knees and cried. "T-thank you." He wiped tears and snort from his face with the dirtied sleeve of his shirt. Mikoto forced a smile.
"Here," she said. She took a piece of paper from her pocket, an address written, and passed it to the man. "I have a friend who's willing to loan money to others."
"You mean like a loan shark?" The man looked at the address in amazement.
Mikoto made a nervous laugh. "N-no? More like a philanthropist. Just tell them Railgun sent you, and you'll be okay."
"Railgun. So that's your name," the man said in awe. They both turned to the man's house as it opened. A woman and two kids ran to him. The woman thanked Mikoto and asked if it was safe to leave the Docks. She assured them that it was. Zombies wouldn't target people she saved, it would be counterproductive to her creator's plan, after all.
Still, the family stayed with her. It wouldn't do to have them be suspicious of the sudden disinterest of the zombies.
"Stick close to me at all times. With my powers these zombies are nothing."
Mikoto didn't really have a goal in mind. She had a mission, true, but it wasn't moving until she was done with her side-quests. She circled around the area while killing all the zombies that got in her way. She remembered playing a game about catching monsters in the bushes and in caves, and how she avoided those areas whenever she wasn't interested in fighting them at the particular moment.
"It's just like a video game," Mikoto muttered.
"What did you say?" One of the kids asked. The mother hushed them instantly.
"Don't mind them, ma'am," she said nervously.
"Don't worry about it," Mikoto said. "Let's keep looking for other survivors."
"Help, please!" Someone said.
Mikoto found a bearded man on one knee clutching his leg. His pant was dyed red, soaked with blood. A frail looking zombie was limping towards him, Romero style. Mikoto had been curios one afternoon when she was younger and looked up the origin of zombies. There was something about Africa and voodoo, but magic didn't interest her as much as the films that made the concept popular. George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was one of them. Slow, limping zombies out to eat your brains was the original, no way around it.
Mikoto made a wistful sigh and reached a hand to a rusted rundown pickup truck. She manipulated the electromagnetic pulse and attracted the truck to the zombie. The truck flew from the street, over the bearded man who cowered and covered his head in fear, struck the zombie with its headlight and crashed into a wall. The zombie's lower body was torn from the impact and splattered the wall, the radiator grille and the bumper with gore. Despite the damage, the zombie felt no pain and kept growling and it scratched the hood in an attempt to break free.
"T-thank you!" the bearded man said. "A little help, here?"
He was still wounded. "How did you get that?" Mikoto asked. "If you're infected, we don't have a cure. The incubation period's pretty fast too, considering it hasn't even been a day and the infection's already caught so many people in the Docks. I'm sorry but you're a ticking time bomb waiting to explode."
She wasn't going to kill him, of course, just letting him know that he's at risk of turning into a zombie. It was just for show. He wouldn't really turn into one. The moment she 'saves' someone, they'll no longer be harmed, be it by the zombies without or the infection within.
"N-no, wait! I'm not infected." The bearded man pleaded. Mikoto looked at his leg. "I tripped, I swear!"
Mikoto would've offered to rush him to the hospital, had she been on her day off. But Othinus' will took precedence, so she thought of a way to keep him safe while ensuing she continued her mission. "We need to make a barricade," Mikoto said, spotting some zombies in the distance. "You stay inside abandoned buildings. I'll pull cars to block the entrance to the lobby."
"Pull them with your telekinesis?" One of the two children asked. Their mother shushed them.
"Yeah… Sure." Mikoto shrugged. "What do you all think?"
"I mean, we feel safer being with you," the father said. "But if you have to go save other people, then we wouldn't want to be deadweight." They all pointedly ignored the bearded man.
"I'm going to cauterize the wound," Mikoto said, pinching the air. Sparks crackled between her fingers. The bearded man gulped but nodded and pulled his pants up, revealing his wound. "Help him stay still?" Mikoto asked the father, who held the bearded man's shoulders.
She left them inside one abandoned brick house, two-stories tall, after clearing it free of zombies. She found three zombies in the living room, two more in the dining area, and infected children on the second floor bedrooms. She killed them all.
She made sure there weren't any remains to avoid traumatizing the kids. She covered the porch with a rusted vehicle, and the backdoor with another, and then left, continuing her quest.
If the mission was like a game, then the main quest was at a familiar area waiting for her while the side quests, virtually limitless, could be found if she walked around enough.
"Mommy!" she heard a cry. The source came from a redheaded little girl in a violet dress, cowering at the back of an abandoned vehicle and holding her teddy bear like it was her shield. The windows were broken, and one zombie tried to reach at her. The zombie was a woman with similar features to the girl, in addition to being undead. There were three more zombies crowding behind the one trying to grab the girl. The zombie woman also had bite marks on its shoulders and neck.
If Mikoto had to guess, the mother tried to protect her daughter using her own body to shield her child from the small horde, but fell and reanimated into the undead. It was a cruel fate. Mikoto ended her suffering. She sliced the air with her sword which extended and spread, becoming a giant arm of iron sand. It caught all the zombies in the palm of its large and squeezed, destroying all the bodies from within.
The little girl cried and screamed, frightened by the death of her mother. The giant arm made of iron sand dispersed. Mikoto pulled the door open with a gesture of her fingers and an application of her power. "It's okay," she said, hugging the girl. "I'll keep you safe."
"Mommy's dead," the girl cried. "Mommy!"
Mikoto felt a little resentment towards Izzard. She didn't what she was doing for her god, but she wished Izzard had a little more taste instead of going after children or their parents.
Mikoto knelt by the door in front of the backseat while the girl wiped her tears and snot with her teddy bear. "What's your name?" Mikoto asked, using her thumb to wipe a tear from the girl's face.
"A-Annie," the girl sniffed. "My mommy…"
"It's okay," Mikoto said and rubbed Annie's back. "I'll protect you." She was glad Annie didn't blame her for her mother's death, showing Annie was more mature than other children of the same age. "Come on, Annie, let's get you to the safe-house."
"NO!" Annie vehemently declined and hugged Mikoto's arm. Maybe she was scared of being alone and wanted to stay with Mikoto.
"Okay," Mikoto said. "First, let's get you out of the vehicle."
She carried Annie from the car and gently lowered her to the concrete. Annie held Mikoto's free hand as they continued exploring the infested area of Brockton Bay.
She wasn't paying attention before, but now that she was no longer distracted by the mysteries of the zombies or the people accompanying her, Mikoto heard gunfire nearby. The Docks was infested with gangs, from the Merchants, Empire Eighty-Eight to the ABB. There were probably some independent parahumans in the area as well. It was inevitable that they would come into contact with the zombie horde Izzard created.
Beyond the buildings, battles raged on as the living fought the dead.
But how were the zombies faring against the capes?
In this world, Mikoto was probably ranked a powerful cape. Not on the same level as the Triumvirate, but just a bit below them. If Mikoto was having an easy time battling the zombies, then it was most likely the same for the others. But each gang was probably protecting their own territory and letting the zombies run wild on their rival's area, waiting it out and for the heroes to eventually arrive, contain and terminate the strain and leave the villains reaping the loots of the zombies' labor.
They stumbled upon a group of teenagers fighting the zombies and actually winning. "Hey," one of the teens said. He was a black man in a red jacket and denim pants. His hair was styled in cornrows, his face was handsome and his body was muscled. Mikoto wondered if he was a model. He was armed with a bloodied crowbar and just finished smacking a zombie's head into the sidewalk. "There's a hero."
A girl turned to Mikoto. She was blonde, freckled, wore a purple blouse, a skirt, and sandals. She held a handgun Mikoto recognized as a Glock 17. Mikoto didn't like the way those eyes looked at her. "Hey there," the blonde girl said, waving her other hand. "We're just a couple of teenagers living the dream and fighting zombies."
Mikoto nodded sympathetically. She understood. Sometimes, people just wanted to fight zombies. More zombies congregated towards them. An entire street was filled to the brim with bodies so large they pushed through each other in an attempt to reach the teens first. Despite the large number of Romero zombies, the teenagers were too relaxed. It must be overconfidence due to their belief of being genre savvy when it came to fighting actual zombies. "Here, let me help."
Mikoto didn't bother recreating her sword and simply waved her hand, as if telling the zombies to go away. Iron sand blew through the mass of bodies and covered the air in darkness. When it dispersed, all the zombies were destroyed, torn into pieces so small it drifted with the wind.
"Whoa," one of the other teenagers said, a slim boy holding a sword. He wore a white shirt, black trousers and some nice boots.
"Is that a katana?" Mikoto raised a brow.
"Yes." The boy smirked, happy that a hero acknowledged his weapon. Behind him a bespectacled girl in baggy clothing shook her head. She was holding a metal baseball bat.
"It's not very impressive," Mikoto said. The slim boy scoffed. Annie tugged her hand. Mikoto looked at her small companion. "What is it, Annie?" The little girl tilted her head. Mikoto furrowed her brows. She was amazed by the girl's calm demeanor. If Mikoto had witnessed her mother who saved her life become a zombie and then destroyed, she would be left crying for an entire week. She was trying to decipher what Annie was trying telling her. Is she alright? Is she hungry or thirsty? Does she need to use the bathroom? Mikoto didn't know.
"She wants a sword," the blonde girl, grinning. Annie nodded. "Cute girl. Do you have a name, miss hero?"
"Railgun. What about you guys?"
"I'm Lisa. Crowbar's Brian. Katana's Alec. Bat's Taylor. At your service."
"You want to go with me?"
"You took down over a dozen zombies like it was nothing," Brian said. "I feel we'd be safer with the company of a hero than without."
None of them were wounded, and unlike the people she was with earlier these ones actually knew how to fight. Mikoto looked at the six zombies on the street killed by the teens. Some of them were from Lisa's gun and Brian's crowbar, but one was missing an eye, probably from Alec's katana, and another by Taylor's feet had its neck pulped.
"Okay," Mikoto said. "Just stay behind me." They did.
"So what's the plan?" Lisa asked.
"No plan," Mikoto said. "I'm just trying to save as many people as I can. What a day, huh?"
"Yup," Lisa said.
"Totally," Alec added.
"Yes," Brian agreed.
"Indeed," Taylor concurred.
Mikoto spent the next few minutes killing zombies and holding Annie's hand. While she was having a breeze, she didn't want to inconvenience the teens by having them walk with her when they could be resting somewhere else.
"We actually have a safe-house if you're interested in hiding," Mikoto offered. Something in her tone must've hinted at her discomfort with their company, because Lisa immediately took the offer. 'She must be an empath. Someone aware of what other people were feeling,' Mikoto thought.
"Sure," Lisa said. That was strange. She thought they would decline the offer and insist on sticking with her, but maybe they were tired. Mikoto led them to the safe-house, lifted the barricade into the air with electromagnetism and asked them to get in.
"If you have phones, now's the time to use them," Mikoto said. She gave them their number to call in case of an emergency.
Brian nodded. "Thanks, Railgun. We owe you one."
"Think nothing of it. Oh, if any of you know first aid? Some guy has a wound on his leg. I cauterized it, but I'm not sure it's enough. Thank you." When Brian closed the door Mikoto lowered the vehicle back into the porch, serving as the barrier between the house and the undead.
"Trigger events, huh?" Mikoto was fascinated with how people obtained powers in this world. It was more horrifying than how espers obtain their psychic abilities, but it was also fairer. You didn't need to be intelligent or smart or wise, you just need to have a traumatic event.
Shootouts were heard a street over. Mikoto made Annie stay behind her as they sought the source. It was a truck surrounded by armed men shooting a horde of zombies. The guns varied from pistols to shotguns, but soon the men would run out of ammo with the sheer magnitude of the horde.
So many dead people caught by the infection. How did they all live in the Docks?
"Hey!" One of the armed men said. He was burly and blond, with a cap and a Kevlar vest. His companions were dressed the same. He shot a zombie four meters away and pistol-whipped one that was closer. "Yo, hero! A little help!" He called out to Mikoto.
Iron sand grew into a vortex above the truck, blocking sunlight, and descended into the zombie horde. The iron sand flew behind her, taking the shape of a sphere, leaving no remains of the horde. She designed to play with the design of the black sphere floating behind her. Three horns protruded from the upper half, like a crown. A trail of iron dust whipped here and there around her.
"So," Mikoto said. Sparks crackled on her bangs. She raised an arm. A bullet rose from the ground, covered in blood, and floated before her. "Who are you and why are you here?"
"None of your business," said one of the armed men, visibly younger than the rest with his cap worn backwards. He was chewing on a gum.
"Lawrence, shut up," the burly man said, keeping his eyes on Mikoto. "We're guards from a security firm hired by our client to protect the cargo." He tapped the side of the truck.
"And your client would be?" Mikoto prompted.
"None of your business," Lawrence repeated.
"We're not at liberty to discuss that," the burly man said.
"Is it drugs in there? If it is, I'm going to have to arrest you," Mikoto said. She would've been on her way if Lawrence wasn't such an ungrateful little punk. The spherical iron sand loomed behind her. Two smaller spheres parted from the main body and orbited Mikoto.
"It's not," the burly man said.
"And even if it is," Lawrence continued. "You're not a cop and you don't have a warrant, so you can't search the truck anyway. Unless you're a villain? Then you wouldn't have bothered helping us out at all." He blew the gum into a bubble that popped.
"Yeah…" Mikoto nodded and scratched her chin. "No." She snapped her fingers. The guns flew from the security guards, removing them of any means of harming Annie. Mikoto wasn't worried about bullets hurting her, but a stray shot hitting the little girl hiding behind her was unacceptable.
"Stand down," she said. "I have nonlethal ways to stop you if you resist, and I'm not afraid to use them. Lawrence," Se addressed the youngest looking security guard. "Open the truck." She could've done it herself, but she didn't want to look weak in front of potential drug dealers.
Lawrence sneered and was about to say something sarcastic when his phone ringed. He took it out, checked the screen, answered the call and said, "Okay. Yes ma'am." He offered the phone to Mikoto. "It's for you."
"Who is this?" she asked, taking the phone.
"Do your mission," Othinus said.
Mikoto's eyes widened in surprise. "Y-yes, ma'am! Um, how did you know?" Was Othinus truly omniscient? That wouldn't have surprised Mikoto, but apparently it was something more mundane.
"I have people monitoring you in the event you need reinforcement. Relax. These men work for me, the same as you. Let them do their jobs and you do yours."
"Yes!" Mikoto said. Othinus hanged up. So she was being tested! "Here." Mikoto threw the phone in the air. Lawrence caught it and rolled his eyes. "Next time, try not to get caught." These security guards might be employed by her god, but they were probably expandable. Not that she would've left them to their doom, but the zombies would've killed them if she hadn't intervened. They were being tested then. Same as her.
Mikoto returned their weapons, waited for the security guards to get in the truck, drive away, and then left the area. Wouldn't do to have something bad happen to them. "Who was that?" Annie asked, curious, as she held Mikoto's hand. "I thought you were going to fight them."
Mikoto laughed. "The person I spoke to in the phone? Someone very important. Come on, let's save more people."
When they took a turn they found a woman running with five kids. A dozen zombies were chasing them. The woman saw Mikoto and said, "Help me!"
"It's like there's adventure at every corner," Mikoto muttered. From the spherical iron sand behind her tendrils lashed out and whipped the zombies into shreds. One was cut in half vertically, another horizontally, another was impaled in both eyes which followed with their heads exploding before being devoured by the iron sand, another lost their limbs, and so on and so forth. It all ended the same, with her power destroying evidence of the zombies ever existing.
The woman paused, heaving for breath, with her hands on her knees. She was soaked to the brim. The five kids where all identical. "Quintuplets?" Mikoto asked the woman, who she assumed was the mother.
"Yes," the woman said, nodding. "Do you have water? Or a place to rest? We really can't survive out here. We've been running for half an hour and lasted mostly on luck."
"My place isn't actually that far from here." Mikoto and Annie led the woman and her five identical children into their safe-house. To Mikoto's surprise, she found the burly man and Lawrence outside, alongside Brian and Alec. Mikoto looked at the second floor window. They must've exited the window and climbed down the edge of the rooftop. The burly man's truck was parked on the sidewalk, open.
The contents were being shared between the four.
"Speak of the devil," Lawrence said, munching on a fat burger. "We were just talking about calling you."
"What are you doing here?" Mikoto asked.
"Turns out they're here to give aid," Brian said. He leaned on the side of the truck and was cleaning his crowbar with a napkin. "Or they were supposed to be."
"Our client was going to show up in person to help the less fortunate by giving them food," the burly man said, crossing his hands over his chest. His gun was holstered to his side. "But since everything went to shit's creak with this zombie apocalypse thing, they've ordered us to offer aid to who we could find instead. Not what we're usually for, but we're already here so might as well finish the job."
"That's when we found them," Brian said, jerking his thumb to the window. "Alec and I were just about to go back home to get some medical supplies and some food to help the others, but looks like we don't need to."
"You live here?" Mikoto asked, surprised.
Brian shrugged. "Who knows?"
"You don't seem worried for a bunch of teens caught in a zombie movie."
Alec laughed. "Like these things could threaten us." He was so assured he wouldn't be caught by the zombies at all. Mikoto raised a brow. Lawrence went to the back of the truck, returned and gave the woman burgers and plastic water bottles. She passed the food to her kids and emptied a bottle in one guzzle. The burly man passed Brian a red briefcase with a white cross, which was a first aid kit, while he and Lawrence took watch over the area in case undead appeared.
"Where's your katana?"
"Broke it. Lisa lent me her gun."
"Makes sense." Mikoto lifted the barricade and left it across the street. Two security guards took boxes full of supplies and carried the package into the porch. Mikoto opened the door, Annie peering behind her leg, as they entered the house, followed by the security guards and then Brian. The iron sand shifted from its spherical form and covered the entire ceiling, drawing attention from the residents.
"Hey there. Some people brought food and water," Mikoto said. The first person who greeted her was the couple and their two kids, followed by Lisa, Taylor, and the bearded man with the wounded leg.
"Oh thank goodness," the bearded man said upon seeing Brian carrying the first aid kit. He was seated on the dusty floor with his back to the wall. It would've been better if he took a room upstairs, but maybe the pain of moving was too much for him.
"Here you go, enjoy," a security guard said. He wore a long sleeved shirt and sunglasses in addition to his cap and Kevlar vest, and had a semi-automatic holstered to his side. He lowered the box to the floor and opened it, revealing its contents. Burgers in white wrappers stacked upon each other. The other box was lowered by a security guard with a black facemask in addition to a cap and sunglasses.
"You're dressed like a ninja," Mikoto said. The security guard with the facemask made a gesture with his two fingers, like soldiers in movies, and left the house.
"Don't mind Steve," the other security guard said. "He's kind of weird like that. Oh, I'm Bobby by the way. Big guy's Johnson, Lawrence's older brother."
"Thanks for the food, man," the father said, giving Bobby a nod.
"Just doing my job," Bobby said. "To be honest if I knew we were walking into the apocalypse I would've bailed. Think we have a Nilbog crisis in our hands?"
"Nilbog crisis?" Mikoto asked. Annie took two burgers and passed one to Mikoto, who smiled fondly and rubbed Annie's head. "Where's your teddy bear?" Annie pointed to where Brian was treating the bearded man. Alec was holding the bear. It was a funny image.
The woman with her quintuplets entered the living room and asked for the direction to the bedroom. Mikoto pointed at the ceiling covered in iron sand. The woman thanked her and led her kids up the stairs.
"S-Class threat that can create minions," Lisa said. "Monsters, with powers of their own. He took over Ellisburg and killed everyone in it. It's now a walled town, like Eagleton."
"What happened in Eagleton?"
"The Machine Army," Lisa said. She leaned her back on the wall. "You're new to the cape scene, aren't you, Railgun?"
"Is it that obvious?" Mikoto asked with a tilt of her head. Annie had finished eating her burger. Bobby the security guard passed her a bottle of water.
"Thank you," Annie said. Bobby nodded.
"You don't have a Manton Effect, for one."
"What's that?" Mikoto asked. She wasn't one to deny knowledge. It might prove useful later on.
"Most powers could either affect living or inanimate objects, but not both," Lisa said. She glanced at the ceiling. "Those things tore apart the zombies without a hassle, and you also have some sort of telekinesis to move things like that car outside."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." That limit didn't exist in Academy City, and based on her interaction with Othinus, her creator didn't have that limitation either. But Othinus wasn't a typical magician but the peak of their greatness. Maybe lesser magicians had that limit, but Mikoto doubted it.
"Is this your first day out?" Taylor asked, changing the subject. She sat beside one of the boxes and uncapped a bottle of water. Annie tried opening hers, had a hard time at it, and giggled when Mikoto offered to open her bottle for her.
"Yeah," Mikoto said.
"And thank God for that," the bearded man said. Brian had finished stitching him up. The security guard passed him a burger and water. "Otherwise I'd be dead meat."
"Undead meat," Mikoto corrected him.
"So what's the name for?" Taylor asked, curious. "Railgun reminds me of the thing that uses electromagnetic force to launch high velocity projectiles. Is your power related to that or anything? I mean, not that you have to tell me if you don't want to."
"Eh. Something like that." Touma suggested Mikoto call herself Sparky, the onomatopoeia of the electricity crackling whenever she generated her power, which was also the sound of bug-zappers. She zapped him for that one. The smartass. "It's more accurate to say it's an application of my power."
She unwrapped the paper cover of her burger and finally took a bite. It was juicy and fat. There was also some bacon and cheese inside. Mikoto enjoyed her meal. When she was done she took another one.
"Boy, you sure are hungry," Alec said. Was he implying she was fat?
"Shut up, Alec," Brian said. She immediately thought Brian was a wonderful person.
"So you thinking of joining the Wards?" Bobby the security guard asked Mikoto. "I mean, they could use a powerhouse like you. They got owned today, hard. Even an old man gave Clockblocker a beating?"
"What kind of name is Clockblocker?" Mikoto tilted her head. It was solely by chance when she glanced down she caught Annie doing the same, mimicking her. Mikoto giggled and petted Annie's head, who closed her eyes and made a blissful sigh.
"He's a teenager, and not all of them are as mature as you," Bobby said with a wave of his arm. "I've got a video if you like. It was a collection of the security cameras in the bank and footage caught by hostages and witnesses who saw the fight. Pretty freaking brutal, I tell ya. Three villain groups struck the bank at the same day it was crazy."
Bobby took out his phone and went to Youtube. He clicked a video that was getting over a million views in less than one day. It started with a group of people in motorcycle helmets and clothes appearing from the steps towards the revolving door, into the lobby. Another group of villains with more variety in their costumes, although the one called Grue was dressed more like the first group, entered from the door leading to the back. A fight brew between the two groups which briefly enveloped the cameras in darkness. A third villain fashioned like a bird appeared, likely the one who dispelled the darkness and began using a plethora of powers.
That was when things went wrong for the heroes. The gray clad biker vanished from view and the ceiling broke, a body falling into the floor. The bird villain electrocuted the one identified as Glory Girl, with Mikoto wondering if he was as good as her when it came to electrokinesis, and then knocked out another hero, before vanishing.
The gray clad villain fought the Wards, beating them senseless, while the Undersiders and Group made a run for it. The gray clad villain repelled and redirected long range attacks, and shrugged off short ones. For a moment he was sunk into the bottom of the earth, due to Vista's power, but then he shattered the area and stomped on the ground, causing an earthquake. The Wards were unprepared for the hardcore beating he gave them, and he brutalized two of their members and sent a laser back to the hoverboard of a third. He talked to one of the remaining Wards, while another snuck up behind him. When the gray clad villain was frozen by Clockblocker's touch, the hero began freezing his teammates. That was when an old man strolled outside the bank and with a shiny rock pierced Clockblocker's hand with some sort of invisible laser, and then made a run for it. The white clad villain and Grue appeared, likely through teleportation, and enveloped the area in darkness.
The next footage enveloped a lot of screams. The white clad villain used a crowbar similar to the one Brian was using, and caught the hero who distracted her teammate, beating him unconscious with the crowbar.
"Oh…" Mikoto stared blankly at the screen. Bobby nodded and scrolled down the page, leaving the video for the comments.
"I know right," Bobby said. "Those three groups, and that bird mask Fenghuang might as well be a group all on his own, mini Eidolon motherfucker, really beat the heroes black and blue. It's bad enough New Wave got kidnapped, bad enough the bank was robbed completely of all its cash, and bad enough the Wards got fucked so thoroughly they're probably traumatized, but it's so much worse it happened all at once. Add in the zombie apocalypse that's distracting the Protectorate and some case 53 werewolf going on a rampage at the park and today could not get any worse for Brockton Bay."
Alec nodded, rubbing his chin with the hand not holding the teddy bear. "Those Undersiders were really amazing, aren't they?"
"If by amazing you mean villainous, then nah. I'd prefer it if they were the only ones who attacked the bank, actually. Would've been better than having all the other villains show up and make names for themselves by beating the shit out of heroes or kidnapping them. Who knows what happened to Panacea or Glory Girl. For all we know they might already be dead."
Mikoto's head was in the clouds. She was no longer listening to Bobby, or the others giving their own comments regarding the large number of villains that appeared in one day. That was because she recognized the attacker in the gray clad outfit.
He was Accelerator.
Lisa watched Mikoto with hawkish eyes. Was there something on Mikoto's face? She wiped her lips with her forearm, removing the crumbs and smiled. She kneeled down beside Annie and said, "Be good, okay? I'm going to keep fighting the zombies to save people like your mother saved you."
Annie cried and hugged Mikoto. She laughed and rubbed the girl's back. "It's okay, I won't get hurt, I promise."
"Yes, silly. Then I'll introduce you to my friends." Mikoto stood up and stretched. She turned to the others. "Alright, you guys. I'll be leaving now. Take care of Annie for me until I get back."
"Duly noted," Bobby said, making a salute. That was weird.
"You're weird," Mikoto said, turning to him.
A gunfight from the streets drew Mikoto's attention. She immediately ran outside. The three security guards, Lawrence the prick, Steve the ninja and Johnson the big guy were all hiding behind the truck and using it as cover. On the other was a bunch of skinheads with Uzis behind a white SUV.
"That's enough out of you," Mikoto said. She made a gesture like she was telling the car where to go, and her power lifted the white SUV up, suspending in the air. One of the guys was inside the vehicle and in blind panic jumped out, landing on their knees with a pained groan. Bullets stopped mere inches from Mikoto's body, like an invisible net caught them in the air. She released a blast of electricity, stunning all the skinheads on the other side of the street.
They fell, releasing their guns, and spasmed on the sidewalk.
"Who are these guys?" Mikoto asked.
"E-Eight-Eight punks who wanted to get our supplies of food," Lawrence said.
Mikoto put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "They could've just asked."
Mikoto turned to Johnson, the burly bodyguard who she found reliable. "What do you think we should do?"
"Just tie them up," Johnson suggested. "Of course if they have enough people to steal from others, then they might have more for backup. We're not actually geared for prolonged conflict." Lawrence made his way to the electrocuted skinheads and removed their guns and ammunition. He passed the Uzis and ammos to the other guards while pocketing some of the money for himself. Mikoto didn't have the energy to tell him off, not after she saw the video.
If she had been her normal self and in any other scenario she would've called Accelerator scum of the highest order for using his powers to beat up a bunch of kids. But she wasn't her normal self. The bodyguards were doing the same thing Accelerator was doing, following their orders.
Thrice now Mikoto was sidetracked. First when she investigated that building, and when she inspected the truck, and thirdly when she was having a meal with the others.
She had a job, and she wasn't doing it.
Mikoto didn't know Othinus that well, but her nature as a creation meant she desired to grant her god's will. That desire overrode whatever else made up the rest of her personality and memories, it overrode her morality, and it overrode her curiosity for Othinus' plans.
"Be careful," Johnson said.
"Same to you. Take care." Mikoto left the area, her iron dust flying from the house after her. It returned to its spherical shape, with three horns as its crown and ominously loomed behind her. They found another shootout, this time between the Empire Eighty-Eight and the zombies. There were five skinheads battling over one hundred of the undead from the safety of a barricaded three-story building. The skinheads were on the rooftops shooting at as many undead as they could, but the sound of the firefight drew the attention of more zombies into the area.
Mikoto found it hard to believe there were so many undead. How much of the population of Brockton Bay was there in the Docks to create this seemingly endless horde?
The zombies were trying to push through the door into the lobby, but they couldn't get in. Something large or strong was keeping it locked from the other side. Regardless, the humans would run out of ammo sooner or later, and then they would find themselves stuck.
A growl drew Mikoto's eyes to a building. Zombies ran from the corner of the street towards her. Her spherical iron sand threw whips towards the zombies, beheading them. The battle drew attention from the horde, the outer half breaking from the group to go after her. She began beheading them with whips of iron sand from her sphere, a few bodies at a time. She also made gestures as she directed the whips, even though she didn't need to.
Mikoto was going to create an artificial limitation for herself. It was too late for the people who saw her earlier, but she could start over and spread the idea that she could only control the spherical iron sand and required gestures to direct its movement. She didn't need either, but making her opponents believe in a disadvantage that didn't exist was always useful.
Besides, when she returned to the safehouse it was with the spherical iron sand, so people might think she was merely hiding it instead of actually having a near unlimited supply.
The spherical iron sand created a barrier made of its whips around her, preventing the zombies from getting close. One hopeful undead tried to ignore the whips and tore its own arm trying to reach for her. It stared at its stump, whether in surprise or wonder she didn't know, before it lost its head.
She wasn't actually getting tired from gesticulating her power. She needed a good workout anyway. Spending too much time with Touma and the others made her lazy in the blissful atmosphere of being with the person she loved and the one who created her. It made her complacent.
When more and more zombies from every corner of the street arrived to fill up their rank, the number of whips she threw at them increased. A 'sea' of iron sand filled up the asphalt around her, mimicking the shape of water as it lashed out and created waves, drowning the zombies in irond sand and destroying their bodies. By the time she was done, she realized the entire street was filled with iron sand that rippled like water.
Mikoto covered her mouth and coughed. She clapped her hands. The iron sand dispersed from the street and reformed into a sphere behind her.
She looked at the people on the rooftops. They gave her a thumbs up. She smiled. Despite being skinheads, they were only fighting for their lives. Maybe when this was all over she could have Misaki convince them to stop believing in white supremacy and work with her and the others instead.
Iron sand formed into steps from where Mikoto stood, leading into the rooftop. Pieces of the iron sand broke from the steps and fell back down, constantly being replaced by newly generated particles. It was all for aesthetics, of course.
Mikoto ambled up the steps towards the rooftop.
"Hey there, ladies and gents," she said, waving to the skinheads and to her surprise a girl with a ponytail. They were all armed with Heckler and Koch G36C rifles, the sides spray painted white in the form of swastikas.
"You're one of the good ones," one of the skinheads said, immediately sinking her opinion of them. "After our encounters with the ABB, we thought all Asians were bad, but you ma'am, you're living proof that there's always a diamond in the rough." The other white supremacists nodded and smiled, acknowledging Mikoto as a friend.
It was disturbing, but she wasn't interested in antagonizing them at the moment. "So, what brings you here?" Mikoto asked.
"In, in the Docks?" The skinniest skinhead asked, sounding unsure.
"Or do you mean life in general?" Another one asked, scratching their scalp. "I mean, we don't all control the direction of where we're supposed to go, but simply follow the steps laid out for us by our lord."
The girl rolled her eyes. "Again with this religious talk, Philip? Don't lump the rest of us with you and your obsession with the bible."
"Fuck you, Margaret. You don't understand what it's like to have faith."
Mikoto covered her face and sighed. Forcing a smile, she interjected and said, "What I meant was why are you all in the rooftops. Wouldn't it make more sense to stay with others? Why are you so few in number?"
"You don't understand," the skinniest skinhead said. "We had a bar called the Four Oaks, named after four oaks on four sides of it-"
"Okay," Mikoto said.
"And that's where the infection started. Ground zero at our own backyard. Our group was disorganized, and before we knew it the entire Docks was filled with zombies. We were trying to regroup with the others, but the zombies cornered us to this building. We would've been goners if it wasn't for you, miss. What's your name, by the way?"
"Oh, it's Railgun. And some of the others from your gang tried to rob people I was protecting earlier. Do you happen to know them?" Mikoto texted Brian to take pictures of the skinheads she electrocuted and when she received the pictures showed her phone to the people she was with.
"Nope," the girl said. "And you can't judge all of us like these guys. We wouldn't have done the same."
"Because you're good?" A swell of hope grew in Mikoto's chest.
"Well, yeah, but we wouldn't mess with you either. You took down hundreds of zombies like it was nothing. We wouldn't piss off someone like that if Kaiser paid us to."
"Not that he would," another skinhead said.
"Shut up, Lincoln."
Mikoto raised a brow. "Your name's Lincoln? Isn't that sort of ironic?"
'Lincoln' scratched his shoulder in discomfort and said, "Yeah, but it's the name my mother gave me, you know? And hey, Lincoln might be a race traitor but that didn't him less of an awesome president."
Despite being racists, Americans were still Americans it seemed. Loud and proud of their heroes.
Did stereotyping them make Mikoto racist? She bit her thumb and wondered. She loved Academy City and learned the multiverse theory was true when she researched a cape who traveled to another world. She wanted to open a path back to her original world and talk with her original self, who should be used to it due to them already having ten thousand and one sisters made out of clones, and gush about the wonders of Academy City.
There was a slight elitist mindset amongst the populace of her wonderful city-state, but it wasn't unfounded. Their technology actually was superior to that of the rest of the world, and in their world it was Academy City's hegemony and sphere of influence that dictated the flow of all the other countries. Not America, not Europe, not Japan, but Academy City.
If worse comes to worst and they couldn't find their original world, then Mikoto could just ask Othinus to recreate the entire city and its populace on this world. She'd have to sell Touma the idea, of course, because magicians and denizens of Academy City didn't get along and Othinus disliked her city but loved Touma. If she convinced him, and he convinced Othinus, then she just might bring it back to please him, and inadvertently please her too.
Although… her new life both as Othinus' creation and Touma's companion were pretty satisfying too. She was living with a god who could create endlessly, so there wasn't a deadline for her plans. And if Othinus really didn't want to, Mikoto would just accept it and move on. Her nature as Othinus' creation was just as powerful as her identity as Misaka Mikoto and she longed to please her god.
"Is there any chance I could get your numbers?" Mikoto asked.
"In case of emergencies. You can have mine too."
"No offense, miss, but you do know what we are? Even if we do like you, we're still part of a gang."
"That's fine," Mikoto said. She could just have Misaki change their beliefs later. It was messed up, but Mikoto had a feeling in her guts that the Empire Eighty-Eight wouldn't last for long. If she knew her master, and she had a pretty good idea of how Othinus operated due to having fought her forces during the chaos of the war on terror known as Gremlin just after World War 3, then Othinus loved misdirection and having her enemies stop a plot that didn't exist. Wild goose chases taken to its deadliest conclusion. And then, she killed everyone.
The only survivor who bore witness to the death of a planet was Touma. Although a near identical world wasn't out of the question just yet.
While in this world, she wouldn't kill her creations to appease Touma, she might still kill everyone else who opposed her.
Mikoto felt like scum with her idea and was vehemently against it herself, but she knew these people wouldn't change their beliefs and ideologies. Their conviction for their ideologies were just as strong as her trust in Touma.
So if they wouldn't change, she'll force them to, if only to spare their lives from the upcoming slaughter.
"If you're sure. Shit, we wouldn't mind being friends with a cape." They traded numbers like a group of newly forged friends and made jokes and laughed as they stepped down the stairs made of iron sand.
Mikoto felt a tinge of guilt on her plan to lead them to Misaki, but if the alternative was death, as all the zombies can attest to, then it was going to be worth it.
She gave them the address of a different safe-house, one that was actually Othinus' property, and told them to rush there immediately while she dealt with the horde of zombies. They weren't actually in danger anymore, and once they would arrive in the address she gave they would be detained by the people she alerted ahead of time. She already informed Misaki of her idea. The only reply she received was a smiley face and a winking face.
She didn't know why she was trying to save a bunch of racists from their impending doom, but it was her nature as Mikoto to save lives that were in danger, regardless of who they were. It briefly shattered when she tried to kill Accelerator, but with Touma's help she came back from that hole stronger than ever.
Her dual natures as Othinus' creation, which strove to obey her god's wishes, and as Misaka Mikoto, the third level 5 esper of Academy City who wanted to help others, were compromising for a way to fulfill both of her desires without hindering the other.
It wasn't that bad a plan, honestly. Worse comes to worst, they change from white supremacists into Misaki supremacists.
Mikoto imagined them wearing starry contacts and having Misaki's name tattooed into their skins and shuddered. That was a fate worse than death. Maybe there was another way? She had to look for one.
"It's time," she said, calling a number.
Izzard had told her earlier that before she met the designated area, she would speak with his representative. Not himself, because he was busy doing something else. The only thing she imagined him busy enough to decline helping her fulfill Othinus' commands was probably being under orders to do a job himself.
"Yes? Who might this be?" Someone asked in a British accent.
"Um, is this the number Izzard gave me?" 'Whoops, wrong number,' she imagined herself doing if she made a mistake and would hang up.
"Ah, you're the one called Railgun, yes? Very well. Follow these coordinates and we shall meet." He hanged up and sent her a message. She followed the longitude and latitude and stopped in front of a construction site. It might've been developing, once upon a time, but now it was just old and abandoned.
At the center of the site stood someone in gray armor, a pointed helm leading to a monstrous visor covering their face, with green veins pulsing through their pauldron to their gauntlet, and another pulse from their cuisse to their greaves. Spikes protruded from their polyns and rerebrace. The symbol of a green lion led from their breastplate to their plackart. A green cape covered their back, which billowed with the wind.
They crossed their arms and nodded. "Railgun."
Mikoto rolled her eyes. "You're such a drama queen, Plague Knight."
Plague Knight paused, as if he didn't know what to say. "Um, you know my name?"
"Izzard told me."
Mikoto giggled. "Why do you sound so surprised?"
"I apologize. My master failed to inform me that one such as yourself would be informed of my identity. A shame, I was hoping to make a more distinguished introduction." Growls from nearby zombies distracted her, but before Mikoto could kill them Plague Knight snapped his fingers and the zombies turned to ashes. Green smoke rose from their remains and went to him. His spikes glowed green, absorbing the smoke, and he sighed in relief.
"My master, and please don't use his name in public, told me to play a theatrical battle against you and give a wonderful performance to the crowd waiting for us in the designated area. To that end he gave me the means to absorb undead and strengthen myself, and to create more if necessary. Of course I've been experimenting with slower type zombies too."
Mikoto snapped her fingers. "So that's why they were different! Let me guess, it's not touch-based either?"
"No, it's more like an invisible gas." His answer explained the mystery of the infected she found at the building earlier! Her curiosity sated, Mikoto smiled.
"The grandmaster is intrigued by my existence, by the way," Plague Knight added, sounding flustered. "She wishes to study how my relation to my master correlates to my master's relation with her after telling me what to do. She was quite the talker, we spent an extra five minutes with her teaching me the intricacies of knitting before she hanged up to attend to other matters"
"You have a cell phone?" Out of all the things Mikoto learned, it was the fact someone straight from the First Crusade was plucked into the modern world and usedtechnology that caught her attention.
"Yes? We, um, spoke on the phone?"
"Oh right! Gah, I'm so forgetful."
Mikoto wasn't bothered by the people the Plague Knight infected, because he did so under Othinus' orders. Her nature as her god's creation meant everything was acceptable so long as her master willed it.
"So, we're going to fight, hit each other a bit, and have you run off?" Mikoto asked. "I mean, that's cool and all but it feels kind of lame?"
"How enlightening," Plague Knight said. "So you wish to kill me?"
"What? No! I'm not going to kill my ally! What the hell is wrong with you?" Mikoto fumed. Othinus had specifically said to all of her creations at one point or another to protect and cherish each other's lives as they do their maker's. And Mikoto was already leery of killing people, so it went doubly so for her. Nothing short of Othinus giving her an order would change her mind.
"You can relax," Plague Knight said. He bellowed a laugh. "I am immortal. Whenever I die, I become invisible, heal my wounds, and teleport away from danger. My power is only usable once every sixty seconds, but that's more than enough for us to do your play."
Mikoto looked at Plague Knight dubiously. "If you say so…"
"Still, I am glad you are worried for my safety, my lady. So what says you?" Two green fireballs blazed from where his eyeholes would be, creating a monstrous visage. "I am not without pride, and I wish to show you that despite the difference in our abilities, I am not one you should easily underestimate."
Mikoto sighed and closed one eye. "If you say so. Meet you there?"
"Indeed." Plague Knight vanished. Mikoto sighed in relief. She just wanted some cool presentation. She didn't expect him to overreact like that. Plague Knight was such a drama queen.
"Okay, you can do this." Iron sand shifted around and beneath her. She rose into the air, carried by iron sand morphed like a giant claw. She stood at the back of the hand. Five elongated fingers pierced the street on their way to the designated location.
Li Ben's Eatery.
The place was a war-zone. The ABB refused to go down to a bunch of zombies. The diner became the final defense of the criminal organization. Shooters filled the rooftops, windows and cars parked next to the walls of the diner. The gangbangers ranged from teenagers to adults, all in the colored uniform of green and red. They were armed with pistols, Uzis, shotguns, and assault rifles. Loud sounds of gunfire rang over and over. More and more zombies were drawn into the area due to the sheer intensity of the volume.
The horde was huge. They filled up the streets as far as the eyes could see. A building far away exploded, and another was engulfed in iron blades. A flying lady aimed at something beyond her sight and released a torrent of light, followed by a large boom. The supervillains were participating in the battle against the undead and fended off the onslaught, but were unable to find a solution to solve the source of the problem.
At the front of the diner was Li Ben himself, holding a pistol and a chef's knife. He shot the forehead of one zombie and impaled the right eye of another. Zou was there, fighting with him with a shotgun that destroyed the head of a zombie lunging for Li. She must've run off the moment she heard the news and was protecting her adopted father. Her gang was there too, fighting alongside their former allies and friends. Some bonds just don't die, it seemed.
"Impressive!" A powerful voice boomed into the area. Zombies turned to sand and green flames in the land between front of the diner and the sidewalk. The Plague Knight appeared, releasing a mighty roar. His eyes released a green beam of energy blasted into the sky. "You humans have lasted this long against my mighty horde. Your efforts, though fruitless, are commendable, and for that I shall grant you a warrior's death. Prepare to meet your end at the hands of Plague Knight, bringer of your doom!"
It was followed by the synchronized shrieks of over a thousand zombies, the battle cry of the undead. Their red eyes turned green and glowed like flames. Their skins turned ashen. Their fingers turned into claws. Their teeth became fangs. The zombies increased the pace of their siege. One zombie raked a man's neck and tore off his throat. Another threw its fist and punched through a shooter's face, its knuckles exiting the back of the human's head and covered in their blood and brains.
"Kill them all!" Li Ben said. The ABB made a battle cry of their own, and as if hearing the Plague Knight's challenge the sounds of gunfire and superpowers being used grew as well all over the Docks. Tremors, strange energies, and all sorts of superpowers were deployed as capes used their trump cards to fight off the invasion. A robot suit similar to the ones developed in Academy City flew into the sky and launched missiles into a street, destroying it completely. The capes were no longer just fighting a zombie horde, but one with superpowers. Li Ben shot at the Plague Knight, who opened his arms as if to welcome the bullets which bounced off his breastplate. Li Ben ran out of ammo, threw the pistol, and dashed to the enemy when the Plague Knight swatted it aside. Li Ben stabbed his knife into the Plague Knight's breastplate. It did nothing. The Plague Knight caught Li Ben's neck and raised him into the air. Zou ran behind him and shot the back of the Plague Knight's leg, and when that did nothing jumped his back and began climbing up his green cape.
"Is that all?" The Plague Knight asked.
"Oh fuck, we're all going to die!" Brian said. He swatted a fist aside with his crowbar and parried another blow. The zombie tripped and he caught its neck with the hook of his crowbar. He stomped on its head and pulled its throat open. He gave a nod to Alec. He was the sole reason they managed to live this long.
Alec was using his powers overtime. The horde kept tripping, giving Brian and the others a fighting chance. The four security guards were battling them from the top of the truck and the rooftops of their safe-house. All of the children were in the bedroom at the second floor, barricaded by the furniture. The couple with their two kids, the bearded man with the wounded leg and the lazy with her quintuplets were all using makeshift weapons found around the area to battle the undead.
"Stay strong, chief!" Lisa said, fighting beside him. She raised her pistol, aimed and fired. The bullet tore through one zombie and killed another behind it. Even with her aim it didn't put a dent to their number. Taylor didn't even bother hiding her powers. She was using every single insect she could find to attack as many of the undead as she could. None of the others noticed because they were too busy fighting for their lives.
"You know, I never thought our day would end like this!" Brian said. He swung his crowbar like a bat and crushed the head of a zombie, and impaled the sharp end on the chest of another. Lisa aimed behind him and fired a shot. The sound deafened his ears, but he couldn't stop fighting even then.
"What? You expected to bang the new girl? You fucking perv!"
"Shut up, stupid!"
"Don't call me stupid, dumbass!"
"You're both so noisy," Taylor said. She lost her weapon in the melee and was holding two knives instead. She was clumsy at using it so she only targeted the zombies that Alec downed. They cooperated much like Lisa and Brian were.
"Sorry not sorry," Lisa said. "Just, you know, the end of the world and all?" Lisa shot the kneecap of a zombie. It fell to its knees. Brian swung his crowbar. Blood splattered his face. "Or at least our world. Oh well. At least we die together, I guess."
"Wish I could use my powers," Brian grumbled. But it wouldn't do any good. It would only impair his allies and would be ignored by his enemies. They couldn't keep up like this. They were going to be overwhelmed by the tide of the undead. Wave after wave replaced the fallen zombies, and they didn't have the powers or weapons to repel the horde.
"I'm out of ammo! Shit!" The security guard Lawrence jumped off the truck and sunk his knife to the head of a zombie. "Alright, people, it's going to be a party!" he weaved through the small space between zombies, slit throats and sunk his knife into eyes. He killed six zombies in three seconds.
"Taylor, look out!" Lisa said. A zombie slapped Taylor's chest. She flew to the porch and hit her back against the door. The zombie made a triumphant screech and lunged at her.
Its body was crushed in large, monstrous canine jaws and spat towards other zombies. Three four-legged monsters appeared, their bodies bulging with muscles and bones protruding from their limbs howled into the air. A zombie tried biting one's leg. It didn't even pierce the skin. The dog swung its hind leg and destroyed the zombie's head. All three bared their teeth and jumped into the fray. They were hurricanes of destruction, killing every zombie that got in their way and giving Brian and the others some breathing room.
A girl wearing a dog mask mounted one of the creatures, leading all three. Rachel was here.
The iron sand coated Mikoto's entire body. It shifted into a drill and sunk into the battleground, burying its tip five meters beneath the surface of the earth. Over one hundred tendrils spun from the drill, cutting hundreds of heads. One tendril attempted to cut the Plague Knight's wrists. He released Li Ben and jumped back, dodging the attack. It stomped on the ground, clenched its gauntlets and threw a flurry of blows, repelling one tendril, and then ten, and then fifty. It shifted into a large monstrous arm that gave the illusion of swimming on the surface of the land, catching the Plague Knight in its palm.
"Enough of this!" The Plague Knight unleashed a wave of green flames. It burned through the monstrous arm, destroying the iron sand. The drill covering Mikoto opened. Electricity speared towards the Plague Knight, covering its body in a current. Four spider-like legs formed from the drill and it rushed towards Plague Knight, tackling him with its body. Green fire burst from his palms and burned through the entire drill.
Mikoto had already left it seconds earlier. Electricity crackled from her entire body. She discharged an attack and struck the Plague Knight who swung his fists and created wings of green flames to strike back at her. Their two attacks met and coalesced. Green flames and bluish-white light fought for victory. The Plague Knight was distracted and didn't notice the iron sand scattered beneath him.
The iron sand grew into spikes and impaled his body. He gasped, losing control of his power, and was electrocuted.
The Plague Knight clutched his plackart. "Impressive…" The green lion symbol on his chest pulsed with energy. "But ultimately insufficient." All the zombies in the area turned into ash and green flames, flying towards the spikes of the Plague Knight. All his wounds vanished and his size tripled in length. "You are not bad, little one. For that, I shall kill you first."
By the time she met up with the others, it was nearing dusk. The sun sunk under an orange sky. Wind billowed against her Tokiwadai uniform. Mikoto looked at the cityscape of Brockton Bay with a sigh of amazement from the balcony of the penthouse.
It was beautiful.
Brockton Bay was a third world country compared to Academy City, but it was merely a diamond in the rough. It needed a bit of fixing, but under that ugly exterior was a beautiful land waiting to amaze the world with its greatness.
Or it will be. Any city Othinus inhabited was bound to become great.
"How did you do?" Misaki asked from behind her. Mikoto glanced back with a squint of her eyes, frowning at the sight of an identical uniform tighter on some parts of Misaki's body, like her chest. "Index and I didn't have that hard a time putting down the werewolf. I found its location, neutralized its ability to think and Index cremated its body through mysterious means. I can't look into her mind, oddly enough, despite having access into the mind of a werewolf. Animals are immune to my mental abilities, so the werewolf must've retained a bit of its humanity. I wonder what that makes Index, by comparison."
"Immune, like me," Mikoto said. "Met Plague Knight. Izzard's creation. He seems alright. I spent some time saving a bunch of people too. It was like a quest, me looking for adventure in an infested town saving survivors from lurking monsters. Just, you know, real life."
"You are aware Plague Knight could've directed those zombies to crush the survivors immediately, correct?"
"I'm not an idiot, you cow." Mikoto glared at Misaki's chest. "A horde controlled by human intelligence is an incredible threat. This is to increase my reputation with the populace, right? What our creator wants, for us to have an increase in popularity and become heroes."
"Yes, you washboard." Misaki smirked, focusing on where Mikoto was lacking in compared to her. The slimmer girl scowled and crossed her arms. "So lady Othinus saved the Plague Knight, I assume?"
"Yeah." Mikoto scratched her head and sighed. Squawks from above drew her eyes to the clouds. Seagulls flew from the bay, disappearing into the horizon. "The fight… It was a little embarrassing to admit, but I think I overreacted."
She felt her cheeks heat up and recalled the memory. "Maybe I'll treat him to a meal next time as a sort of apology."
The Plague Knight sounded impressive. Its armor, once old and gray, glowed emerald green with power after it absorbed most of the zombies in its vicinity. Its armor clanked as it ambled serenely towards her.
Mikoto grinned, took out an arcade coin from a coin holder in her pocket, moved her thumb and fired her Railgun. The coin flew through the air at three times the speed of sound, creating an orange glow due to friction and creating a streak of orange line as it passed through the Plague Knight's head.
The Plague Knight's head burst like a bubble. The Railgun continued, unimpeded, and tore through a building. Debris fell from the broken structure and fell on the streets, crushing an abandoned car, the unmoving zombie remains and a dumpster, scattering trash and gore alike. The area shook with the tremor of the impact which created dust clouds from the attack.
The Plague Knight remained unmoving, perhaps unimpressed. It was the leader of zombies, of course a simple attack wouldn't be enough to kill it. Mikoto held her shoulder and clenched her fist. She was all fired up! "Bring it, Plague Knight!"
And then the beheaded Plague Knight fell on its knees, and then on its breastplate. Steam was released from its decapitated corpse, which was the effect of its power that only activates upon its death. All the zombies stopped fighting and burst into flames.
"Ah," Mikoto said, a little disappointed. "It's over."
The crowd around her cheered at her success at slaying the instigator of the zombie plague. Mikoto shook her head. With a kind smile, she turned to the crowd and said, "Alright, people. I might've dealt with the Plague Knight, but remember this place isn't safe just yet. Come on, follow me. I know someone who can help with your problems. Let's go."
And with that, she led them out of the Docks, into Downtown.