A/N: Heyo! If you haven't read A Kitten In A World of Heroes, please don't read this story! It begins after Part 1 of the story ends and contains spoilers.
This is an OC-centric sort-of-spinoff of AKWIOH. It was originally meant to be part of Part 2 of the main story, but I realized the main character was just too different to fit well into the overall themes of the original story and detracted from the main cast. With this split-off version, Killua and others will probably appear very late in the story, if at all. The story is basically about these two girls who become heroes with a dropset of a HxH-MHA fused world. They are the "witnesses" from the end of part 1 and I blame ReflectiveReader for their offhand comment about the poor witnesses as the inspiration for this story.
I don't know how many people are interested in this, but I figured I'd post it anyway because I like these characters and the kind of tension Akihiko holds in her; it's realistic and dangerous. As for updates: slow updates, will likely go chronologically with AKIWOH events. Hope you enjoy.
Summary: A story of a girl who is unabashedly scared of life, her insides frayed and full of sharp crystal and jagged edges – a jittering, terrible feeling that has only grown worse after having witnessed a brutal killing first-hand. A plot spin-off of AKIWOH, aftermath of part 1. Contains spoilers.
Sharp Crystal and Jagged Edges
Kowabara Akihiko was scared.
She stared at her hands, trembling. The memory of that day echoed through her like a flash fire, painting her mind in cold blue hues. She felt cold, fragile. Like she could break if a wind passed through her.
Instead of huddling in the cold alone, she reached out to her pocket, her nails ricocheting against the plastic casing before she could grasp a firm hold over the phone. She stared at it dimly, thinking of the memory, the danger, it contained in hard-coded pixel evidence, if she just pressed – here, here, and here – but she firmly put it away from her mind, and instead dialed the tone of her friend, the one who had seen it with her.
"Kiri," she said, once the line had connected. Her voice choked.
"Oh, Aki," a voice sighed over the other side of the line. This had become a familiar ritual, over the past days. "Would you like me to come over?"
She nodded, then remembered that her friend couldn't see it.
"Yes," she said finally, her voice a whisper.
"I'll be there in ten. Just hang on in there."
Nine minutes later, the doorbell rang. Twenty seconds after that, Akihiko was running down the stairs, feeling exposed in her skin. She peaked through the door's glass window, sighed in relief, then pulled open the door, and ushered her friend, Mayaba Kiriga, in. She had a boyish look to her face and a quietly strong frame that had always lent Akihiro assurance; here she relied on it.
She immediately took her friend up to her bedroom, where she closed the door quietly behind them and they gathered on the rug on the floor, huddling in a tight circle, Kiri holding her hands as she watched her with implacable, steady eyes.
"What if," Akihiko whispered, her first fear whispering out of her, "what if he comes after us?"
"He won't," her friend said stubbornly. "We submitted the video anonymously."
"But he could have seen us."
"We'll be safe," she said.
"I just don't know how you're so strong," Akihiko said, looking down. "You don't seem to be… I mean…" She didn't know how to say this. How could she say that her friend didn't seem to be affected at all, when she so admired and envied that strength?
"I'm scared too," Kiri said, and her voice was full of hidden depths. "My knees were shaking. I didn't know - it was like…" She paused. "It was like this protective bubble I had imagined all around us all this time, keeping everything the same, had just disappeared. Like I just realized all this normalcy, it was… just a lie. All those villain attacks on TV, everything just seems to turn out fine, but this - this is the truth, isn't it?"
Her voice turned bitter towards the end, and Akihiko looked at her with large eyes.
"Ah, sorry, Aki." Kiri's eyes creased apologetically, and she stroked Akihiko's hair soothingly. "I didn't mean to upset you more. I've just been thinking about it."
"N-no, it's okay," Akihiko said. Kiri always used big words and ideas that she felt she could hardly understand sometimes; it was one of the things she admired and, when she was down, secretly resented, before she returned herself to her right mind. "I-I think I understand."
She looked down, feeling suddenly a bit more alone. But the stroking on her hair felt good, and her mood gradually soothed, settling down to a hiccuping calm.
She thought back to that video. She had thought to record a villain fight - it had been exciting - her and Kiri the first on the scene - but then –
Remembering it brought the tears back. That boy, that little boy, he had just rushed forward, and struck - and suddenly, the man's head was flying off -
It was like it was so easy -
Too easy to die -
She shivered, hugging her arms around herself, feeling the shiver of mortality pass over her. Like someone had walked over her grave - the phrase Mom always used, almost callously.
"It's the truth," she found herself echoing.
"Aki," Kiri said, almost sternly, stopping her petting and putting her hands on her shoulders. "You just have to put it out of your mind, okay? We did what we could. We have to keep moving on. Tomorrow's school, alright? Did you do your assignment?"
Akihiko shook her head. "No… I just - "
"Then let's do it now," Kiri said firmly. "You need a distraction, alright?" She paused, then said, almost kindly, smiling. "Don't worry. Life will move on. Things will go back to normal, alright? You'll forget this, and laugh, and it'll be like nothing ever happened. Alright?"
Akihiko stared up at her friend for a long moment, then hiccuped a sob. She pulled her friend in tight, for that comfort of familiar human contact.
"Alright," she said.
She then retreated, wiped away at her eyes. Her eyes fled to her bookbag, and she clamberingly got to her feet, Kiri holding up her elbow to support her.
Her friend really was kind to her, she thought. To let her lean on her, cry on her after all this had happened, even when she must hold her own suffering inside herself. She tried to give Kiri a weak smile as repayment, but she thought it didn't come out quite right.
But, Kiri, she thought. You just lied to me. You just said earlier, right, that it was never going to be the same again, didn't you?
She tried to think of it as a gentle lie, but she couldn't quite convince herself of it. Instead, her friend's redoubled words only seemed to reaffirm that it was all gone after all - that illusion of safety she had so cherished all her life. She shivered again, feeling cold, vulnerable, even as she made lurching yet quiet steps to her bookbag, where her normal assignment and normal life waited for her.
No, she thought. Even if things all go back to normal, like you said, Kiri...
Things would never be the same again.