Part 1: Problems
There are some mornings you'd rather not want to wake up. When the pillow and bed are just so comfortable it's tempting to try and convince your teacher or dorm mistress you've actually melted together with the mattress during the night and will have to stay exactly there for the entire day or until the mutation gets reversed.
Of course, being a responsible student to a certain degree, Misaka Mikoto had never used such a lame excuse to try and stay out of school; neither would she ever consider it, no matter how tempting it may sound.
"Guh…" Her head felt unusually heavy this morning. If one didn't know better, it'd be easy to suspect it was because of too much alcohol intake last night. Of course, she was a minor and would never touch alcohol even with a pole, plus she could kind of remember doing homework until going to bed rather than raving about at some underage party, but well…
Putting a hand to her forehead, she could feel the throbbing signs of a headache. "It's not like I'm my mother either…" She grimaced; her voice was coarse. "Did I catch a cold…? Uh…"
Sitting up in bed slowly, Misaka Mikoto, also known as the "ace of Tokiwadai" or "the Railgun" (or even "That Crazy Bitch From Tokiwadai" due to her tendency to destroy people's electrical belongings whenever she entered a fight, though she herself was blissfully unaware of this particular nickname), tried rubbing some life into her face. She was honestly feeling like a zombie, which was hardly the norm. Usually she could jump out of bed and be all energetic – in contrast, this was what waking up from hibernation must feel like.
Yawning deeply, she turned to exit the bed – only to face the wall. Uh—? Feeling slightly disoriented she turned to the other side and slung her legs out of the bed, and vaguely registered that her skin brushed past the mattress. While not usually something of great interest, this did put a strange notion into her head. Simply for the reason that, she shouldn't be barelegged, so her skin shouldn't be able to brush by the mattress. Did I kick off my pajamas during the night? When the nights were too warm, she sometimes woke up after having disposed of the garment in her sleep (with her roommate being who she was, going to bed without wearing it was out of the picture). Of course this was the most logical explanation. So she looked down to confirm whether this was the case this morning as well, and her mind instantly froze up.
Her pajama… was completely gone. Not to say she was naked; though she might as well have been. Instead of her Gekota pajama, she was wearing a transparent silky night gown, with darker material covering the areas of her body which needed to be covered to not warrant an M-rating.
At once, her mind was paralyzed with shock and horror in a lovely mix (which at least made her feel completely sober); and then, she thought: Wait, no, that's not right. There's no way I could be wearing something like this. She rubbed her eyes, and blinked, looking down again. It didn't help in the slightest: Her clothing was still the same.
A sinking feeling of terror and fire filled her gut. As expected, the first thought to strike her was: How did Kuroko do this without me noticing?
Yes, there was only one person who could be the culprit behind this, and that would be an exceptionally bold move from the teleporter too. To remove her pajama and replace it with something like this without her even noticing was… It didn't help matters that she was feeling kind of odd, as if her very core tried to tell her something was very wrong – for instance, why did she feel so – so weird? Her hair was kind of heavy – had Kuroko drugged her as well? The strange feeling only added to the torrent of fire and it immediately shot up into her head.
That pervert! She gritted her teeth tightly and stood up. She never learns, that moron! In three quick strides she stood beside the bed on the other side of their living room table. Grabbing the bed sheet, she violently pulled it off.
"Kuroko, what the hell are you –!" Her raging outburst cut off halfway, as her brain was instantly overloaded. What she had revealed under the bed sheet wasn't her perverted, stupid roommate, but rather… A Sister? What's she doing here? Where's Kuroko? She was completely perplexed. There was no doubt, to her, that she was currently looking down at herself, and the only way she could be looking at herself like this would be by looking at one of her clones. Did Kuroko bring her here during the night and not return from her Judgment work? It made no sense, but that was the only logical explanation she could think of.
The other person winced at the sudden loss of the warm quilt, and turned and opened her eyes, looking drowsily up at Mikoto.
"Uh, Onee-sama…?" However, she stopped at that, her eyes widening. "Nuh – wha –!" She looked utterly confused, staring at Mikoto with huge eyes.
It wasn't a Sister. Mikoto might wish with her entire being, but there was no way this was a Sister. They neither spoke nor acted this way; and while someone may have made some adjustments to their personality that she was not aware of, there were other factors that started creeping up her spine and settle in her mind to sway her determination. Mainly the weird sensation of herself and her surroundings. Something was up; she was not feeling quite right, and the girl lying in this bed...
But then… who…? The answer was pretty simple, yet mind-boggling. Apart from the Sisters, there was, in fact, only one other person who would call her 'Onee-sama'.
In other words…
"W-what's going…?" She tried to remain calm as long as possible, even though the long hair falling against her back, the impossible clothing she had woken in, and the fact that she could not sense her surroundings through her electromagnetic ability was starting to seep into her like a river slowly running over its edges.
"Onee-sama…?" Her own voice came from in front of her, as the person with her face stared at her with impossibly wide eyes. "What… is this…?"
"What the – what the hell are you doing!" Mikoto screamed, and the voice that left her mouth was not her own – and that was even more terrifying. "What the hell are you doing with my body, you PERVERT!"
To say things were bizarre would be an underestimation. To call it unexplainable or impossible did not really give the right emphasis either. In fact, there was probably not a language on Earth that held a word that could describe this situation.
"This… this is just…" Mikoto was leaning heavily on the luxurious basin sink in their bathroom, staring down into the drain rather than at the mirror before her. After recovering from the first shock of seeing each other – or themselves – well, whatever; they had somehow managed to move from their bedroom to the bathroom. This was due to the instinct of needing to look in the mirror, to have the truth verified. As such, she had already seen her own – or rather Kuroko's – image in there, and her brain was still not able to comprehend it. It was beyond all reason. She felt like she wanted to destroy the mirror, but could not see how that would help.
The situation was this: She currently inhabited the body of her roommate.
How likely is that?
"Maa, maa, Onee-sama." Kuroko was smiling brightly, though a bit strained. She was quite simply trying to keep the environmental damage as small as possible whilst trying to compress the situation into something that could fit her grasp. Waking up to be staring into her own face had been something of a shock, to say the least.
"Don't maa, maa mewith my own voice; I think I might do something regrettable." Mikoto muttered.
"Aaah…" Kuroko scratched her cheek – or would that be Mikoto's cheek? – The odd thought made her lower her hand, feeling awkward. She was standing behind her Onee-sama, and could plainly observe her own sunken form and loose, auburn hair falling past her shoulders. She had no way of starting to explain this even in her own mind. Looking in the mirror was like looking directly at her Onee-sama; her hair, her face, her body – it all belonged to her roommate. And Kuroko herself was apparently on another spot entirely. If anything, it was like an out-of-body experience – only she was still most definitely inside a body.
"How – how…" Mikoto said, grappling the edge of the sink with her hands – Kuroko's hands. Her hair felt heavy against her back, her body was too small and thin – "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN!"
"Calm down, Onee-sama…" Kuroko said, trying to prevent an electric genocide and simultaneously stay sane – by acting calm and levelheaded. "Even if the situation is grave, it will be easier if we focus on the positives…" Her eyes glanced downwards almost sensually, "…for instance, who knew your body was actually this comfortable both on the outside and on the inside?" She put her hands to her current breasts, measuring them with a lustful look.
Well, staying sane by acting calm, levelheaded and completely normal. In conclusion, there was no reason to believe the person standing there was anyone but Shirai Kuroko.
"Get your hands off of there!" Mikoto turned around and grabbed her hands, trying to force them away. It didn't matter that Kuroko was still wearing her pajama or that the hands belonged to the same body – it was the principle that mattered.
"Geh – Onee-sama, please don't make such a scary expression with my face!" Kuroko stepped backwards and raised her hands in a disarming gesture.
Mikoto pulled back, but was still furious. Seeing her own body in front of her like this, and knowing that pervert of a roommate was inside it, and not understanding what was going on at all – her insides were coiling like snakes. "How the hell did this happen! It's not alcohol or drugs or even an accident, so then what the heck is going on? Did our bodies somehow change shape during the night?"
"That wouldn't explain how we ended up in each other's clothes or bed…" Kuroko noted.
"Nothing can explain it! Something like this can't happen, even in Academy City!" Mikoto was so distressed she couldn't even put her mind to think logically. She pressed the palms of her hands into her forehead, feeling completely helpless.
Kuroko put a hand to her (or Mikoto's) chin thoughtfully. Saying she could guess what had happened would be too optimistic, but there had to be a logical explanation. "Could this be a mental condition? If we are hallucinating …" She didn't sound convinced, and made a strained expression as she tried to think.
Mikoto had given up on thinking. "If that's all it is, maybe a billion volt shock will wake us up!"
Kuroko's eyes widened abruptly, and she pulled back from her own furious face with her hands up like a shield; "Onee-sama, you'll fry your young, maiden body!"
"I'd rather have it as black as charcoal than having to think about you walking around with it, so –" Mikoto's fired eruption stopped abruptly, as if she'd been interrupted. The furious expression was replaced by one of confusion; her fingers twitched, her breath hitched, and her eyes widened at the strange sensation – What?
"Onee-sama…?" Kuroko hesitatingly peeked out behind her hands; a rather comical sight of seemingly the ace of Tokiwadai covering in front of her roommate taking place this early morning. Of course, it was still the other way around, but an outsider would never know.
"There's no… electricity…?" Mikoto muttered, staring at her hands in wide-eyed wonder, an icy feeling filling her stomach and creeping up to her throat. She couldn't even create a spark! Drawing her breath shakily, she felt like she was moments away from hyperventilating or fainting, or both. "There's no – nothing… I can't…"
Kuroko stared at her in disbelief, and then concentrated, trying to use her own ability. However nothing happened. Shock tore through her body. "I cannot teleport!" She looked at Mikoto, panic seeping into her chest. "Onee-sama!"
"We… we've lost… our abilities…?" Mikoto whispered, dread filling her entire being. She couldn't make a single spark – no, scratch that, she was unable to feel her magnetic field at all. No wonder she couldn't sense her surroundings; without her magnetic field, she was as blind as a mole rat. No, even more than that; at least mole rats could feel their way around with their whiskers. I lost my whiskers...? Feeling sick all of the sudden, she sank to her knees on the floor. "Ugh…" For an esper, and especially one of Academy City's strongest, suddenly losing your ability was bound to trigger some kind of breakdown.
"Onee-sama!" Kuroko cried, plopping down in front of her and grabbing her shoulders. "Onee-sama, please don't despair!" It felt unreal, gripping at her own body with Onee-sama's hands. Though the feeling of human skin and warmth was just the same, it was still completely wrong. Right now her focus was not on her own discomfort however, but rather on keeping her roommate from entering a state of complete shock.
"How did this happen?" Mikoto muttered, staring at the floor lifelessly and totally ignoring Kuroko's plea. "How… it's not possible…" She looked at her hands again, too small for her own, and felt the way too long hair fall around her shoulders and past her face. It was uncomfortable and weird – it was just wrong! She clenched her eyes shut, shaking all over. "It's not possible! Who the hell did this! If someone has a weird ability like this and wants to mess us up, I'll blast their heads off the moment I see them!"
"Onee-sama…" Kuroko didn't know what to say. This situation was not something she could explain easily, yet there was no denying their current predicament. "Perhaps we are merely too distraught to wield our abilities at the moment." She tried to say something logical.
"Or did we swap abilities as well?" Mikoto asked breathlessly, hunched over like a sack of potatoes.
"No way." Kuroko imagined herself firing a railgun – she wouldn't know how, in the first place. Actually, she didn't know how Mikoto made a single spark at all. In any case, she felt like she didn't dare trying it out. "Our powers originate from our brain and are powered by our Personal Reality; I can't imagine how…" Had their brains swapped…? But then what about memories and… She was feeling dizzy just trying to think about it.
"Yeah, you're right." Mikoto chuckled. "So that means we've truly lost them then… or we're just too shocked to even…" she trailed off, staring down into the floor with a hopeless expression on her borrowed face.
"Onee-sama, please cheer up! At least we are not physically hurt, or even worse! This must be a temporary predicament – I am certain if we just do as we normally would it will –"
"Are you stupid?" Mikoto exclaimed, looking up. "Do as we normally do – you mean go to school? We can't go to school like this! How the heck are we going to explain it to the teacher?"
"Ah – well, I'm certain Tokiwadai has the means to –"
"There's no way they can change us back!" Mikoto yelled. "How do you think this happened in the first place? A drug? A burst of radioactive activity? Some kind of meteorite from outer space? Do you really want them to put a hundred electrodes in your brain and try to manipulate your DNA to turn you back?"
"Onee-sama…" Kuroko couldn't even come up with anything to say, both unsettled by Onee-sama's desperation and the fact that she was face to face with her own face. "Then what…?"
"Let's call in sick!" Mikoto decided. Maybe she hoped that by staying inside all day, they might wake up tomorrow and be back to normal.
"In that case we'll need a proper reason for the dorm mistress…"
This was true. If they were sick, they were required to be examined by the dorm nurse for an educated opinion – Tokiwadai would not want any of their students becoming seriously ill or risk spreading a virus throughout the student body.
Theoretically they could pretend and perhaps fool the dorm mistress (Mission: Impossible) but there was no way they could fool the state-of-the-art instruments used to monitor their health. In the worst case scenario, if they kept insisting they were ill, the school may send them off to a hospital to have them thoroughly checked for any undiscovered diseases. And if they were caught trying to pretend, the punishment would certainly be severe.
Mikoto was troubled. "We could pretend to go to school and then skip out…" This didn't feel comfortable either; she didn't really feel like wandering around outside inhabiting Kuroko's body, and in the end, they would still be discovered and the punishment for skipping school was just as harsh as pretending to be sick. I suppose if we found an arcade and stayed there all day we might not be seen… but even if we do, how will that help?...
She twisted her mind about it, gritting her teeth, while Kuroko watched, feeling awkward looking at her own expression like this. Then, she finally burst: "Aaaah, I can't think! Let's just get dressed and go eat breakfast, then maybe we'll come up with something!"
Morning ritual followed. Kuroko, trying to put away all thoughts on the how's and why's for now, almost sprayed herself with her own deodorant before Mikoto ripped it out of her hands and handed her the green Gekota deo roll-on instead (and while Kuroko gave the thing a displeased frown at first, she suddenly thought about how Mikoto used this every day… at which point Mikoto dryly informed her it was a brand new one). After Mikoto had finally managed to tie up Kuroko's pigtails properly (having so long hair was quite the bother), they went to get dressed. Kuroko sighed deeply at Mikoto's choice of underwear as usual.
"Really, Onee-sama, always wearing such improper things…"
"I don't want to hear that from someone who owns a transparent pair of panties. Don't you have any normal underwear? Oh, and don't forget the shorts." She added the last part as she threw the item in question over to her bed from the wardrobe.
Kuroko made a sour face, while Mikoto proceeded to strap on the leather belts filled with spikes. She wasn't thrilled at the idea of having to walk around with these on her thighs, but if they were going to play each other (at least for now) they'd have to do it properly, she guessed.
"I will not be wearing that."
"Hm?" She looked up at her own displeased face, and felt momentarily unsettled.
Kuroko eyed the shorts on the bed with distaste. "I will not put on those hideous things."
Mikoto felt a twitch of annoyance, since she had relented to wearing Kuroko's choice of underwear. She felt chilly and uncomfortable already with what little clothing she'd been forced to wear…
"…then I'll wear them instead."
Kuroko jolted when Mikoto strode past her and picked up the piece of clothing. "What? Excuse me!"
"I said, I'll wear them instead. I don't think I'll be comfortable in this outfit…"
"Absolutely not!" Kuroko yanked the shorts out of her hands, looking positively frightened. "I can't be seen walking around with this… thing!" She gave it a piercing glare as if it were alive and planning to grope her.
"It's not like anyone will see; it's under your skirt." Mikoto pointed out.
"Then why wear it in the first place!"
"It's a matter of comfort!" She was suddenly blushing. "Why do I have to wear your perverted underwear if it doesn't matter anyway? If you won't wear it, I will!"
Kuroko hesitated, gazing at the shorts for a few seconds. Then she suddenly moved to put it on.
"And then you – what the—" Mikoto was at a loss of words.
"If the choice is between wearing it myself as Onee-sama, or having Onee-sama wear it as myself, the choice is simple." Kuroko said importantly, pulling the shorts up as high as they would go.
Mikoto gave a deep sigh. "I don't get your reasoning, but whatever."
Finally they left the room, Mikoto still trying to get used to the alien feeling of the leather belts around her thighs and the draft up her skirt, and Kuroko still displeased with wearing something indelicate and unladylike. More so, she was slightly unsettled at the fact that she was taller than her Onee-sama. Well, to be honest, it was more unsettling to look down at herself – not to mention seeing her own face from different angles not possible by natural means. It was more than a little disturbing.
"Why do you wear these things all the time?" Mikoto huffed, trying to adjust the leather belts to a comfortable position. She should possibly be worrying about the same things as Kuroko, but having seen her own face from a distance several times already thanks to the Sisters, she wasn't nearly as mystified at this particular aspect of their problem.
"A Judgment member must never be caught off-guard." Kuroko said proudly, showing away her troubled feelings for now.
"You expect someone to attack you even in the dorm?" Mikoto asked dryly. "Honestly, there's a limit to being paranoid, you know." She gazed briefly at the doors they passed, as if expecting someone to jump out from inside.
"As a member of Judgment there is always a chance I might have to defend myself," Kuroko said with her chin held high, "there are situations in which using your ability is limited and other tools are necessary." Of course, with their current predicament it looked like Mikoto was the one acting like an important member of society.
"Even if that's true, I don't like seeing that kind of self-absorbed expression on my own face…" Mikoto muttered. "Anyway, it seems like we'll have to live with it for now, so please don't do anything stupid."
They entered the cafeteria, where a horde of chatting girls were already seated and eating breakfast. They were later than usual this morning, and thus all the tables were already occupied.
"Tsk." Kuroko was displeased at having to share a table with anyone else, but it seemed like they had no choice today.
Mikoto scanned the room expertly and found a table with only two occupants; one short-haired girl with a pink flowery hairpin above her ear, and the other a long-haired girl with a braid. Feeling a bit better, she went over with Kuroko in tow. The girls sitting at the table were chatting eagerly, giggling at something – they looked like perfectly regular girls, but of course, these were ladies of Tokiwadai, and thus their body language and speech patterns were high-class too. Even their giggles seemed more refined.
Mikoto and Kuroko stopped beside the table, and the two girls looked up at them and smiled. "Good morning, Misaka-san!"
"Good morning, Lorene-san, Fujitsu-san." Mikoto smiled in greeting to her classmates.
As if they hadn't expected her to answer at all, the two girls stared at her wondrously. "Err… good morning…" The longhaired girl with a braid looked between her and Kuroko, "um…"
Gah – I forgot! Mikoto was thunderstruck. Of course they wouldn't know it was her – and they had probably never spoken with Kuroko. What – am I stupid! She reddened at an alarming speed, but luckily, Kuroko was quick to react; "Good morning, Lorene-san, Fujitsu-san." Her tone of voice was regal like she was a queen addressing her servants, but that alone wouldn't be enough to make anyone ask questions.
"Sit down, Misaka-san, and your friend too!" The girl with the braid said, smiling brightly.
"Mm, this is my roommate and one and only partner, Shirai Kuroko." Kuroko offered as an introduction, and sat down, chin held high in pride. Don't introduce yourself like that! Mikoto fumed, but bit back her complaint.
"Ah, it's nice to meet the rumored roommate at last." The braided girl smiled at Mikoto, who was still standing. Mikoto's mouth twitched; she found it extremely awkward, to say the least.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Shirai-san." The short-haired girl added brightly, smiling at her too.
I – I need to greet them back, don't I? Mikoto questioned a rather basic part of normal behavior. It would seem completely unnatural for her to just sit down without a word – even though she'd rather pretend Kuroko was an unsociable, shy little girl, there was no way that would go by unnoticed if it kept up.
A bright smile forced its way onto her face. "Aaah, please pardon my rudeness!" She bowed her entire upper body. "I am honored to meet the classmates of Mi – O… —!" Her words stopped dead midsentence as her mind suddenly overheated. What – what's wrong with me, just say it already! But it seemed like her mind had been unable to determine just what to say.
"Maa, Onee-ssoough!" Kuroko realized her mistake midways and faked a rather violent cough. Good thing too, since if the ace of Tokiwadai suddenly started calling her underclassman something like Onee-sama, some strange rumors were bound to surface on the school grounds.
Lorene-san and Fujitsu-san merely looked at them curiously though. Mikoto hurriedly tried to amend the situation; "I'm sorry, it's my honor, really! Please don't mind my stupid roommate!" She bowed her head hastily, and then sat down on the chair beside Kuroko with a sigh of relief (while Kuroko sported a somewhat insulted look).
There was a troublesome feeling growing in Mikoto's stomach. This is harder than I thought… and we haven't even left the dorm yet. What would happen if they suddenly overstepped their boundaries and created some very awkward situations? We should probably try to socialize as little as possible. In any case, it didn't seem like the other girls were bothered by anything resembling a body change. She snuck a peek at them as Lorene-san asked Fujitsu-san whether the mackerel was any good this morning. If more people were changed, would it be some kind of disease…? It made her head hurt just trying to think about it. It doesn't matter. We'll just live with it for now, and then… it'll probably reverse itself before long…
Trying to think something optimistic like that, she looked down and realized there was no food in front of her yet. That's right; lately, Kuroko would run and get it for them before she could even try to figure out what she wanted, despite her protests. It was almost as if she'd gotten the impression that force feeding Mikoto the right kind of food would make her more acceptable of her perverted tendencies or something. Of course she had been extremely suspicious of drugs in the food to begin with, but there seemed to be none (yet). She was stunned to find she had actually grown to expect this treatment. Do I have to act like her? Every nerve in her brain screamed in protest to acting so ridiculous.
"Ah –" Kuroko had just realized the same, and stood up – only to be forcibly dragged back down by her roommate.
"I'll go get us food," Mikoto said, looking at anything but their faces, "p-please just sit…" there was a brief pause, before she forced out the last word; "Onee-sama!"
Then she left the table in a hurry, face beet red. It's not like anyone knows it's you who said it! She tried to console herself. In any case, I can't let Kuroko do something stupid while she's looking like me! It's better if she just sits there quietly! Who knew what would happen if she was seen serving her roommate like some private waitress? It had been bad enough when she picked up Kuroko's school bag and handed it to her after breakfast one day – with all the gasps and squeals and reddening faces – and that had happened once (much thanks to Kuroko, who had acted like she was receiving a Grammy, complete with tears and all).
With these useless thoughts in mind, she picked up two empty plates by the buffet and eyed the abundance of food, only to be faced with a new challenge. What does Kuroko eat?
Meanwhile, Kuroko was having other concerns.
"Misaka-san, did you hear the rumors about the new hair dresser we might be allowed to visit?"
"Misaka-san, when do you think Matsui-sensei will give us that surprise test he keeps talking about?"
"Oh, I just love that hairclip you use, Misaka-san! Where did you get it?"
These were the kind of inquiries the two second-year girls were throwing at her in rapid succession after Mikoto left, as if her leave had unlocked some kind of frightening cage. It felt like she was surrounded by a whole crowd of people, and not only two. Kuroko had a strained smile on her face and only uttered an 'aah' or 'uum' in between their cheerful chatting; luckily, they didn't seem to notice the lack of answers. In fact, they seemed utterly clueless. Perhaps this is why Onee-sama chose to sit with them…
"Misaka-san, how is your philosophy project coming along?" The girl with the braid seemed overly interested in this as she nearly leaned across the table to ask.
"Aaah…" She averted her eyes carefully, hoping to spot something else to turn their attention to, when she noticed a girl sitting a few tables off glancing at her with pink cheeks. Immediately, she was appalled. Looking at Onee-sama like that in secret! Literally, her mind exploded. As a result, the ace of Tokiwadai grew completely stiff and red-faced, as if she'd just been caught red-handed observing her secret love; the girl quickly looked away, blushing furiously.
"Misaka-san…?" The girls in front of her had obviously noticed her sudden change in demeanor, and Kuroko snapped out of it.
"Ah – I'm sorry, I was…" she had no idea what to say, and she was saved the need to come up with anything when someone suddenly bumped into her from the side. A few drops of sauce splattered onto her school shirt from above.
"Wha –" Before she could do more than utter that one, unfinished word, the girl turned around with an apology already leaving her lips, but when she saw Kuroko, her eyes grew wide.
"Oh, M-Misaka-san!" She squealed, jumping a step backwards, almost crashing into her friends which stood there. "I-I-I'm so sorry, oh my God, I'm so sorry! Please forgive me!" She bowed deeply with a look of utter despair on her face.
Kuroko tsk'ed. "Really, how dense must you be to bump into someone who's sitting still on a chair?"
The girl immediately paled and pulled back: "I-I'm really very sorry!"
"That won't make my shirt clean." Kuroko sighed. "Next time pay attention to where you're walking."
"Hai! Excuse me!" And as if chased by a group of killer bees she hurried off with her friends, looking positively shaken to the core.
"Bad day today, Misakan-san?" Lorene-san smiled brightly.
Kuroko huffed, eying the drops spilled on her shirt. She'd need to change it before going to school. "What a bother… muh?" Someone suddenly tapped something hard against her head; looking up with an annoyed expression, she stared right into her own face, practically radiating fire towards her. The sight was pretty unsettling.
"What the heck do you think you're doing?" Mikoto asked, the voice leaving her mouth just barely restrained to hold a level tone. Her hand still held the plate of food on top of Kuroko's head, like a very rude waiter.
Kuroko could swear the temperature in the room had just risen with a few degrees. "Aaah, Ooo – um… Kuroko…" She smiled awkwardly. Trying to pretend she was Mikoto was definitely weird.
"Are you trying to make me look like a stuck-up moron?" She had seen the scene play out when she was coming back from the buffet tables, and clearly, she was not humored.
"O-of course not… heeh." Kuroko forced out a hesitant smile. "I was merely startled…" She had reacted quicker than she'd been able to think. Of course she realized Onee-sama would never have barked at the girl like that. "I am very sorry…"
Lorene-san and Fujitsu-san watched them with puzzled stares, blinking in harmoni.
Mikoto sighed deeply, before finally lifting the plate away from Kuroko's head. It felt like the executioner had just lifted his axe off her neck. Kuroko gave a relieved breath.
"Here." The plate smacked down onto the table in front of her.
"Thanks…" she said, looking down at the food she had been served, and felt her face pale somewhat. Vegetarian salad?
"You need to take care of your body, Onee-sama." Mikoto said from beside her, and dug into her own plate of pancakes without hesitation.
"Geh – you can't eat that!" Kuroko exclaimed.
"Why not?" Mikoto asked, blatantly stuffing a huge bite into her mouth.
Kuroko was appalled. Sooo evil! She gritted her teeth. "At least eat with some manners!"
"You're not my mother you know!" Mikoto barked back. "And you've no right to talk after the episode you just created!"
"It wasn't my fault; really, she must have been blind as a bat to not see –"
And they started bickering again, while Mikoto's classmates watched with mildly amused expressions.
Somehow, they survived breakfast. However, they were stuck trying to pass off as each other for now; this seemed like the safest route, considering their options (even though Mikoto was already highly doubting Kuroko's abilities to do this). Since skipping school meant more trouble than it was worth (and detention to boot), they'd agreed on trying to go. No matter what, until they knew what had happened to them, drawing unnecessary attention was probably unwise.
This explains why Kuroko was heading towards the second-year's classrooms in time for homeroom. This would not draw attention? Well, for now, they hoped not.
Still, even if we can live with it for now, this has to end. Kuroko thought so heatedly while walking down the corridors, ignoring all the shimmering eyes and friendly greetings thrown her way like she was both deaf and blind. It's a long shot, but this may have been caused by an esper with the appropriate ability – I better give Uiharu a message and have her investigate the possibility… She pulled out the green Gekota cell phone from Onee-sama's skirt pocket, and frowned at it. That's right; they had each other's cell phones now. If I were to ask too much about this, the reason I am asking would arise some questions hard to answer. Her frown deepened as she kept walking forward with a quick step, not paying any attention to her surroundings at all. I may be able to explain the situation to her, but not through a text message. The possibility of a text from Mikoto saying something like "I am actually Kuroko, we switched bodies during the night" being treated as a joke was too great, and it would be even harder to start explaining afterwards. It was better to do this face to face. Which meant it had to wait until school was over.
She sighed. I guess it can wait, it's not like it's a life threatening situation. In any case, Uiharu is most likely at school and won't be able to do anything. She moved to put the phone back into her pocket when –
"Ow!" She collided squarely with someone in the hall and stumbled back. The phone fell to the floor with a clatter as it was knocked out of her fingers on the impact.
"What the – watch where you're going, will you!" An insulted voice barked down at her, and she looked up in surprise. A finely built, longhaired blonde was gazing back at her with an unpleasant look in her eyes. But the look changed just as she watched, a spark of recognition entering those golden star-shaped eyes.
A smile settled on the face instead, but it somehow lacked the warmth of a friendly smile. "Oh, if it isn't Misaka-san. Have your ego finally grown so big your brain is unable to process normal operations?"
Kuroko frowned. This is… She had not seen the girl often, but knew how to recognize her. Shokuhou Misaki, the other Level 5 of Tokiwadai with the ability of Mental Out, and Mikoto's self-declared rival.
Though Kuroko did not know her at all, she felt a strong dislike towards the girl who had caused them trouble in the past, even if only indirectly through her ability.
"Queen…" she muttered. The esper with the strongest mental based powers in the entire Academy City. It couldn't possibly be…? Her eyes narrowed slightly.
The blonde girl in front of her snorted, and then smiled; a rather odd combination. "Walking around in your own thoughts is rather dangerous, Misaka-san. I may just stumble upon them one day." She playfully pulled a gloved finger along Kuroko's chin like a superior woman flirting with an inferior man, and then straightened up with a smirk. "Don't go doing anything stupid now."
And with that, she walked off, the white leather bag elegantly hanging off her shoulder and her long, white gloves and stockings standing out amongst the other students.
Kuroko had a sour look on her face as she bent down to pick up Onee-sama's cell phone, unconsciously stroking her chin.
There is no telling whether she knows anything about this. I cannot assume things at this point; I need to tread carefully. There was no doubt that acting out the role of her Onee-sama may be a challenge, and especially so if she kept spacing out thinking of other things. Trying to look for culprits at the same time may prove to be difficult. I will contact Uiharu later; as of now, concentrating on avoiding trouble as much as possible is of the utmost importance. She would not like to end up in a duel with someone who wanted to challenge the Railgun or anything of the sort, especially not while lacking her ability.
Mikoto had told her how to act to glide into the midst of Tokiwadai. 'Just smile and don't do anything stupid' would be the sum-up of her guidelines. Should be pretty easy to follow, starting now. This challenge is nothing to Shirai Kuroko of Judgment! Putting on a confident stature, Kuroko continued her trek down the hall.
Mikoto sighed as she trudged down the hall heading for Kuroko's classroom. This day was already starting out to be a huge bother. There was no way they could start and try to explain this to anyone at school; that much was certain. Even if they did manage to sound believable, the chance of them getting sent off to some research facility for testing was too large for comfort. Not that it's certain something like that would happen, but as long as there are other options, we should try not to involve others…
At the bus, they'd whispered instructions to each other on what to do to make a believable impression. Luckily most of Kuroko's instructions were easy to follow. 'Act with dignity', 'speak politely', 'smile gently', all that Mikoto could do with ease. However… She didn't have to add 'don't kick vending machines or lose your temper'! She huffed to herself. As if I'm some kind of hooligan – she's so rude! She pushed open the door to what had been her own classroom all last year, and was met with an onslaught of chattering girls.
"Shirai-san, good morning!" A familiar voice called; Mikoto looked up because of that more than the name spoken. She was far from the level of reacting to Kuroko's name, though she should probably do an effort in that regard.
Seeing the familiar face however, a smile naturally appeared on her face. "Ah, Awatsuki-san! Good morning."
The brown-haired girl smiled and then turned her attention back to her friends, and Mikoto looked around the room. Kuroko had told her where her seat was at; beside the window at the second row from the front. It was quite simple to find, and her eyes soon landed on the desk in question. However, there seemed to already be someone sitting there.
Mikoto hesitated. Did Kuroko remember it wrong?That seemed unlikely, but it may happen of course. But she couldn't very well just walk up to anyone and ask where her seat was at; that was definitely strange. Only one thing to do I guess… She went over to the desk, but the girl sitting in it didn't even turn away from the girl sitting on the desk behind it, obviously too engrossed in her conversation to notice anything else.
"Um…" Mikoto began, wondering for a moment how Kuroko would have acted, and then plunged forward with a smile: "Excuse me; I think you are sitting in my seat."
The girl laughed at something her friend had said, but she didn't turn around or even look at Mikoto. She was surprised, and then confused. Didn't she hear me?
"Err, hello…?" She tried smiling innocently. But the girl didn't even look at her.
Is this the wrong seat after all? She grew slightly nervous, but then noticed the girl sitting in the seat behind the one Mikoto had been told to sit in; she had shot her a quick look before returning her attention to the other girl. Indeed, there was no way they could have failed to notice by now; Mikoto was standing right beside them, and Kuroko's hair was quite distinguishable, as was her voice. If her conversational partner had noticed, then the girl sitting right before Mikoto should have too. In other words… She's ignoring me!
Annoyance coiled in her belly; even flat-out insults were better than not being acknowledged at all. And really, how long was this girl going to pretend she did not see her anyway?
Forcibly reigning in her irritation, she tried again, a bit louder: "Excuse me, you are sitting in my seat!"
"Sheesh, relax, will you? I'm just talking." The girl finally turned around, and Mikoto suddenly recognized her; the clingy, needy, extraordinarily irritating girl she'd been assigned to as a 'guide' earlier in the school year: Kuroko's former roommate, Sumone Nelly.
Her lightning struck expression must have been misunderstood by the other girl, as she hmph'ed arrogantly and smirked. "What, you gone mute now? Who'd have imagined the great Shirai-san, the Railgun's private bootlicker, would be so easily flabbergasted?" Her friend snickered as well, though tried to hide it behind a hand; Mikoto was jolted out of her stupor by her words. Private bootlicker?
Her fingers shook slightly as if wanting to curl up, but she drew a breath, trying to calm down. She could not imagine Kuroko lose her temper in such a situation. She would probably have delivered an even harsher insult back to Sumone-san, as was the unwritten rule when it came to 'discussion' between higher class girls. And while Mikoto did not usually participate in that kind of duel, she knew how to play the game.
Forcing herself to relax, she let an easy smile enter her face instead, though her eyes stayed completely neutral. "I would think you know all there is to boot-licking, Sumone-san; this spring I had to help Onee-sama clean off your drool on her shoes after the guidance days were over."
Sumone-san smirked. "So you do clean her shoes; my, my, Shirai-san, and here I thought you had at least a touch of elegance."
Several girls around them snickered now, and Mikoto fought the want to bark at her. Instead, she simply kept on smiling, concentrating intently on remaining in character. "Certainly, my elegancy outranks yours by several eons, Sumone-san: We are not talking about just any shoes mind you, but the shoes of the ace of Tokiwadai, Misaka Mikoto Onee-sama." It felt weird to talk about herself in such a way, but she was able to say it just like Kuroko did. "Her shoes hold an entirely different rank from your dirty slippers."
"Don't you insult my shoes!" Sumone-san bit out; apparently her pride had been stung. "If we're talking about dirty, I'm sure your filthy lesbian shoes are much worse off than anyone else's anyway!"
Mikoto twitched, but remained outwardly calm. "Oh, but there's a difference between dirty love and pitch-black mud." I can't believe I just said that! Face reddening, she hurried to continue: "Though if I ask her nicely, I am sure I can provide you an opportunity to cleanse Onee-sama's shoes yourself for a touch of glory; what do you say, Sumone-san?" She folded her arms, trying to hide her embarrassment.
The other girl stood up abruptly, red-faced. "Shut up, Shirai-san, or I'll freeze your behind off!"
Mikoto smirked at her; the irritated girl left with a huff, and she could finally sit down at Kuroko's desk. She then let out a relieved sigh. First obstacle was conquered. Well, as long as it doesn't get any harder than this…
By the time of the first recess, Kuroko was already exhausted. It wasn't that she'd done much, really; it was the total difference from her own everyday life that made her so expended. When she'd entered the classroom in the morning, a lot of girls had greeted her; some with bright smiles, others with shy gazes. She'd been overwhelmed by the attention, to be honest. A couple of faces had even turned a lovely shade of red when she sat down in Mikoto's seat, and she felt incredibly wary of her own movements as a result.
She was seated beside Hitomi Aika, a cheerful blonde who served as the school's student council president, and they'd greeted each other in a friendly way, though no more words had been exchanged during the lesson. In retrospect, the atmosphere had seemed kind of strained in the room, though that was most likely due to Kuroko's concentration on staying on track and in character.
The first challenge had been roll call. Being lost in her own thoughts about their current predicament, she hadn't realized the teacher was calling out Onee-sama's name until Hitomi-san leaned over the space between them to poke her in the shoulder. She'd then risen so quickly her chair was knocked over, and several girls in the class chuckled at the display. It was fair to say the entire incident left her rather embarrassed.
I have to do better, for Onee-sama's sake! Which, in extension, meant her own sake. She was certain if she slipped up somewhere, Onee-sama would not forgive her anytime soon.
However, her hopeful dreams of impressing her roommate were soon forgotten for the first lesson of the day. Kuroko had always been amongst the top of her class, but even she could not hope to learn a year worth of topics during a single hour. She took notes like crazy and hoped it'd be fine; she'd sooner kill herself than becoming the reason for Onee-sama's grades going down.
When recess arrived at last, she had a moment to breathe and observe her new surroundings. Most of the girls were still in the classroom, chatting about different topics and giggling finely. Compared to her class, this one was quite different; it seemed calmer somehow. Perhaps it was due to the presence of the student council president, but it seemed they were more mature and well-mannered than the first-years. Kuroko had no idea what kind of role her Onee-sama had in the class, and stuck to following Mikoto's instructions; 'Just smile and don't do anything stupid.'
Now she sat in her seat with a gloomy look on her face; she was so apprehensive of doing something wrong that she'd tired herself out worrying. Hitomi-san was still typing into her laptop and looked rather busy. The other girls were for the most part chatting quietly amongst themselves. What are they talking about? Feeling riled up, she was sure they all discussed how obvious she was being. She picked up a word from a couple of girls in the corner, and looked at them. They were watching her, but quickly turned away when she met their gaze, whispering even more intently than before. Kuroko had a nauseating feeling in her stomach, and looked back down into the desk, before standing up. She needed the bathroom.
She more felt than saw the eyes following her out the classroom, and once outside, she released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Really, that kind of atmosphere…
The first thing that met her in the next hall was the squeals of a group of first-years walking by; their cheeks immediately flushed at the sight of her. "It's Misaka-sama!"
Kuroko found herself slightly put off by their longing glances, but smiled uncertainly at them and hurried on down the hallway to the nearest bathroom.
The first lesson had gone by painlessly; Mikoto had taken notes for Kuroko almost on instinct, already familiar with the topics even if they were presented a little differently. When recess arrived and she no longer had anything to occupy herself with, her thoughts all but forcefully returned to the topic of their current predicament. It was hard to ignore the naked feeling of lacking her ability; she was acutely aware of the fact that she could not tell how many computers were turned on or how many cell phones were in the room; she could not feel the presence of other humans like her magnetic field usually would inform her of, and it all resulted in her feeling trapped in an empty limbo.
Instead of focusing on that, she tried to think about the mystery of how they'd ended up like this in the first place. Numerous unlikely scenarios ran though her head. It all wound down to who could possibly do something like this? If there was indeed someone out there who could somehow change someone's bodies around, it seemed to defy all logic. Besides, the person would have to be powerful; so a Level 5? It felt wrong just thinking about it. Basically, there was no power that could do something like this. It was completely unexplainable.
She sighed. In any case, I won't be able to figure it out by sitting here wringing my brain about it. Or was that Kuroko's brain…? Ugh…
It happened without warning.
Someone suddenly stood beside her; she hadn't noticed them approaching, and her eyes widened – but it was already too late, as the person swung their weapon.
"Gwah!" She was forcibly knocked off her chair and into the floor, a searing pain erupting from the side of her head.
"Hmph!" Someone made a proud sniff. "I don't know how many times I've tried to hit you these past months, but today I finally gave you in!"
The voice above her was vaguely familiar, as if she had heard it before, some time ago. Rubbing her aching head, Mikoto looked up and saw a tall girl carrying a wooden sword on her shoulder. She had long, brown hair tied up in a ponytail, and her build was fairly athletic. She was already attracting quite a lot attention in the room, though her entrance had apparently been unsurprising. It must be the fact that she had managed to knock down the infamous Level 4 teleporter that made her draw gazes. Even Sumone-san was too shocked to laugh.
And, Mikoto had seen this person before; but why would she…?
The girl frowned at her and leaned forward, a menacing look on her face. "What's with that puzzled look? I guess you were really far into your own little world, eh?" She tapped the wooden sword dangerously against her shoulder, and Mikoto gulped.
"Aaah, I was… thinking." She said, smiling hesitantly and trying to ignore the throbbing of her head.
"Really, for the famed Shirai-san to fail to avoid an attack – I guess the world is ever-changing." The girl sighed and straightened up. "At this rate it won't seem impressive even if I brag about it. Why would anyone say in awe that Unabara Ryoko successfully knocked down the Level 4 teleporter while she was dozing off?"
Yes, they had met before. Mikoto's impression of the other girl hadn't been anywhere close to this, though; at the time of them meeting near the start of the school-year, there had been slight… disagreements. Unabara Ryoko was the principal's niece, and had been an unlucky victim of a twisted scheme. Suffice to say, the last time they met, an entire greenhouse had been destroyed.
Still, with her saying something like this… had she really tried to get a hit on Kuroko ever since then? Maybe it's some sort of pride in being able to say she's struck down a teleporter… And this time she had succeeded because Mikoto was completely not expecting it, and had no powers to boot.
Her head throbbed again, giving her a slight feeling of déjà vu. It feels like something similar happened before…
"Ah, well, I thought it'd be good to finally get you, but I'm somewhat disappointed at how easy it was." Unabara-san sighed, with a fairly content look on her face despite her words. "Yeah, it doesn't feel right at all. How about we nullify this and try again next week?"
Why is she asking me! Mikoto had no idea what to say. If this was something the other girl had decided to do for herself, what she said had nothing to do with it, right? Then again, this could possibly be an agreement between her and Kuroko; perhaps a means of exercising their reaction speeds? In lack of anything better to do, she found herself saying: "Aaah, I guess…"
"Really, you sound completely out of it. Well then, you better pay attention next time!" Unabara-san pointed the sword at her, and Mikoto grinned awkwardly.
"I'm already looking forward to it… uh…"
Unabara-san smiled contently, and then turned around. "That's fine. See you, Shirai-san. Stay healthy!"
And she marched out of there, all eyes on her back. Mikoto rubbed her head again, hoping intently that they would be back to normal by next week.
Kuroko sighed as she wiped her hands clean, and looked at the familiar, yet totally strange image of her Onee-sama in the mirror. She'd more or less gotten used to moving about in a body different than her own; the extra height had been strange at first, but she was starting to appreciate it. Still, the hair so much shorter than her own and the feeling of shorts under her skirt were making her uncomfortable. Ah but… she sighed dreamily and ran her hands over her face. Onee-sama, your smooth skin is so wonderful! Obviously, her concerns didn't last too long at a time.
"Hah, narcissistic much?"
She jolted out of her thoughts, suddenly aware of the girls who'd entered the bathroom and now stood in a semi-circle around her, trapping her against the sinks. She recognized two of the girls as the ones she'd seen whispering in the corner of the classroom earlier. They were kind of easy to recognize, since one of them adorned a couple of purple earrings. It's those girls from class – and their friends, apparently. They were five or six in total – enough to be members of a faction, perhaps.
The one at the front, a haughty looking girl with short, disheveled hair and purple rings dangling from her ears, looked at her with a glare of utter contempt. Even though they hadn't actually done anything yet, this setting was threatening enough. Not that Kuroko lacked confidence, of course; with her ability she could – and her mind instantly froze up as she remembered the result of their trying to use their abilities this morning. Right now, she had nothing. Suddenly feeling quite uncomfortable, Kuroko pressed herself against the sink. She didn't know how to react or what to do, and now she felt utterly naked without her ability to back her up. They wouldn't try to do anything… right?
"I heard how you tried to assault the Queen this morning," the girl with the purple earrings said. "You don't do something like that unpunished. Furthermore, you don't look at us and get away with it." She had her arms folded across her chest, as if to give an intimidating look. "We don't care if you're Level 5 or a rotten vegetable; you'll treat us with respect."
Ah, so they're members of the Queen's faction… wait; I can't even look at them? Kuroko was suddenly unsure where to put her eyes; on one hand she'd rather stand up and bite right back, but on the other, she was certain that would create more trouble than necessary. What would Onee-sama do? The image of Mikoto electrifying them all entered her mind; it was utterly useless. Besides, she'd never do that at school. Onee-sama's few, but instructive words entered her mind again: Just smile and don't do anything stupid.
She smiled. "Haah, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you." She laughed stupidly and rubbed the back of her neck, doing her best to imitate Onee-sama's speech pattern. "There seems to be a misunderstanding though; I just happened to be lost in my own thoughts and bumped into her; it was nothing like an assault."
The girls glared at her, clearly not impressed.
"You're just too deep in your own shit to notice people around you, aren't you?" The short-haired girl said.
Kuroko was determined not to walk into any traps. "I don't know," she said, pretending to be thoughtful, a finger on her chin. "Sometimes I get this strange feeling that people are looking at me, and when I turn around, there's nobody there… maybe I'm paranoid?" She grinned, and sweat-dropped. What the heck am I talking about?
"…you really are a dumbass." The girl said, deadpan. Kuroko bristled, but kept her anger in check; she hadn't given them any fuel to work with so far, and if she kept up, perhaps they'd leave her alone. Does this kind of girls really exist in our school? Not only does she look like a landslide, but she's not acting like a proper lady at all! Kuroko was slightly perturbed; she had thought Mikoto represented the very pinnacle of 'unlady-like' in Tokiwadai.
Still, she managed to keep her posture unfazed. I can't let them get to me!
"Haha, I guess." She straightened, hoping to walk out of there with a nonchalant smile, and noticed in surprise how one of the girls to her right inched back slightly at the movement.
"Still, there's no secret you're just trying to avoid a confrontation." The girl with the purple earrings said. "Are you scared, little Ace-sama? How about you face me properly, you coward!"
Are these guys retarded? Kuroko sighed, the stupid smile fading from her face. Her patience was running thin, and keeping up the ignorant attitude seemed impossible.
"You know…" she started, and with the shift to a more serious tone, the insecurity in the girls around her became even more obvious as they shuffled slightly or shot brief looks at each other. "I do not really care about you or your merry little friends. Please behave and go back to your classroom, or there will be consequences." She looked pointedly at the girl, and noticed her confident smile wavering slightly.
A pleased sensation unfolded inside her at the sight. Onee-sama might not be aware, but everyone in Tokiwadai knew who the Railgun was, and the rumors even went as far as saying that when her voice dropped an octave from its usual cheerful level, it was best to back off. While Kuroko was not one for rumors, even she had picked up some from her classmates during the beginning of the year. And this one rumor actually has some merit. Being Onee-sama's first choice of a punching bag, Kuroko knew this better than anyone.
"I'm not afraid of you!" The girl in front of her claimed. "We're more than enough to take you out; even a Level 5 –"
"Have you ever seen a railgun?" Kuroko interrupted, and put one hand into her skirt's pocket, finding a fine collection of game arcade coins just like she hoped. She pulled one out, and the atmosphere in the room grew into pure terror; the girls shuffled and backed off, and the one with the earrings stared wide-eyed at the coin between Kuroko's thumb and index finger.
"Y-you wouldn't fire that in here…" she said, but her eyes shifted to both sides, possibly contemplating whether to stand her ground or run away.
"Oh really?" Kuroko said, enjoying this more and more. "I am the ace of this school; do you really think they will care about a broken toilet or two?" Her grim smile and proud stature was radiating confidence into the room, and the girl in front of her paled. Most likely, she'd never seen this side of Misaka Mikoto before – as had none, because Kuroko was currently acting the role of her Onee-sama, and she was enjoying playing with the threat of powers she didn't even have far too much to care if she was in character or not.
"S-shit, you're insane!" The girl squealed, still not backing off – Kuroko had to admire her for that. Though perhaps she was just frozen in fear.
"Yeah, I did have a rather sleepless night." She said, and flicked the coin into the air; that's when they decided to scram. As if fleeing for their lives, the girls all exited the bathroom in a hurry, pride and confidence crushed to pieces in front of their fellow schoolmate.
Kuroko caught the coin with a smirk and put it back into the pocket. You can thank me later, Onee-sama!
"You moron!" Mikoto exclaimed as she stood up and smacked her hands on the table, drawing the attention of the whole cafeteria. Kuroko smiled stiffly, trying to console her through sheer willpower; let's not make a big scene right now! Even if they were having a table to themselves, the ears and eyes around them had quite the range.
Mikoto did not read her mind however. "What part of 'just smile and don't do anything stupid' did you not understand?"
Uuurrrk, Kuroko thought, feeling smaller and smaller in the chair she was sitting in. "Aa-aaah, Oo—nnh—" This is not going well… But between the risk of suffering from Onee-sama's fury and the risk of having their images completely destroyed…
She drew a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Jeez, what's your problem?" She huffed, folding her arms over her chest. "You're not my mother or anything." Aaah, talking to Onee-sama like this, I am ashamed! Crying inside, she wanted to pull at her hair in torment. But after having studied her Onee-sama intently for several months, she knew this would be fairly close to her natural reaction. It is all to remain in character!
"Ggh." Mikoto gritted her teeth, but Kuroko's sudden change in demeanor got the point through. She couldn't lash out at the other girl here without creating a very awkward situation. Huffing, she sat back down, staring at the noodles in front of her in fuming frustration. "You're still a moron," she said, picking up her chopsticks.
"It was rather intriguing, in fact." Kuroko said, falling back to her usual self when the cafeteria around them started bustling with chatter once more. She remembered the scared looks of the girls around her in the bathroom. "With your words alone, they went docile like lambs, and when I took out that coin they were ready to –"
"You're making me sound completely deranged," Mikoto sweat-dropped at the other's apparent (though subtle) glee. "Besides, you can't just flaunt your power around like a maniac." She waved her chopsticks chastisingly at her roommate. "That's how you make enemies, you know?"
"But Onee—urk," Kuroko abruptly stopped herself by clasping a hand over her mouth; luckily it seemed no-one had noticed, with the high level of chatting in the cafeteria. Still, no need to be too obvious. Mikoto's patience was running thin; not counting the sudden assault from Unabara-san, everything had seemed to go smoothly all day – until she got to know how Kuroko had dealt with that gang of girls. They were nothing more than Tokiwadai's answer to delinquents, really, liking to call themselves servants of the Queen without even being in her faction: Usually Mikoto ignored them, and had never had a single confrontation with any of them since her first year, when she stepped in to stop them from harassing another girl. Of course, she couldn't blame Kuroko for them acting like they did, but the way she had handled it…
"Sheesh, you're an idiot…" She sighed.
"The past is the past!" Kuroko claimed. "Let us not bother with what has already happened and instead look forward to the future!"
"Well, now you sound even more stupid…"
"You need to keep your gaze directed forwards!"
Mikoto looked at her with a bored expression on her face, looking like she might want to comment that statement in some way. It was unsettling being watched by what looked like your own reflection, and Kuroko still wasn't comfortable with it. In contrast, Mikoto had a much larger chance of dealing with that particular aspect due to her practice with seeing the Sisters already. But for normal people, being observed by yourself may be just a bit awkward.
The moment broke up when Mikoto sighed. "Whatever. So after lunch you have English, gym, economics, right? Honestly… we're lucky we don't have any ability development classes today; that would have been hard to explain…" She sighed, and then looked up at Kuroko again, pointedly. "I hope you have control too."
"I have memorized your schedule a long time ago." Kuroko claimed proudly. "There's geography, then gym, and science… and then you have violin recital…" Despite her continued smile, it seemed just a bit more strained.
Mikoto groaned silently. "I wish I never woke up today…"
"Mou, Onee-sama, you give me too little credit!" Kuroko bristled; though truthfully, she had never even touched a violin before. How she was supposed to play like she'd been doing it for years was beyond her. But… "I will certainly not disappoint you!"
Mikoto didn't look convinced, but Kuroko continued: "And you better remember to go to Judgment headquarters after school – Konori-senpai will lynch me if you're not there on time! Don't forget and wander off to an arcade or something!"
"Hai, hai." Mikoto sighed, suddenly feeling awfully heavy despite inhabiting Kuroko's light body. This is turning out to be more bothersome than I thought… "Anyway, I guess you haven't found anything?" She lowered her voice just slightly.
Kuroko did not need to ask her what she meant. Her expression turned solemn. "I have not."
Mikoto sighed deeply. "Who the heck would know anything about something as strange as this either way?" She had contemplated to discretely bring up the topic of changing bodies with Awatsuki-san and Wannai-san during one of the recesses, but there didn't seem to be an opening to change the conversation in that direction. She could imagine their puzzled faces even if she did ask though; of course, their answer would be that something like that couldn't possibly happen.
Kuroko gazed down at her food, having no answer to offer except her agreeable silence.
If they could get through school unharmed, they would most likely be able to make some progress in their investigation. That was her only hope.
I don't know what this is really. How about "exploration of characters in a new and refreshing way"…? Though I guess calling it "new" is… well, writing it is new to me anyway.
It is meant to be enjoyed as an easy-going story for now. I'm trying to pay attention to the way the characters talk, act, socialize, and anything else; it's basically a means to get to know them better, which I started during my writing of ACDI – and it kind of turned into a story of its own in the process. The first chapter was started a year ago; the following chapters are what defines the story, I'd say.
Please tell me what you think as you read; I'm aching to know. This story is not like something I've ever read before myself, so I'm curious how it works out. Is it boring or interesting, funny or stupid?
I wrote this thing so I am completely not the right person to ask for an opinion. I have read it quite a few times already; the first-time "surprise" is kind of gone. If I couldn't stand it I wouldn't have posted it, though. The terror of hearing other people's opinions is what's the scariest about being a writer, I think. Despite that, I keep challenging myself when I write. I must be mad.
Words and terms:
Onee-sama = A formal way of saying "big sister". Usually not used about your real big sister, rather it is used as a respectful way of addressing an older, high-class girl. May also be used as a means to express affection.
Hai = Yes.
Maa, maa = Something like "now, now…" (used to calm down).
Mou = A sound uttered to show light irritation or indignation.
Next time: More problems