This was written/born from a request from Roibeard, who was the awesome 200th reviewer on A Certain Destined Introduction. The request was something like "anything with Kuroko and Touma". So here's something. And yes, I am this slow in writing stories…
This is, timewise, placed right after the second season of Index. Thus, naturally, there may be spoilers for season 2.
Please enjoy, and leave a review and share your thoughts if you have the time!
Thanks to Hollowpoint for beta-ing this.
A Certain Messy Predicament
Chapter 1: Misfortune
The nights in Academy City are dark.
In some ways, they seem even darker than in other cities, because the street lights are dimmed and traffic is prohibited during the late hours of the evening.
That said, this night was even darker than usual. It was autumn, winter uniforms were long past put on, and the leaves were only halfheartedly hanging onto the branches, as if they had been convinced by some cosmic power that life just sucks anyway, so why fight the inevitable?
Besides the lack of human-made light, the autumn itself made sure the nights were darker. It was cloudy too, light rain drizzling from the sky, shutting out the light of the stars above. The past few days there had been a continuous downpour, creating large puddles on the sidewalks and keeping people away from the outdoor benches.
Along one main street in District 7, a sidewalk lined the street with a concrete wall taller than a person running along it, shielding the park beyond from the noise and exhaust of the cars and buses that drove through the street during the day. The sidewalk itself was not particularly interesting, and unless you were a fan, nor was the wall where posters depicting an up-coming concert with a famous virtual idol hung. Normally this part of District 7 was completely quiet during the night, like the buildings themselves were resting. But tonight, sounds disrupted the otherwise silent atmosphere. Shoes splashing against the wet asphalt beneath them; breaths, quick and shallow.
Several figures were running down the sidewalk, only lit up now and then by the dimmed street lights above them. It might look like students who had forgotten the time and were running to reach their dorm and avoid a possible downpour at the same time, but this was not entirely true.
The person at the very front was a boy with spiky black hair that was obviously not shaped by natural means, wearing the winter uniform of one certain high school with an eye-catching orange shirt beneath. His name was Kamijou Touma; a name that to many was associated with a savior and ally and possible romantic interest, and to others coerced a look on their face similar to the one you'd offer those black, slimy snails ruining your flower garden.
Kamijou Touma was running with an unlucky grimace on his face.
"Stop, damn you!" Following him was eight or nine guys – he hadn't bothered to count – all trying to catch up with him. They looked like they were older than him, some even sporting neatly trimmed beards.
"Who would stop when you're asking while waving those things around!" Touma yelled back without turning his head. His sneakers hit the wet surface beneath him with vigor, his lungs heaving for air.
"Don't tell me you're afraid of a little shock treatment, you punk!" Bzzt, sounds of crackling electricity from their stun guns leapt through the air. It seemed like every thug with respect for himself had one of those devices these days. Being afraid and not wanting to get hurt are two different things! He silently offered his protests.
"Hey, smartass!" Someone grasped at his shoulder, but was unable to get a good hold; gritting his teeth, Touma looked backwards to see a bearded guy with a ponytail slowly catching up with him. He was taller and faster than Touma, and grinned when he saw him look.
"You're pretty fast, but can you outrun a senior on the track team of Bannousenshu High School, eh?" The guy launched his hand out again to grab Touma's shoulder, but Touma dodged sideways and hit the concrete wall back first with enough force to knock the air out of him. The guy stumbled when his hand hit nothing but air, but quickly recovered. Touma didn't wait for that though, taking off again before the rest of the group caught up.
"Don't let him escape, damn it!" The one who seemed to act as their boss yelled with a shrill voice not befitting his rather large stature; incidentally, he was one of those lagging the farthest behind. Touma looked upwards as he ran, seeing nothing but the top of the wall and the dark sky above. Isn't there a park beyond this wall? He seemed to remember there was.
Though running away might seem cowardly, there was a good reason for doing so. He might have his fair share of street-fights to draw experience from and knew how to put up a fight, but that experience was exactly why he would not take on this many guys equipped with their stun-guns and completely non-esper abilities all at once. His Imagine Breaker was depressingly useless against these kinds of folks, and even though Academy City probably could patch him back up, being cut open by a knife was not a tempting thought. In any case, he was inclined to try and shake them off first, rather than hurting them in a fight. Yes, he was in fact being immensely merciful by running away. And just as he came up with this self-righteous explanation, the chance to live it out presented itself – in the form of a hole in the wall further up ahead, a gate allowing entrance to the park beyond. As if he had just caught a glimpse of the last-minute super-sale in a convenience store, the spiky-haired boy dashed down the sidewalk with even more vigor.
"He's gonna enter the park!" Of course, his obvious escape route was quickly caught up on by his followers, even though he would have liked for them to be blind. Touma hoped they'd give up the chase soon, as he would rather be on his way home at this time of night.
A rumbling sound like that of an engine tore through the night.
"Hey, here they come!"
"The slow bastards; what the hell were they doing?"
Touma looked sideways and saw a car, headlights off like an anonymous dark being in the night as it came hurtling down the street towards them.
You're kidding me! He gritted his teeth and sped up. The hole in the wall – the entrance to the park – was coming closer with every step. It was too small for a vehicle to enter, tantalizing him with promises of freedom and prosperity.
"Get him, Hashiri!" The guys shouted at the Bannousenshu student, who was the one closest to getting him. The car was just reaching the street they were running along, revving its engine in an obvious threatening manner, and hopefully attracting the attention of any kind of law-enforcing patrol nearby. There was no reason to linger about and hope that Anti-Skill or someone else with authority to halt this heedless chase would pop by though, and so, with an inward grunt of effort, Touma leapt up a flight of stairs, through the opening to the park, and into the chance of freedom. This part of the park had dirt pathways instead of asphalt roads, and they were muddy and wet after days and days of rain. Of course, this being Touma, he immediately slipped and fell over into the nearest puddle.
"Wah!" He gave a surprised yelp as he hit the ground, but rolled over and was quickly on his feet again, and felt a hand swipe past his collar with frightening closeness. He struck out behind him with a fist and thought he felt it stroke by a chin, but didn't turn to look as he dashed off once more, having lost valuable seconds to this blunder. The gang of pursuers followed inside, but the slowest of them were seriously lagging behind now, growing tired. Only four were still running, with the guy from the athlete school of Bannoushensu at the very front. He was slowly shortening the stretch between them again. Why are they so insistent! Touma pushed as much strength into his legs as he could, water dripping from his clothes. He might be able to take down one or two of those guys, assuming he could outmatch them in a fist-fight, but four at once was stretching his luck.
The boss was calling after his comrades from the entrance: "We're sending the car around; don't let him escape!"
What did I do to deserve this? Fifteen minutes ago he'd been on his way home, as he should still have been. However, fate wanted him to trip over a loose paving stone and land face first into the bosom of a girl – and though he'd apologized as much as he could, the girl still screamed, as though she had been assaulted by a lecherous old man. It didn't take many seconds before these guys surrounded him, kindly enlightening him that anyone touching one of their girls had to be punished. Touma had done his best to explain, but it ended up in a brawl, where he knocked out one guy and then set off down the street.
Which explained his current situation. He was starting to wonder if they even remembered why they were chasing him, or if they were just having fun at this point. Such misfortune! Looking like he was about to cry any moment, Touma tried to up his speed even more, muddy rainwater splashing everywhere with each step, wet uniform sticking to his back.
In another part of Academy City, inside a certain dorm room, things were heating up. More precisely, the humid air inside the bathroom was warming due to the steaming hot bath that was currently being filled. Rose-perfume and a hint of lavender oil scented the atmosphere pleasantly. Standing in front of the elegant basin sink beside the bathtub, was a girl. She would be the inhabitant of this dorm room, though not the only one. Her roommate was currently out somewhere in the dark evening however.
As such, Shirai Kuroko was alone for now. Her long, auburn red hair was falling loosely past her shoulders; she was wearing a deep lilac bath robe, but was in the process of shedding it. The cloth revealed smooth shoulders and slender arms before falling gracelessly into a heap on the floor.
A woman should take the time to tend her own needs once in a while. The girl that was too young to be thinking of herself as a woman adorned an elegant smile on her face as she left the mirror and the sink, stepping over to the bathtub. Carefully dipping a foot into the warm, scented water, tickling pleasantly against her skin, she then submerged her whole body into it. Leaning her back against the hard surface of the tub, she sighed passionately at the luxury. After a long hard day at school followed by tiring Judgment work, nothing was more satisfying than a relaxing bath.
Aah, if only Onee-sama was here with me… this evening would be… she imagined her brilliantly smiling roommate in the tub with her, giggling and laughing as she playfully splashed the water between them (which seemed to sparkle magically), and a dreamy look appeared on her relaxed face.
Tomorrow is our long-awaited anniversary! I will make sure the day proceeds as smoothly as possible.
"Hey you bastard, why don't you face us like a real man, eh?" The longhaired thug with a cocky smile on his face delivered his taunt without even losing his breath. "Or do you make a habit out of touching every girl you come across and then running off like a coward? Pfeh!" He spit at the ground in disgust without losing his speed.
I can't outrun him like this! Touma had no more speed to draw forth, and he wasn't religious enough to believe in miracles dropping from the sky; thus, he could only conclude he would be caught at this rate. He offered a short glance backwards and saw the guy gaining on him, the other two pursuers that hadn't left with the car seriously lagging behind now.
Touma made a decision. Suddenly, he planted his right foot into the surface in front of him and turned around with his right fist clenched beside his chest and his face sporting a scary look. "RAAAH!" His throat uttered a terrifying roar that would probably scare off a less hardy person.
"Wha –" His chaser was a mere meter or so away, and unable to stop at such short notice. He tried to pull his head back, but was not fast enough – and Touma's fist still hit him squarely in the cheek with a bone-crushing sound, fuelled by his own momentum from the turn. His knuckles cried out at the impact, and he nearly tripped over from the force of his attack. The other guy was knocked off-balance and landed in the mud with a grunt, and Touma straightened up again, breathing heavily.
"Hashiri!" The guys who were following them shouted out when they saw their buddy fall to the ground gracelessly. Touma prepared himself, ready to take them on. With one of them knocked out, he could probably fight off the remaining two...
VRRROOOOM! At that instant, the sound of a revving engine tore through the air. Touma felt all the color drain from his face, and looked sideways. With a screeching sound, the car came trashing over a small hill, spraying mud and grass everywhere and knocking off a mirror as it brushed by a tree; the rest of the gang was hanging out of the windows, whistling and laughing loudly.
"Here we come, yeaah!"
Touma did not stay to consider; he ran.
"The bastard took down Rambo!" One of his on-foot pursuers shouted, but his worries were answered with laughter and more whistling.
"Who cares; we have a car! Let's run him over!"
Shit shit shit shit! Touma ran all he could, trying to up his speed yet stay steady on the slippery road; behind him, the car revved its engine again, and mud splattered in all directions; suddenly, the lights were turned on, shining him directly in the back of his head. Would they really run him over after they grew tired of taunting? He didn't know if they were the types to kill someone, but he did suspect he would be in for a whole lot of pain if they did catch him, so he'd rather not chance it. Shiiiit!
Slowly, the girl in the bathtub let out a deep breath. Onee-sama is still not back… it is past curfew already, and the dorm mistress will be making her rounds soon… While the curfew was the latest allowed time for them to be outside their rooms, 'lights off' was an hour after that. The dorm mistress made her rounds half an hour after lights off on select days of the week, always unannounced. If caught unprepared, punishment would come your way.
Kuroko hadn't seen her roommate since this morning; she suspected she was at the arcade and had forgotten the time again. She seemed to have been doing that a lot lately, as if she was thoroughly bored whenever there were peaceful days in Academy City. Kuroko found that trait both annoying and charming.
Still, if the dorm mistress catches her being late again we'll be given detention. She wouldn't want that to happen, as there were much more important things they should be doing together the next day.
One slender hand reached up onto the low cabinet beside the bathtub, where their shampoos and body soaps adorned the surface. A small white cell phone also lay there, and Kuroko picked it up. Pushing the speed dial to her Onee-sama, she put the small phone to her ear, gazing dreamily into the air all the while.
Normally, no middle school girl would choose the dark and secluded park as their route home during the night. The possibility of running into some shady figure grinning lecherously from the shadows was enough to scare the guts out of anyone. But such worries only applied to about 70% of the city's population, and were completely alien to the girl currently walking quickly through the park. If anything, those shady people would be avoiding the park to not bump into her.
Misaka Mikoto, also known as the ace of Tokiwadai Middle School and the Level 5 Railgun, was hurrying along the park road while silently cursing the arcade for staying open until after her curfew. It's already twenty minutes past; that Old Gooseberry is going to rip my head off… She'd been so into the new fighting game that she hadn't noticed that three hours had gone by. It had become increasingly hard to sneak past the dorm mistress to her room too, since the woman knew all her tricks by now. Her only solace was that the woman couldn't watch everywhere at once, so she'd just have to choose the right strategy.
While thinking of how to best enter her room unseen, the low croaking of agathering of frogs indicating her phone ringing split the air. She dug into her skirt pocket and pulled out the green frog-shaped phone; a dangling strap with a Gekota figure hung from it, further speaking of the owner's tastes. The caller's name flashed at her, and she put the phone to her ear with a small huff."Yes, what is it, Kuroko?"
"Oneeee-sama~ Kuroko is in the bath, all wet and ready for—" Mikoto hung up.
A second later, the phone started ringing again. Mikoto answered it again, sighing. "If you're going to say something else perverted, I swear I'll electrify you through the line."
"Aaah, Onee-sama…" Kuroko complained childishly, yet still in a sensual tone of voice that was impossible for most people to pull off. "Kuroko just wanted to remind you about curfew time… how come you're always so cold towards me?" The last part was uttered in a thoroughly childish whine.
Mikoto sighed. "I wonder. Could it have something to do with you consistently putting me in embarrassing situations by throwing yourself at me in public restaurants or –"
"Aah, Onee-sama! It is impossible to resist the natural force of attraction between us!"
"There's no such force to begin with! Get your head out of that fairytale world of yours and start paying attention to reality!"
"Mou, you have no sense of romance…"
"I don't like hearing that from you!" Mikoto barked, fairly red-faced by now. "Anyway, I'm on my way home. The arcade really should do a better job of reminding people about the curfew…"
"Onee-sama, you do realize the dorm mistress will not accept such an excuse."
"Of course I do." Mikoto sighed. "Anyway, I'm in the park, so there's only 15 minutes or so left. Keep the dorm mistress at bay for me, will you? Oh, and open up a window please."
"Sure~ I will see you home soon, Onee-sama!"
Just as she hung up, Mikoto heard another sound in the silent air, and looked up. It was a sound that had no good reason for being heard at this time of night, and certainly not inside a park. Is that a car engine?
Touma forced his way through a set of evergreen bushes, snapping branches and tearing his school jacket at the same time. Wincing at the various amounts of pain, he finally got out on the other side and onto the path again. He might have earned himself a ten second lead on the car with breaching through that wall of bushes, but just as he started running again, it skidded around the turn behind him, mud flying everywhere as the wheels spun. The guys inside kept hooting and whistling, laughing at his futile efforts of trying to escape them.
Touma pushed himself on, and took off to the right when he reached a fork in the road.
That's when he saw her. Just a few meters in front of him, phone in front of her as if just hanging up on a conversation, and a surprised expression on her face as she noticed him coming towards her; Misaka Mikoto. His eyes widened. Why's she—?
The girl opened her mouth as if to say something, but in that instantthe car came skidding around the corner as well, lights glaring onto his back and into her eyes. She raised her arm to shadow her face in a reflexive maneuver, and Touma felt his heart rise into his throat. She's right in their path!
There was no time for thinking. "Misaka!" His arm reached out as his feet moved on their own, pushing him forward.
The car howled its horn, drowning all other sounds; he could hear it approaching quickly. Touma crashed into the smaller body of the girl in front of him and wound his arms around her torso, pulled her sideways off her feet and jumped forward; sending them both tumbling to the ground and onwards into the muddy ditch of a river beside the road. They hit the water with a splash and a thud, splattering it everywhere.
"Oof!" She let out a half-pained, half-surprised sound as her back hit the ground; the car blasted past behind them and sprayed them with more dirty rainwater, then screeched as the brakes were pushed and the vehicle fought to stop on the slippery surface.
Touma pulled himself up from the mud and looked down at the girl below him. "Are you okay?"
"Wha – what – what the –!" She could hardly speak; she was completely flabbergasted at what had just happened.
"Did you hit your head? Are you feeling all right?" He put a hand to her forehead, and she grew completely red.
"Wh-wh-what the hell!"
"Wooo, the run-away guy found himself a cute girl!" The thugs were exiting the car with cocky grins, sauntering over in a relaxed tempo now that Touma had stopped running. "It's not like using her as an excuse will make us go easier on you though." Their boss grinned, cracking his knuckles. He looked like he might have been doing boxing for many years, with his sturdy body. "You messing with our girls and beating up our guys; we're not gonna let you go for that, you know?"
Touma gritted his teeth, grabbed Mikoto by the wrist and stood up, pulling her with him.
"Wha—!" She sputtered, crashing into his chest and immediately her face burst into fire.
"Let's go!" He said, and then ran off across the river, dragging her with him. She followed, stumbling the first few steps in surprise before her feet found consistent ground again.
"Hey!" The gang leader called, but they didn't stop to listen; Touma heard them swear before jumping into the car again, and the engine revved to life.
"What the heck's up with you!" Mikoto, fairly red-faced, barked at him. Despite being almost one head shorter she had no problems keeping up with him as they ran over the wet grass through bushes and between trees. As she had proven during the Daihaseisai, she was able to sprint at amazing speeds for quite an amount of time.
"Those guys are armed; it's dangerous to face them head on!" Touma explained in-between breaths.
"And why exactly do I have to run again?" She asked dryly.
I don't want to have another group of people's injuries on my conscience! He just kept running with an unlucky expression on his face. As long as he had a hold on her like this, there was no danger of uncontrolled lightning strikes flying all over at least. He wasn't sure why he felt like he needed to protect those guys, but he found it somewhat depressing that his valiant effort of running away would end up in a simple electrifying moment from this short-tempered girl.
They heard the car rattling across the bridge further behind them, and then the wheels hit the road again and the vehicle shot down the path, quickly gaining on them as they ran along the same path now.
Mikoto threw a look back. "Not that I think it's possible, but can you outrun a car? Uwaah—!" Touma made an abrupt turn and nearly pulled her off her feet in the process. They dashed up a stone staircase onto a plateau in the park, and the car flew past below, the men inside yelling and laughing, sounding like they were having the time of their lives.
"This entire area is surrounded by the path; they'll just drive around." Mikoto said, looking over until she could no longer see the car through the leaves holding halfheartedly onto the trees around them. She looked up at the back of Touma's head. His breath was heaving, and his hand clamped firmly around her wrist. She reddened slightly, but stubbornly stomped it away. "Do you have a plan or something?" She asked instead.
"I'm – running!" He gasped, too exhausted to talk much.
"I can see that!" She barked back. "So what, these guys are your acquaintances or something?"
He didn't answer, and she gave a huff.
They ran past several picnic tables and a small fountain, then down another set of stairs, and suddenly found themselves on the park road again. It was paved here, which made it easier to run on. But that meant it was easier for the car to drive on as well. Further up the road, the vehicle skidded around the corner, headlights flashing them from the side.
"Damn!" Touma shadowed his face with his free hand. He'd hoped to be able to reach the next plateau before they came around, but he was growing tired. It felt like his legs were jelly figures rather than human limbs, and the meters separating them from the next flight of stairs to another plateau might as well be miles. This headless chase wasn't going to do them any good unless they found a way out where the car couldn't follow.
The car revved and sped towards them, and Touma gritted his teeth, looking around. I need to—! He saw salvation as his eyes found a smaller road continuing on into the park, blocked by large rocks to hinder vehicles from moving through. "This way!" But just as his feet started moving towards it, Mikoto pulled her hand loose, leaving his fingers grasping emptily in the air. "Misaka!" He turned around, heart in his throat. The girl stuck a hand into her pocket, calmly eying the approaching car with the guys leaning out of the windows, yelling eagerly.
"I don't prefer having you drag me around like a lady in distress or something." She pulled a coin out of her pocket and raised it towards the oncoming car. "This is an exclusive lesson in 'Learn to Survive with Mikoto-sensei', so you better pay attention!"
Blue snakes of electricity leapt from her hand; her thumb hit the coin in a harmless flick, and a blur of an extremely hot orange beam tore through the air, the roar of thunder deafening Touma effectively, even though he smacked his hands to his ears. The car was hit by an electric blast powerful enough to bring down several brick walls; of course, it was not hit head on, or they would be visiting the cemetery next. However even when the railgun only passed by the vehicle grazing its coating along the side, the shock was enough to knock it sideways into the air, and the entire vehicle made an awkward pirouette in a forward spin and hit the ground up-side down beside them, windows shattering and metal grinding and the guys inside thrown around like tumbleweeds on the dry savannah. The car slid along the wet grass until it hit the rocks blocking the path Touma had planned to use for his escape. When the car finally stilled, an eerie silence spread around them. The wheels spun uselessly in the air; two guys had been slung out of the open passenger windows, hitting the ground with a thud and not getting up, though Touma thought he could see their fingers twitching. A smoking crater was running along the pathway where the railgun had blown past.
If anyone had come by at this point, they would probably have turned around right away and pretended they hadn't seen anything.
Touma felt defeated. His entire evasion maneuver had just been wasted in one second, and his legs were screaming at the unnecessary extra work-out he'd forced them through.
Mikoto pulled a stray lock of hair behind her ear and sighed. She then put a hand on her waist and turned around to look at Touma. "That's how you deal with a car coming at you. Got it?"
He sighed deeply. "It's not like anyone else can do that, you know. How can you fire that deadly thing so calmly anyway?"
"Huh? It's not like they're dead or anything. The car's plenty modern with all the necessary safety measures. Look, some of them are even groaning." She looked like he'd asked the most obvious thing in the world. He scratched his head, knowing his questions might as well not be asked in the first place. He looked over at the crashed vehicle; the airbags had activated the moment the car hit the ground. I really hope they're okay though… As much as he didn't like them, he didn't wish this kind of thing to happen to anyone. Then again, choosing between being run over by a car or having a few thugs blasted off the street was hardly a choice in the first place.
He hung his shoulders in a defeated manner. "Such misfortune."
"Don't tell me you'd rather be beaten senseless by those guys." Mikoto huffed. "Honestly, you always drag disaster everywhere you go. Don't you have a normal hobby like everyone else?" She looked at him as if he was a criminal for being in this situation.
"With everything going on, there's no time for hobbies…" He sighed and scratched his head. In all honesty, he'd liked to have a few days off to relax in front of the TV or hang out with his friends. Lately, there had been little time to do such things.
He pulled out his cell phone to check the time, and was disheartened at the result. Mikoto, who noticed the Gekota strap dangling from his phone, reddened at the sight.
Sighing, he put the phone back into his pocket and looked up. "I guess Anti-Skill will show up here soon enough. Let's… eh?" He stopped, noticing her fiery face. "What's wrong?"
"N-n-nothing!" Mikoto bit out, shaking her head quickly.
Touma was puzzled, but didn't ask. "Anyway, let's get out of here before they come." He was feeling too wet and cold for comfort to try and explain the situation to the officials. This evening really could have been better.
"Jeez, you're always trying to run away, aren't you?" Mikoto huffed.
"I don't know about you, but I'd rather get home and change into something dry instead of spending another thirty minutes explaining to Anti-Skill what went on here." It might not be the mindset of a loyal citizen, but Touma had never been one of those to begin with.
Mikoto gave an annoyed sigh. Then she looked over at the car solemnly. "I guess you're right."
Ten minutes later, Touma put his hands on his knees and bent over. "Aaah, I'm completely exhausted…" His muscles were burning up by now, the strain of his evening marathon finally catching up. If his common sense hadn't told him otherwise, he would have laid down on the road right here to rest.
"You can blame yourself for running around like that." Mikoto huffed as she came up beside him, arms folded over her chest. Her cheeks were slightly red, and her uniform was completely dirtied, but she seemed unfairly energetic, somehow."How come you picked a fight with those morons anyway?"
"I told you – I did not pick a fight." Touma protested. "I just…" He couldn't really explain it.
"Well, in any case; let's duel." She suddenly grinned confidently, cracking the knuckles on her left hand with her right.
"You want to fight, even after all that?" He wondered if she had some unsaturated need for violence. Really, were ojou-sama's supposed to act this way? It might be that his image of ojou-sama's was flawed in general, but she seemed as far off as you could come.
She was put off by his lack of enthusiasm. "After knocking me into the mud and dragging me around like that the least you could do is face me seriously for once!"
Touma sighed deeply, feeling like he might as well argue with a brick.
"Stop acting so miserable; you should be honored the Railgun regards you as a worthy opponent!" Mikoto barked, growing steadily redder. "Not many people have that status, you know!"
"Somehow, I don't feel like bragging." He muttered, straightening up while rubbing his neck. Are all girls homicidal maniacs? He felt like he'd never want to get married at this rate. Even his own mother was fairly violent at times. It seems like that gentle, shy little girl with a cute face and body would never appear before him – then again, if she did she was certain to have some underlying desire of killing him. And he preferred the more mature ones in any case. Then again, weren't those types usually more aggressive? Realizing he was doomed either way, he sighed; "I guess I'll see you later then, Biribiri."
"Wh-wh-w-why won't you get it through your thick skull! I'm not biribiri!" She stomped her foot stubbornly, both embarrassed and offended at once.
He looked at her, and then smiled. "You certainly are, though."
She was stumped, growing even redder, and he took that moment to jog off, waving; "See you around, Misaka!"
Mikoto stared after him until he disappeared behind a corner, her entire face pink.
Then she shook her head and slapped her cheeks so fiercely it stung, leaving more dirt on her face as a result. Why is he always so…! Gaaah, I don't get it, what's up with that moron! She ruffled her hair in annoyance, and then hung her head with a defeated sigh. I should probably get back to the dorm. Her wet uniform was growing cold against her skin, slowly stealing the warmth in her body away, and it was starting to drip from the skies, promising another rainy night. I hope Kuroko isn't occupying the bathroom…
The pitter-patter of raindrops against the windows and the distant rumble of thunder were all that could be heard inside a certain dorm room.
Oooh, Onee-sama, why-why-why-whyyy won't you pick up? Kuroko looked at her cell phone with a pained expression on her face. She had finished drying her hair and dressing in her sleepwear (a light purple night dress) and was currently occupying Mikoto's bed and pillow, her insides wringing around in despair. Mikoto had told her she was about 15 minutes away; now nearly 40 had passed. The dorm mistress had come by, and Kuroko had smiled and told her Mikoto was in the bathroom; she'd left the shower on and teleported out of the room after locking the door, just in case. The woman had seemed skeptical, and Kuroko was certain she'd be coming back before long to check on them again.
All her attempts to call Mikoto back after that had ended in automatic answers at the central however, saying "the number you are trying to reach is currently not available" or something of the sort. Naturally, she was starting to get worried. Did something happen to her? Did she get abducted, captured by a sadist with a Capacity Down in his possession? Aaaah imagine all the things he would be able to do to her with such a device! I can't believe I never thought of that! Nuuuuh, where are you, Onee-sama! She was just about considering going out to look for her when:
"I'm back." The voice of her roommate sounded, and Kuroko's heart immediately soared. Mikoto climbed in through the window Kuroko had opened earlier, and closed it shut behind herself, shutting out the sounds of the wet autumn weather. "God it's wet outside…"
"Onee-sama, welcome home!" She jumped out of bed to greet her roommate with a beaming smile on her face; "Did you forget your umbrella? Mou, you're so hopeless – gah!" The moment she saw the other girl, her expression turned dreadful, and instead of throwing herself around the other's neck as was first planned, she backed off as if avoiding a contaminated container of expired food.
Mikoto gave her a dry look. "What?"
"O-Onee-sama!" Kuroko's eyes were huge with horror. "Y-y-your face – your uniform—!" She had no words to describe the scene in front of her; Onee-sama's face and hands were grimed with mud, her uniform smeared with dirt. Not only were she dirty; everything was drenched in water too, more than what should have stemmed from the lack of an umbrella. The brilliant radiance of the other girl was like the Star of Bethlehem in Kuroko's religion; now it was but a black hole, sucking away all light from its surroundings.
Mikoto huffed. "I slipped and fell into a puddle; what's with the long face?"
"What kind of puddle was that?" Kuroko asked in disbelief. "Besides that, what happened to you to come home this late?" She frowned. "Don't tell me you entered another pointless fight with that gentleman of yours?"
"He's no gentleman." Mikoto protested, though her cheeks reddened slightly. "And why do you care what I'm doing anyway?" She slipped off her shoes, and then her socks, grimed with dirt and dripping with water. As though Kuroko wasn't even there, she muttered; "What's up with knocking me over into the mud like that anyway…"
"Onee-sama!" Kuroko gasped. "You participated in mud wrestling without me!"
"I can't even follow your train of thought, so think whatever you like." Mikoto sighed, placing her shoes and socks by the bed. "I'll just shower and go to sle–"
"Ah, Kuroko will wash off this bothersome mud for you!" Kuroko announced happily.
"No thank you!"
"Ah, so stingy. Then, why did you not pick up the phone, Onee-sama?" Kuroko asked. "I was so worried when you wouldn't answer!"
"What are you talking about?" Mikoto asked, putting a hand in her pocket. "You haven't called me; my phone hasn't…" her words died off and her face turned slightly worried. "Eh…?"
While Kuroko watched, she checked the other pocket, and then the first one again. Her expression was suddenly pale. When she started looking around on the floor, Kuroko felt inclined to say something.
"Onee-sama…? Did you lose something?"
Mikoto looked like someone had just speared her chest. She laughed just a bit too brightly and straightened, pulling a hand through her wet hair. "Hahaha, of course not! It's nothing, nothing… I'll go shower now…" She turned to walk towards the bathroom again, but Kuroko, frowning now, pulled out her cell phone and quickly pushed a few buttons. Mikoto stiffened, as if sensing the signals emitting from the device and anticipating the worst.
Kuroko's phone made a few calls, screen alight with the number displayed.
"Onee-sama, where is your cell phone?" Kuroko asked at last.
Mikoto didn't answer. Nor did she move or look at her roommate. Her lack of response was enough for Kuroko to understand.
"Aaah…" The teleporter said slowly. Her face slowly grimaced, as if torn between wanting to laugh loudly or look like she regretted this situation. "Aaahaaha… T-that means… I mean, it's awful, but this means…"
Mikoto glanced back at her, saw her expression and tsk'ed. "What's with that face?"
Kuroko fought heroically to keep a straight face. "Ah, that is, we shouldn't let such a terrible situation get to us, Onee-sama. It is a pity, but now I can finally get you a new cell phone!" She could barely breathe from the happiness swelling in her chest. "No Gekota straps, no frog croaks and no green, glaring colors! Truly, this is an era ending and a new age can finally begin!" Somehow, she didn't sound sorry at all.
Mikoto's hands clenched and her jaw tightened. "You…"
"Now now, Onee-sama, while this stressful situation might be hard to accept, we must deal with it as best we can." Kuroko teleported over to her side and elegantly removed the wet jacket in a heartbeat. Mikoto jolted. "What the – Kuroko!"
"We must not risk you catching a cold with our important day coming up." Kuroko said, beaming happily. "Let's wash you off and go to bed fresh and fit for our day tomorrow… we'll start out with a shopping trip to find you a new phone."
Mikoto shoved her away before she managed to get her shirt. "Who said I wanted to go shopping with you?"
Kuroko sighed. "Alas, while this is a tragic incident indeed, you cannot think to walk around without a cell phone in this day and age? There are a lot of new phones out there that are perfectly fit for the ace of Tokiwadai; the ZenZen 1300 is even specially designed for Electromasters—"
"There was nothing wrong with my old phone!"
"Even so, it is gone, is it not? Don't tell me you'd rather go out to search for it?" Kuroko tossed a look over at the closed window, where rain splattered against the glass now. The weather was less than tempting to go out to search puddles and muddy patches of grass in the dark for something that may very well be long gone, and most definitely was not working optimally anymore after lying exposed in the rain. "Aside from that fact, the dorm mistress will give us a series of detentions if she comes back to find the room vacant; it was all I could do to ward her off the first time." She concluded.
Mikoto hesitated, looking troubled, while Kuroko eyed her scrutinizingly. Finally, her shoulders fell. "I just – it's just – the strap—!" She cut off abruptly, her face reddening at an alarming rate.
Kuroko's eyes widened. "What's with this dangerous development! Furthermore, you haven't had that thing on it for more than a few days; don't tell me it's become sentimental to you already?"
"O-of course not!" Mikoto protested, looking away to hide her reddening cheeks. "The s-strap was just… e-expensive, that's all…" It seemed like her face grew even redder; one could possibly fry an egg on it by now.
"GAAAAAAH!" Kuroko looked like a legitimate copy of the famous painting 'the Scream' with her hands planted on her cheeks like that. "Onee-sama… stuttering like that… blushing so cutely… this – this is… heart-breaking yet so alluring!"
"I'm not s-stuttering or anything!" Mikoto protested.
"You are! You're acting like a love-struck teenager spelled by surging hormones!"
"I am not! Stop being an idiot or I'll fry you!" Mikoto's threat put a stop to the childish banter, mostly because her fringe was starting to emit electric currents into the air. A crack of thunder sounded in the distance, and though Kuroko doubted it had any connection, the effect was appropriately unsettling nonetheless.
"Aaah, Onee-sama, please watch your blood pressure…" She tried to amend herself by smiling sweetly, while her brain worked actively. Being so upset over that childish thing… To be honest, she felt it would be better if both the phone and the strap were forever lost. However, as things stood now, her Onee-sama's upset mood might destroy everything.
At this rate she's likely to call off our big day! Her expression grew worried. I never thought I'd use it for this purpose, but it seems I have no choice… Determinedly, she pulled out the holographic screen on her own cell phone. As a Judgment member, she was always prepared. "Do not despair, Onee-sama; I will find your Gekota phone this very instant!"
"If you're thinking about that radio signal transmitter you installed on it, I disabled that thing a long time ago." Mikoto told her in a completely level tone of voice.
Kuroko was stumped. "Aah, in that case…" Anything else… The Central Cell Phone Position System? But without proper authorization it would take Uiharu's skills to get inside the system. Besides, that's only useful if the phone is still switched on, and obviously it isn't…
While she stood there contemplating, it seemed like Mikoto's shoulders drooped. "Forget it; I'll just shower and go to bed. It's not like it's the end of the world or anything. Haha." After giving a disheartening laugh, she walked towards the bathroom again, not even looking at her roommate.
"Onee-sama…" Kuroko was left standing in her wake feeling rather helpless.
When the door to the bathroom closed shut, her hand clenched around the phone in her hand. That indecent polyp! This is all his fault!
Touma sneezed violently.
"Ack, I'm gonna be sick…" He sniffled and shuddered, even with the warm water from the shower drumming at his back. His nose was running, his feet and hands freezing, his hair drooping with heavy, muddy rainwater, and a certain gluttonous person was out in his living room, starving for food and attention both. No matter how tired he was, he'd have to go grocery shopping first thing in the morning, even though his wallet was already so slim it could pass as a yen note on its own.
Touma sighed and made an unhappy face. "At least I got away from Biribiri without a fight…" That was a small solace. When he'd been walking home from the park, he heard Anti-Skill's sirens in the distance, and silently thanked some unnamed deity that they'd avoided staying behind for much longer. He'd barely made it to his dorm before the rain broke out too. I wonder if this can be counted as being lucky…
After rinsing his hair three times, he turned off the shower and wrapped a towel around himself.
"Toumaa!" The shrill voice of his uninvited live-in called from the living room. "You've been in there for 30 minutes already; when are you coming out here to order our food?"
"Haaaai, Index-san, I'm coming right out." He called back while drying off, before pulling on a loosely fit T-shirt and pants. "I did tell you it's too late to order anything now though, didn't I?" He asked as he opened the door to the living room.
Index was kneeling in front of the TV, way closer than the warnings on the shows she watched intended. She sighed, giving the impression of a precocious kid. "Touma, they're open all night."
"Really?" That was new. All traffic was prohibited after all, so the only way for the food to reach your door would be by foot or bike. Touma supposed there were some who saw the opportunity to earn money by offering services no-one else did. "Why didn't you order then?"
"I tried, but they hung up." Index said.
"Haaah?" Even stranger. What kind of restaurant hangs up on their customers, and especially one that would bring in a fortune? Maybe she ordered so much they thought it was a joke?
"The woman in the other end didn't understand my order at all." Index said, shaking her head as if amused by the silly person. "I guess it's a guy thing, in this country."
"What are you talking about?" Touma laughed, picking up his cell phone from the kitchen counter. "You didn't try to order something impossible did you, like a three-story pizza?"
"Hmph." Index puffed her cheeks out.
"So which one did you call?" Touma said, looking through the list of nearby fast-food restaurants on his phone; all of them seemed to close shortly after curfew.
"The one with the lady that answers."
"I can't tell which one based on that…" Touma sighed and navigated to his call log, where the last number called would be displayed. It looked like Index had been talking to the restaurant for nearly ten minutes. He copied the number into the web browser and hit search.
Hm, is this it? He eyed the top result and pressed the link for more information. As soon as the page popped up, his eyes widened. "Nh—Wha—?" His expression grew more and more horrified as he watched the screen of his phone. His eyes landed on the price tag, his mind multiplied it with the amount of minutes in his call log, and he could swear he heard his wallet scream in pain.
"I-I-Index-san, where did you find this number…?"
"In this magazine." Index raised a crumpled magazine that must have been found stuffed away somewhere, as the title suggested it was not usually laid out in a guy's apartment for a girl to find. Touma's face cracked into complete panic. Words were printed all over the page Index was holding: 'Hungry, boy?', 'exotic snacks or homemade extremes', 'Instant delivery', 'open all night', 'guilty pleasure… rawr'.
No wonder the woman who answered the phone had no idea what to make of Index trying to order pizza. She spent ten minutes trying to understand what kind of service Index wanted! Do they really have such obscure choices, or is Index's way of ordering pizza completely foreign?
"Um, Index-san…" He started talking, but when she looked up at him with a puzzled face, his skin broke out into sweat. He really didn't want to explain this.
"I don't get this part about guilty pleasure though," Index said, looking back at the page. "Is it about eating unhealthy fast food when you should be making your own food instead? I guess Japanese boys really are no different than others." She sighed.
"Uh-huh, that's it!" Touma beamed, sweat running down his face. "Silly, eh? Haha! I guess we'll have to make do with whatever's left in the fridge after all!" Pleasedon'tturnthepagepleasedon'tturnthepage!
"The fridge is already empty." Index sighed. "Maybe there's another phone number we can call?" She turned the page.
What happened next could probably be measured as a small earthquake on the Richter scale.
It was surprisingly refreshing to write Touma, after trying and trying and trying some more to find a way that seemed to fit his character and my writing style and my likeness to him. Well, I had some practice with A Certain Cliché Switchover, though this story was started before that one ^^;
I even wrote Index. Now that's something I never thought I'd do.
I'm pretty pleased with this chapter. If you see anything odd or feel like anything's off, please tell me.
Reviewing may help up my motivation to write faster, but as always, even if noooobody reviews I'll still update, someday...
Words and terms:
Bannousenshu (万能選手) means "all-around athlete". It's a school that focuses on raising athletes, obviously. It has a program for espers and non-espers both.
Next time: Kuroko strikes, and Touma… is unlucky.
Oh, and by the way: Please ignore my lack of skills in coming up with titles. It was a place-holder title that has been stuck for a year... I tried to change it... but it's really stuck...