A short story continuing from where Loss ended.
“Good evening, is this Ms. Kikyou?”
“Yes…how can I help you?”
“Regarding the recent incident…our security team scanned through the archival footage. What was left of it, anyway; although many cameras were heavily damaged, there was insufficient time for the intruders to destroy the numerous cameras. We’ve found something that may be of interest to you…”
Accelerator walked around in a daze. He was no stranger to killing, but it was more than the sheer mayhem that just transpired which occupied his mind.
Perhaps, he questioned his role in it.
And his purpose…
A light patter of footsteps came, as Last Order had returned dressed in a gown of sorts. A surgical gown, perhaps? Or something resembling that anyway – a thin, soft, blue dressing. Accelerator rarely spent time in hospitals, though the same could be said of his opponents. Most of them mysteriously disappeared; where they went or how their bodies were disposed were not his concern.
Although after he was finished, ‘a body’ would be a charitable description of what remained. Perhaps a ‘dark red stain’ was more accurate…
After Accelerator had defeated the rogue clones after Last Order, he felt as if something…was lost. Drawing upon his last reserves of indifference, he tried his best to move on from what surrounded him. Reaching the control panel for Last Order’s cylinder, he drained the liquid surrounding her body and opened the door, motioning at her to get dressed.
What had been done…had been done. All he needed to do was to bring Last Order home.
And battle with the nightmares that undoubtedly would come…
“Misaka wants to…wants to know… know if you’re okay…”
A soft whisper caught him unguarded.
“Hm…? What did you say?”
“Misaka saw what happened. But Misaka was not looking at them….Misaka saw your face, and that’s why…that’s why…”
“Huhh.? My face? What do you mean?”
“….that’s why, Misaka thinks it is important. Misaka. Wants. To. Know.”
A quavering, uncertain voice had slowly become more certain. Soft, yet steady.
“Ohh…? And what do you want to know?”
“Misaka wants to know if you’re okay…”
“Hmph. Of course I am – they didn’t land a scratch on me. Couldn’t – even if they tri-”
“Misaka isn’t talking about that. Misaka saw something else…”
“…how troublesome…. Alright, what are you talking about?”
“Misaka doesn’t really know.., but Misaka thinks you might…”
To be honest, Accelerator admitted to himself that he had no idea how he felt. Joy? Relief, at having saved Last Order?
Guilt, at having ended the lives of so many clones once again?
Regret at his actions – or was there anger at whoever had reprogrammed the clones to target Last Order?
Yet out of these swirling emotions, one persistently lurked. A sense of loss, dejection – perhaps even resignation.
“…Misaka saw something being lost as the battle continued. And Misaka feels like you just lost something…though Misaka cannot understand what that is…”
Her quiet voice drew him out of his ruminations – not her volume, but what she said.
“Perhaps…perhaps… I did lose something. But does that even matter now…? Look, shit happens, I clean shit up. That’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
“…what do you mea-”
“No…it matters. Misaka knows what happens to you, matters…”
It was the first time Accelerator had seen Last Order like this. Tears threatened the corners of her eyes and she looked to be on the verge of crying, but yet…
A definite aura of defiance emanated from her.
“Misaka doesn’t like how you always ignore what happens to you. How you let yourself get hurt, and then try to pretend it doesn’t matter, when it does-“
“Listen up and listen well – I’m Accelerator. The first among the Level 5’s; the best of the best – and under me lies the sorry heap that call themselves espers. I’ve walked a path of darkness that you can’t even imagine – I don’t need to be pitied by some kid I’ve just saved.”
He looked at her shocked face, and realized this was the first time she had seen him lash out at her.
“…but anyway, even what you’ve said is wrong. I hurt myself or maybe I was hurt, but I know I’m strong enough to get through it, that’s why I say it doesn’t matter-”
Accelerator began to rebut, but caught himself mid-sentence.
<Is this a challenge…?>
“Misaka doesn’t..know why, but Misaka feels that you feel different. Misaka knows what you were like in the past, even if it was only a little – Misaka remembers through the memories of other Misakas.. And now, Misaka feels like…you’ve been defeated. Even though you won all of them…”
“Defeated? By who, or what?”
“Misaka doesn’t know…but Misaka knows that if you were as you were in the past… you would have confidently said you were strong, but now…”
“Misaka perhaps senses that you changed as you protected me…”
Accelerator took a deep breath, and walked around. Yet try as he might, he could not clear his mind of what happened – surrounded by the carnage as it were, it was as ludicrous as a fish trying to escape water while in the ocean.
“Misaka also thinks that you might know…though Misaka cannot fully understand, it may be possible for you to know what Misaka is talking about…”
<Perhaps, there’s something more to what this brat’s saying…>
Last Order watched as Accelerator walked to a side of the room, and paced about uncertainly, unevenly. After what seemed like eternity, he lifted up the body of one of the dead Sisters by its hair and walked towards her.
“You see this? This clone, this doll, looks exactly like all those which I had killed in the past. During the Level 6 Shift Project. And even though it was a long time in the past, it never felt right. My actions – they never felt right, and the more I thought about it, the more I was haunted by them…”
“Is that…is that why Misaka sometimes found you…”
“…at night…? yes….”
“It is difficult to sleep or rest when the shadows of the past creep into your dreams….”
“And yet”, Accelerator continued, “I never imagined that I would do this again. Do you know how much – how many nights I wrestled with myself? Knowing that what I had done could never be undone, knowing that I did not regret my actions when I did them, but only after they had been done…”
“How do you think I feel, surrounded by this?! How could…”
Accelerator had started out evenly, but cracks began to appear in his voice. Still, he persisted, and forced himself to continue. Maybe what had been hidden in him for too long wanted to come out; maybe it was just him being emotional. But some part of him felt that it was important…to continue.
“How could…anyone feel okay, after all this…”
Last Order had known Accelerator in the past to be an efficient killer. Cruel in his methods for killing clones – always inventive, yet not with the curious mind of an inventor but with the diabolical mind of a toying murderer. And yet, after he saved her from the virus, he had not softened. Under his indifferent, cynical and harsh exterior, he had been grappling; fighting.
With himself; his past actions; the demons of his past.
But now…after Accelerator spoke, Last Order finally understood something.
What it clearly was; she hadn’t the faintest clue. However, she didn’t need to comprehend everything to act.
“Misaka thinks that you are blaming yourself a lot for what happened, but Misaka isn’t sure why-“
“Of course I blame myself for what happened! Who killed them – me, or themselves? Even if they had fired the bullet, it was me that sent it back to them!…”
“But Misaka thinks it is different.”
“What? What’s different?”
“Misaka thinks there is a difference. Between killing to benefit yourself, and killing to protect someone…”
“hah….but even if you say that, I still protected you because I wanted to…is that not a benefit..?”
“Why did you want to protect me?”
Sensing Accelerator’s silence, Last Order took one step forward and asked “Misaka also doesn’t understand why – why you seem like someone who has just lost something…”
“Because I DIDN’T WANT to kill any more Sisters! Isn’t that obvious? And yet, LOOK!”
He raised his stained hands and the lifeless body as he gestured.
“Look,” Accelerator continued softly “…at what I’ve done. I’ve lost that – that I was trying to protect – that that would be the end of it. That no more Sisters would die; even if I could not undo my actions and bring them back to life, that no more Sisters would die by my hands…”
“But…Misaka thinks that you did that, in order to protect me… why did you do that?”
“Why did I do what?”
“Why did you protect me?…”
At that moment, something clicked. And the words left his mouth.
“Because I didn’t want to lose you…”
Last Order moved. And in an instant, she caught Accelerator by surprise, in a tight embrace…
Tears streaming, she continued in silent sobs.
“Misaka saw, as you dispatched them one by one. How you calculated the best way to kill them without destroying them completely…instead of leaving red remains..”
“Misaka saw, as something in you was lost with every life you ended…Misaka saw you break down inside, piece by piece, stain by stain. And Misaka feels that nothing she does can ever repay you…that’s-that’s why, Misaka doesn’t know what to do.”
She gripped his limp body tighter.
“Misaka wants to try. That’s why Misaka is doing this – Misaka knows you lost something precious to you, in order not to lose Misaka. And maybe-maybe that’s how things are sometimes – that you lose something to not lose other things…”
Accelerator mustered up the what little strength he had….but it was long gone. Composure, emotional fortitude…he found himself taken aback emotionally and physically by Last Order’s charge.
Physically, he could have wasted her with a touch. It would be elementary to redirect vectors to even keep himself stable and stoic as she had tackled him, but…
He could not find it within himself.
<Is….is this what they call the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak…? I feel as if I’ve heard that somewhere before…>
There was no spirit left, to resist Last Order’s emotional comfort and embrace.
But even so, he tried. The last ounce of pride left, as he softly whispered…
Last Order buried her damp head deeper into his chest, hugging him tighter.
“That’s enough….that’s enough blaming yourself for the past, and pretending to be strong when you’re not okay. Misaka knows that you’re strong, but Misaka also wants you to care for how you feel, and know that others care for you, as you did for Misaka…”
Gravity started to work as Last Order’s momentum began bringing Accelerator down. Still, Accelerator resisted neither nature nor her, as she continued.
“Misaka knows that she can never give you back what you lost…Misaka knows it is difficult for you to forget the past, even if Misaka forgave you everyday…But even so, even so…”
“Misaka doesn’t want to see you hurt yourself anymore…”
As they crumpled to the floor, Last Order’s last words crept to Accelerator’s ears.
A small smile spread across her face.
“It’s pretty strange, isn’t it? To see a level 5 being taken down like that…”
“Yes…but it’s alright. Thanks for sending me the footage.”
Yoshikawa thought back to the previous night. Accelerator had returned carrying a sleeping Last Order and gave a short cordial explanation about what occurred. Anti-Skill was then notified but left after finding little to do.
Rewinding the clip she received, Yoshikawa came to the exact moment Last Order had leapt and hugged Accelerator.
<That boy…I wonder what Last Order said to him. He certainly didn’t say anything about this, just that he had rescued Last Order and brought her back.>
Upon pondering whether to curiously probe, she slowed the video down and observed Accelerator slowly stagger back under Last Order’s weight before they eventually collapsed.
<Not that it matters what she said…it looks like he’s finally let someone through the walls he’s built and isolated himself within. He’s noticeably more relaxed…one would say his demeanor had changed slightly…>
Pausing at that moment which seemed to capture eternity, Yoshikawa understood why. The bowed head – so uncharacteristic of his arrogant head held high. Limp, not tense, arms as he let the body drop. A craned neck – unrecognizable from his sturdy, proud posture he always adopted.
Here was a “monster”, with blood literally on his hands. And yet, a small, short, brown-haired girl had embraced him tightly as her tears flowed.
<Perhaps he’s found peace…>