Rhezerë is not pleased. There’s a niggling sensation, warm through his entire mind, of someone who’s supposed to be there, and nobody told him a new sync would feel like this.
A Khun doesn’t need love. Khun children were fed on ambition and cunning and trained to compete for their lives and their name by the time they were ten. They don’t need affection. They need strength in their limbs and lightning in their bodies and blood between their teeth.
Then Bam looks at Khun Aguero Agnis and tells him, “I didn’t have any friends. Let’s be friends with them.”
There’s something else between his teeth and he can’t decide whether he likes the taste of it, the word coming out before he can hold it in. “Fine.”
He doesn’t need the feeling of Bam’s shoulder between his fingers, but he can’t stop reaching for it. Doesn’t need this sudden warmth in his chest when Bam asks to climb the Tower with them. A Khun doesn’t need love, he tells himself, unwilling to admit he doesn’t still believe it.
Fushimi’s morning didn’t start off well. He’d never been a morning person, and someone drank the last of the readily available coffee. But then he was off on a morning assignment to retrieve something for the Captain–”a parcel of great import”, he said, but most likely no more important than coffee–so it’s not like he had time to raid his backup stash.
He was scowling when he left and by all rights, that should have been the start of a terrible day.
Instead, he bumped into Misaki. Literally.
“Hey, watch where you’re going!”
A few grumpy words turns into a halfhearted wrestling match, that nonetheless leaves Misaki flushed and breathless and staring right at Fushimi for the longest few moments of Fushimi’s week.
By mutual agreement, they brush themselves off and go their separate ways without much in the way of further comment, but the warmth stays with Fushimi for hours afterward, and it’s not such a terrible day after all.
Kunikida pushed up his glasses on his nose and went over another stack of reports, marking them up with a judicious (and vicious, in Domyouji’s opinion) eye. “Crayon again?” he demanded while Domyouji made an attempt to disappear into the floor.
It was bad enough when Fushimi got on his case, because Fushimi cared more about removing the offending annoyance than correcting the one instigating it. Kunikida’s sense of order and the rules of society was far more personal.
“I’ll fix it.”
Kunikida sighed when he’d dismissed yet another member of the sword squad to fix their mission report. Somehow he always started following a wonderful, sword-bearing leader of justice and high ideals and ended up buried in minions with an allergy to well-written paperwork.
“Kunikida-kun!” a terrible, no good, very bad voice suddenly sing-songed through the space as Dazai poked his head in Kunikida’s office. “We have a case!”
Kunikida didn’t have to go take one, but he was more than ready to get out of the office Munakata had given him. “You’re writing the mission report.”
Dazai blinked, then smiled in a most disturbing way. “Of course!”
Kunikida sighed. Death, taxes, and bad mission reports they would ever have with them.
Love wasn’t the kind of word that Accelerator said. It wasn’t because he didn’t care, though he tried not to. It was because he hadn’t known love in a very, very long time.
Sometimes he thought he could almost remember it, the feeling of parents who loved him, could almost remember his name if he reached back hard enough, thought long enough. He still knew the number of characters, remembered that it was ordinary. It had been easier to discard himself and any happiness he’d once expected to be his, once it was obvious he’d never be that innocent happy child again.
“Accelerator! Misaka Misaka admonishes you to pay attention to Misaka when she’s talking to you,” a different happy child bounced onto the couch, halfway landing on top of him. She waved her arms as if she didn’t have his complete attention at this point already.
He tumbled her over on the couch to her delighted squeals and picked up a pillow with his hands, not his esper power.
Maybe it was safe now to remember love.
They weren’t people, they’d told him over and over. They were windup dolls. They didn’t live.
Accelerator wasn’t supposed to defeat them. He was supposed to kill them, or none of this would actually work.
It made him be creative. He had to find something to enjoy in all this, solving a problem differently, in a new way, with a new application of his power. He hurt people who deserved it to find some taste for the damage he was going to inflict, leaned into the adrenaline rush each time.
He spoke to them before each experiment, tested the theory again, and time and again, they failed to respond because they weren’t people.
So this wasn’t cold-blooded murder.
1. Damage the enemy. If you can’t bring the power, don’t bother showing up. If you can’t hurt your enemies, then stay home and out of the way. Villains do damage.
2. Be ruthless about those who get in your way. If you can’t be heartless and hard-hearted, then go be a hero instead. Villains get the job done, no matter what, no matter who they have to hurt.
3. Commit to your goals. If you’re going to cause mass destruction, destroy it all. Be powerful enough to leave the rest unhurt. If your goal just happens to be that no one lays a finger on your sister… Well.
“I’ll show you a real villain aesthetic!” He throws back his head and laughs.
He might have been someone important, might have been loved by a mother, a father, embraced by family before he became the human body wrapped around the power of catastrophe and destruction. ____ didn’t feel anything about that, or about the seal between self and the world, or about the seal between that vessel and the world, where people moved in the distant light beyond this blue grey glass.
Mendanbar was a perfect fine King of the Enchanted Forest, capable and magical in all the right ways, and really, the Forest, the sword, and the magic all had no problem guiding most issues to his castle steps to be handled.
But Mendanbar also had excellent taste in choosing his Queen.
It really wasn’t the Forest’s fault that she had the good favor of the dragons, the good sense of the nonmagical, and warm relationships with everyone else that could solve any problems she couldn’t.
Mendanbar liked to hide himself away sometimes, but Cimorene was delightfully available on her walk, and only frowned with a puzzled expression as she met lost princesses, a knight on a quest to rescue a princess and another on a quest to collect some magical cure, a few excited bunny rabbits who wanted an arbitrator between them and an overprotective gardener, and a flying spatula that really oughtn’t to be looking glumly at her with its non-face as if she could solve whatever ailed it.
Finally, they reached the end of Cimorene’s journey—home again, and she quietly emoted all that puzzlement and exasperation at Mendanbar. “Mendanbar, I don’t mean to interrupt, but the forest does know I’m only a member of the royal family by marriage, and therefore unable to handle big problems by waving my hands and wishing very hard, right?”
Of course, it did. But there were large problems and small in the Enchanted Forest, and no need to waste a perfectly good monarch.
Mikoto stood in the doorway to the bar, and Kusanagi just looked at him for a long moment before Mikoto shrugged and dropped onto his usual seat at the front.
It wasn’t his way to apologize. Kusanagi had been the one to tell him that ages ago.
“You’ve had that in your system for years,” Kusanagi commented. His voice was just slightly sharper than usual, more disappointed.
Mikoto leaned his head back. Kusanagi was too close to this, too close to Mikoto’s inability to protect Totsuka, and he’d be the first hit when Mikoto left him holding all the pieces. There wouldn’t have been comfort in Kusanagi’s bed.
Munakata should know this was the only warning he was going to get.
“Did you find the gun?” Mikoto asked.
Kusanagi studied him for a long moment, seeming to pack up his pain, his disappointment, his face and tone smoothing out to something both casual and dangerous. “Yes.”