Chapter 2B: Frost
Mirai observed the scene. The ice-wielding gang-runner was stood in front of her, visible cold-breaths of fog deploying through the hot air. His hair front ways looked short, though it seemed to get longer the further it went around his head. Though he was obviously (judging from the shape and size of his head, hands and feet) unhealthily thin, the numerous amounts of winter gear he wore gave him the illusion of being grossly obese. She’d expect him to be a glass cannon, but the pile of clothes he had on was enough to function as a quasi-body armor. It wouldn’t be nearly enough to block a bullet, knife or any real weapon, but Mirai realized just from the eyeball test that her physical attacks would have trouble fazing him unless she aimed for the small patch of his exposed face. “Hey, super-lady…” He growled. His voice was high-pitched yet gravely, aesthetically linking up with his thin, pale enough to barley be red, lips. “I’m given’ you five seconds to walk away.” His yellow eyes quickly widened after the sentence, as if he just remembered something. “Wait, I can’t let you go if you’ve seen me in the first place so, uh, onetwothreefourfive!” He counted quickly, Mirai not being at all amused by his antics. She didn’t see them as funny, no, in fact she saw a calculated opportunity to strike. She broke out in a sprint, the sudden shift from standing to dashing visibly jilting the ice-man’s nerves. Her slip-up came almost immediately, with Mirai expecting, due to the man’s nervous demeanor and visible frailness, that his reactions (when not alerted by Styrofoam) would be sluggish. In stark contrast to this, ice began to crawl towards her in under a second, beady eyes locking onto her. “Fuck off!” The ice-man sputtered, a cacophony of sharp, jagged ice shooting outwards towards Mirai. The sheer sharpness of the avalanche sent reflections of light glazing off her eye lenses, waves of light refracting through the air as she leapt backwards in an attempt to avoid the oncoming assault. The initial jump wasn’t enough to get her out of harm’s way though, the ice wall continuing to center in on her. Mirai quickly realized this, transitioning the momentum in her leap to a series of back cartwheels (because another straight leap would have tripped her up). Yet again, the ice did little in the way of subsiding. If it had a range limit, she was unable to find it. With the new-found awareness that dodging wasn’t apparently an option, Mirai dug her heels into the ground, rubber of her white soles creasing along the pavement. Her backwards momentum was halted completely, leaving her standing in the ices’ path. It hurtled towards her, cracking and reforming under itself, but she refused to move. Instead, she raised her hand up to the oncoming tidal wave, waiting until it was just in range. The second she felt even the slightest prick of ice connecting to her finger, energy rushed through her hand, implanting itself into the ice and stopping it completely. “What the fuck?!” She took no notice of the man’s outburst as she rolled out of the ice’s path. The ability she’d just used was officially called tactile time manipulation, at least that’s what she heard from her father. It allowed her to channel the threads of an object and easily suspend it’s time through physical contact, though its effects were significantly less powerful, if more reliable, than using threads on their own. Mirai knew this and transferred her grip over to the thread that corresponded with the wall of ice, waiting for it’s time to resume before reversing it. The feat was accomplishable but deceivingly heavy, Mirai feeling a significant weight running through her arm as she tugged the thread backwards. As the streak of ice completely disappeared from view, her focus returned to the gang member standing in the middle of the road. He was visibly angry, as well as jittery (though if those jitters were caused by nerves or drugs Mirai couldn’t discern). He was definitely not happy about Mirai countering what was supposed to be an instant-kill but seeing him standing and yelling there in the middle of the big empty street made the problems of the situation readily clear. She really didn’t have anything to attack with. Her vision ran over the surroundings, trying to find any surrounding she could take advantage off, but she came up with a blank. There was very little around her except the pavement. Wait… “-FUCKING BITCH!” She only caught the last few words of his cuss-filled rant but that and the bloodlust in his eyes made it a safe assumption that he wasn’t just going to give himself up. The air behind him swirled with white particles of ice, which swiftly began to sharpen into spears. By the way the air condensed, Mirai could note that his direct power seemed to be the ability to form any water in the air into ice. Considering it was summer, and the air was humid as fuck, he was either manipulating the city’s residual puddles of sweat or his ability was so potent that it completely bypassed any logical exchange rate between water in the air and ice made. Either way, Mirai wouldn’t be able to stop his creation without completely drying him out from the hands which in the setting they were in, was nothing less than an impossibility. FWOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOSH! The spears of ice launched at her like they were being shot out of a cannon, leaving her no chance to adjust her plans. She barely managed to dodge through the small area of livability the weapons left her, clinging onto the thread of the road and pulling back. She was going to have to go a way back for this to work. With an erratic thrash of his hands, the man unleashed another set of spears. Mirai was yet again forced to dodge around them with her abilities preoccupied with the road. While it didn’t manage to pierce her skin, two of the spears came dreadfully close to cutting her, scrapping chunks bits of white fabric off her costume’s shoulders. Her eyes went out of synch with her hands, as more small chunks of ice flew through the air and began to solidify behind the man. There was a half second where she saw the ice spears forming, and thought they might be able to stab her before she could achieve her desired effect. That thought was quickly washed away, as the unmistakable feeling of time giving way to her rushed through the thread. Before the ice-man was able to unleash his next barrage, Mirai yanked the string back hard enough to send the pavement of the road unfurling with power like a bullet train. While the dirt track that previously inhabited the space was uncovered, the roads stone cracks noticeably softened, as the now sticky sludge raced towards ice-man at a pace that would be sure to knock him off his feet. The amount of time she’d had to roll back, as well as speeding the process up so it actually functioned as an attack felt like it nearly broke her arm in two, and it was still for nothing, as her bewildered foe quickly recovered from the shock of seeing the road apparently trying to absorb him. His shaky hands stuck out in front of him, letting lose a massive wall of ice in the rolling roads path. The sludge may have been strong, but the sheer amount of ice standing in its way brought any motion to a halt. What it didn’t bring to a halt, was Mirai’s plan, as she took control of the ice’s strings in her free hand, ripping them backwards through time and ceasing the ice structures existence by reversing it into the residual particles of water he’d initially used to form it. “What?!” The man rasped, stepping back in surprise. The over-animated shock was clearly a side-effect of his jittery personality, but it served a second purpose for Mirai, that being an opening. Temporarily freezing the roads motion, she leapt forward, enough bounce in her step to bound over him completely. In fact, she almost overshot her target, just barley dropping enough to successfully kick him in the back. He tumbled past the road, hitting the dusty dirt ground. The first thing he should’ve done was roll out of the pavements path, instead, his yellow eyes desperately fumbled around in his skull, trying to find a visual on Mirai. The only visual he was greeted with was that of the river of concrete yet again reversing in time and beginning to melt back towards him. His eyes glazed over, not with fear, but with literal sludge, the muck beginning to cover his body as the road reformed. Mirai didn’t intended for this to kill him, just cut off his air flow enough to knock him out, which seemed to be succeeding. You couldn’t really struggle in concrete, a fact that the bump in the road must’ve realized. His arms and legs didn’t attempt to shake around, instead staying flat on the ground in what was probably an attempt to breathe easy as the oxygen around him began to thin. At least, that’s what Mirai thought until she saw the small shards of ice bleeding through the cracks at the edge of the pavement. She barely had time to leap back before the pavement was thrown upwards, wide pillars of ice pushing the road off the floor. They didn’t stop after achieving this however, continuing to grow ascendant, two of them becoming at least as high as a three-story house. Their shadows dwarfed over Mirai, who would’ve fixated her attention on them if she hadn’t subtly caught the ice-man’s flick of his hand from the corner of her eye. “EAT SHIT AND DIE BITCH!” Okay, maybe the catch wasn’t that subtle. What definitely wasn’t subtle though, were the exploding bases of the two towering ice pillars, the gang member cutting their legs out from under them to send them crashing at Mirai like dominoes. She wasted no time leaping out of the way, leaving no target except the buildings behind her for the ice pillars to hit. Despite their size, the pillars were no match for the stable foundations of the storefronts, smashing into hundreds of individual shards of ice. Mirai let out a breath of relief, only to sharply retract it as the fragments began to levitate up from the ground, each shard shining with sharpness. Blue aura rushed to her hands, but instead of giving her a way out of the situation, it only showed her how much trouble she was really in. Whether it was intentional strategy or just a stroke of luck, Mirai couldn’t tell, but with the ice chunks all broken up, it was incredibly difficult for her to get a decent grip on the threads of more than ten of them. Unfortunately, there was about thirty frost daggers currently flying at her. Time slowed to a crawl, not literally, just in Mirai’s mind as she ran through the options of how she could counter the oncoming stabbing that would potentially befall her. Her peripheral vision worked around her surroundings, finding anything useful in the area. There was the road, though it was on the opposite side of the street, having been flipped horizontally to the point it was now resting on the other row of buildings (it was large, so it reached the tops of them). There was a trash can to her side, though the lid was neither wide or thick enough to properly serve as a shield. The only other thing of any interest was the ice-man standing in the middle of the former road. His posture and general lack of movement were sloppy, and he usually only launched a counter-attack when she got too close. He was jumpy, and inexperienced, thought that didn’t really matter since he was about to fucking kill her unless she came up with a plan in the next half a second. Trash can. Road. Jumpy ice-man. The faintest idea of a strategy popped into Mirai’s mind which really wasn’t enough to go off of, but considering she could almost feel the swarm of shards burrowing into her, it wasn’t like she had any better option. With a quick turn on her heel, Mirai ripped the trash lid from it’s can and rolled onto the dirt path where the road used to be. As expected, the shards made a telepathic turn, following her path nearly perfectly. She had about five seconds until they reached her. Fwoosh! She harshly stuck her leg out to the side, earning a predictable jump out of the man, who yelped before immediately used his free hand to conjure up a blast of ice. Coercing your enemy into firing another attack at you, when there was already a school’s worth of knives flying at you was a bold move, but one that benefited her if pulled off correctly. The block ice raced at her, though Mirai couldn’t help but wish it was a bit faster when considering how quickly the blades flew through the air. As soon as it was in distance, Mirai leapt forward, having to shift her body weight considerably in the small window of opportunity that saw her not being stabbed. In mid-air, she thrust the garbage lid in front of her, before balancing her feet into the underside of its frame. BAM! The ice wall had significantly more force behind it than the trash can, which was exactly what Mirai had been counting on. Suffering no more than a dent in the lids metal, she was sent flying up into the air and out of the path of the flying blades. Said blades immediately tried to follow her upwards, but this was more a disadvantage than anything resembling a positive. In fact, their predictable pattern tracking played right into Mirai’s hands, as she re-aimed the trash-can lid at the straight school of ice before launching it forwards with enough force to send her even further up in the air. The metal had enough momentum behind it to break through the oncoming shard wave, at least initially. By the time the daggers managed to overpower it through numbers, Mirai was already in perfect position. All she had needed was air time, and the boost from kicking off the lid was just enough (at least she hoped) to clear the upper lining of the road. Her fingers clenched around strings as she went flying through the air. Her arm was already sore from its previous uses but Mirai held strong as the roads thread began to wrap around it. She yanked forwards, though it didn’t need much force to simply begin tipping back over, it’s motion in the reverse of how it had been launched. The hulking mass of road briefly flew into the air, before beginning to descend back to its rightful place in the middle of the street. Shadows became cast over the ice-man’s beady eyes, which quickly morphed from annoyed to fearful. “SHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT!” He murmured, as the small bits of lose gravel came falling down to earth like a twisted hell-world rain. The intention behind the flipping wasn’t in any way to harm the man though. Instead, its purpose was clearly set on the shards that had come up just short of reaching Mirai. SLAM! While the man escaped harm’s way, the fragments very much did not, being closed into the underside of the pavement as it resumed its place as the road like nothing had ever happened. There was no time to waste however, Mirai sliding down the side of a building in a successful effort to quall some of her downward momentum before immediately taking off into a sprint at the ice-man. Considering she’d just nearly broken her legs off the fall, it would’ve been expected for Mirai to start playing defense right about now, but when you took into account the fact that Mirai had had to utilize a flipped patch of road to avoid an attack that the ice-man could replicate in about three seconds, she had no time to do anything but attack. The man himself was visibly out of breath (that or nauseous), having bent himself over next to the “freshly” laid road in what could’ve been either panting or an attempt to throw up. His beady eyes just barely caught the oncoming super before she entered striking distance, but that tiny window of time was more than enough for him to unleash a counter. His bony fingers became outstretched as a hasty blast of ice flew out in front of him. It’s intended use could be derided from the way it looked. It was generally sharp at some vertices, but its core structure was overwhelmingly designed to try and induce blunt force trauma. It was at that point that Mirai fully confirmed in her mind how uncreative this man really was. She’d betted her whole strategy on his next attack being a semi-wide ice block and he’d not disappointed. Immediately the construct began to move backwards in time, as if someone had just clicked “rewind” on a TV remote. The ice-man began to recoil, but before he could do anything to properly defend himself, his arm was clutched and he began to be tugged forwards. Mirai was never particularly fond of martial arts, but she’d studied them in order not to be considered completely useless in a hand-to-hand situation. Even if they were rusty, she was still evidently more than match for whatever her opponent could muster. With one hand grabbing his, and the other still holding the thread that canceled out his attack, Mirai converted his backward momentum into her own, going to the ground, while also flinging him forwards. As soon as she’d confirmed he’d been taken off his feet, Mirai reversed the ice structures time, resolidifying it around her enemy. For a fleeting moment, she had thought she’d won, trapping the man with his own abilities and minimal effort. Then she heard a loud crack follow by a louder scream. “YOU FUCKING BITCH!” The words rung out loud. Mirai couldn’t see him, the her-facing part of the structure holding strong, but the cadence of his voice painted a clear enough picture. What painted a clearer picture was the blast of ice that skirted around the sculpture, smashing into Mirai with force. She bounced across the road like a rubber ball, continually smashing against the ground, bouncing up again and then smashing back-down. While her momentum stopped, the same couldn’t be said for the wall of ice, which continued to hurtle forwards. It was too big for tactile time to stop it long enough for her to get out of the way. Clutching its threads would fare better but it was still way too wide for her to get out of the way in time. Her mind began to race again, attempting to think her way out of the incoming brick that was about to turn her into red mist. If it was a bit smaller… That was it. Mirai’s fingers formed into a diamond over her eyeline, making the hurtling ice block seem meager from what she could see. Psionic blue outlines traced over her hands, sending fragments of light refracting into her eyeglasses. Threads began to glue to her, Mirai’s mind shaping their formation and power. As the ice grew nearer, her connection grew stronger, before, in one sharp motion, she tossed her hands to the side and pulled back. The ice continued to race forwards, splintering over the road. All except the middle. Mirai would’ve smiled if she hadn’t been so focused. Using her threads, she’d segmented off the part of the ice she’d wanted to stop. Yet again, the Ice-Man’s lack of creativity had proven his downfall, as the ice’s constant cracking gave Mirai the chance to cheat death. The square patch in front of her stopped completely, leaving a decent-sized gap in the middle of the ice structure. Its sides hurtled past her, the compacted cold that radiated from them sending shivers down her spine. Her mind wasn’t affected though, the super focusing 100% of her effort on controlling the subsection. Her arm ached for her to somehow dispose of it, but she couldn’t just rewind it out of existence lest she risk undermining the blasts foundation and sending it hurtling on top of her. Soon enough, she became clear of the blast radius, night sky once again coming into view. To avoid any continued strain on her arm, she released the smaller blocks thread (though not before moving out of the way). Her eyes quickly darted into action, trying to find a lock on the ice-man, but what she ended up looking at was a lot more than just him. The gang member was standing there, back-turned towards her, panting. Large, jagged sculptures of ice had been pierced through the buildings that adorned the streets in what Mirai could only assume was some sort of weird tantrum that the man had thrown. If she was correct, it could quite possibly be the most expensive tempter-tantrum this side of the H-area. It was in that moment, seeing the massive ice-structures that Mirai realized she had no chance of winning this fight, not at this stage. The way the man’s cat-like eyes began to glare at her from over his shoulder only deepened that feeling. A silence not dissimilar to a Mexican stand-off, both’s nerves on the edge waiting for the other to make the first move. … … … FWOOSH! The Ice-Man was the first to falter, thrusting his arm outwards, frost crawling at his fingertips. Mirai reacted in nothing less than a split second, grabbing onto the thread connected to his arm in an attempt to pull halt the attack. TWANG! Her eyes widened. The thread had snapped. Now, this wasn’t unusual in the grand scheme of things. She’d learnt from pretty early in her career that her threads didn’t always react well with the human body, especially when it moved. It was simply too complex for her to, firstly, get a decent grip on it in the first place, and second, for the threads not to start bugging out at the slightest motion. She knew this, but for it to snap now… It was too late to recover, a large, almost wave-like formation of jagged ice blasting out from the man’s hand. The moonlight danced through the night’s sky, refracting off the wave’s spikes and right into Mirai’s eyeglasses. In that moment, she was sure she was dead. The attack was too fast for her to react to on her own, whether that reaction was in the form of a dodge or thread summoning. The cracking sound of the ice came at her as quickly as the attack, it’s sound sharp enough to not only amplify the dread in Mirai’s mind, but also cause her to close her eyes, only punctuating how badly the attacking was going to hurt. The girl seized up, fully expecting to be turned into a human slice of cheese in the next millisecond. And then the sound stopped. For a few seconds, Mirai thought she may be dead, attributing her loss of life to the silence, but she quickly realized that her…everything was intact. She slowly reopened her eyes, immediately coming face to face with the sharpness of the ice wave. It couldn’t have been less than an inch away from her face, but anything less than “impaling her thorough her head” was a godsend in Mirai’s mind. With the fact that she wasn’t dead willing her on, Mirai’s attention snapped back to the Ice-Man’s location. A shaky hand grasped the structures thread, and pulled it back, reverting it to residual particles of water in the air. Her eyes scanned over the road. It was empty. Anger, fury, regret, self-doubt, every negative emotion you could think off ran up down her back and through her arms. Her fist clenched in a futile attempt to keep it all in, before she brough her hand up to her head, clenching at her hair and letting out a loud yell of pure, condensed frustration. Her eyes pointed squarely at the ground, maybe staying like that for 30 seconds before she realized that being photographed anywhere near this mess would be a nightmare for her image. With a regretful sigh, she began the walk-home with a grand total of 0 super villains captured. CRACK! ________________________________________________ As soon as she made it home, her fist went right through the nearest clock she could find, Mirai letting out another scream of anger before silencing it by shoving her knuckle in her mouth. She’d let the city down, she’d let herself down, she’d let dad down…but she needed to calm down. Slowly, Mirai slumped into her couch, flicking the TV on in an attempt to fill her head with enough white noise to wash away the memories of the encounter with the Ice-Man. Once she’d done that, she’d take a shower or a bath because she was freezing. She hadn’t really expected anything on the TV to grab her attention like the next sentence did. “-initially detained but has been released after CCTV footage surfaced that backed up his claim” On the screen, censored video played of a scrawny, dark-skinned man and his Japanese girlfriend walking through the streets. Suddenly, the girl dropped to the ground, clutching her head, the nature of her injury masked by the pixels of the news station. Mirai wasted little time grabbing the abstract string of the television’s signal, rewinding the screen back to what she would’ve seen had she turned the thing on a few seconds earlier. “A medic was called after a woman suffered a large stab wound into the side of her head.” Mirai brought a finger to her lips, any attempts to block out her thoughts being shelved for the moment. This was very interesting.