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  1. "Going Slightly Mad"
  2.  
  3. The conversation with Noelle had gone about as well as Kris suspected it would. Everything about stands had kind of gone over her head, and the fact that she couldn't summon her own at will didn't help much. Still, she seemed to understand that it was serious business, and had accepted Kris' suggestion to come with him and Susie to see Asriel the next day. He could probably explain it better than Kris could, and it would be good to introduce the two of them anyway. Maybe he could help them get some more insight on the motives of the person with the arrow.
  4.  
  5. His musings were interrupted by a very brief glimpse of Susie as he left the cafeteria. For some odd reason, she seemed to be going upstairs towards the roof rather than to their classroom.
  6.  
  7. Feeling somewhat uneasy, he decided to follow her up instead of attending class. If something was wrong, it was more important to deal with that, especially if it was an enemy stand.
  8.  
  9. He arrived on the roof to see nothing except Susie, who was standing dangerously close to the edge.
  10.  
  11. "Susie, you okay?" He asked, suddenly feeling panic welling up inside him. She had seemed happy and content last night, but now he found himself fearing the worst.
  12.  
  13. Susie peered down over the edge for a few more long moments before slowly turning back to face Kris, a vacant looking expression on her face. "Just getting some air." She mumbled. "Don't you have a class to get to or something?"
  14.  
  15. The way she spoke only set Kris even more on edge. It was oddly monotone and disinterested, very unlike the usual tone she had when talking to him.
  16.  
  17. "I got worried when I saw you going up here alone." He told her, the concern tangible in his voice. "I thought you might be...uh..." He struggled with what to say next, not wanting to voice the worry that came to his mind when he first saw her on the roof. "Might be dealing with an enemy stand or something."
  18.  
  19. "Well it's nothing like that." She replied flatly. "I don't need any help right now."
  20.  
  21. With that statement, she brushed past him and walked slowly back into the school. The exchange left Kris feeling confused, worried, and helpless. If Susie was going through some kind of emotional or metal problem, he didn't feel like he was in much of a position to help her. On the other hand, if it was some kind of stand related problem, he didn't even know where to begin looking for a cause, solution, or enemy stand user.
  22.  
  23. He was left to stew in these despair inducing feelings through the next class period, during which Susie simply stared out of the window that she sat next to. never even giving him a glance.
  24.  
  25. For the first time since he had started hanging out with Susie, he felt truly alone again. The way she had spoken to him on the roof had gotten to him, making him consider that she had simply decided she didn't like him anymore.
  26.  
  27. His mind raced with similar thoughts through the whole class, preventing him from paying any attention to the no doubt enthralling subject Alphys was lecturing about, Thoughts of how he may have dissapointed, offended, or failed Susie flew through his mind like so many birds flying south for the winter.
  28.  
  29. Through the haze of demoralizing thoughts, one crystal clear, sobering thought cut through. It was a memory of when Asriel told him that the first thing he should ask himself when something odd was going should be: "Is this the work of an enemy stand?" At that moment, he decided the answer must be yes. It wouldn't be fair to Susie to believe that she'd just suddenly start acting like this for no reason. He simply had to assume that this was the effect of a stand ability.
  30.  
  31. Of course, this decision didn't help him solve the problem, but it did put him at ease in an odd way. Beating the tar out of an enemy stand user was in some ways less daunting than trying to play therapist.
  32.  
  33. Mercifully, after what felt like forever, the bell finally rung. The sound came as a relief to Kris, who was all too eager to start trying to get the bottom of Susie's sudden, odd behavior.
  34.  
  35. Despite the fact that she seemed to be pretending he wasn't there, Susie didn't seem to mind it when Kris walked with her out of school.
  36.  
  37. "Heading home already?" Kris asked her, desperately hoping for some kind of response. Instead, he only got the same silence she had been displaying since their brief chat on the roof, staring forward with a glassy looking stare the whole time.
  38.  
  39. Not knowing what else to do, Kris simply followed her in the hopes of getting some kind of useful information once she reached her destination.
  40.  
  41. The two of them walked in silence for for so long that the sun began to set, casting it's final rays above the rooftops of the town. The whole thing made Kris even more confused and on edge as time continued to pass. Yet, with no other leads on what was going on, and wanting to keep an eye on his friend, he continued to follow her.
  42.  
  43. As they passed by Asriel's place, the area around it devoid of pedestrians, Susie suddenly stepped out into the middle of the street. To Kris' horror, she made no sign of moving as a car bore down on her. the large vehicle seeming like it wasn't going to be able to swerve out of the way in time.
  44.  
  45. Acting quickly, he threw out his stand and shoved Susie to the other side of the road. He breathed a sigh of relief as the car continued down the road with a honk, but without having hit  Susie.
  46.  
  47. As Kris finished crossing the road to make sure Susie was all right, he heard a loud, malevolent chuckling from an alleyway behind him.
  48.  
  49. "You REALLY shouldn't have done that, boy." Came a hoarse, croaking voice. "You would have been better off letting her die. Now I get to kill both of you in one go!"
  50.  
  51. The voice's owner stepped out of the shadowy alley, revealing himself to be a rotund clown looking figure complete with face paint and a mask bearing a permanent, maniacal smile.
  52.  
  53.  "You guys really need to stop showing yourself to brag about your stands." Kris replied. "You're going to regret showing yourself to stroke your own ego."
  54.  
  55.  "Come now, boy. This is hardly for the sake of my own ego." The clown said, with a surprising lack of humor. "I've been targeting you with my stand for quite a while now, and it seems like it hasn't had any effect. I want to know why."
  56.  
  57.  "You're the ace of hearts, right?" Kris asked, not knowing the answer to the clown's question.
  58.  
  59.  "I am indeed!" The clown exclaimed happily, punctuating it with a dramatic bow. "So, I take it the queen told you about me and my stand, then."
  60.  
  61.  Kris simply nodded, turning briefly to look at Susie, who had risen from the sidewalk and was now staring at him with a blank expression. She seemed okay, for now at least.
  62.  
  63.  "She told us about your stand." Kris stated, turning his attention back to the clown. "But it looks more like it hypnotizes people rather than creates a new personality."
  64.  
  65.  "Is that how she explained it?" The clown hummed disappointedly. "Well, it doesn't quite work like that. Allow me to explain."
  66.  
  67. Kris rolled his eyes, but allowed the ace of hearts to keep talking. As annoying as it was to hear people blab about their stands, he did need to know how it worked.
  68.  
  69. "Everyone's had that dark little thought at least once in their lives. That passing thought that maybe, just maybe the world would be better off without them."
  70.  
  71. Kris already didn't like where this was going, and the clown's jovial tone wasn't helping matters.
  72.  
  73. "My point is that everyone has a little bit of suicidal ideation down there. Whether it's buried deep down or right there on the surface, just waiting for a little nudge to bring it to the front of the mind. My stand, 'Going Slightly Mad' latches onto that little seed of self hatred and slowly but surely makes it grow, until it can use that emotion to posses the target."
  74.  
  75. Kris turned back to check on Susie again. Sure enough, she was still staring at him with the same glazed over expression that she'd had since noon."And you're possessing Susie right now, I take it?"
  76.  
  77. "Well...not possessing, exactly." The clown admitted. "See, my stand can indeed take control of a person, but it's autonomous when it does so, looking only for ways to get the host killed. The only time it strays from that goal is when someone attempts to stop it. At that point, it tries to eliminate whoever's helping keep it's host alive. In this case, that person is you."
  78.  
  79. That did not sound good. Kris didn't know how he'd handle a scenario where he was forced to fight Susie. Keeping both of them alive was going to be a real challenge.
  80.  
  81. "So why am I not being attacked right now? Your stand seems awfully passive."
  82.  
  83. The clown cackled at Kris' question, taking a couple steps back into the alley. "It won't start fighting until I'm done talking with you. Which I soon will be, seeing as I still can't figure out why my stand couldn't control you. Your friend more than made up for that little setback though. She was so very, very easy to control. Evidently, she's heard the call of the void and thought about answering more often than most."
  84.  
  85. At this, Kris lost his temper. Not that anyone would have been able to tell by looking at his face, which still had the same stoic expression he usually wore.
  86.  
  87. Kris brought out his stand and began to charge across the street, intent on introducing his fists to the clown's face. However, his eager charge was quickly brought to an end when a powerful hand grabbed him by the shoulder and flung him down to the pavement.
  88.  
  89. It took only a few moments for him to recover from the harsh landing on the concrete. One of the dubious benefits of being a stand user was that you could handle a lot more blunt force trauma than most, and it had probably saved him from a concussion here.
  90.  
  91. He still barely recovered in time to roll out of the way of Susie's foot as it came stomping down where his head had been resting. Kris shuddered to think what that might have done to his face if he had been too slow, the idea driving home the fact that fighting Susie was not something he wanted to use his time doing.
  92.  
  93. Kris quickly sprung to his feet as he took a brief glance at the alley where the clown had been standing, revealing that he was gone, leaving Kris to deal with his possessed friend alone.
  94.  
  95. It wasn't long after he had gotten to his feet that Susie was on the attack again, coming at him with both fists trying to make contact with his face.
  96.  
  97. Despite the fact that the clown's stand didn't seem to be able to puppet Susie's own stand, Kris found himself unable to bring himself to attack back. Sure, he could easily incapacitate her with his stand, but he felt sure there must be some way to do this without hurting her. Besides, he knew that 'Going Slightly Mad' wanted Susie to get herself killed, and would likely try and make him kill her by mistake.
  98.  
  99. It was with the sudden twang of a string that his answer revealed itself, as a dart came flying down from a second floor window of Asriel's house on a direct course for Susie's neck.
  100.  
  101. Susie reacted quickly, breaking from her vicious assault on Kris to move out of the way of the dart, letting it hit the pavement harmlessly.  
  102.  
  103. Seeing his chance, Kris rewound time. The events passed in reverse and slow motion, allowing him to see Asriel standing at that window with a small mechanical crossbow in his hand.
  104.  
  105. Once the rewind ended, Kris lunged forward with his stand and grabbed Susie in a tight bear hug. the hold probably wouldn't normally have kept her there long, but it stopped her long enough for the dart to make contact with the back of her neck.
  106.  
  107. As Kris had guessed, the dart must have contained some kind of tranquilizer, as Susie's eyes soon drifted closed, her body going limp in Kris' arms.
  108.  
  109. "Bring her inside, will you?" Came Asriel's voice from the open window. "And hurry up before some passerby gets the wrong idea."
  110.  
  111. With no small effort, and mostly thanks to the enhanced strength his stand granted him, he managed to get Susie into Asriel's house, gently placing her on one of the dining room chairs.
  112.  
  113. "Az, not that I'm complaining, but why do you have tranquilizer darts lying around?" Kris asked his friend as he came downstairs wearing a casual looking hoodie and jeans, the miniature crossbow strapped to a belt on his waist.
  114.  
  115. "Look, Kris, I'm a standless guy that likes to hang around stand users." Asriel replied with a smug looking grin. "Those people attract trouble like Internet chat rooms attract horny guys, and I don't want to be totally useless when that comes around."
  116.  
  117. "How long were you sitting on THAT analogy?" Kris asked with a groan.
  118.  
  119. "Longer than I'll admit." Asriel chuckled at him. "Now then, what are we dealing with here?"
  120.  
  121. Kris took the time while they were tying Susie to the chair to explain the Ace of Hearts' stand to Asriel. The more he said, the more Asriel's cocky look dropped off his face, replaced by a worried look.
  122.  
  123. "Unlimited range, huh?" The furry monster mumbled, shaking his head. "Those things are the worst to try and fight, as far as I understand it. Your best bet is to try and figure out where the stand user is now. Getting rid of him seems to be the only way we have of freeing Susie."
  124.  
  125. As great of an idea as Kris thought that was, it had one little problem with it. He had no clue where the clown was going. "That's going to be a little difficult, seeing as he didn't see fit to tell me where he was running off to."
  126.  
  127. Asriel shrugged. "Take a wild guess, then. He just revealed himself to you, and his stand apparently has infinite range. The best thing for him to do would be to get out of town as soon as possible."
  128.  
  129. Kris mulled the idea over for a few moments, tossing the possibilities around in his head. "We don't have a local airport, and barring a car, that means the quickest way would be the train station."
  130.  
  131. Asriel quickly took out his phone and looked something up. "Next train arrives in...20 minutes. If you run to the train station, and I do mean RUN, you should be able to catch him."
  132.  
  133. "In a public place like a train station?" Kris asked incredulously. "Isn't that a bit of a problem?"
  134.  
  135. "In a town like this, nobody's using the train this late in the evening." Asriel answered as he finished getting Susie securely restrained to the chair. "You had REALLY better hurry, Kris. We can't keep her like this forever."
  136.  
  137. Kris merely gave his friend a nod before sprinting out the door and towards the train station, not wanting to waste any more time on idle chatter. Asriel was right, if he fucked this up, there was going to be no second chance to save Susie.
  138.  
  139. His desire to save her became the fuel that propelled him on his mad sprint to the train station, ignoring the fire in his lungs and joints as he pushed his body to the limit.
  140.  
  141. He only stopped once he reached the station. The dark platform was illuminated only by a couple lights, revealing one lone figure sitting on a bench.
  142.  
  143. Mere moments after he had caught his breath in preparation to confront who he assumed to be the ace of hearts, his phone rang. A quick look at the number revealed it to be Asriel, prompting Kris to quickly answer the call.
  144.  
  145. "Hey, I figured you'd have made it by now." Asriel's voice was comforting to hear, making Kris feel like he was less alone at the platform than he really was.
  146.  
  147. "Don't waste time talking to me now." Asriel continued. Just put me on speaker and leave the call going. I want to be here if you need help or...moral support or something. I won't distract you any more than I already have."
  148.  
  149. Kris gave his friend a quick "Gotcha." in reply, before putting the speaker on and pocketing his phone again.
  150.  
  151. Striding confidently up onto the station platform, Kris was glad to see that the figure on the bench was indeed the ace of hearts. The wretched looking clown scrambled up from his seat as he noticed Kris approaching, and darted with surprising speed to the doors of the station building.
  152.  
  153. "Bleh! You guessed where I was headed, did you, brat?" He growled at Kris. "Well, just try and get me inside the station! there might only be one or two staff members on duty this late in the evening, but they won't hesitate to come and help a poor, defenseless clown if some little punk tries to beat him up!"
  154.  
  155. The clown's words prompted Kris to break into his own sprint toward the doors, though he could already tell that he wasn't going to beat the clown inside. That was going to be an issue. He couldn't just beat the shit out of someone in public, especially since the staff inside wouldn't know about stands.
  156.  
  157. Suddenly, Asriel's voice came over his phone. "Kris. Rewind the clown."
  158.  
  159. "Rewinding won't help, Az!" Kris shouted back. "If I rewind time I rewind my own position too. I won't get any distance out of that!"
  160.  
  161. "I didn't say rewind time. I said rewind the fucking clown, Kris." The monster's voice was surprisingly calm, given the situation. "You can rewind a single object or person at a time, Kris. You just have to focus."
  162.  
  163. "How do you know I can do that?" Kris yelled again, still running towards the doors.
  164.  
  165. "Because if you can't, then we might not be able to save Susie, and I'm not ready to give up on her yet. Are you?"
  166.  
  167. That final question convinced Kris to try it. With a deep breath, even during his desperate sprint, he concentrated as hard as he could on the clown, who had just about reached the doors of the lighted building.
  168.  
  169. Gritting his teeth and praying to the angel, he activated his stand's ability. Much to his surprise, instead of everything rewinding in slow motion as would usually happen, Kris watched as the clown seemingly moonwalked...or moon-ran, backwards.
  170.  
  171. by the time the localized rewind was over, the clown was in the same spot he was five seconds before Kris started rewinding him. This put him right in grabbing range of Kris's stand, and put a smile on the human's face.
  172.  
  173. A look of pure shock and disbelief came over the ace of hearts as Kris took hold of him by the collar of his shirt and pulled him backwards, tossing him away from the station building.
  174.  
  175. "Now then. I think I said something about making you regret bragging about your stand." Kris stated, bringing his stand's sword up against the clown's throat.
  176.  
  177. "W-wait, please!" The darkener squeaked, a look of fear in his eyes despite the smile that the mask fixed upon his face. "Please spare me! Spare me and I swear I won't bother you or your friends again! I-I'll even leave town, or leave the country!"
  178.  
  179. Kris simply shook his head at his cowering foe, putting away the sword and brandishing his stand's fists. Something quick was too good for someone like this.
  180.  
  181. "I need to send a message to your boss." The human stated solemnly. "The message that if he keeps sending people, they're going to keep dying. And besides, you tried to take Susie's life. Not only that, you tried to take it in the most cowardly way I can imagine, a way that would leave everyone thinking it was a suicide. For that, you owe me something you can't pay back with money."
  182.  
  183. With those final words, he tossed the clown up into the air and began driving his stand's spectral fists into him over and over again. The punches he threw were flung at such a speed that it almost seemed as if he stand was punching with more than two fists at a time.
  184.  
  185. He was almost sure that the anger burning in his soul toward the loathesome clown was making him hit harder. He could feel his foe's body break just a little but more with every hit he delivered, every punch only making him want to hit faster and harder, until the clown finally turned to dust midair.
  186.  
  187. After he caught his breath, recovering from the brief blind rage he had found himself in, he took a quick look around the platform. Not seeing any prying eyes, he decided to make a quick getaway before anyone found him standing over a pile of monster dust.
  188.  
  189. "I got him, Az." He spoke into his phone as he began a slow walk back to Asriel's place. "Susie should be fine now."
  190.  
  191. "Yeah, I heard." Asriel replied, his voice clearly full of pride. "Good going, Kris. I'll make sure Susie's awake when you get back."
  192.  
  193. Asriel was true to his word, as the first thing Kris saw when he opened the door to Asriel's house was Susie and the tall boss monster having what seemed to be a serious discussion over a cup of tea.
  194.  
  195. The relief and joy Kris felt on seeing Susie looking normal again was too much for him, and he was unable to restrain himself from running up to her and embracing her.
  196.  
  197. "Uhh, Kris...you okay there, freak?" Susie asked, confused by the gesture but not making any moves to stop him. "Your weird friend was just telling me about some clown or something."
  198.  
  199. Kris couldn't muster an answer for a while. He could only think of what the ace of hearts had said about Susie, how she 'heard the call of the void...and thought about answering.'
  200.  
  201. "Susie..." He finally muttered, tearing up a little. "I'd miss you if you were gone, you know?"
  202.  
  203. It wouldn't exactly make sense to her at the moment, but he needed to tell her how he felt.
  204.  
  205. "O...kay then, freak." She managed to say, sounding incredibly befuddled. "Not that I don't...uh...appreciate the sentiment, but what made you think I was planning on leaving? The last thing I remember was leaving your dad's house this morning."
  206.  
  207. Kris took a deep breath before managing to release her from the tight hug, looking up at her face to see a faint blush on it.
  208.  
  209. "Oh boy." He sighed, regaining his own composure. "We've got a lot to tell you."
  210.  
  211. And tell it he did. The whole story of her brief time spent possessed by 'Going Slightly Mad.' she seemed quite disturbed by the whole story, even though Kris left out the part where the clown told him some personal things about her. In the end though, she appeared relieved and grateful that Kris had managed to free her from the clown's control.
  212.  
  213. "Geez, that's two I owe you now, freak." She sighed at the end of the story, leaning back in the chair and stretching her arms with a yawn. "Better not let those rack up too much, huh?"
  214.  
  215. "I'm not keeping score." Kris assured her. "I definitely wouldn't be alive without you, and vice versa. We keep each other safe, that's what a team does."
  216.  
  217. "Yeah, I guess." She grumbled. "Still, it'd be nice to save your life for once. I'm no damsel in distress or anything gay like that."
  218.  
  219. "I'm sure you'll get your chance." Kris told her with an almost imperceptible grin. "I doubt the Knight's done with us yet."
  220.  
  221. Susie took on a grin of her own at that comment, though hers was an eager, ear to ear smile. "Maybe not, but we'll make him wish he had never started by the time he's finished."
  222.  
  223. "Amen to that." Kris murmured, finding it somewhat difficult to be too enthused by the prospect of more fighting. "For now, you want to try and finish that movie we slept through the other night?"
  224.  
  225. "Hell yeah!" Susie cheered, leaping up from her chair. "We'd better hurry up and get to your dad's then, before we have to deal with ANOTHER stand user, huh?"
  226.  
  227. Kris nodded in reply, rising from his own seat and thanking Asriel for his help before bidding his furry friend farewell. As he walked off to his father's house with Susie, he made a resolution to make the most of what scant time he was given to spend with Susie between the increasingly dangerous conflicts they were being forced into. If this incident had done anything for him, it had made him realize exactly how much he now felt like he needed her, and that the feeling might be mutual to some extent.
  228.  
  229. It was with pleasant thoughts like these that he eventually ended up drifting off to sleep on the couch with Susie later that night. the two of them simply unable to keep their eyes open after the night's events. Yet, Kris' dreams would end up being far less agreeable than the thoughts he went to sleep with...
  230.  
  231. <-- To be continued.
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