Eleven months worth of lazy writing made a glopping noise as it flowed endlessly onto UnluckyStar's readers...


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Chapter 4: Eve of the Festival - Part 1

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He awoke to his cell phone ringing.

At six in the morning.

On a fucking Sunday.

Accelerator clawed at his phone in the semi-darkness, attempting to silence it… and inadvertently knocked it off his nightstand and out of his reach.

"God… fucking… DAMN IT."

Infuriated, he was forced to clamber out of his warm bed and stagger through the cold morning air to retrieve the wayward communicator. Snatching it off the floor, Accelerator jammed the receiver into his ear, swearing swift death to whoever was on the other end of the line,

"Who the fuck is this?"

"Sup bro!" came the sing song voice of Aogami Pierce.

Accelerator immediately hung up and threw his phone across the room. It hit the wall with a dull thump before bouncing somewhere behind his desk. He slowly crawled back into the comfort of his bed, satisfied that the problem was taken care of.

…A heartbeat later, his phone started ringing again. And again. And again…

Fuck modern science for making Academy City cell phones nearly indestructible.

His phone finally went silent after the fifth consecutive missed call. Accelerator relaxed under the covers. He was going to fucking murder the shithead later, but first he needed sleep…

Just as he was about to drift off again, his bedroom door slammed open. A teenage girl that looked roughly his age walked in, sporting a shirt that was several times too large for her. Judging from the glazed look in her eyes, it was obvious that she had just gotten up.

"Yooooo." she yawned, lazily scratching at her tousled brown hair.

Accelerator's mood was getting shittier by the second.

"Get the fuck-!"

"You got a call." she interrupted. Without waiting for a response, she tossed her cell phone at him. With another yawn she shuffled out, shutting the door behind her.

Accelerator barely caught the still-open phone as it sailed right above his head, swearing savagely into the receiver. The voice of the persistent pervert greeted him once again,

"Hey man, I think we had some interference or-"

"Do you have any fucking idea what time it is!" Accelerator screamed, "Why the fuck do you have her number!"

"She offered it to me." Pierce answered with pride, "She said something about trying to annoy you with it."

"…Then why in the fuck would you give it to her anyway?"

"A man doesn't turn down a girl that wants to exchange numbers."

Accelerator had to make a conscious effort to not flip on his switch and crush the phone with his bare hands.

"Look man, I'm sorry I called so late, but this is important! I need to let you know about something." Pierce interjected.

Perhaps it was due to Pierce's bizarre statement about it being "late", or maybe he had been rendered speechless from sheer rage… for whatever reason, Accelerator was having trouble articulating his unbridled hatred towards the blue haired idiot.

The momentary lapse in insults left Pierce enough time to continue talking,

"So yea, basically I bought this sweet magical girl Kanamin battle uniform, but I had to be out of town today because I'm cheering for my mom at a fighting game tournament. But I didn't want them to just leave it by the doorstep, cuz' someone might steal it. So I mailed it to your address instead; that way you can just hold on to it for me until I get back tomorrow. I put it under your name too, so there shouldn't be any problem. That's cool with you, right?"

Accelerator was midway through telling Pierce to go fuck himself, but stopped as he realized a crucial part of what Pierce had just said.

"…"

"Uh… hello? You there man?"

Without saying a word, Accelerator dropped the phone and got out of bed. He grabbed his cane and flung his bedroom door open, bee lining straight for the front door of his apartment. It was still early, so the bitch probably went back to bed. As long as he could destroy the freak's package before-

His thoughts ground to a halt as he beheld package stuffing strewn across the front entrance. A small box sat to the side, completely empty.

And in the middle of it all she sat, looking as if Christmas had come several months early as she held up a magical girl outfit. The teenage girl looked up at him, grinning as hard as humanly possible,

"Accelerator wants to be a magical girl?" she asked with sadistic delight.

Fuck everything.


Friday, September 18


"Please, wake up!"

Touma slowly opened his eyes. The green haired woman from yesterday swam into view above him. What was her name again? Terra? Therestina? No, that didn't sound right…

Tessou. Yea, that was it. Tessou the timid Anti-Skill. The same woman who woke him up for community service yesterday… and today, apparently. She must have been assigned to get him every morning. She was pretty close to his face though… not that he was complaining or anything. Man, she was really cute now that he had a good look at her…

Wait a minute. No, that was wrong. He had been up when they had come for him today. Then why…

Touma blinked, realizing with a start that he was not in his bathroom, his dorm room, or even inside a building at all. Blue sky stretched beyond Tessou's messy green hair as she looked down at him with a panicked expression. He also became distinctly aware that his mouth tasted like copper.

"A-Are you ok?" Tessou asked frantically.

Touma tried to say he was fine, but instead groaned as he grew increasingly more aware of the pain in his head and back. His head lolled to his right, where he saw Pierce laying in a heap.

What the hell had happened to them?

His question was answered immediately. Touma heard footsteps from behind Tessou, though he couldn't move his neck far enough to see the one responsible for them. Tessou must had heard them as well, since she turned away from his view,

"Y-You can't! You can't assault civilians!" she protested, utterly failing at hiding the panic in her voice.

"M-Moe…" Pierce commented before coughing up blood and going still.

But Touma paid no heed to Pierce's words. Marching right past Tessou, his attacker came into view. Touma's eyes widened in horror as everything rushed back to him.


Flashback, 7:27 AM

The Anti-Skill van had come to a complete stop. Touma stretched as Tessou got up to open the double doors to the van, vainly attempting to wake up for the long day of work he had ahead of him.

"Didn't get much sleep, Kami-yan?" Tsuchimikado asked cheerfully from across the other side of the van.

Touma cast a bleary eye towards the blonde spy, "You could say that…"

Putting aside the multiple head bites and the mysterious toast that shattered his screen door, Touma's sleep cycle had been hampered by a myriad of bizarre dreams. Most of which was from the perspective of Accelerator, which he found rather disturbing.

"Nya, it must be tough living with a girl." the blonde said wisely, "I'll lend you some of my stash when we get back tonight."

Touma looked curiously at his friend as he unbuckled himself from his seat, "Stash of what?"

Tsuchimikado looked thoughtful for a moment, "Well, most of what I got focuses on maids and little sisters, but I also have a few of the 'Erotic Espers' series, which would probably suit you since it has lots of older-"

"I don't want any of that crap!" Touma hissed, trying to keep Tessou from overhearing. The last thing he needed was more bad rumors being spread around.

Tsuchimikado flashed him a knowing grin, not bothering to keep his voice down at all, "There's nothing to be ashamed of man; guys have their needs. Just make sure you return them once you're about to make your move on one of your-"

Touma punched at Tsuchimikado in annoyance, trying to get blonde to shut up. Unfortunately for him, the grinning idiot dodged at the last second. Touma's fist connected with the side of the van with a dull thump, leaving him to yelp in pain at his own self-inflicted injury. Tessou turned around with a bewildered expression, not knowing what had just transpired between the two of them,

"I-Is something wro-?"

"Owwww! God damn it Tsuchimikado!"

"Hey, it's not my fault that you swung at me. There's no need to act like that just because you're having a dry spell Kami-yan."

"You-! You're doing this on purpose you bastard!"

"What's going on in there?" Yomikawa barked from outside the van. Tessou looked extremely relieved at her interruption.

Touma gulped; after getting to know the older woman a bit more from yesterday, he could tell that she was a kind, reasonable person. Still, he didn't want to see her pissed off if he could help it.

"I-It's nothing…" he replied.

"Good to hear. Now get moving, there's plenty of work that needs done."

Grumbling to himself, Touma filed behind the others and to make his exit. He caught Accelerator smirking at him in the corner of his eye, ignoring Last Order who was bouncing around beside him. Tsuchimikado still had a stupid grin plastered across his face, and Pierce was too preoccupied with jealously watching Last Order and Accelerator's interactions to care.

Sometimes, he really wondered at his own choice in friends. Well, Accelerator wasn't exactly his friend. But he didn't consider him his enemy either. And with what all that had transpired between them, they were more than just acquaintances…

They were just… neutral. At least, that's how it seemed they were treating each other for now. Though he had a sneaking suspicion that the temperamental Level 5 still held a grudge against him, considering how Accelerator seemed to derive pleasure from his misfortune… Or maybe Accelerator was just like that to everyone?

Well, it hardly mattered anyway. He wasn't too interested in guessing at Accelerator's motivations and quirks, sleep deprived as he was.

Once outside, Touma noted that there were significantly less Anti-Skill guarding the group than there had been yesterday… in fact, only Tessou and Yomikawa were with them at the moment. He guessed that they had been pulled off of patrol duty in order to help out with the festival. It was tomorrow, after all.

After the five of them were assembled (he had left Index home today, now that he had food in the refrigerator), Yomikawa began her run-down of the situation,

"As you know, Daihaseisai starts tomorrow. So for today's community service, you will be helping with the preparations." she explained, "Pierce, Tsuchimikado, and Kamijou will go with Tessou. She'll lead you to a Daihaseisai committee coordinator, which is who you will be taking orders from. Accelerator and Last Order will come with me."

"Why am I the only one who has to deal with your bullshit?" Accelerator demanded.

"Well, you seemed so eager to use your powers yesterday, so I thought we'd put you to good use. It should be easy for you, right?" Yomikawa replied easily. Touma noticed that her smile grew a bit as she answered…

"Tch, whatever." Accelerator responded, looking none too pleased about the current situation. Last Order was a ball of energy like always, barely listening to what the older woman had to say.

"Well then, if you all understand then get moving. We have another long day ahead of us." Yomikawa concluded. She beckoned Accelerator to follow her, who grudgingly obliged after a few muttered curses. Last Order quickly followed suit, skipping alongside her two guardians.

Touma glanced at his own supervisor. The green haired woman winced at the eye contact and immediately looked towards the ground.

She was so timid… it was hard to imagine that Tessou was a legitimate member of Anti-Skill. She looked the type that would break at the first sign of conflict. Still, she must have made a good impression on somebody. How else could she have been allowed to join?

While he was busy wondering at her qualifications, Tessou decided to take the initiative,

"Um… we need to meet up with your committee coordinator… so, u-um… please follow me…?" she trailed off, directing her half command, half question at him.

…Well, he guessed the circumstances didn't really matter. Judging from her inexperience she was likely a rookie, so why not help boost her confidence a bit?

"Yes ma'am, lead the way."Touma replied with an unnecessary amount of formality. Tessou blinked in surprise before stumbling over her next sentence,

"Oh, thank… I mean, yes! Yes, right this way!" she corrected with a sudden enthusiasm that she hadn't displayed before. The green haired woman gestured for the group to follow behind her as she took off toward their destination. As she walked off, Touma noticed that a small, determined smile had overtaken her usual worried expression.

Well, that had certainly gone well.

Smiling inwardly at his own sense of accomplishment, Touma fell into place behind her. Meanwhile, Pierce and Tsuchimikado sidled up next to him,

"Dude, she's so damn moe!" Pierce whispered excitedly into his ear, "No wonder you're going after her so aggressively!"

"Nya, older girls are a critical hit for Kami-yan after all." Tsuchimikado added, elbowing him in the ribs.

"I have no idea what you're talking about, but I'm sure both of you are misreading the situation like always…" Touma deadpanned.

"Don't play dumb! You were totally sweet talking her, you bastard!" Pierce accused.

Touma responded with a long, heavy sigh. He was just too tired to argue, or even care about arguing with these two idiots. Maybe if he kept his mouth shut, they'd drop it…

Unfortunately for him, the two continued to keep the conversation alive without his input,

"Why'd she only ask Kami-yan to follow her anyway?" Tsuchimikado wondered aloud, "She didn't even include us…"

"Isn't it obvious? He's already down her route. He must have gotten some flags in from yesterday when I wasn't looking." Pierce answered matter-of-factly.

"Or maybe it's because I don't act like a suspicious delinquent or a pervert." Touma grumbled.

"Hey! Don't compare me to such a low standard! I am a perverted gentleman!" Pierce replied indignantly.

"They're the same thing."

"There's a huge difference! In the first place, a perverted gentlemen-"

"Fine, whatever. I don't care." Touma groaned, cutting Pierce off before he could go into the nuances of perversion.

Pierce gave him a rather put-off look, but switched subjects anyway,

"But seriously Kami-yan, I really gotta question the way you're handling your flags this time." Pierce commented as he folded his arms on his chest.

"I'm not raising any flags to begin with…"

Pierce continued on as if he hadn't heard him,

"I mean, your timing is spot on, but the way you are approaching her is detrimental to the route in itself. You should be working towards being her equal, not her subordinate." Pierce explained in an uncharacteristically wise fashion.

"Wouldn't it be good for Kami-yan to work his way up to her, since she's older?" Tsuchimikado asked out of curiosity.

Pierce wagged his finger in a knowing manner, "That's standard procedure for the typical 'older girl' route, yes. But her occupation fundamentally changes that scenario."

"What do you mean?"

Pierce began to warm up to the subject, "When you aim for an older girl in games, the distance in status between you and the target usually determines how the route plays out. For example, if you are going for the 'older sister' type, you must first be recognized by your target as the 'younger brother' type before you can start progressing the relationship. This is standard strategy because it operates off of starting in the target's comfort zone, which promotes route stability and minimizes the chances of flag reversal as you build your way up to her notice. The challenge from that approach centers heavily on transitioning from the friendzone and into a more intimate status."

Pierce flicked his hand, as if tossing aside what he had just said, "However certain occupations, usually those of authority, can really slow down your flag building. Miss Moe-Skill over there is a law enforcer and probably a teacher as well. Her occupations primarily focus on acting as a pseudo-parent towards people who younger than her. Another way to look at it is that she deals with people just like us on a daily basis. It is extremely hard for someone like her to see Kami-yan as anything more than just another student or delinquent. Thus, it will take an enormous amount of time and events to change a once firm and familiar relationship into something else."

"So instead, Kami-yan needs avoid getting into that friend zone in the first place and work towards being recognized as an equal from the very beginning. It runs the risk of putting her outside of her comfort zone, but at this point it's worth it. If he doesn't stand out and becomes just another student or problem child, then he will have to work much, much harder to finish the route." Pierce concluded.

"So Kami-yan is messing up his chances because he isn't sticking out enough?" Tsuchimikado summed up.

The blue haired galge gamer shrugged, "From the way it's looking, Kami-yan seems to be trying to go the long route since he just set up an event that reinforces his 'subordinate' role rather than distinguishing himself from it. Honestly, I expected better play style from someone as seasoned as he is, but maybe he has something up his sleeve that I'm just not seeing yet."

"Or maybe I'm not going for anyone and you're reading way too much into this." Touma tiredly pointed out. Honestly, if Pierce put half the effort into his studies he that he put into galge games, he'd probably have skipped a grade or two.

Pierce gave him a look of disbelief, "What, you're saying she's not your type or something? I thought you were into older girls."

"I never said she wasn't attractive…" Touma grumbled.

In fact, Tessou was pretty cute in his opinion. He normally went for the more 'Onee-san' motherly types, but there was something about her awkwardness that was endearing to him. Not to mention that she had a particularly nice figure…

Touma suddenly realized that his eyes were lingering on Tessou's backside for a bit longer than appropriate… particularly on her butt. He quickly adverted his gaze.

"Nya, your eyes sure are honest Kami-yan."

"Go to hell."

As if on cue, Tessou stopped and turned to face them,

"Your committee coordinator should be here any minute now, so um… we'll just wait here until she comes." she announced.

"Oh uh… ok, thanks." Touma replied awkwardly, suddenly very much aware of how cute her messy hair and glasses made her look. Trying to preoccupy his wondering mind, Touma looked at his surroundings.

Academy City had been transformed from what it was a few days prior. Colorful stalls lined the streets, prepared by students who hoped to glean a profit from the upcoming festival. Most of them were already up for tomorrow's opening day, but Touma could make out a few students in the distance, hurriedly setting up their attractions for the big day.

Touma sighed unhappily. Had this disaster never happened, he would have been spending his day off scouting out which stalls had the best deals on food. If he pitched in to help the students working at the last minute, he even might have been able to get a discount. It would have certainly helped to stretch what limited money he had.

Instead, he was stuck with Tsuchimikado and Pierce for the whole day. He supposed it was an upgrade from yesterday; they were easier to talk to then Accelerator. But dealing with their antics on less than four hours of sleep was an exercise in patients all the same. More of an exercise than usual, anyway.

"So is our coordinator a girl?" Pierce asked, detracting from Touma's thoughts.

Tessou nodded, "She's about your age."

"Cool. What's she like?"

Tessou apparently saw nothing wrong with Pierce's line of questioning,

"I heard she's a very hard worker and that she's been instrumental to this area's preparation. We have a lot less 'last minute' problems this year than we did last year." Tessou explained.

Her face suddenly lit up,

"If you're interested in that sort of thing, I'm sure you could ask her about it. I think being involved with school activities would be a wonderful experience for you!" Tessou advised enthusiastically, as if she was trying to straighten out a troubled delinquent.

Pierce just shrugged, "I don't know about that. I'm already class rep, but the parameters are different than what I was expecting. Anime makes student council look a lot more fun than it really is."

Tessou gave him a bizarre look, but decided to hold her tongue, "I see…"

She was probably wondering how someone like Pierce could possibly land the position of class rep… something that Touma had also wondered about quite a few times. Of course, it's not like Pierce acted like one anyway; as far as Touma could tell, he hadn't lifted a finger concerning Daiha-

Fear suddenly griped Touma's heart. He knew something was wrong, that he had subconsciously picked up on something dangerous. He had yet to fully understand it, but he had no doubt he was right.

Run. He had to run. Something terrible would happen if he didn't-

"Oh look, there she is!" Tessou suddenly spoke up, looking right past his shoulder. Following her line of sight, Touma turned his head…

The girl was approximately ten meters away. Blue uniform. Long black hair. Large forehead. Massive bust size. Touma's throat went dry as he realized the source of his irrational fear.

Fukiyose Seiri, the Iron Wall.

She was going to kill them. There was nothing uncertain about it. After what they had done to the school, there was just no way that someone as straight-laced as Fukiyose would let them go unpunished.

Touma began to backpedal out of reflex, but knew intellectually that it was already too late.

One step. Fukiyose was already in punching range of Pierce, who was still turning his head to look her way. The poor bastard wouldn't even know what hit him. Tsuchimikado was attempting to run in the opposite direction. He must have seen her right before Tessou did.

Two steps. Gone. Pierce was gone. His body had flown outside of Touma's peripheral vision. Fukiyose had already grabbed Tsuchimikado by the leg and was yanking him back towards her.

Two and a half steps. Tsuchimikado was stomped into the ground by Fukiyose. He swore he saw the ground crack underneath the blonde's corpse. Now she was looking directly at him-!

As soon as he completed his third step, Touma kicked off the ground with all his strength. He had no delusions of dodging Fukiyose. This was simply a method to reduce the amount of force her punch would deliver. He brought up his hands to guard his-

"GAHK!" Touma gurgled as Fukiyose straight-punched him in the jaw. Stars exploded in his head as he arced in the air. After a few seconds of hang time, he felt himself crashing back to the earth. All thoughts escaped his mind as he landed head-first into something particularly hard, and his world turned black…


Touma faded back to the present, staring right into the eyes of a supremely pissed off Fukiyose Seiri. Ignoring the protesting Tessou, the busty class rep grabbed and lifted him by his throat, forcing his body into a standing position. Touma tapped her shoulder wildly, trying to signal that he had given up. Fukiyose only increased the pressure, her face even and unyielding.

"Kamijou Touma." she began, fixing him with a stare that could freeze helium, "While I believe you are not innocent in this incident, I also believe that the three of you are not capable of demolishing a school by yourself."

Fukiyose's grip got even tighter, "You will tell me who was responsible for its destruction."

Left with little choice, Touma hurriedly choked out a name,

"A-Accelerator…ghk!… did it…"

Fukiyose's eyes narrowed, "Are you making fun of me? Why would the Accelerator be involved?"

"Don't know…hnug!..new…student...gnff!" Touma gasped. His vision was becoming cloudier and cloudier…

"He's telling the truth! Accelerator was the one behind it!" Tsuchimikado vouched from where he lay.

"Y-Yea! He was the one that was destroying everything! He's also doing community service! White hair, red eyes, you can't miss him!" Pierce added hastily.

Fukiyose stared at Touma for a moment, trying to discern whether or not he was leading her on. After what seemed like forever, she finally relented and let go of his neck. He dropped to the ground, coughing and sputtering as he gasped for oxygen. After several deep breaths of precious air, Touma shakily looked back up at towering Iron Wall.

"The three of you, stand up." she ordered.

Touma gulped but did as he was told. Pierce and Tsuchimikado mimicked him.

The busty class rep began her speech without preamble,

"Personally, I want to relieve some pent up stress and beat the snot out of the three of you in the name of our student body."

The three of them flinched.

"…Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of doing so when Daihaseisai's right around the corner. We are still behind schedule, and I need extra hands to make sure everything gets done in time."

Fukiyose gestured towards a crate next to Tsuchimikado,

"The street we are on will be hosting a parade tomorrow. We need to make sure that people don't accidently clog the road. Your job is to set up 'no access' signs every five meters along both sides of the street. There should be several in the box."

She looked over at Tessou, acknowledging her for the first time,

"The parade stretches for eight kilometers, so what we have won't be enough to cover the entire route. You will supervise Pierce and Tsuchimikado setting up what we have, while Kamijou goes to get more. If they give you trouble, let me know."

Tessou, who was still considerably shaken from the events that had just transpired, gave a hesitant 'yes'. She opened her mouth as if to protest something, but Fukiyose cut her off,

"I need to take care of a few things. I'll be back in thirty minutes." she concluded before locking on to Touma, "The extra signs are located at the staging area near Seventh Mist. If you have not returned with the signs by the time I get back, I will fetch you myself. Do I make myself clear?"

"Y-Yea, crystal…" Touma stuttered.

Fukiyose stepped forward, jutting her finger into his chest, "And don't think I've forgotten about this Accelerator business either, Kamijou. I will be expecting a detailed explanation once I return."

"Ok…" he managed.

With that, Fukiyose turned on her heel and stalked off. Touma's shoulders drooped as he watched her leave. Knowing Fukiyose, she would go to any means to track down and reprimand the Level 5 perpetrator…

Poor, poor Accelerator.

Ignoring the throbbing pain in his head, he set out towards Seventh Mist, lest he incur the continued wrath of the Iron Wall.


The Site of the Fukiyose Massacre, 7:53 AM

"...And then this guy has the nerve to say that I suck at the game when I asked him to stop last-hitting my mobs and stealing all my hard earned experience!" Pierce complained as he plopped down the last 'no access' sign that was available.

Tsuchimikado frowned, just barely hearing Pierce's gaming story over the ringing in his left ear. Fukiyose had really smacked him good this time.

"Nya, that's stupid. What did you do?" he asked, looking around to make sure they had placed the signs exactly how Fukiyose had wanted it. Wouldn't want to risk pissing her off again...

The blue-haired gamer folded his arms in front of him, "Well to begin with, I was trying to help out some lower levels I had just met. The only reason I didn't kill the mobs outright was because I was holding back to let them get the last kill and the experience. Personally, I was way over leveled to be there in the first place. But the guy who was kill stealing didn't know that."

A smug grin appeared on Pierce's face, "So I told him 'Your ass is grass, and I'm gonna smoke it!' and equipped all my good weapons. He started running when he realized he was being targeted by-"

"Wait, wait." Tsuchimikado interrupted, "Pierce, the phrase is 'Your ass is grass and I'm the lawn mower'. The only type of 'grass' people smoke is weed."

Pierce looked a bit put off, "What does it matter? You get the point."

"I dunno Pierce, it can be taken the wrong way. You sounded like you wanted to smoke his ass. And that sounds pretty gay, just saying…"

Pierce looked horrified, "What the hell, seriously?"

"It definitely doesn't sound hetero."

The blue haired gamer groaned in despair, "But I've been saying that online for ages! It's practically my in-game catchphrase! How many people... Ugh, no wonder I keep getting asked to cyber with guys... they probably all think I'm gay..."

"Nya, and then you reject them all. You're such a tease Pierce." Tsuchimikado snickered.

"Shut up man..."

Their conversation came to a halt as a quiet cough caught their attention. They both turned and regarded Tessou, who had been waiting for a chance to interject.

She took their silence as her cue to speak up, "Are you done setting up the signs?"

"Nya, we just finished." Tsuchimikado replied, "Should we just wait on Kami-yan to get back?"

Tessou thought for a moment, then nodded, "Yes, I don't think you can do much else. You should probably take a break until then."

"Sounds good to me!" Pierce responded cheerfully.

"Hmmm..."

The bespectacled Anti-Skill seemed to hesitate for a moment before finally asking,

"Are... Are you sure you two are alright? That Fukiyose girl really... erm... well, you seem injured before, so..." Tessou trailed off, a look of concern dominating her face.

Tsuchimikado shrugged, "It's nothing we can't handle."

"Yea, we're fine." Pierce reassured, "We're used to her beating us up."

The normally timid Anti-Skill made a disapproving face, and let lose everything she had been holding back since Fukiyose's departure,

"You shouldn't get 'used to' such things! I-If you're getting bullied by her, you can always come talk to me!" she declared earnestly. "And if she's threatening you with her authority, Anti-Skill is far above her in the chain of command!"

Tsuchimikado raised an eyebrow at the sudden outburst. And here he had her pegged as the super shy type...

Pierce waved aside her concerns, "No, no, you've got it all wrong. Fukiyose isn't bullying us; she's our friend. It's not like she's seriously hurting us or anything."

Tessou didn't seem convinced, "But you were limping earlier... and look, your hand is all torn up!"

Tsuchimikado followed her gaze. Just as she had claimed, there was quite a bit of dried blood on the back of Pierce's left hand.

Pierce looked at his own arm in surprise before a look of realization dawned on him,

"Ah, that stupid welt from yesterday probably reopened or something." he concluded, licking the tip of his thumb and using it to wipe off the red-brown substance, "It doesn't even... Hm? Hold on, what the hell?"

Pierce made a perplexed expression as he continued to rub the back of his hand with his thumb, "What is this...?"

"What's what?" Tsuchimikado asked.

Pierce stopped rubbing his hand and held it out for the two of them to see. Tsuchimikado leaned in to take a closer look. Most of the blood had been wiped away, but he could see another mark was set underneath it. He squinted; it was faded, but it appeared to be...

"...Why do you have striped panties painted on the back of your hand?" Tsuchimikado questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Y-You shouldn't get tattoos!" Tessou added, a bit pink in the face, "It makes getting a job much more difficult, and you'll be associated with gangs, and-!"

"I didn't get a tattoo!" Pierce protested, "I never left my house last night!"

"Then you drew it on yourself?" Tsuchimikado offered, still gazing at Pierce's hand. For whatever reason, the body art struck him funny. It was almost as if...

...Nah, couldn't be.

"Of course I didn't!" Pierce insisted.

"Then how did it get on your hand, nya?"

Pierce sighed, "Dude, I don't know... maybe it has something to do with the panties from the other day..."

"I thought your panties were supposed to be in your refrigerator?" Tsuchimikado commented sardonically.

The underlying sarcasm was apparently lost on the blue haired pervert,

"Yea, but I didn't see them at all yesterday... hey, maybe they're like my familiar or something?" Pierce pondered, slowly rubbing at his hand.

"Yea, I'm sure that's it Pierce. A pair of panties are your familiar." Tsuchimikado agreed, unable to hide his smirk at friend's delusional antics.

Pierce pouted a little,

"Yea, I guess not. Panties aren't intelligent enough to communicate with humans." he wisely reasoned, "Well whatever, I'd want a dinosaur familiar anyway."

"Nya, wouldn't we all."

"Hell yea man, dinosaurs are awesome." Pierce agreed, setting aside the mysterious panty issue on his hand, "There needs to be more dinosaur familiars in mahou shoujos. A stegosaurs familiar would actually be able to mess shit up and help the girl in battle instead of being a useless ferret or whatever."

"That or a pack of raptors. That would be pretty cool." Tsuchimikado suggested, going along with his friend's ramblings.

"Oh yea, definitely... man we should write in to the Magical Girl Kanamin producers. These are some legit ideas! They could also..."

Tsuchimikado glanced at Tessou as Pierce began to hash out the various benefits of introducing dinosaurs into magical girl shows. Judging from her expression, she was completely and utterly lost.

Well that certainly worked in Fukiyose's favor. Leave it to Pierce to turn bullying accusations into debating the pros and cons of dinosaur familiars. He would have been perfect for damage controlling the Koroko Connect incident.

Still, he wondered what those markings on the back of Pierce's hand were all about...

At that thought, he turned his attention back to Pierce. It took him a second to realize that the blue-haired pervert was no longer talking, instead looking at something just above his head.

Without warning, a shadow was cast over the three of them. Tsuchimikado promptly looked over his shoulder... and was greeted by the familiar face of a certain red-headed priest.

"Pardon me," the man began politely, "But would the three of you happen to know the current whereabouts of Kamijou Touma?"

Tsuchimikado grinned internally as he watched Pierce and Tessou gawk at the European clergyman. Stiyl's height always made him stick out like a sore thumb. Throw in the black priest robes and the various ear piercings, and he easily took the cake for being the most bizarre thing this side of Academy City.

Of course, that kind of reaction was typical with most magicians. Mages tended to have little to no experience with the clothes trends of modern society. Stiyl was actually on the tamer side of the "strangely dressed" meter, as amazing as that was.

It took his two companions a moment to realize that they were being rude towards the newcomer. Tessou was the first to recover, despite looking more than a bit overwhelmed by the fire mage's towering presence,

"Um... may I ask who you are?" she asked tentatively, eying Stiyl's barcode tattoo with a disapproving frown.

"My name is Stiyl... I'm an acquaintance of Kamijou." Stiyl explained slowly, clearly unwilling to reveal his full identity to an Academy City official. Tessou only frowned at the vague answer.

Tsuchimikado rolled his eyes. This was going nowhere, fast. Stiyl had probably mistaken Tessou for another ordinary civilian, since he normally wasn't stupid enough to alert an authority figure to his presence. It was probably why Stiyl was pretending like he didn't know him, so as to not blow his cover... which was pretty damned stupid, considering that he could have easily played it off as Stiyl being a distant relative or something. Now the fire mage was just making himself look more and more suspicious.

Ah well, it can't be helped. Deception was never Stiyl's strong suit to begin with. Too big of an honest streak. Looks like he would have to step in and bail the kid out.

...for a price, of course.

"Nya, you just missed him, big guy! He went by Seventh Mist to pick up some stuff." Tsuchimikado explained as he stepped forward, separating Tessou and Stiyl between him.

Accompanied by a flurry of subtle hand motions with his right hand, he pointed in the direction of Seventh Mist with his left, "No guarantees, but if you hurry, you should be able to catch him on the way back. Just make sure you don't take up too much of his time; we need his help to finish up over here."

"I see. Thank you." Stiyl thanked gruffly. With a quick nod of appreciation the fire mage strode off towards an unsuspecting Touma, not daring to stay any longer then what was necessary.

"No problem!" Tsuchimikado replied as he discreetly put his right hand back in his pocket.

As soon as Stiyl was out of earshot, Pierce spoke up, "Dude, that guy looked pretty cool. You think he's part of a heavy metal band or something?"

"Could be." Tsuchimikado pretend-wondered, barely able to resist laughing his ass off. Stiyl may look the part, but his personality was way off.

"Yea, he definitely fits the bill. Judging by his looks, I'd say he's the bass player or..." Pierce began to excitedly ramble.

Tessou, on the other hand, looked conflicted, "I don't know if it was a good idea to tell him where your friend is... he looked a bit shady..."

"Nya, it'll be fine." Tsuchimikado reassured, "Kami-yan has a lot of foreign friends, so they're probably just visiting him for the festival."

"Yea, and at least it's not another girl this time..." Pierce added.

"If you say so..." Tessou mumbled, still looking a bit uneasy.

"Well anyways, do you know where I can find a restroom? I've been having to take a monster dump for awhile now..." Tsuchimikado asked as bluntly as possible, trying to distract her from Stiyl's existence.

Tessou fumbled a bit at the candidness of his question, but managed to respond all the same, "U-Um, the Mizuho Inn is open to Daihaseisai workers. It's about a block north of here..."

Tsuchimikado pretended to wince,

"I guess that'll have to work... I might not be back for awhile though..." he warned, walking toward the inn with a fake sense of urgency.

"Oh, um... be careful?" Tessou replied awkwardly as he left.

"Yea man, I'm not fishing you out if you fall in." Pierce chimed in.

"T-That's not what I meant!"

Tsuchimikado smiled as he walked away, taking his first turn up the street and out of their sight. Pierce would be enough to keep Tessou's hands full for the time being. Now that he wasn't being watched, he just needed to find a nice, private area to-

"Tsuchimikado, where do you think you're going?"

"..."

He turned to see Fukiyose marching over from across the street. He immediately brought his hands up in front of him, palms out, "Calm down, I'm just going to the bathroom."

Fukiyose regarded him for a moment, as if trying to discern his intentions. After a few seconds she apparently gave this up, shaking her head in annoyance, "Did Kamijou get enough signs to cover you?"

"Nya, he hasn't shown up yet." Tsuchimikado answered without thinking.

He immediately regretted it.

Fukiyose scowl intensified, "That damned... listen Tsuchimikado, get done with your business and return to your post immediately. I'm going to fetch Kamijou myself, since he seems incapable of following the simplest of instructions."

Without even waiting for his reply, Fukiyose stormed off in the direction of Seventh Mist.

Shit. Stiyl had just left to talk to Touma. He was almost certainly informing him of something related to the magic side. If Fukiyose stumbled in on it...

"Uh, hold up Fukiyose!" he called after her, trying to buy the fire mage some precious time.

The girl stopped and looked back over her shoulder, eyes piercing him like daggers, "What."

The blonde spy clenched his teeth, 'Damn you for making me do this, Stiyl!'

"Er well... I said I was going to the bathroom, but I honestly don't know where I'm going! So, uh, could you show me where the Mizuho Inn is before you leave?" he lied.

Fukiyose looked even more irritable, "What do you mean you don't know where it is? It's right off of Kawakami and Aokura street."

"Um, yea... Look, this is kind of hard to say but... I'm not all that great with directions." he made up on the spot, pretending to be embarrassed, "I usually rely on my phone GPS to get me around, but I left it at home... so..."

He trailed off, giving her a pleading gaze. Fukiyose's jaw worked for a moment, then stopped. She closed her eyes and took a long, deep breath, seemingly calming herself from reacting violently.

Then, her eyes flicked back open.

She sped-walked right up to him, grabbed him by his arm, and yanked him along a path to the Mizuho Inn. He didn't dare to protest. Fukiyose made a point of stopping at every intersection and forcing him to memorize and repeat back the street names (which he already knew) to her. In between street crossings, she berated him for over reliance on technology and general incompetence.

...And despite all of that, they still managed to make it to their destination in a record eight minutes. Once they were within seeing distance of the inn, Fukiyose finally let go of his arm,

"The bathroom is in the back. They've been told to let all persons use their restrooms for the day, so don't bother checking in with them." Fukiyose explained impatiently, "I trust that you can find your way back, now that you know the streets?"

"Yea..." Tsuchimikado answered.

Fukiyose nodded once and strode off in the direction of Seventh Mist.

Tsuchimikado watched her go, rubbing his bicep a little. It wasn't much, but he had managed to give Stiyl at least a bit of time to tell Touma whatever it was he wanted to tell him. And that would have to do.

Now it was time to check out his reward.

He looked up at the Mizuho Inn. He hadn't actually planned on being anywhere near the inn, but come to think of it, this could work out just fine. It was mostly deserted anyway, since its occupants wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow.

Ah, what the hell. This was probably as private as he was going to get with the time limit he had.

With that thought in mind, Tsuchimikado strolled into the building.

Once inside, he quickly navigating his way to back end of the near-empty lobby. Noticing an unattended cleaning cart along the way, he quietly snagged a yellow "out of order" sign from the tray and nonchalantly plopped it down behind him as he entered the bathroom. A quick cursory check inside revealed that he was alone.

It was time to examine the "price" Stiyl had had to pay for getting Tessou off his back. The blonde spy grinned to himself as he pulled out the slip of paper he had swiped from the fire mage from earlier. Sleight of hand was such a fantastic skill to have.

Tsuchimikado carefully unfolded his prize and peered at its contents. His smile grew bigger upon recognizing the flowery handwriting scrawled across the front. This was orders directly from Laura Stuart, just like he had hoped.

Tsuchimikado made a point of keeping tabs on his "employers" that he found to be particularly dangerous. Laura was certainly no exception. The problem was, people like her also made a point to keep people like him in the dark as much as possible. Fortunately for him, Laura seemed to put a lot of trust in Stiyl when it came to carrying out higher profile tasks. He wasn't really sure why. Maybe she was in to "young blood" and secretly had a crush on him. Poor Stiyl.

Regardless, it was time to see what Laura had sent Stiyl to Japan for. Focusing on the list, Tsuchimikado began to read,

There have been rumors that there will be an attempt to smuggle a [Stab Sword] into Academy City during Daihaseisai . Suspects are Oriana Thompson and Lidvia Lorenzetti. This must be prevented to preserve current stability. If you encounter either, subdue them at once. Handle with extreme care. Make sure this does not become an international incident. Alert Tsuchimikado as needed.

Tsuchimikado raised an eyebrow. He had figured something like this might happen during Daihaseisai, but a Stab Sword? He wasn't sure that they existed. Regardless, it looked like Kanzaki wasn't going to be any help for this one...

This was probably what Stiyl had been wanting to tell Touma about. Maybe he'd be able to bum a few answers off of him later...

Moving on...

Status Report on Index.

That was rather normal... next.

Pick up Bath Models No. 8919, 9137, and 9362 while in Academy City.

More of them? He swore, Laura had a fetish for baths...

Select a suitable washing machine to be sent to the Necessarius Female Dormitories.

Tsuchimikado sighed at the second-to-last entry. He was starting to think that stealing this note really wasn't worth it. He'd have thought Laura would use Stiyl for more than just running errands. The only thing worth mentioning so far was the Stab Sword situation anyway, and he was probably going to be informed about it eventually anyway.

What a shitty prize for bailing Stiyl's ass out.

He resigned himself to disappointment as he flicked over the last entry in the note...

Assist in excavating the catalyst with Sherry at Takayama. Crucial for successful summoning. Do not send through mail once obtained. Bring back personally. Protect at all costs. Must be completed within the next two weeks.

The triple spy's eyes widened. Catalyst? Summoning? Next two weeks? If this meant what he thought it meant...

Tsuhimikado mentally shook himself and reread the entry. It wouldn't due to jump to conclusions. After all, it could be for something completely unrelated. The instructions were so vague, there was no way to know for sure.

But deep in his gut, he was certain that he had just hit the jackpot. It was too much of a coincidence. Laura collected artifacts, sure, but to actually use them in a summoning ritual? If this was something small-scale, she would've just used idol theorem. Instead, she's taking the time to excavate an original...

And then there was the time limit. It corresponded perfectly with the manifestation of the Grail...

Tsuchimikado scanned the bathroom once more, making absolutely sure he was alone. Once he was satisfied, he pocketed the note and slowly began to take off his shirt.

The battle for a device that could perform miracles. Seven magi would be chosen; each summoning and commanding Heroic Spirits to fight in their steed. Warriors from every age and nation would be resurrected to kill each other and prove their supremacy, all for the sake of the Grail. All for obtaining a single wish.

That was the Holy Grail War. The war he had been selected to participate in.

Tsuchimikado slid off his shirt, faced opposite of the bathroom mirrors, and looked over his shoulder. From its reflection, an ornate series of symbols could be seen along the upper part of his back.

The marks that had appeared on his body was called a Command Seal. A stigmata bestowing him the power to command a Servant, the warrior that he would summon. It was proof that he had been chosen as a Master by the Holy Grail.

Tsuchimikado stared at the holy symbols embedded on his back. The size and shape of the seal differed between Masters, normally reflecting the magician's personal traits and attitudes. His own Command Seal was a set of three numbers, connected together by a few small swirls.

72-55-81. Maika's three sizes.

It was a fitting Command Seal for him. She was the one reason for his participation in such things. For her sake, he needed to win. Or at the very least ensure that anyone with bad intentions didn't.

And therein lied the problem. A magi won the Holy Grail War by taking out all other Servants... or by taking out the Masters of said Servants. Without having mana being supplied by a Master, the Servant would eventually fizzle out. Therefore, discovering who the other Masters were was crucial to wining in the Holy Grail War. And assuming he was right, he had just worked out the identity of one of the other Masters before the war even began...

Laura Stuart. One of the absolute worst match ups possible for him.

Tsuchimikado's brow furrowed as he tugged his shirt back on. Things got a lot more complicated if she was in the war. For one, he was employed to her. He had betrayed employers in the past of course, but he usually had a damned good reason for doing so. Like that he would have gotten killed if he hadn't. He supposed the same situation applied... but this was different. There was also the fact that she was the main support beam to the Anglican Church structure. If she were to get killed in this war, a huge sect of Christianity would be without a leader. He was sure they would get someone to fill her place, but not someone of her caliber. Without her presence, a lot of things would come tumbling down.

And most of all, he didn't want to have her as his enemy. He knew what she was really like behind that cute face of hers. Cold, cunning, and ruthless. She was a master at manipulating people to get what she wanted. It was no accident that she had ended up in her position of power. Even without knowing too much of her magic abilities, he still considered her one of the most dangerous magicians he had ever met. If he was to defeat her, he'd have to pull out all the stops. And hope for a good servant to back him up.

And that was where things started to tip in her favor. The Servant that one summoned could be influenced. If an artifact that was associated with a certain Servant's legend was used, the Master would be able to summon the desired Servant without much problem. Judging from the note, Laura had already found her own catalyst for her servant.

Unfortunately, he didn't have the freedom that Laura had. He doubted he would happen across a suitable catalyst for his own summoning, and he highly doubted he'd be able to swipe Laura's without killing himself in the process. He would have to rely on the Grail to choose his servant for him.

Still, it wasn't all bad. Knowing a Master's identity before the war even started was definitely a great advantage to have. On top of that, he had heard that the Grail tended to weigh a master's disposition before choosing a Servant for them. If that was the case, he might have a good shot at getting a compatible Servant anyway.

Regardless, there was no use dwelling on it too much. There were still around two weeks before anyone could summon their Servant in the first place. For now he needed to lay low, keep his eyes and ears open, and try to find out as much information as he could.

And have fun, if possible. However shitty the circumstance, it might just be the last time he got to hang out with his friends.

With that, the blonde haired spy donned a winning smile and strolled back out of the restroom, determined to make the most out of his forced community service.


Seventh Mist, 8:04 AM

Touma was a bit unsettled by how empty Academy City appeared. Most of the retail outlets he had passed on his way were closed or blocked off. Aside from a few straggling festival workers and the occasional Anti-Skill, the city seemed completely deserted.

Of course he knew that it was anything but that. In reality, the shops were set in overdrive, frantically preparing behind the scenes to meet scores of stringent regulations.

Academy City was a technological wonderland to the rest of the modernized world. Even the smallest of convenience stores housed technology that was thirty years ahead of its time. In order to keep its edge, Academy City had to be extremely careful in protecting its technology from its competitors. So when an event as big as Daihaseisai rolled around, further precautions had to be taken to prevent any chance of leaks.

As such, there were strict procedures that store owners had to follow. Each product line had to be screened and evaluated by the board of directors, who determined what a store could and couldn't sell to the outside world. From what he had heard, it was typical of shops to close down the day before the festival in order to focus on restocking and meeting the director's demands.

Still, it was jarring to see a shopping mall like Seventh Mist completely deserted of customers. He felt like he was in a ghost town...

Touma jammed his hands in his pockets and passed the empty mall, eyes fixed on the equally abandoned staging area in front of him. He quickly located a dozen or so half-opened boxes, labeled "no access". A closer inspection revealed steel sign posts sticking out from the top.

Looks like this was what he was supposed to bring back. Looking around, he spotted an unused trolley set to the side of the staging area. Grabbing the cart, he began loading the signs.

The work was deciding boring, and it wasn't long until his mind started to drift back towards the eerie quietness of his surroundings. Honestly, he should have been used to this city-wide transformation. But with his memories wiped, this was a completely new experience to him. From his perspective, this was his very first Daihaseisai festival.

Not that he was looking forward to it. He had yet to come up with a plausible way to explain to his parents why he had a house arrest bracelet strapped to his ankle. Not to mention dealing with Fukiyose the entire time...

Touma felt a pang of guilt at the thought, remembering the harshness in her voice from earlier. He couldn't say he knew Fukiyose particularly well, thanks to his memory loss... but anyone who talked to her for more than five minutes could tell she was serious, assertive, and brutally honest. To be frank, Touma found her to be way too uptight at times. But of all his friends that he had re-met in the past month and a half, Fukiyose was arguably the most dependable one. She was a realist who demanded a lot from her peers, but she was also an incredibly caring person who genuinely wanted her classmates to accomplish their best. She was, in many ways, a model class rep.

It was no secret that she had been putting in a huge amount of effort into Daihaseisai. For the past two weeks she had been constantly absent from class, shouldering more and more make-up assignments while she handled the coordination between the school and the district committee. And it was working; preparations had never gone smoother for them.

And then, he threw a giant wrench in the plan by accidently blowing up their school.

It didn't actually affect their participation in the Daihaseisai; they could still compete. But to duel other schools when you don't even have one left... it just sent a bad image.

Touma wasn't completely blaming himself, of course. The fight may have broken out from an earlier dispute he had with Accelerator, but he had done everything in his power to avoid involving others. He just felt like he had let Fukiyose down. She had been working so hard to make the festival a success, and instead...

Touma forcibly shook his head to clear his mind. No, that was wrong. Daihaseisai was still going to be a success. There was no point in moping around about it. He couldn't do anything about what had already happened, but he could at least make it up to Fukiyose by ensuring the rest Daihaseisai went as smoothly as possible. He would give her a proper apology when the time came.

"I'll definitely make this right." Touma vowed, clenching his fist a renewed sense of commitment.

"So now you're talking to yourself? I see you've fallen even further since last we met."

Touma practically jumped out of his skin at the sudden intrusion. The spiky haired boy whirled around, facing his new company. He was greeted by the snide smirk of Stiyl Magnus, who was obviously enjoying the fact that he had gotten such a reaction out of him. Touma's resolve instantly faltered, his fleeting determination replaced by his previous apathy.

Great. The last person he wanted to see. Thank you misfortune-san, you managed to deliver right on time as always.

"Fukou da…"

Stiyl made an unpleasant face, as if he had just stepped on something that was particularly foul smelling, "And there's that overused phrase again, always the same. Are you trying to imitate a shonen protagonist? If so, please give up. It would do everyone a courtesy."

Touma grit his teeth, feeling his headache from earlier return in full force. He really wanted to get along with the guy. He really did. But no matter what he did, the fire mage was determined to remain as uncooperative and hostile as possible...

...wait a minute.

"You're into shonen stuff?" Touma asked the oversized fourteen year old with a raised eyebrow. He had pegged Stiyl as being way too serious for that kind of thing, but the way he commented about it so off-handedly...

Stiyl's features softened for a second,

"Index and I used to- …No, never mind, that's not important. I didn't come here to chat with you." Stiyl responded, glaring at Touma as if it was his fault for straying from the subject.

Touma smirked, noticing that Stiyl was a bit pink in the face,

"No need to get so embarrassed about it. I think it's great that you found a hobby. Maybe you'll learn how to be less of an asshole through 'the power of friendship' or something." Touma commented as he returned to his work. He may be laying on the insults a bit thick, but he was irritated as it was and didn't feel like putting up with Stiyl today.

Stiyl ignored his jab and continued the conversation,

"I heard that you got into a pretty big fight, but it looks like you survived again." Stiyl began as he reached inside his coat for a pack of cigarettes. He quickly plucked one from the pack and placed it in his mouth, "How disappointing."

"Sorry I couldn't live up to your expectations." Touma replied sarcastically, "Is that all you have to say? I'm trying to work here."

The oversized magician lit the end of his cigarette with a small fire spell, "…It's about Index."

Touma stiffened. That's right. He had totally forgotten. During his mad dash to school two days ago, Stiyl had tried to talk to him about some 'important matters'. That was probably what this was all about... and if Index was involved, that could only mean trouble.

"…What about her?" he finally asked, bringing his full attention on the fire mage.

Stiyl looked away, taking a long drag on his cigarette before speaking, "…How has she been?"

Touma blinked, "Er, good I guess? So anyways, what's wrong?"

Stiyl took another solid puff before continuing, "…Is she eating well? Are you feeding her properly?

"What kind of- Just hurry up and tell me what's going on! Is it magicians again? How is she involved?" Touma demanded impatiently.

The red haired magician's eyes narrowed, "What are you talking about?"

"Index! The other day you said you had something important to talk about and it involves Index, so spit it out already!"

Stiyl cocked his head a little,

"Are you daft? I've been talking about her the entire time." he replied in a condescending manner.

Touma felt his eye twitch. He stood very still for a moment before he began speaking again,

"Help me understand something," he asked in the calmest voice he could manage, "What exactly were the 'important matters' that you had to talk to me about two days ago? The one regarding Index?"

Stiyl heaved a very large, exaggerated sigh,

"I wanted to discuss Index's current well being." he answered in a deliberately slow manner, as if he were speaking to a toddler.

"…"

Stiyl threw his used cigarette butt into the trashcan and began lighting a new one, "Honestly, I knew you were stupid, but this sets a new-"

"ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?" Touma exploded, "YOU DID ALL OF THAT JUST TO KNOW ABOUT HER EATING HABITS?"

"Her having a balanced diet is extremely important." Stiyl retorted angrily.

"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR THAT FROM AN UNDERAGE CHAIN SMOKER! WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST COME BY AND ASK HER YOURSELF, DAMN IT!"

Stiyl faltered a bit to the last question, looking away awkwardly, "That… I would not be able to…"

But Touma wasn't listening,

"If it wasn't for you screwing with the train, I wouldn't have ran into that Gunha guy and gotten kicked into a pool! You owe me new books and a cell phone you bastard!" he continued to rant, remembering how the mysterious headband student had ruined his personal belongings.

The fire mage scowled, "Train? What in the hell are you on about?"

"Two days ago! The bullet train! You fused the rails together because I didn't stop for your stupid health evaluation!"

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

"Liar! Who else would have screwed with the rails!" Touma demanded.

"Why should I have to prove my innocence to you? Stop blaming others for your own inadequacies." Stiyl responded scathingly.

"You-!"

"What's going on here?" a sharp female voice cut through the shouting match.

A very familiar female voice.

Touma turned to see Fukiyose marching angrily towards him. His anger immediately drained from his body, replaced with cold, raw fear.

This was not going to end well. She was already pissed as it was; now it looked like he was slacking off. Running would do no good. He was completely screwed unless he had some way of subverting her murderous rage…

And then it clicked.

Pointing at the red haired magician, Touma set his evil plot in motion, "Fukiyose! This weird guy won't leave me alone and keeps blowing smoke on me! He's even underage and everything! Could you help me out here?"

Time slowed as Fukiyose shifted her attention to the towering priest. A righteous fire burned in her eyes the moment they locked on his lit cigarette,

"You!" she barked, picking up her pace as she closed in on the fire mage, "Smoking is restricted outside of the smoke stations! Dispose of them immediately!"

Stiyl clenched his jaw and shot Touma a look of utter contempt. Touma smirked back, confident that the fire mage was totally outmatched in this situation.

Fukiyose was still ranting,

"And what do you think you're doing, smoking at such an early age! Do you have any idea how unhealthy that is for a developing body? And not only that, you're also risking other people's lives by exposing them to second hand- Where the hell do you think you're going! Get back here this instant!"

A wicked smile stretched across Touma's face as he watched Fukiyose chase after the fleeing Stiyl Magnus. Attention was the last thing a magician wanted in Academy City. Interactions with each side had to be handled with extreme care, lest they risk an international incident. The fact that a closet health nut like Fukiyose was the one who noticed Stiyl certainly didn't help much.

So the best choice for the fire mage was to escape. Unfortunately, Stiyl vastly underestimated Fukiyiose's athletic ability. There was no way he was going to outrun her, not by any normal means.

Satisfied that the crisis was adverted, Touma finished loading the trolley and happily made his way back to Tsuchimikado and Pierce.


Remains of A Certain High School, 10:43 AM

"Good, good. Now load those steel bracings into the back-"

"I fucking know! Shut the hell up!" Accelerator spat as he activated his power for the forty seventh time today. Using his ability, he easily lifted the hunks of crumbled metal and threw them into the back of yet another waiting scrap truck. As soon as he was done, he switched his collar off, attempting to conserve energy.

Yomikawa gave him a serene smile, "Just making sure you understand your instructions this time since you seem to have problems following them."

Accelerator grit his teeth in frustration. Condescending bitch. Forcing him to demolish and remove the scraps of the shitty high school he had trashed...

"I heard you the first six times! This is bullshit Yomikawa! Why am I the only one that gets to clean up this hellhole?" he demanded. "I'm on a fucking time limit here!"

The older woman's face remained carefree, "Don't look at it that way. This is great mental training for getting your powers back. You need to get back up to speed with that messed up brain of yours anyway, right?"

"Don't pretend to be a saint you fuckin' hag."

Yomikawa shook her head, "Funny, I never remember thinking of myself as one. But while we're on the subject of exercise, we need to make sure your gym clothes fit you once we get back to the house. Otherwise you're going to look pretty silly tomorrow during your competitions."

Accelerator stopped in his tracks, "...You better not be implying what I think your implying, Yomikawa. Because you're out of your fucking mind if you are."

Yomikawa shrugged, "I'm afraid so. Sorry Accelerator, but both you and Last Order are required to participate in Daihaseisai so long as you're registered under A Certain High School. It's campus policy."

"Don't give a fuck. I'm not doing it." Accelerator snapped.

"Why not? How is it any worse from what you're doing right now?"

"I'm not going to run around like a retard for everyone's god damned entertainment!"

Yomikawa rolled her eyes at him, "I'm sure no one is going to make fun of you for doing poorly in a sports competition."

Accelerator's eyes narrowed, "What the fuck do you mean, 'poorly'?"

Yomikawa crossed her arms, "Exactly what I said. Level 5's have severe limits placed on their powers during the competition, and you're not exactly a star athlete without your vector manipulation. Of course you're not going to do good."

"You're a bigger dumbass then what I thought you were, Yomikawa. You seriously think any 'limitation' would make a difference? I'm the strongest esper in this entire shit-hole of a city. Restrictions or not, there would be no stopping me."

Yomikawa raised an eyebrow, "Oh? Sounds like a lot of empty talk to me."

Accelerator went to retort, but stopped midway as something occurred to him.

Oh. I see what you're trying to do, you conniving bitch...

"Tch, right. Either way, you're a stupid fuck if you think you can trick me into participating."

Yomikawa smirked, "You really-"

"'Accelerator! Accelerator, look!' Misaka yells as Misaka calls attention to herself!"

The two of them looked up as one. Last Order was cart wheeling on a steel girder above them.

Accelerator's eyes widened, "Oi, what the fuck do you think you're doing! Get down from there!"

The miniature electromaster nonchalantly walked down the front side of the girder, playfully sticking her tongue out at him as she utilized her ability to keep her anchored down, "'But Misaka's having fun! Misaka doesn't want to get down!' Misaka proclaims as Misaka shows off her powers!"

"I didn't ask you to come down, you little shit! I'm telling you to-"

But Last Order seemed to be completely ignoring his warnings, "'Accelerator, look! No hands!' Misaka displays as Misaka hangs upside down unaided!"

For the briefest of moments, Last Order's face was one of triumph as she stood upside-down and above her two guardians.

Then gravity kicked in and her polka-dotted dress drooped down below her face, revealing a pair of frog print panties for all the world to see.

Needless to say, Last Order was not thrilled by this development.

"'Wah! M-Misaka didn't expect this! D-Don't look!' Misaka stutters as Misaka tries to cover her unmentionables!"

Accelerator felt the beginnings of a headache forming. He hadn't had his fucking coffee this morning...

"No one cares about your god damned kiddy panties! Get down here before you fucking fall!" he demanded.

Last Order gave him an indignant look even as she was fighting to keep her dress "down",

"'Gekota isn't kiddy! It's for mature Misaka's with mature tastes such as-'"

"Alright, that's it; I'm coming up there." Accelerator declared as he flipped on his switch. That makes it the forty eighth time...

"'Wha-? N-No, don't get any closer! Misaka hasn't prepared her heart yet-'"

"You're a thousand years too early to be saying that cheesy shit!"

Using his ability, Accelerator kicked off the ground and stuck on the underside of the girder beside her. After a couple of seconds of scuffling, he managed to pry the brat off. Pulling her in close to his chest, he jumped back down with her and landed next to Yomikawa.

"And they say chivalry is dead." the older woman commented with a grin.

"Fuck off."

"You know, she's going to have to participate in the festival." Yomikawa casually reminded, gesturing at Last Order, "Things can get kind of rough on the field... you sure you're ok with not being there to protect her?"

"Yomikawa, I'm not fucking-"

"'Um! Your battery is dangerously low!' Misaka interjects as Misaka points out crucial information!"

Accelerator scowled. It was always something. He tilted his neck and shrugged, flicking the switch off with his shoulder.

"You're out of juice, huh? Well I guess that's fine. We'll just have lunch break a bit early." Yomikawa reasoned, waving off the construction crew working on the tear down of A Certain High School.

Once she had made sure the crew had gotten the message, Yomikawa motioned for Accelerator to follow, "Let's go... though I got to say Accelerator, I'm impressed you've managed to hold her bridal style for so long without the help of your vectors."

Accelerator immediately looked down, seeing he was doing just that. Last Order smiled back up at him, her cheeks a bit pinker than usual, "'Misaka doesn't mind-'"

He dropped her like a rock.

Ignoring her protests, he picked up his cane and hobbled after Yomikawa.

He needed some god damned coffee.


Lunch Break, 10:56 AM

"O-Onii-chan... I wet my b-bed... is mama going to be m-mad?" the portable game device chirped. A tiny blonde girl wearing oversized pajamas looked up at him, accompanied by four selectable responses at the bottom of the screen.

Pierce's heart melted on the spot,

"It's ok imouto, you can sleep in my bed instead. I'll tell mama I did it." he cooed.

"You'll tell your mom you pissed in your sister's bed?" Tsuchimikado asked skeptically.

Pierce frowned at his friend, a bit peeved that his tender moment was interrupted over something as silly as game logic.

"I'll say that my sister was stung by a jellyfish and I had to apply emergency treatment." he answered neutrally.

But Tsuchimikado wouldn't let it go, "She was stung by a jellyfish in her bedroom?"

"I don't know, maybe she keeps one as a pet or something. Why do you care so much?"

"Nya, no need to get all pissy about it." Tsuchimikado replied with a smirk.

The blue-haired gamer grinned despite himself, "You're the only one who seems pissed-off here, man."

Touma let out a loud groan. Pierce frowned at the outburst, "C'mon, it wasn't that bad-"

"This isn't about your stupid puns." Touma snapped, holding up his bento box in explanation.

...There was nothing inside.

"Oh, you forgot to pack your lunch? That sucks bro." Pierce sympathized with his spiky haired friend.

Touma had a forlorn expression set upon his face, "No, I definitely packed it last night... that stupid nun probably ate it when I wasn't looking. Fukou da..."

"Nya, if you need something to tide you over for awhile, there's a vending machine about two blocks east of here." Tsuchimikado mentioned helpfully.

"You might want to hurry though, since Fukiyose will probably be back soon." Pierce pointed out. Yomikawa and Tessou had left them to their own devices for lunch break, saying that they had a few errands to run. They had also warned that Fukiyose would be back to supervise while they were gone. She had yet to show up, however...

Touma nodded in resignation, "Guess I don't have much choice. If she gets back before I do, let her know where I'm at. If she wants to get on my back for eating then... well, I'm sure she'll understand. I'll be back in a bit."

Without wasting any time, the misfortunate boy set off to find a substitute meal. Pierce went back to playing his eroge in a huff.

Tsuchimikado raised an eyebrow at Pierce's shift in attitude, "What's eating at you?"

"It's just ridiculous. Kami-yan get's all the good flags." Pierce replied bitterly, "I would kill to have a girl eating my food and biting me all the time."

"Nya, you really are a masochist aren't you?"

"Hungry girls are moe, man! Gah, Kami-yan's so damned lucky! Here he has a loli practically teething on him, and he doesn't even appreciate it!" Pierce raged, "Why am I the only one without an imouto to look after?"

"But Index isn't his little sister though." Tsuchimikado reminded, "Well, I guess she's a little 'Sister' in another sense but..."

"Blood relations don't matter, only intent and circumstance!" Pierce explained before continuing to bash Touma, "The bastard gets everything handed to him! He doesn't have to make up stories about pissing on squids!"

"I thought they were jellyfishes."

"Same difference!"

"They're completely fucking different, dipshit." Accelerator growled as he sipped his canned coffee, "You're comparing apples to fucking oranges."

Pierce halted his rant and looked over in surprise at the super powered albino. Accelerator hadn't said a word since lunch had begun. He had almost forgotten that the guy was even there.

Tsuchimikado folded his arms across his chest, "But oranges are objectively superior to apples."

Pierce wrinkled his nose at his friend's claims, "Are you serious? Apples are way better."

Tsuchimikado looked similarly disgruntled, "C'mon man, everyone knows that apples are worse than oranges."

"Dude, oranges are tedious as hell. You gotta peel off so much skin just to eat anything. With apples, you can just bite right into them."

"But oranges are better for you. They have a bunch of Vitamin C."

"You can get Vitamin C anywhere." Pierce waved aside.

"Nya, you're just an apple fanboy. I bet you like Macs too."

"Well yea, Macintosh apples taste awesome. And oranges are shaped like balls. Is that why you like them so much?" Pierce shot back.

Tsuchimikado cocked an eyebrow, "What the hell do you consider apples to be shaped like? Squares?"

"They're apple shaped, obviously."

The blonde rolled his eyes, "Look man, apples just suck, period. They're almost as bad as kiwis."

"Dude what? Kiwis, pineapples, and bananas are all god tier fruit."

"Are you serious? Kiwis taste like shit and the texture is awful. If you want to talk about great fruit, watermelon is the way to go."

Pierce shrugged, "I guess watermelon is ok... if you like the taste of water. Cantaloupe is obviously the best type of melon."

Tsuchimikado gave him an incredulous look, "Tastes like water? Do you think Applejacks tastes like apples too? And cantaloupe is too sweet yet somehow bitter at the same time. They're the cancer that's killing the fruit industry."

The blue haired gamer sneered at Tsuchimikado's false assertions, "What, you can't handle a bit of flavor? Watermelon has such a weak taste that you might as well be drinking a glass of water! And don't even get started on artificial flavoring, because watermelon flavor sucks balls!"

Tsuchimikado's expression was one of genuine disbelief, "You have to be picking bad watermelons, because I refuse to believe anyone would consider watermelons to be too tame. And as for artificial flavoring, watermelon and blueberry are tied for the best, with strawberry and grape being right behind them. Lime is the worst, of course."

"How in the hell can you not like lime flavoring? Lime is amazing in all forms! Unlike blueberry, which tastes like total ass!"

"You're ridiculous! Blueberry flavoring is one of the greatest things ever invented! Lime flavoring wishes it was half as good as blueberry!"

Pierce shook his head in disgust, "I didn't know you enjoyed the taste of ass so much, Tsuchimikado. I feel sorry for your taste buds."

"Nya, whatever you say there 'ass smoker'."

"S-Shut the hell up! I told you that was a mistake-!"

"Sounds more like a Freudian slip to me."

"You-!"

"'Misaka thinks strawberries are the best!' Misaka claims as Misaka jumps into the conversation!"

Pierce's outrage was immediately forgotten upon Last Order's interjection, "You're such a good girl Last Order! Strawberries match your cuteness perfectly~"

The tiny girl blushed and giggled cutely, causing Pierce's heart to flutter. Once he got over his momentary cute-spasm, he turned to regard her guardian,

"What's your favorite fruit, Accelerator?" he asked in a friendly manner.

The Level 5 gave him a dirty look, but answered anyway, "Tomatoes."

The reaction was instant.

"Booooo!" Tsuchimikado booed at his choice.

"Cop out." Pierce added, clucking his tongue in disapproval.

"Tomatoes are part of the fucking fruit family!" Accelerator defended.

Pierce rolled his eyes, "We meant real fruit. Tomatoes are just vegetables pretending to be fruits."

"'Misaka is surprised that he didn't mention coffee beans, since coffee is all he ever drinks.' Misaka comments as Misaka jokes at the expense of her guardian."

"Haha, I know right!"

The pale esper gave the three of them a murderous glare before angrily going back to his canned coffee, "As if I give a rat's ass what you retards think."

"Nya, there's no need to sulk about it. We're just messing with you." Tsuchimikado assured.

"I am not fucking sulking-!"

"'Ah!' Misaka exclaims as Misaka identifies an anomaly!"

Pierce looked over at Accelerator's tiny companion. A perplexed expression had replaced her normally carefree one as she quickly got to her feet. Without any further explanation, the chestnut haired girl jogged off.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going!" Accelerator yelled after her, making to get up as well.

Last Order stopped and looked back over her shoulder,

"'Misaka senses another Misaka without an appropriate signature, so Misaka is going to investigate!' Misaka informs as Misaka hurriedly explains the situation."

"You can't just going running around like you please you damned brat! I'm coming along-"

"'Other Misaka's are converging on the source as well, so Misaka will be fine!' Misaka emphasizes as Misaka assures her well being."

The girl suddenly gave Accelerator a stern expression, "'Misaka is more worried about you! The last time Misaka left you unsupervised, Misaka's new school was destroyed! Misaka better not hear about any reckless behavior while Misaka is gone!' Misaka warns as Misaka puts her foot down!"

Before Accelerator could say anything back, the girl had turned and took off once again. The moody Level 5 worked his jaw for a couple of seconds before plopping back down in a huff.

"Cheeky fucking brat..."

"Nya, I'm sure she'll be fine." Tsuchimikado reassured.

"Nobody fucking asked you." the albino snarled back.

Tsuchimikado shrugged in response.

A long silence descended upon them. Accelerator obviously didn't want to be bothered, so Pierce contented himself to picking up where he left off on his eroge.

After about fifteen minutes of gaming, he heard a distinct chime of a phone ringing. Pierce looked up to see Accelerator answering his cell phone,

"Bout time you little shit!" the Level 5 growled.

A long pause.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, going that far on your own!"

Another pause.

"Just get your ass back here or else I'll come over and do it for you!"

With that, he hung up.

"Sounds like she's ok." Tsuchimikado commented.

Accelerator looked slightly more relaxed as he pocketed his phone, "She apparently met with that spiky haired bastard along the way."

"Oh yea, she's fine if she's with Kami-yan." Pierce concluded.

For some reason, Accelerator looked extremely irritated upon hearing that. Pierce decided it was best to not look too far into it.

Another five minutes worth of silence stretched on. Feeling thirsty, Pierce reached for his bottled water and took a few gulps. It was at that moment that he was struck with a simple, yet profound question. A question that as a man, he simply could not ignore.

Seeking answers, Pierce turned to his friend and gave voice to his dilemma,

"Dude… do you think girls with big boobs have trouble tying their shoes?"

Tsuchimikado opened his mouth, then slowly closed it. A look of extreme contemplation swept over his face as his brow furrowed into a heated knot. After a full minute of thought, he spoke again,

"I... actually have no idea." he answered honestly, groping the air in front of him as he tried to imagine the concept, "You'd think they would get in the way…"

"I know right?" Pierce agreed excitedly, "I mean what do they do, push them to the side?"

"Nya, that can't be it..."

Pierce adopted a thinking pose, "And what would be the boob threshold for potential shoe tying hindrance anyway? C cup? D cup?"

Tsuchimikado shrugged, "Just anyone that looks like they would have a hard time tying their shoes. The girl's height would probably factor into it too."

Pierce frowned at the ever-increasing variables, "Maybe we should ask somebody."

"Who in the world would we ask something like that to?" Tsuchimikado asked doubtfully.

"I dunno, we just need to find someone with mammoth sized breasts..." Pierce reasoned. A few seconds later, he snapped his fingers,

"…Like Fukiyose!"

Tuschimikado's face stiffened, "Of all people you would pick Fukiyose? Do you want to die?"

"C'mon, where's your sense of adventure?" Pierce whined.

Tsuchimikado wasn't budging, "You can ask. I kind of like my face."

Pierce paled at the suggestion, "No way man, she'd kill me if I asked her that."

"Then what makes you think I'd do it, nya!"

"You can take punches really well though! I'm super frail compared to you..."

"That's bullshit, I've seen you take punches from Skill-Outs and get up just fine! And you're the masochist anyway, it should be like heaven for you!" Tsuchimikado retorted.

"Those guys were throwing love taps compared to what Fukiyose dishes out! Pain is great and all, but I can't afford to fix broken bones!"

"I can't either!"

Pierce sighed explosively. This wasn't going anywhere. They needed someone else to ask in their place...

A light bulb went off in his head as his eyes locked on to the Level 5 sitting off the side.

"Hey, Acceler-"

"Fuck off."

"C'mon, you're the only one Fukiyose would be neutral towards! You'd be doing us a huge favor!" Pierce begged.

"I don't give a fuck about your problems." Accelerator stated bluntly.

Pierce looked away in a huff, "Jeez, just because you're still mad that we made fun of your tomatoes..."

"That has nothing to fucking do with it!"

"Then why can't you take one for the team?" Pierce pressured.

"We aren't a fucking team to begin with you god damned retard!" Accelerator spat.

Tsuchimikado shook his head wearily, "Nya, it can't be helped then. We'll just have to wait for Kami-yan to get back and do it for us."

Pierce adopted a thoughtful expression, "Yea, you may be right actually. Out of all of us, Kami-yan would probably have the best chance with Fukiyose."

"And Kami-yan won't back off midway just because he's scared." Tsuchimikado added, "We can't say the same for Accelerator."

Pierce frowned at his blonde friend, "Hey man, you're being kind of harsh. I don't blame Accelerator for being scared of Fukiyose, she's like impossible to approach."

"I am not fucking scared of some trumped up bitch." Accelerator growled, a dangerous glint in his eyes.

Pierce waved aside Accelerator's posturing, "It's ok man, I'm a bit scared of her too. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Even Kami-yan is-"

"Don't put me on the same level as you." Accelerator snarled, "I am the fucking Accelerator! I can do anything a thousand times better then that porcupine-haired fuckface could even dream of doing!"

"Says the guy who can't even work up the courage to talk to a girl." Tsuchimikado chimed in.

That was the final straw for Accelerator. He snatched his cane and pushed himself to his feet, glaring furiously at the two of them,

"Where is this bitch?" he hissed.

Pierce's eyes went wide, "I-I don't know, she's not back yet-"

"Nya, there she is!"

Pierce focused on where Tsuchimikado was pointing. Sure enough, he could just barely make out Fukiyose in the distance. Without sparing the two of them a second glance, Accelerator angrily hobbled toward the approaching girl.

Pierce cocked an eyebrow at the display, "Man, what the hell is his problem?"

Tsuchimikado gave him a pleased smile, "You know Pierce, you're a great wingman."

Pierce tilted his head at the random compliment, "What do you mean?"

"Exactly." Tsuchimikado answered as he stood up and stretched, "Now c'mon, we need to get moving. I don't want to miss this."


Near A Certain Vending Machine, 11:12 AM

Touma was sour about life. He had explicitly told Index not to eat the bento he had prepared the night before, but as always, the gluttonous sister hadn't listened.

But what threw him for a loop was how the girl had managed to get her hands on his food. His bento was still intact when he had went to bed. He even rechecked after that whole flying toast incident, and it was still all there. Admittedly he hadn't checked this morning, but Index was still asleep when he had left. By all accounts, there was no way she could have eaten his lunch.

And yet she did. That ludicrous, unending belly of a nun had swiped the entirety of his bento right from under his nose. How did she do it? Considering how late the toast fiasco had taken place, and factoring in how early he had to get up...

...could it be that Index was a sleep eater?

Touma whimpered a little. His heart (and his wallet) wouldn't be able to take such a cruel blow.

Fortunately, he didn't have much time to ponder this dark possibility as he caught a glimpse of his destination.

A single vending machine off to the side of a deserted park. His stomach growled longingly at the food and drinks it had to offer. He quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet as he closed the distance between him and his salvation.

He stopped about a meter short. The reason for his hesitation was obvious as he stared down into his wallet.

A single two thousand yen bill. A horrible feeling of anxiety crept into his heart as he recollected the last time he put that much money into a vending machine. His money eaten, his pride stomped on as he was laughed at by a certain cocky middle schooler...

This was a bad idea. Nothing good could come from putting so much money inside this hellish contraption. He would be better off if he just forgot about it and went back-

His stomach let loose a loud gurgling noise, insisting he reconsider. He had skipped breakfast, after all...

Touma gulped, sweat trickling from his brow as he came to terms with his situation. There was no helping it. He was too hungry to turn back now. Clenching his fists, he turned to face his greatest adversary, the dreaded vending machine.

Ignoring his fears, he gathered all of his resolve and stepped forward. This was it. Everything came down to the next few seconds. With effort he stilled his trembling hand and slowly lifted the two thousand yen to the slot-

A hand suddenly tapped his shoulder, shattering his concentration. Touma metaphorically tripped on air and slammed his head into the front of the vending machine. He whirled around on the spot, tears of pain welling up in the corners of his eyes,

"Read the mood!" he scolded the interloper, feeling as though some passage of manhood had just been snatched from him.

A girl with a deadpan expression and shoulder length brown hair stood before him. Another Misaka Imouto.

The girl bowed solemnly, "'Misaka deeply apologizes for disturbing your activities.' Misaka says as she tries to salvage her standing in the Savior's eyes."

Touma was completely disarmed by the clone's blunt sincerity. Guilt washed over him as he gazed upon her stooped figure.

"Ah... no that's alright, you didn't do anything wrong." he tried to amend, "You don't have to bow or anything..."

The Sister lifted herself back into a standing position, looking slightly perplexed, "'If Misaka did nothing wrong, then may Misaka continue with what Misaka planned to say?' Misaka asks as she makes sure to not overstep her boundaries this time."

Touma was starting to really regret his outburst, "Yea, go right ahead..."

Nodding, the Misaka Imouto pointed at the vending machine, "'This machine will not produce any beverages or food-items unless the proper technique is implemented.' Misaka informs as she reveals her knowledge."

Touma tilted his head slightly, "Proper technique?"

The clone nodded again, "'Would you like Misaka to demonstrate?' Misaka asks as she prepares to impress."

"Uh, sure?" He replied uncertainly.

The Sister nodded a final time and motioned for him to step aside. Once he had moved, she took up a stance directly in front of the vending machine.

Without warning she spun on her left foot and pulled back her right, gaining momentum for...

"'Rider Kick!' Misaka yells as she makes an appropriate reference!"

Touma caught quite an eyeful of the Sister's panties as her right foot slammed into the side of the vending machine. Blue and white stripes again, huh?

...What the hell was he thinking?

Touma forced himself to advert his eyes and look directly at the vending machine. It rattled chaotically from the blow before finally coughing up a prize: One strawberry soda. The clone put down her leg (much to his simultaneous relief and displeasure) and bent down to pick up the beverage. She turned around and offered it to him with a small smile.

Touma recalled a similar event from the past as he accepted the drink, "Ahh... you're not too different from biribiri in that regard either..."

The clone's face returned to its usual neutrality, "'Please don't compare Misaka's efforts to someone who cannot be honest with their feelings.' Misaka requests and she makes sure to emphasize the distinction."

Touma wondered what she meant by that, but decided it was best not to pry.

"Anyways, that was great of you and everything, but... wouldn't it have been easier to have just used your electricity?" he pointed out.

"'Misaka was informed that this method would leave a bigger impression.' Misaka replies as she explains her actions."

Well, she certainly had a point there. Though he wondered who she was getting such advice from...

Touma rubbed at the back of his neck, "I see. Um, I kind of need to get a snack as well though, so...?"

A small twinkle appeared in the Misaka Imouto's normally subdued eyes, "'Misaka has already prepared for this outcome.' Misaka excitedly informs as she reaches for her belongings."

Touma blinked, just now noticing the duffel bag that was laying next to her. The clone bent down and zipped it open, revealing a few frog plushes, a full change of clothes, a few fashion magazines, a med kit, a set of combat knives, a few assault rifles... was that a dissembled sniper rifle? Best not to question it...

After a minute of rummaging through the odd assortment, the Sister carefully pulled out a bento box, "'Misaka made this for you just in case.' Misaka explains as she presents her cooking."

Touma was shocked, "F-For real? I mean, I can't just take that from you..."

The girl shook her head, "'Misaka insists.' Misaka responds as she holds her ground."

Touma couldn't help but grin. As a poor high school student, he couldn't exactly turn down free food. Especially free homemade food.

"Thanks Misaka Imouto, you're a real life saver." he praised as he earnestly held out his hand for the free meal.

But this Misaka Sister seemed to have different plans. Instead of putting the bento into his outstretched hand, she decided to lean in closer to Touma, getting well within his personal space. She was giving him a small, somewhat sly smile as she pressed the food into his other arm.

"'Misaka would love to eat your bento, if you know what Misaka means.' Misaka says while implying certain innuendos."

"Oh... uh sure, you can have my bento next time." Touma replied quickly. He supposed that was fair. He would pay her back later with his own homemade bento.

A moderately deep shade of pink touched the girl's cheeks as she smiled wider then he had ever seen a Misaka clone smile before. Wow, the Sisters had really come a long way to be able to express so much emotion...

The Misaka Imouto leaned in even closer, "'Misaka is looking forward to it.' Misaka says with elation as she is ecstatic that her tactics worked."

Tactics? What was she talking about? Touma shifted uneasily, nervous from how dangerously close the girl was to his face. Was she still learning about social norms and personal space? Her close proximity would undoubtedly create a chain of misunderstandings if they were seen right now...

He was about to tell her as much when she suddenly jerked away from him, her face tinged with a trace of annoyance as she looked off to the side.

"'Damn it.' Misaka mutters as she is forced to retreat."

The clone abruptly turned around and dashed off, giving an extremely confused Touma another eyeful of her panties as her skirt kicked up behind her. She rounded a corner and disappeared before he even had the chance to call after her.

Had she always been that fast?

About ten seconds later, another miniature Misaka burst into view from the opposite direction. Touma instantly recognized her as Last Order, the clone that was currently living with Accelerator. She made a beeline for him, stopping about a meter away as she tried to regain her breath.

"Misaka… Misaka pants… while breathing heavily…"

"You ok?" he asked, unsure of what to make of her.

After a few moments, Last Order regained her composure,

"'Misaka wants to know who you were just talking to.' Misaka inquires as Misaka tries to get to the bottom of this mystery!"

"Er, I was just talking to one of… well I guess they would be one of your older sisters... but then she just kind of ran away?" he trailed off.

Last Order's brow furrowed, "'You are absolutely certain that you saw a Misaka?' Misaka asks as Misaka seeks absolute confirmation."

Touma scratched at his spiked hair, "Yea, I'm positive. Brown hair, goggles, striped pan- I mean, Tokiwadai uniform..."

The miniature Misaka studied him for a moment, then looked at the ground in concern,

"'This is troubling.' Misaka states as Misaka puts her thoughts into words."

Touma frowned, "So what is this about anyway?"

Last Order hesitated for a moment before explaining herself, "'The person you recognized as Misaka was not a true Misaka.' Misaka responds as Misaka reveals certain information."

"...Huh?"

"'Whoever you just talked to was emitting an electrical signal identical to Misaka's. Yet they aren't connected at all to the Misaka Network.' Misaka explains as Misaka gives you the short and sweet version."

Touma's eyes widened as he put two and two together, "Hold on. You're saying that the girl I was talking to wasn't an actual Misaka Imouto?"

"'Correct.' Misaka affirms as Misaka answers your question."

"But she looked and acted-! I mean if that wasn't a Sister, then who...?" he asked, slightly unnerved, "An esper that can mimic people's appearances?"

Last Order shook her head, "'An esper with such powers would have a different AIM field and wouldn't be giving off an electrical signature identical to Misaka's.' Misaka points out as Misaka excludes that option."

"Then... are you sure some of the Sisters didn't disconnect from the Network to get some privacy or something?" he suggested.

"'All Misakas are accounted for.' Misaka states as Misaka also rules out the possibility."

Touma was stumped, "If it isn't a Sister or an esper imitating one, then what's going on?"

"'Misaka has a theory, but the other Misaka's believe it is baseless.' Misaka announces as Misaka remembers certain speculations."

"Let's hear it then." he requested.

Last Order puffed out her meager chest, "'Misaka has come to the conclusion that the culprit is a Ditto, illegally crafted in the dark underground of Academy City!' Misaka reveals as Misaka imparts her wisdom!"

"...Eh?"

The petite electromaster put her hands on her hips, "'A ditto! The goo that can copy the DNA from any living organism and copy it completely, even down to their abilities! Geez, is Misaka the only one who's played pokemon?' Misaka lectures as Misaka voices her frustration!"

Touma tried to hide his bemused smirk by looking away, "No, I know what it is. It's just kind of..."

"'Simple minded?' Misaka asks as she guesses at the word the Savior is looking for."

"'Childish?' Misaka follows up as she mercilessly insults the administrator."

"'Completely removed from reality?' Misaka adds as she comments on the administrator's overwhelming stupidity."

Touma glanced to his left. Three Misaka Imouto's were walking towards the two of them, berating Last Order as they approached.

Wait, were they "real" Misaka Imouto's though? He couldn't tell...

Last Order had no such troubles, "'H-How dare you! Misaka's theory is sound! You can't disprove it!' Misaka growls as Misaka takes major offense!"

The middle Misaka Sister was quick to respond, "'The same can be said about proving the Administrator's wild speculations.' Misaka reminds the administrator as she attempts to get a rise out of her."

Last Order didn't seem to have much of a comeback, "'Hauuu, enough! Was Misaka able to capture the Misaka Rogue?' Misaka demands as Misaka stamps her feet impatiently!"

This time it was the Misaka on the right that replied, "'Negative. Misaka Rogue has somehow managed to hide her electrical signature. Misaka lost pursuit shortly after she ran.' Misaka says as she regretfully admits her failure."

"Misaka Rogue?" Touma asked aloud. It was getting harder to follow what was going on with all the "Misaka" talk.

The Misaka Sister on the left finally spoke up, "'Misaka Rogue is the codename Misaka has assigned to the anomaly.' Misaka clarifies as she explains the naming structure."

"Oh..."

Last Order bit her lip at the bad news, "'That is disappointing.' Misaka grumbles as Misaka is at a loss as to what to do next."

The tiny clone turned to face him, "'Was there anything that seemed strange about the way Misaka Rouge was acting?' Misaka inquires as Misaka searches for clues."

Touma scratched at his head, "Not really... she was kind of getting in my personal space but that's about it. Oh, and she gave me this bento."

Each clone tensed as he held up his food for them to see.

"'That could be dangerous.' Misaka states seriously as Misaka eyes the suspicious act of good will."

Touma scrutinized the bento box with a frown. They could be right... but then again, if this "Misaka Rogue" or whatever wanted to harm him, she could have done it easily. His guard was down and she had enough firepower in that duffel bag to paste him against the side of a wall. She didn't feel like a bad person when he was talking to her either...

Well, only one way to find out.

Touma began to carefully open the bento box, much to the shock of the Misaka Sisters. Four sharp inhales accompanied the removal of the lid, revealing...

A completely harmless, ordinary bento. The only unique aspect to it was that the rice portion was decorated with a big heart outlined in ketchup. It was actually really cute.

The Misaka Imouto's thought differently, however,

"'It might be poisonous.' Misaka asserts as she finds a plausible way to obliterate the Rogue's flags."

"'We must remove it immediately.' Misaka determines as she prepares to dispose of the interloper's food.

"'Agreed.' Misaka readily accepts as she sets out to destroy the faker's attempt to gain affection points."

Touma reflexively shielded his bento, "No way, this is my lunch! It's fine!"

To his surprise, Last Order sided with him, "'Misaka does not think Misaka Rogue means to harm the Savior, and therefore does not believe it is necessary to destroy the Rogue's act of goodwill.' Misaka hypothesizes as Misaka submits her opinion."

The tiny esper turned to regard her three Sisters, "'Misaka will take care of things from here. Misaka urges the three of you to return to your posts.' Misaka requests as Misaka steps in as a mediator."

The clones stared at the miniature Misaka, their gaze somewhat cold. Last Order folded her arms and stared right back. Touma felt like a great invisible battle was being raged right in front of him, though he had no clue what for it was for.

After a long minute of silence, the middle Imouto finally spoke up, "'Misaka... will defer to the Administrator's judgment on the matter. Misaka shall take her leave.' Misaka concedes as she grudgingly accepts the terms of negotiation."

The three Sisters took one last look at Touma and nodded in unison. They then turned around abruptly and jogged off in three different directions.

...What the hell was that all about?

Last Order seemed to read his mind, "'Misaka had a private discussion with her subordinates over the Network. They were worried that you were being targeted by the elusive Misaka Rogue and were willing to take extensive measures to ensure your safety. Misaka persuaded them from this by arranging a deal, so all should be resolved.' Misaka concludes as Misaka explains what transpired."

Touma breathed a sigh of relief, "Oh... I thought I had pissed them off by accident or something."

The tiny clone shook her head, "'Misaka's subordinates aren't mad at you. They're just worried that the Misaka Rogue might be another rival- um, but that's not important!' Misaka cuts off as Misaka prevents leakage of vital information!"

Touma tilted his head slightly. Another rival? For what?

"'A-At any rate, make sure to report any strange Misaka behavior to Misaka in the future.' Misaka says as Misaka quickly changes the subject."

Last Order's eyes began to twinkle deviously, "'Why don't you give Misaka your number?' Misaka requests as Misaka forwards her agenda."

Touma shrugged and pulled out his current phone,

"I don't have a problem with it, but this is actually Index's." he explained as he sadly gazed at the ultra cheap communicator, "I'm using it for now because my old phone was kind of ruined the other day..."

Last Order didn't seem to mind all that much, "'Misaka's fine with that as long as she gets the new number when the Savior switches back.' Misaka replies offhandedly as Misaka retrieves her own phone."

Touma raised an eyebrow at the girl's cell phone design. The casing was bubble gum pink and was dotted with bright red floral patterns. A small keychain dangled from it, featuring glittery beads and a cutesy-looking frog at the end.

A thought formed inside his mind the moment he laid eyes on it,

"...Out of curiosity, who bought that for you?" he inquired.

Last Order gave a cheerful smile, "'Accelerator did!' Misaka says as Misaka proudly displays her gift!"

Touma disguised his laughter by acting like he was having a coughing fit.

He couldn't help it. Imagining the look on Accelerator's face while she picked out her phone was just too funny. Though he did feel bad for the poor salesman who waited on them.

"'Are you ok?' Misaka asks as Misaka grows concerned for your health."

"Y-Yea... something just went down the wrong pipe. It's nothing." he answered quickly, though he couldn't quite hide the grin on his face, "So what's your number?"

After fumbling briefly with her phone, the two of them managed to exchange contact information. Last Order looked very satisfied with herself for some reason.

Touma scratched the side of his face, not really sure what to say next,

"So does Accelerator know you're over here with me?" he asked, curious as to why the Level 5 would let her out of his sight.

Last Order's eyes widened at the question, "'Ah, give Misaka a moment!' Misaka requests as Misaka quickly dials her Guardian's number!"

The miniature Sister put the receiver to her ear and waited. Touma heard Accelerator answer about half a second later,

"Bout time you little shit!" he greeted in his usual cheery demeanor.

"'Misaka is calling to let you know that she's safe. Misaka has rendezvoused with the Sav- I mean Touma, and-'"

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, going that far on your own!" Accelerator growled.

Last Order stood her ground, "'It was Misaka's responsibility to investigate the source of the anomaly! ' Misaka defends as Misaka becomes irritated at being treated like a child!"

"Just get your ass back here or else I'll come over and do it for you!" Accelerator snapped before abruptly hanging up.

Last Order stuck out her tongue at the phone, obviously intending the gesture for Accelerator. She then pocketed it and looked over expectantly at Touma.

"Guess we should head back before Accelerator 'does it for us'." he sighed, beckoning the girl to walk with him.

Last Order giggled and slid into place beside him.

The trip back was uneventful. Last Order jabbered on about her hobbies, her favorite foods, the different shows she was following, how the Sisters were fairing... before he knew it, they were already near the lunch break area. Which was good, because he was getting seriously hungry-

"'Ah, Misaka sees Yomikawa and Accelerator!' Misaka observes as Misaka picks up her pace!"

Touma hurriedly matched her walking speed and focused on where she was looking. Sure enough, he could see Accelerator hobbling along towards...

The blood drained from his face as he recognized the busty girl Accelerator was advancing on. That wasn't Yomikawa; that was Fukiyose.

This would not end well.

He caught Last Order by the shoulder and forced her to stop,

"Take this and stay here." he ordered, shoving his bento and drink into her arms. He ignored her questions and rushed towards Accelerator, intending to avert a potential disaster.

Accelerator continued to make a beeline for Fukiyose, heedless of her clenched fists. From this distance, Touma was just able to make out what he was saying,

"Oi! You, with the giant knockers! These shit heads want to know if your tits get in the way when-"

Accelerator never finished the sentence. Fukiyose's fist rocketed forward and slugged the unsuspecting Level 5 right in the face. Touma watched in horror as the body of the most powerful esper in the world left the ground, landing a few meters back from where he started. Accelerator laid dazed for a moment, staring up at the sky as he tried to piece together what just happened.

Confusion quickly turned into fury as he began to regain his bearings. Accelerator's left hand shot up to his choker as his bruised face contorted into murderous rage.

Touma moved to keep Accelerator from committing a felony. He dove on top of the enraged albino and pined his hand to the ground, preventing the Level 5 from activating his powers.

"GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME! I'M GOING TO KILL THAT FUCKING WHORE!" Accelerator screamed as he struggled against Touma's vice grip.

Touma ignored him and focused on keeping his arm pinned. Fortunately, Accelerator wasn't all that strong physically, so he was able to-

Stars suddenly exploded into his vision as he felt a heavy blow to the back of his head. Then another to his back. And yet another to his arms...

Accelerator had somehow managed to grasp his cane with his free hand and was smacking Touma anywhere and everywhere he could reach.

Touma grit his teeth as he shouldered another couple of blows to his back. Why couldn't Fukiyose have just finished the job and knocked the guy out in one clean blow? That's the least she could have done, given the circumstance. You're seriously killing me here, Fukiyose!

Accelerator's rage showed no signs of ending, "YOU ROTTEN FUCKING SHIT STAIN, I'M GOING TO UNKIN IP LOUT CURR OART EW RUKIM-!"

Touma blinked at Accelerator's sudden inability to speak properly. Struck with the realization that the Level 5 was now barely struggling against him, he quickly capitalized on the opening. He wrenched the cane out of Accelerator's grasp with hardly any resistance and pinned both of his hands to the ground. Unable to move, the albino could do nothing but give him look of pure hatred. But even then, his eyes seemed to lack the flare they usually had...

Still panting heavily, Touma glanced at where he had left Last Order. The girl looked like she was concentrating heavily on Accelerator.

Was she interfering with Accelerator's connection to the Network? Yomikawa had explained to him yesterday that Accelerator was depended on the Sisters to perform even the most basic of functions. She had also informed him that Last Order could hinder or even completely cut off that access in case of an emergency...

"Kamijou."

Touma turned his head and gave Fukiyose an exasperated look. Safety precautions aside, was this girl completely nuts? Did she not understand what Accelerator was capable of? Or of how short a fuse he had? He didn't know whether to admire her bravery or be angry at her for doing something so suicidal. To actually punch the top esper like that...

...Though he didn't have much room to talk, all considering. But that was different.

Fukiyose gave him a pointed look, "I'd appreciate it if you didn't glare at me like that, Kamijou. Now, I assume that this is the Accelerator that you claim was involved with the destruction of our school?"

Touma gave her a tired nod. Fukiyose studied the pale Level 5, noticing that he had the same tracking bracelet attached to his ankle that the rest of the group had, "In that case, I have a few things I would like to say to you Accelerator."

Fukiyose folded her arms beneath her breasts, unintentionally accentuating her considerable bust, "I do not know the circumstances behind this mess. And quite frankly, I don't care. What you did to our school was unacceptable. "

Fukiyose's fiery gaze locked with Accelerator's semi-blank one, "I'm going to make this absolutely clear. I do not care about your ranking, your social stature, or your power. Once you have been registered, you are just another student that attends A Certain High School. And at our school, students are expected to follow a code of conduct befitting a mature young adult. If you are incapable of behaving in a civilized and rational way and insist upon going on blind rampages for your own selfish reasons, then you do not belong at A Certain High School. Is that clear?"

Accelerator just continued to give her a slightly unfocused look. Touma didn't have the heart to tell her that the Level 5 could hardly understand what she was saying when he was cut off from the Network like this.

This brief stare-off between the two of them might have lasted for quite a long time had Touma's stomach not intervened with a particularly loud growl. Touma flushed a little as Fukiyose fixed him with a cross expression.

"I suppose I got the message across for now. Once lunch break ends, I'm going to have the four of you help with student stalls. Report to Chikusei Street at twelve o'clock." Fukiyose ordered as she procured a health bar from her pocket and forced it into his hands, "And get something to eat in the meantime, Kamijou. You're going to pass out if you don't receive enough nutrients."

Touma gave her a confused look, "I thought Yomikawa said you had to supervise us?"

Fukiyose turned around, showing her back to him, "I have things to do Kamijou. I trust that you four have been doing fine without me up until this point, and I'd rather not waste my time babysitting if I could help it."

Touma grimaced at the steeliness in her voice. Unable to properly respond, he watched as the Iron Wall stalked off back the way she had come.

Touma breathed out a sigh of relief as she left. He had been hoping that Fukiyose would have calmed down a bit since this morning. In a way, she had. But she was still definitely pissed at them. And a pissed off Fukiyose was a pretty scary thing to deal with, regardless of who her anger was being directed at.

"Unkin shiihaen." Accelerator gurgled from underneath him.

Speaking of scary things...

Touma cautiously picked himself off of Accelerator, wincing at the couple of places the albino had managed to hit him with the cane. He offered the Level 5 a hand up, but Accelerator threw him a dirty look and clumsily slapped it away, babbling another incoherent insult. It seemed like he wasn't quite 'plugged in' enough to talk straight, but was still allowed some movement.

As Accelerator struggled to stand on his own two feet, Touma caught sight of Pierce and Tsuchimikado. The two of them were sporting massive grins as they hustled towards Touma and Accelerator. Once they were within ear shot, Pierce called out to Accelerator,

"Dude, that was awesome! You didn't even flinch!" Pierce congratulated excitedly.

"Nya, you took it head on like a real man." Tsuchimikado added, clearly impressed.

Touma narrowed his eyes at their antics, "...What are you two talking about?"

"Accelerator man! Didn't you see him? He didn't even try to dodge Fukiyose's punch!" Pierce answered with something akin to pride.

The blue haired idiot gave Accelerator a friendly slap on the back. Already having trouble standing back up as it was, Accelerator staggered under the force of the blow and crumpled back to the ground. The Level 5 let loose a string of inarticulate garble, which Touma suspected was him cursing out Pierce.

Pierce failed to make the connection,

"Whoa, what's wrong with him?" he asked with some concern.

"I think he's still a little woozy from Fukiyose hitting him." Tsuchimikado reasoned.

A look of understanding dawned on the pervert's face, "Oh, sorry 'bout that Accelerator. Here, we'll help you up."

Pierce stooped down and slung the one of Accelerator's arms over his shoulder. Tsuchimikado did the same with the opposite arm. Together they stood up, hefting the injured Level 5 back into a standing position.

This only seemed to infuriate Accelerator even more, "Gerr uff may ew nuken hawkuken agot!"

"Don't sweat it man, the first time is always the worst. You'll be fine in a bit, don't worry!" Pierce replied cheerfully.

"Could someone tell me what the hell is going on?" Touma asked tiredly.

Tsuchimikado flashed him an easy going smile, "Well you see, Pierce wanted to know-"

"'Accelerator!' Misaka barks as Misaka gets her guardian's attention!"

Touma glanced at Last Order, who was marching angrily towards the three of them. The petite electromaster handed Touma's bento back to him before turning to regard the inarticulate albino,

"'Misaka can't believe you! Misaka thought you were making some progress since you behaved well yesterday, but then Misaka finds you trying to pick fights again!' Misaka reprimands as Misaka expresses her disappointment!"

"Now now, don't get on his back Last Order. Accelerator did a really brave thing just now." Pierce scolded, surprisingly coming to Accelerator's aide.

Last Order gave the pervert a confused look, "'How was Accelerator being brave?' Misaka asks as Misaka seeks understanding of what transpired."

"Yea, I'd like an explanation myself." Touma seconded.

Tsuchimikado started again, "Like I was saying earlier, we were waiting around when Pierce brought up a really good question..."

"...Which was?" Touma prodded impatiently.

"Whether or not girls with big boobs have trouble tying their shoes." the blonde answered solemnly.

Touma facepalmed at the speed of sound, "You can't be serious."

"Do you know whether boobs get in the way or not?" Pierce challenged.

"..."

"Yea, I thought so."

"Then couldn't you have at least googled it or something?" Touma asked in exasperation.

"Do you honestly think I wouldn't try that first? There's nothing on it." Pierce countered.

"Anyways, we figured we needed to ask someone with big breasts to get a straight answer. We wanted to ask Fukiyose, but we were both afraid that she would beat the hell out of us." Tsuchimikado continued.

"Then Accelerator volunteered to ask himself and took all the heat from Fukiyose just for us!" Pierce concluded for Tsuchimikado, "So you see Last Order, Accelerator was being super brave and selfless when he confronted Fukiyose like that!"

Last Order made a difficult expression as she peered down at herself, "'Is Accelerator interested in that sort of thing?' Misaka asks as Misaka starts to lose self confidence."

"Big boobs? Nah, that would be Kami-yan. Accelerator strikes me as more of an ass man." Pierce answered offhandedly.

"'I see.' Misaka mumbles as Misaka contemplates this new information."

"What the hell are you saying to a kid you idiot!" Touma yelled.

Tsuchimikado shook his head, "Nya, I still can't believe Accelerator was able to take a hit from Fukiyose like that. I seriously underestimated him."

"Yea, same here." Pierce admitted before shooting the defunct esper a toothy grin, "You know, I had my doubts, but you're actually a pretty cool guy Accelerator."

Accelerator gurgled angrily, still unable to speak his mind to the blue haired idiot. Touma heaved a sigh as he felt the headache from this morning beginning to surface again,

"I'm heading back. You two help Accelerator along." he deadpanned, "C'mon Last Order."

Taking the girl by the hand, Touma led her away from the group of morons and back towards his original destination. Pierce was yelling about how holding hands was lewd, but he ignored him. He just wanted to eat.

Once they were back at the lunch break area, Touma wasted no time in digging into his food. The "Misaka Rogue's" bento was as tasty as it looked, and he had already eaten a third of it by the time Tsuchimikado and Pierce had managed to escort Accelerator back.

Since returning, Accelerator seemed to be slowly regaining control over his speech and movement. Touma had his suspicions that Last Order was still peeved at him for causing such a big incident, and was purposefully taking her time in completely restoring his connection to the Network. Or she was just giving him time to calm down before she gave him free reign. Maybe it was a little of both. He just hoped that Yomikawa came back and took Accelerator away before they had to work with Fukiyose. Something told him that Accelerator wasn't going to forgive Fukiyose of his rapidly-forming black eye anytime soon. And Touma wasn't looking forward to another round of wrestling.

"By the way Kami-yan, did you ever meet up with that big red headed guy? I think his name was 'Steel' or something." Pierce inquired, snapping Touma out of his musings.

"Steel? Oh, you mean Stiyl. Yea, I talked with him for a bit..." Touma replied slowly, wondering how Pierce knew the fire mage.

"Man, you've been meeting up a lot with foreigners lately! Is he in a band or-?"

"Hey Kami-yan, did Fukiyose tell you what we're going to be doing next?' Tsuchimikado asked, steering the conversation away from Stiyl.

Nice save Tsuchimikado. The less Pierce got involved with magic the better.

"Nope. She just told us to meet up with her at Chikusei Street by noon." Touma answered as he checked the time on his phone, "Looks like we have eighteen minutes left."

"Nya..."

The conversation came to an abrupt halt as they realized that their break was almost over. Touma carefully set down his half eaten bento, unsure of what to say next. He stared listlessly at a group of girls strolling down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, noticing that all three were wearing the Tokiwadai middle school uniform. The one in the lead was making grand gestures with a folded green fan, as if to add spice to whatever it was that they were talking about. The other two girls seemed to be enthralled with the lead girl's story, though Touma got the feeling they were just humoring her as a friend.

Pierce wistfully gazed at the three girls as they passed by, "How long do we have to keep doing community service for anyway?"

"Until we pay off the school for repair fees." Tsuchimikado reminded.

"How much was that again?"

"I don't know man… they just started tearing down the building today, so I don't even think they have an actual amount yet…" Tsuchimikado answered dejectedly.

"Ugh… we need a rich ojou-sama to lend us money or something…" Pierce mumbled as he stared after the departing backs of the Tokiwadai girls.

Touma leaned his head back against the brick wall and peered up at the sky. Truth be told, he actually knew a certain tomboyish "ojou-sama" well enough to call her a friend…

He took a moment to envision how the exchange would go. The image of an uncharacteristically smug Misaka Mikoto swam into view,

"Oh ho! A commoner like you, asking me to pay off your debt? Leave it to the poor to spend money they don't have… Luckily for you, the great and benevolent Misaka-sama is feeling generous. I'll pay off your debt if you become my personal servant. That's a fair trade, right? Good! Now get ready, we're going to play Railgun Catch for a few hours~"

Touma shuddered a bit,

"That line of thinking is way too dangerous…" he muttered darkly. He couldn't ask her for something like that anyway. It was his problem, so he needed to fix it on his own.

Pierce frowned, "Yea, you're right. You'd have to raise a lot of flags before that option became available, or else you'd risk a reversal. Still, if there was some way we could get one… too…"

Touma glanced over at Pierce, who had trailed off mid sentence, "Pierce?"

Pierce suddenly leapt to his feet, his face lit up in excitement,

"I'VE GOT IT!" the blue haired pervert announced explosively.

"Got what?" Touma asked wearily.

"How we're going to get out of debt!" Pierce replied enthusiastically, "I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner!"

Tsuchimikado cocked an eyebrow at the bold declaration, "How?"

Pierce was positively beaming, "If we can't get ojous to lend us money, then we'll just have to earn it! From them and anyone else that's willing to pay! If we can just set up in time for the festival..."

Festival? Ojous? Touma couldn't see what Pierce was getting at.

Neither could Tsuchimikado apparently, "Nya, just calm down and tell us already."

Pierce drew himself to his fullest height, his smile hard and brazen. His face spoke of confidence and assured victory, forged through countless years of experience.

"We're going to open a host club."


Author's Notes: Hey, I'm back. It's been awhile.

I had a hell of a time with this chapter. To be honest, I'm still not completely satisfied with it, but maybe I'm just beating myself up. It was originally supposed to be longer, but I ended up having to split it. It still came out to almost 22k words somehow. Maybe I'm being too wordy. Oh well.

Pierce's ending line might sound weird, but I'll let Pierce do the explaining in the next chapter... whenever it gets released. I would give an ETA of when that would be, but as I've demonstrated numerous times, I suck ass at estimating both chapter length and completion time. I'm going to try to be more consistent from now on though. Also, at some point I'm probably going to go back and fix some typos in past chapters. I think that means I have to resubmit the chapters or something. So if you suddenly get spammed by five or so "updates," that's why.

Well, that's about it. Let me know how I did, and share any tips that you have. I'm still learning, after all. And thanks for sticking with me and my super slow updates.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go try to not suck ass at P4:Arena.