All I've got to say is...

Suguro's got some big ass feet.

I can imagine them being, like, really hairy...

Can't you?

It was on the morning after the naberius attacked that we were called to the main hall to learn who became exwires and who would remain behind until next semester. I had Suguro escort me back to my room when the doctors told me I would be okay to sleep last night. He came back in the morning with Shima and Konekomaru to help me down the stairs incase I was feeling dizzy. We made our way downstairs, where immediately I was swarmed by Mephisto, who grabbed my arms and was turning me left and right. "Mephisto... what are you doing, dare I ask...?" He smiled in satisfaction, clapping his hands together. "You seem to be intact despite the head injury you received. Thank goodness that was all you got~!" I blinked in surprise. "I... I didn't think you were so concerned..." "Well, duh. I accidentally threw my DSi out the window. I need something to keep me entertained until my new one comes in~." I starred at him, straight faced for a moment. "You are seriously fucked up-"

"Now then!"

He danced away from me, Ushering everyone to gather around him as he made his big announcement. "What is this? You're all acting as if I have the plague! Come closer..." We all exchanged glances before nervously inching closer. He frowned and put his hands on his hips, eyebrows knitting in annoyance. "If all of you don't move at least 3 feet forward, you'll have to spend detention tied to a rapid hobgoblin in the cellars." I don't think anyone hesitated to move forward this time. Mephisto smiled triumphantly, stroking his beard with one hand, while plucking his hat from his head with the other. "Excellent! Eins~ Zwei~ Drei~!"

Confetti burst from the hat, some of it landing on sensei's head. I looked between the others and our rather... flamboyant principle. (Here is where Mephisto yells at the author and claims that he isn't gay and that he's just expression himself as an artist... pfft.) They looked about as confused as I was. "Congratulations! Everyone has made it to exwire!" It took a second for me to register the words when I felt Suguro lifting me from behind and spinning me around, before going over to throw his arm over Konekomaru's shoulders. I teetered over a little bit, lucky enough to have Rin catch me. I stared up at him, as he had caught me under the arms, watching his large canines part as he laughed. "Did ya hear that, Mana-chan? We're all exwires! This is awesome!" I slowly realized what he had said, and couldn't help the smile that slowly grew on my face. I had no idea why I was so happy about this. I had only agreed to become an exorcist under Mephisto's advising. It wasn't like I initially wanted to go through with it. I thought to myself that If I had happened to become an exwire, it wouldn't have been a big deal to me. Maybe I had enjoyed it more that I originally thought.

"Fufu~ and to celebrate everyone's promotion, I, the rich chairman-" "Knock it off!" Mephisto glared at me, now completely annoyed. "You knock it off! Stop interrupting me when I'm trying to introduce myself!" He clicked his tongue and turned back to the others with a false smile. "I will treat you to monja!" What the hell? "Fried Pancakes? You cheap ass, at least treat us to barbeque or something!" Mephisto turned back at me now, a serious look etched on his features. "Ah, right. That is... All of you except for Miss Fukunuma Mana." I froze in my place. "Oh, so now you're uninviting me from the celebration? I see how it is." I crossed my arms and looked away from him in mock anger.

"No. You see, when I said that everyone had made it to exwire, I meant everyone but you."

I snapped my head back toward him. Rin took a step forward. "Wait, what are you talking about? Are you saying Mana failed the exam?" Mephisto placed his hat back on his head, his features as grim as a grave stone, pulling the rim so that it covered the top half of his eyes. "Unfortunately, it is so."

My arms fell to my side. The happiness and excitement that was swelling within my chest a few seconds ago suddenly vanished, and in its place was a sinking depression. Rin looked back at me, something between confusion and shock apparent in his eyes. "What the hell? How did she not make it? She helped us with the naberius! If she hadn't impaled it and slowed its movements, it would have killed Me and Moriyama! And what about Takara and Yamada, who didn't even do anything and yet they're still being promoted? What bullshit is this?" Suguro had to be restrained by Shima and Konekomaru, who were also starring at me. I kept my gaze locked on Mephisto, his emerald eyes shining brightly in what appeared to be a mix of malice and irritation.

"Yes. Though, she was unable to summon her familiar in a time where it was crucial. Being unable to summon your familiar is indeed a disadvantage and a sign of a lack, or regression of skill, and is especially frowned upon as a tamer. She then proceeded to throw her bloodied paper at the demon carelessly, allowing it to ingest it and increase its stamina. Moriyama would have been able to hold up the barrier for a longer period of time if this hadn't happened. Also, we found traces of her blood on Moriyama's kimono, which sparked its interest in her in the first place, thus putting her in danger. You also put yourself in danger and almost had yourself killed. Though, indeed, you successfully managed to save Moriyama and assist Suguro, the teachers and I have come to the decision that you aren't ready to move on and become an exwire."

I spent the rest of that week in a haze. I wasn't stupid, I knew exactly what this meant. All of my friends would move on and start their missions, and I would be repeating the semester all over again. I didn't want that to happen. Suguro, Rin, Shima, Konekomaru, Shiemi, Sensei, hell, even Kamiki. I didn't want to be left behind. It had been the first time I had ever felt like I belonged with anyone, and now I would be stuck by myself again. I felt like, if I had failed as an exwire, slowly I would lose the connection I had made with everyone, and I would be alone again.

I hadn't been snapped out of my trance until the end of English class on Friday. I had been spacing out, and apparently we had been taking notes. I sat there for a while even after the bell had rung, starring at the fibers of the wood in the desk.

Hanabura-Sensei placed a hand on my shoulder, shaking me from my thoughts. I starred up at him, surprised. He frowned at me and sat across from me. "Is something the matter, Fukunuma-san? You've been spacey the whole period. I thought you might be feeling sick." I blinked a few times before looking back down, shaking my head. "No, Sensei... It's just... No, I'm fine, really." He frowned before nodding and making his way back to his desk. I gathered my things and made my way out towards the main stairway to go back to my dorm.

Things were especially awkward as the days went by. Especially the one afternoon I accidentally went to the cram school, not realizing I shouldn't have been there until I had stepped foot into the classroom. I was supposed to be back in the remedial class with Tsubaki-sensei, and instead went to Okumura-sensei's. I opened the door and readied myself to step in, when it suddenly hit me. I failed. This was the exwire's class, not the paige's. My eyes flickered nervously across everyone's faces. Even sensei looked a bit star struck by my presence. I let my eyes fall to the floor, hand gripping the door knob as I took a step back. "Oh. Pardon me. I'm in the wrong class..." My chest swelled as I began to shut the door. I paused when I heard Suguro jump up and shout for me, and smiled to myself in a melancholy manner before shutting the door.

One day when I was in my room reading, I heard a knock at my door. When got up to open it, Shiemi stood there, smiling away. I felt my face heat in embarrassment, seeing as it was a Saturday and I had been lying around in my pajamas all afternoon, but I let her in anyway. "You know, Mana-chan, everyone has been really sad ever since you've stopped attending the cram school. Didn't you know? Suguro-kun actually failed a test the other day! He's been such a wreck ever since the exams..." I shot up and grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her. "That idiot failed? NO! That's unacceptable! He can't, he can't, he can't! He's number one in the class, this is absolutely impossible! Unforgivable!" Shiemi's small hands shot out and slapped themselves onto either side of my face. I let go of her, straightening her shirt and flushing even more. "Erm... sorry... and... thanks..."

She took a seat in my desk chair, taking a moment to stop her vision from spinning. "He doesn't even bother to yell at Rin anymore, and he doesn't pay attention in class. He gets really, really mad when Shima-kun or Miwa-kun mention your name. Kamiki-san has been crankier too. But I think Rin has been taking it the hardest..." I had been putting my book back on the bookshelf when I took a step back, tangling my feet and falling over onto my bed. "M-Mana-chan!" I put my hand up and sat upright onto my elbows. "I'm fine... but... Rin...? I doubt he's taking it harder than Suguro. That idiot has been attached to me since day one..." Shiemi giggled, bringing a hand to her lips. "Yeah. It's kind of cute. You two would made a good couple!" I blinked at her. "I didn't even know you were aware of things like that. No offense, I mean, you come off as overly innocent and oblivious most of the time..." This time it was her turn to blush, and she slapped her hands over her own cheeks. "W-Well to be honest, I've been reading magazines lately that say-" I put my hand up and shook my head. "Forget it, I don't wanna know. And anyway, what's up with Rin?"

Her eyes downcast to the floor, and she rubbed her arm. "You see... He doesn't talk as much as he used to, and he doesn't sleep in class anymore..." I raised an eyebrow. "Um... Isn't that a good thing...?" "N-No! Not like that! He looks mad all the time and he's always brooding. It's as if he's got something on his mind that he can't shake. I asked him what was wrong, and he wouldn't respond to me. But, when I asked him if it was because of you, he would clench his teeth, and walk away. I think that... you're very important to him as well, Mana-chan..." Oh no. It couldn't be. Her body language, her mannerisms, her reasons for coming here... "Shiemi-chan... You... wouldn't happen to like Rin, would you? Because I swear it's not-" "Ah!" Her head shot up, and she looked confused. "What? No! No, no, no! Rin is one of my very close friends. I'm just concerned about him because he hasn't been himself. The one I like is Yuki-chan!"


In the short awkward silence that ensued, she seemed to have turned into a little blonde tomato, as her cheeks puffed out and her face burned brilliantly. It took me a second to realize that she would occasionally slip up in class and call Okumura-Sensei 'Yuki-chan'. I couldn't help but grin at this realization. "Ah~. I see. So Okumura-sensei is the one you like~?" She ran over to me and slapped her hands over my mouth, effectively silencing me. "No! P-Please don't say anything! I-I want to be the one to tell him! On my own!" I moved her hands aside, smiling. "It's okay, Shiemi-chan. I wouldn't tell anyone, anyway. It's not my place, and I'm not that kind of person. And anyway, I feel kinda honored that you would share that with me openly." She scratched the back of her head an looked away. "Um... actually I kind of blurted that out without thinking... I wasn't planning on telling you..." I would have fallen over if I hadn't been sitting.

"A-Anyway, I'm getting off topic... Rin is always looking at you so seriously... It's as if he can't see anyone else but you. And every time he gets close to you, he backs up immediately, not even realizing that he was so close to you! It's so sweet. He's been so happy-go-lucky since you came to the cram school. I really do believe that he likes you! It has to be true!" I stood from the bed and scratched my head, walking over to my desk to look for a clean sheet of paper. "Shiemi-chan, which is it? You say that Suguro-kun and I would make a good couple, then you go on about your theory that Rin likes me. Which is it?" I turned to watch her shuffle her feet. "W-Well... my point for comming here is that everyone hasn't been the same since you left, and we all miss you. We've all been trying to figure out a way... and we are going to go to Sir Pheles and request that you are given another chance!"

I stared at her a moment. "Sh-Shiemi-" "The cram school hasn't been the same without you Mana-chan. We can't just sit by and do nothing while our friend is being held back! We know that you can do anything you put your mind to! And we all want is to help you pass the exam!" I smiled and turned around to face her. "As much as I appreciate it... I don't think it would be a good idea..." "Why not? What do you have to lose? You've already lost the exam, and if you lose again things aren't going to change!" "Jesus, Shiemi, that's not exactly encouraging!" She shook her head and balled her round little hands into fists. "Fukunuma Mana! Get off of your sorry ass and stop feeling sorry for yourself! You're gonna let us help you whether you like it or not! Meet us tomorrow at ten o'clock sharp at the school gym if you ever wanna be an exwire! If not, quit wasting our time!" I took a step back, nearly falling on top of the desk. Shiemi's serious demeanor suddenly changed into a bright, cheery one. "Suguro-kun asked me to say that if I couldn't convince you."

She skipped towards the door and opened it, looking back at me with a smile. "I'll see you there, Mana-chan!" I starred after the small blonde, slightly shocked by her little outburst. I couldn't help but smile. They really missed me that badly, huh? Maybe I would show up tomorrow, just to see what all the hub-bub was all about.

At about 9:33 I put on a pair of running shoes, a pink hoodie, and white shorts and bolted out of the girl's dorm as fast as I could, making my way for the school. I was determined to get Mephisto to give me a do over, and if I was gonna request one, I needed to be better prepared. At about 9:46, I had made it to the entrance of the school and was making my way to the gym. At 9:51, I had arrived at the gym doors and peered inside the windows. I saw no one there, and figured that they hadn't arrived yet. That, or Shiemi had the times wrong. I pulled the doors open and peered around, and when I still saw no signs of life, I exhaled in disappointment. "I really, REALLY hope she didn't get the times mixed up..."

I heard a door open to my right and starred at Suguro awkwardly. He was wearing a black tank and shorts, and he had a towel draped over his shoulders. His face went from annoyed to surprised. "M-Mana-chan... you're here early..." I blinked, a little flustered by his presence, considering I had been avoiding him for a week straight. I immediately clasped my hands together and started twiddling my thumbs, at a loss for words. "Erm... well, yeah, I wanted to know what was going on..." I heard him throw the towel down and cry out in frustration. "God dammit, I had this cool thing going down and of course you have to show up to ruin it! Nothing ever goes the way I plan..." I put my hands up in my defense and took a step back. "I-I can come back later if you wa-" "No! It's too late now... Yo! Mana's here early! So much for the formation..." I frowned and turned away, holding my hands over my eyes. "Look, Suguro-kun! I won't look, let's just pretend I haven't walked in yet!" I heard him growl and stop immediately. "Aw, fuck it. C'mon guys, let's just stick to the plan..."

I heard the sound of sneakers rushing about the rubber floor and couldn't help the smile that stretched across my face. "Fukunuma Mana!" I turned on my heel and peeked out between my fingers. "I can look now?" Suguro scowled, baring his teeth. "You're looking already, aren't you, maggot?" I jumped and threw my hands behind my back, blinking innocently. Everyone from the cram school, even Takara, and Yamato, stood in a V formation, with Suguro in front. My hands dropped and slackened along with my jaw. "We're here to help you train to get stronger for your exwire exams! Each one of us will be helping you in a specific field that will be especially suited to you! Takara, Yamada, and Okumura will be assisting you in hand-to-hand combat! Moriyama and Kamiki will be assisting you with your tamer abilities, and Shima, Konekomaru, and I will be your fitness instructors, seeing as you have little to none body strength!" I flushed darkly and glared at him in my defense. "Oi, asshole! Just 'cause I'm not a freakin' steroid abuser like you-" "Is that anyway to speak to your sensei, maggot?" I jumped backward as he took a step forward and yelled in my face. I put my feet together and saluted him, muscles tensing. "Sir, yes, Sir!" He grinned and reached behind me to pat me hard on the back, nearly knocking me over. "Excellent! Then we'll first start with fitness training! I wanna see you start out with ten laps around then gym, then drop and give me twenty!"

I gave everyone a once over, smiling in thanks. "You've got it, Ryuuji-sensei!" I winked up at him and began running around the gym at top speed. Not a very good idea to start out running, but I was so enthusiastic about meeting their requirements, that I didn't have the time to think about it. With everyone so eager to encourage me and to help me succeed, I didn't have room to think of anything else! So with an elated grin, I reached the tenth lap in no time, and dropped to Suguro's feet to do push-ups. Albeit, horribly.

"FUKUNUMA! You can do better than that! this is only the second time and you're already out of breath?" I paused at the top of the stairs in the main hall of the school, hands on my knees and breathing heavily. "D-Damn you, Suguro..." "Well? What the hell do you think you're doing? MOVE IT!" I growled and felt something snap on my forehead. Maybe it had been that vein in the center that had been pulsating since my failed push-ups this morning. I ripped my hoodie off over my head to reveal a tank top, and rubbed my hands together, turning on my heel and running back down the steps. Over the sound of my feet hammering against the marble staircase, I heard Rin murmur, "You sure it's okay to push her like this? I mean, if she doesn't exercise all that much she should be starting out easier, right?" I heard Suguro snort. "We don't have time to start out easy. We already asked Okumura-sensei to gather the other sensei and put in a word, now all we have to do is wait on Sir Pheles's decision."

I paused in my running and spun around to stare at him, bewildered. "You mean... sensei... he... he wanted to help...?" Suguro howled and pointed a finger at me. "DON'T MAKE ME COME UP THERE! KEEP RUNNING, MAGGOT!" I glared back at him. "YOU DON'T HAVE TO ACT LIKE A FUCKING DRILL SEARGENT!" I spun on my heel, feeling my ponytail whip behind me, before continuing to run up and down the steps. I felt happy that even sensei was putting an effort into helping out as well. I guess with a teacher's assistance the whole ordeal felt more reassuring. On my way up, hammering my feet in an attempt to wake my legs back up, which was failing horribly, I heard footsteps behind me and couldn't help but turn my head. Rin was catching up to me quickly, feral-seeming grin stretching his features. Panting, I glared at him lightly as I continued to jog up the marble torture device. "Hey, Hey! I figured you might wanna race me! It might give you some motivation!"

Already annoyed by Suguro's ceaseless yelling, I offered the kindest response I could muster. "Piss off." I went as far as skipping three steps as I went along, just to get away from him. I silently thanked the lord for blessing me with long legs. When I reached the top of the stairs, I paused a moment, leaning on my knees and panting while he bent next to me, a hand on my back. "Oi, you okay? I think you've done enough for today... why don't we practice your reflexes?"

My 'yes' was a straight blow to his jaw.

He fell backwards into the railing and stared at me like he had gotten electrocuted. I grinned, despite my heavy heaving, and straightened, cracking my knuckles. "Y'know, Rin, as nice as that sounds, after your inability to block a punch like that, I think you'd be a sucky reflex instructor. Yo, Ryuuji-sensei! I did my thirty runs up and down the steps! Whaddya suppose we do next?" I turned to eye Suguro over the railing and smiled when I noticed his cheeks twinge red. "That's enough for today! Just c'mon down and take a break!" I sighed in relief, mounting myself on the railing and sliding down, effectively jumping off and falling on my face when I reached the bottom.

I saw the brown loafers cloud my vision and smiled sheepishly, right cheek pressed firmly against the floor and glued there from the sweat that loitred my face. "Hey guys, my legs feel like jelly..."

I took a bento from Rin and chowed down appreciatively, taking note of the ingredients as I piled them into my mouth. Suguro took a seat beside me on the steps, unscrewing and handing me a bottle of water as I sucked it down with vigor. "Running is definitely one of your strong points. You're really quick on your feet, you could use that to your advantage. Have you ever thought about joining a sports team?" I swallowed the sticky rice and took another swig of the refreshment, turning to him with slight irritation. "My folks tried to get me involved in track and field before when I outran the city bus for school... but I was against it because I hated everyone in my old school. Making friends or attempting something popular wasn't an option. Maybe here, I wouldn't mind, but I'm better off doing things at my own pace rather than being made to do them. The only reason why it's working while I have you guys training me is because I actually have the motivation, and you guys don't get on my nerves. Well, most of the time, anyway."

I paused in my eating, remembering some of the things Shiemi had told me. I immediately turned to Suguro, handing Rin my bento, and slapping my poor sensei across the face lightly. I hadn't hit him hard enough to hurt him, but he still looked surprised. "You dumbass. What is this Shiemi told me about you failing a test?" His eyes downcast, rubbing his cheek in a dejected manner. "I-I couldn't think straight..." "Damn straight you couldn't! What the hell were you thinking Suguro?" I couldn't help but feel a little guilty when his eyes suddenly made contact with mine in a ferocious manner. "I was thinking about you. So if anything it's your fault..." I smiled and reached down, ruffling his hair. "You really worry to much." He smacked my hand away and looked away again.

"Is this the part where they kiss and make up?"

Cue a men's size thirteen loafer lodging itself in Shima's face.

I now turned to Rin and glared at him. "And since when the hell were you anti-social? That's not like you at all. If anything, the stupid, cheery, 'kiss my ass' Rin is much more fun than that." Rin smiled bashfully and nodded, scratching the back of his head. "Haha, yeah, I gottcha..." I sat back down on the steps, stretching my arms around both their shoulders and hugging them tightly. These idiots... "You guys are the best. Never forget that..." I felt my cheeks warm. Gooey, fluffy, shitty moments weren't really my shtick... but I was willing to make an acceptation for these two. Rin chuckled heartily, wrapping his free arm around my torso as Suguro tried to pull away, flustered. I took my bento back from Rin and continued eating.

It was upon taking my bites slowly, now munching on some okra, that Yamada stood from a shaded corner of the room and waltzed over to me, crouching down at eye level and smirking. Under the brim of his hood, a flash of violet caught me off-guard. I had to swallow the okra a bit too soon to prevent myself from choking. A smirk adorned his unusually full lips as he handed an envelope to me. I stared at it in confusion, before glancing back at him. "This, is only for you to read, hime-sama."

My blood ran cold.

Suguro and Rin growled from either side of me, both jumping up simultaneously, barking at the boy to back off. In any other situation, I would have probably laughed or shrugged it off. It was the face that he addressed me as only another demon would that frightened me the most. It couldn't be that Yamada knew who I was...? And just the fact that he had called me a princess...

Was Yamada a demon too...?

I heard Rin's breath hitch beside me and looked over as a look of realization suddenly hit him, as well. He looked over at me, cobalt eyes flashing wildly as his mouth hung agape.

I guess this meant I was under just as much suspicion as they were.