Ichika sat by the lockers as he replayed the events that had happened recently within his head. Throughout it all, he still couldn't discern as to why Laura hated him so much. He had never met her until a few days ago and the only thing he could think of as a possible reason, is that his sister did something. But if that was the case, why did Laura continue to treat his sister with utmost respect?

It made no sense at all.

"Ichika, are you alright?"

The locker rooms were currently empty besides the two of them. As it stands, the locker room are of mixed gender (since it was only originally for females as back then, male IS users were unheard of) and during class time, the times to which male would enter, would be different from the females. Since it wasn't class period, Ichika allowed all the girls to go first and finish before entering himself. Charles had also waited beside him for obvious reasons.

"Ah, thank you for backing me up Charles." Ichika said as he finally stood up and began changing.

"I – I'll be heading back up to our room and shower there."

"Eh? You're always like that. Don't tell me you dislike changing with me?" Ichika asked. He certainly hoped he didn't give out a bad impression. It would be no good to be not on good terms with his roommate.

"I-it's not really like that..."

"Well it does seem like that. Come on, we should change together every once and a while."

Well, Rakan and Dan said it was part of male bonding so Ichika obviously wanted to increase his bond with his only male classmate.

It was at this point that Charles ran from the locker room, screaming.

"Maybe it only applied to people in Japan." Ichika wondered as he watched Charles' retreating form.

After hearing a potential reason as to why Laura Bodewig hated him, it opened the possibility that whether someone wanted to or not, things that they haven't considered before might be affected negatively. Like Yuuki, Chifuyu's actions, be it good or bad, could have affected some other people negatively and may have seen things differently as they had a different perspective of events. When he had accidentally eavesdropped at Laura and Chifuyu's conversation, it left him feeling conflicted... he couldn't quite say that Laura's reasoning for hating him was petty, he didn't know the true extent of how Laura's life was affected by Chifuyu.

With that thought in mind, it was probably the reason as to why his brain had temporarily shut down when he realized that Charles, after barging into his shower to hand in a new shampoo bottle (since he remembered that there's no more shampoo after using it this morning), was actually a girl.

That may have explained why Charles, at first glance, looked like an extremely handsome bishounen but was in reality, a really beautiful bishoujo. It may also explain why she didn't take to well on his idea of male bonding.

It was several minutes later after Charles had sat herself on her bed that he tried to start up a conversation.

Judging by her expression and tone throughout the talk, he figured that she didn't willingly go to the school as a boy. It was more due to her father's insistence that she needed to go as a boy to gather data from Ichika. As it stands, the French only have 2nd Generation IS unlike the German's who already have 3rd Generations and are on the process of mass producing. The French were working also working on 3rd Generation IS... but it hasn't produced much.

This revelation only served to solidify the fact that whether he wanted it or not, he's going to have many people after him so long as he could pilot an IS.

By the looks of things as Charles' true gender had now been found out by him, Charles' was already prepared to return to France and would no doubt be reprimanded by the president – even if that person was her father.

It took some convincing in his part, but eventually he managed to persuade her to stay in the Academy for her own safety. He'd obviously keep her secret until she herself was comfortable on letting everyone know about it.

Ichika swung his sword down for what seemed to be the thousandth time that morning.

Summer was approaching, but the cool morning air was still present which at least lessened the amount of sweat that gathered during his morning training. Presently, the morning sun had finally broken through the horizon and a small amount of light permeated through the trees which he used as a cover in case anyone was passing through.

Nowadays, Ichika would often wake up three hours before any of his friends could think of waking him up. Although his roommate (both current and former) knew that he woke up early, they didn't exactly know what he was doing. The one time that Houki came with him to training had him act as incompetent as he could so she wouldn't need to come and train with him until he got to a certain level of competence. Thankfully, it seemed like Houki hadn't come to check on him, otherwise his training would have been slowed down again.

Looking back at his fight with Charles - rather Charlotte – he thought of his reckless last attack that sent him losing a match where he could have actually won. Although the result of the match was because he became overconfident (something that a year ago, Yuuki would quickly beat out of him if the signs were showing), he had a feeling that he could have done something more with such an attack.

As a student of the Shinsei Tenka style, he needed to create his own forms – a form that represent the advancing nature of Shinsei Tenka.

Repeating the movement he had done in the match with Charlotte, he nearly lost balance and fell to the floor upon executing it.

He had forgotten that the sword that Yuuki had given to him, though it looked much like a normal katana, was much heavier than any katana he had ever seen and wielded. So when he had tried to execute the attack, it was like a little kid swinging around an aluminum bat like a professional only to fail miserably.

Despite this, it gave him an idea.

Since the wide reaching arc attack that he had used against Charlotte also made him lose balance, maybe he could use the momentum generated by the attack to quickly chain another attack?

Returning to the same starting position from the attack he had given out earlier, he placed most of his weight on a single foot. Once satisfied with his footing, he delivered his attack.

When he had attempted to stop his movement earlier, he nearly fell to the ground, this time however, he made no attempt to stop his movement. Instead, he used the momentum to deliver a secondary strike that, instead of delivering another horizontal attack, gave a vertical attack that started from below.

The movement was a bit crude, but it nonetheless gave him an idea of what he was attempting to do.

Sheathing his katana, he grabbed a towel that he had brought unto the clearing and draped it onto his neck.

He wasn't exactly satisfied with how the move had gone, but at least he had a start point for when he made an original skill.

"Do you always get up that early to exercise?"

Breakfast had ended and after a quick stop at their room, Ichika and Charlotte headed to their classroom.

"Yeah, it's great training for the body. That way, I could feel myself getting stronger or at least, not getting weaker."

"...so it's true that males are power obsessed creatures."

"What do you mean by that?"

Charlotte seemed to have made a rather odd comment.

"Oh! Uh, never mind that! A-anyway, you say that exercise makes you feel like your getting stronger, right?"

Ichika nodded.

"But since we're using IS wouldn't physical training be moot point?"

It's true that physical strength would do nothing as an IS held more power than any human could hope to match. Even Rakan, arguably, one of the most physically powerful person he ever met, couldn't hope to match an IS in terms of strength. When he had fought Rin, the bulky swords that she had used hadn't impeded her movements and actions, in fact the weight of the weapon itself made him more hesitant on even attempting a reckless attack.

"That's true, but muscle memory is important too, right? That's one of the reasons why we also do physical training with IS, so to make it feel like it's part of our body – or rather, an extension of ours."

That said, he still didn't know why he wasn't still synched with his IS. Some of those who had noticed it, thought that the factory setting might already be the settings that matched his specifications. He didn't know what to make of it since he didn't know what a synched IS felt in the first place – although he would no doubt say that his IS is feeling too slow. It was unlike the first time when he had rode Byaku Shiki as during that time, he didn't know what to expect.

"I suppose." Charlotte conceded as she entered the classroom.

Left unsaid was the fact that the morning exercises was also in preparation for future challenges he may face due to his supposed connections with Amakusa Yuuki. He might have an IS, but it wouldn't be honorable to use one in a sword fight when his opponent might not be able to use one.

Greeting a 'good morning' upon entering the classroom, he noticed that the girls in his class plus Rin, seemed to be talking about something. Houki was sitting down on her seat and seemed to have been paying attention to the discussion but at a distance.

Now that he thought about it, he hadn't really thought of replying in anyway to Houki's request a few days ago. Sure it would be moot point if he was the one that one the upcoming tournament, but giving no reply just because of that would be too despicable. He had been thinking of course, but that thinking usually resulted to the same reasoning he had made a few days ago and while it might make a good argument, he wasn't quite sure how Houki would take it.

Why couldn't things stay the same?

Charlotte, after he had said his greetings, asked what the fuss was about, but the girls quickly scattered. Rin made a flimsy excuse of needing to go to her own class while Cecilia made an even more flimsy excuse of needing to go to her own seat.

Houki might know what they might be talking about, but he wasn't exactly too keen on talking to Houki as of now.

Class had ended two hours ago, but due to Ichika's difficulty with the current subjects, he had Charlotte review him for the technical aspects of IS that he hadn't quite grasped. It had took two hours, but Ichika felt that he had learned enough for the upcoming tournament.

"Ichika, are you going for Special Training today?"

Charlotte didn't the look the least bit mentally wasted as he did after the study session. Was he simply that much of an idiot to be exhausted by such things? He was already having trouble with normal subjects as it is...

"Yeah. The tournament is tomorrow, right? So I'm hoping to cram whatever I need to learn today."

Going unprepared like he did with the last few battles he had gone through had showed him that being unprepared could cost him the battle, and as the battle with the rogue IS had shown, his life. He could also use these relatively safe battles as a form of training when he went to battles that only involved the sword. After all, live battle is worth even more than several hundreds of hours of training – something that Yuuki had shown to him in the last two months of their training.

Speaking of which, he hadn't heard anything from Hisoji and Rakan in regards to challengers. Aside from the occasional email that would have Rakan cursing him for his luck on staying at such a school, there hadn't been any news on potential challengers entering the city. If there were any challengers and they wanted to challenge him, he'd have to accept. It was to protect the honor of his master after all.

Hisoji had also given him a small guideline on what to expect from such a challenge.

Apparently, the challenge would either be in the form of first blood or once one side is incapacitated. Getting killed in such a match was a possibility, so even though there were rules, it didn't mean that all challengers would follow it. Aside from that, the losing party would have to relinquish an item of interest to the winning party, as to what extent it encompasses Hisoji didn't clarify.

Shaking his head, of such thoughts, he would worry about it when the time came.

Glancing to his left, he noticed a group of girls running.

The one thing that he heard from the passing girls, was that it seemed like three representative candidates were fighting in the third arena.

Immediately, he felt a chill run down his spine when he heard those words.

While he did indeed know at least three representative candidates in IS Academy, it didn't mean that it could be the three he knew, right?

The look of surprise from Charlotte told him all he needed to know.

Rushing towards Arena 3, he tried to moderate his speed so that Charlotte can keep up, but the continually growing feeling of dread as he approached Arena 3 urged him to run as fast as he could to find out what was happening.

He could already hear the sounds of battle, he only hoped that he wasn't too late.

Once Ichika and Charlotte reached the stands, he noticed that Houki had also come into the arena stands.

Turning towards the ongoing battle, it was just as he had feared.

Cecilia and Rin was currently fighting against Laura. It was a 2 on 1 battle, yet they were losing.

Rin tried to attack with her Dragon Cannon but all Laura did was raise her hand and the attack was dispelled.

He was surprised at that. It was unlike anything he had seen before now, yet...

"It's AIC." Charlotte said, not surprised at how the attack, that had given him trouble in the last tournament, was easily stopped.

"That's it. Since she's using that, she doesn't even think of evading Dragon Cannon."

It seemed like he was the only one out of the loop... again.

"What's AIC?"

"It's Shwarzer Roegen's third generation weapon. Active Inertia Canceler." Charlotte explained.

"It's an ability that negates the inertia of moving mass."

That... that encompassed a lot of things. If that was truly the case, then when an attack ever got near enough to Laura (as it seemed like the target of AIC was a close range weapon), she could simply stop the projectile, or even freeze an attacker in place by negating the forces. For a close range attacker like him, this would no doubt drive him into corner.

"Do you understand?"

Ichika didn't need to reply, the expression present in his face was enough of an indicator.

The battle took a turn for the worse, that even with the combined efforts of Cecilia and Rin, they couldn't properly attack Laura's IS. Although it was a 2 on 1 battle, it was clear to any watcher that the Cecilia and Rin had no sense of formal teamwork, and got into each others way quite often. Laura, whether she noticed it or not, only showed pleasure at the easy battle the two were giving her. It was a one-sided battle, and she knew it.

It was when Laura was reducing the barriers to 0 despite the fact that doing so, would automatically disable the IS, leaving them defenseless against the IS they were fighting.

Enough was enough.

"Come, Byaku Shiki!"

Materializing his IS, he immediately took out Yukihiro Nigata to cleave at the barrier that surrounded the audience stands. The initial barrier of the audience stands was a simple defense that could last physical strain and projectiles from normal IS, but at the fold-out ability of Yukihiro Nigata, it was powerless.

The barrier shattered as a glint of light flew up into the air while Ichika headed straight to Laura, with his fist clenched.

He knew that Laura was goading him to fight, and the pleased smile that she showed him only served to verify that fact. But he wasn't fighting for the sake of fighting her, no, it was to stop her from attacking his friends!

"Get your hands off of them!"

Laura merely raised her hand like she did with the previous attacks, as if her raised hand was commanding him to stop. She didn't look the least bit worried at her predicament.

Against his will however, he did stop. Ichika couldn't move his body, no matter how much he willed it. It was like he had been disconnected from his body and he could only feel, hear and see, he simply couldn't move at all.

He had expected it of course, after all the name of the weapon implied it had this ability, but even expecting it, he was still surprised to the extent of its ability.

Rin and Cecilia's IS had finally lost all of its barrier and had dematerialized. Due to the difference in size that the rope like projectiles that had been stopping them from moving, they dropped to the ground no longer held up by the ropes.

"Emotional and reckless. You're the epitome of a fool."

Laura watched Ichika struggle through the AIC, smirking at his powerlessness.

"You're not a worthy opponent just as I thought. Begone!"

Laura pointed her cannon towards Ichika's frozen form.

There was something odd however, enough to have her pause.

Although Ichika was indeed struggling, he didn't have a look of despair or fear despite his current situation. Furthermore, his earlier struggling expression was suddenly replaced with a tiny smirk.

It was at that moment, that Laura realized Ichika was holding nothing. His weapon wasn't in his hands.

A flash of light from above was all she noticed before, the fold-out form of Yukihiro Nigata cleaved at the large cannon, slicing it without any problem.

This sudden change in situation was enough for Laura to lose focus for a second, releasing the AIC, but at the same time gave the opening that Ichika needed.

Grabbing the fallen sword, he immediately cleaved at the remnants of the cannon and delivered a debilitating attack towards Laura's barrier. Even though he was furious at how Laura had used his friends to goad him into fighting her, it didn't mean that he would use that as a reasoning to hurt her more than he had to.

Without pause, Ichika positioned himself to finish the IS, with the current development, he doubted that Laura could possibly use her AIC at this state.

A sharp 'clang' rang through the arena. It was the only indicator that Ichika had before he realized that he hadn't at all cleaved at his target, and instead, someone had intervened.


Ichika only knew one person who Laura could have possibly called that title. That chances that her other commanders were here, was pretty slim so that obviously meant it was the person that he least wanted to intervene in this fight.

The look that Chifuyu directed his way made him swallow.

It seems like he was in trouble.

Author's Notes:

Not much to say here, except the fact that I skimmed through a lot of things so I can jump to the ones that are more interesting or ones that are completely different from canon.

This update is a bit late, and my only excuse is because I had been lazy on putting this up. I had actually finished this weeks ago.

If there's any notable errors, please notify me I'll try to fix it right away.