This chapter is focused on Lingyin, Laura, and overall Chifuyu

Poor Houki has no screentime at all :p

I did this to celebrate of Volume 8 I.S. light novel (with Choco as Illustrator), Manga Reboot (Yuuki Homura) and plan for second season anime (Adapting Volume 5-7).

The new novel and manga wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but the novel is a special case; it says something when the novel translator is full of doubt and not too eager about it. But it's not for me to judge, but you, the rest of readers.


Infinite Stratos

-Sacred Twins-

Co-written with Blitz1/2

Disclaimer:

Izuru Yumizuru & Okiura

TBS, 8-BIT, MF Bunko

And everyone else!


V2 Chapter 5: His and Her Circumstances


~MADOKA POV~

So much for a brief respite….

I always knew, there's something about Ichika-nii that I didn't knew about, something off about him… that hold him back. Ichika had a hidden side that it was only now did I comprehended about him.

Being weary and tired, I returned to my room. I raised my hand and formed it to a light fist.

I knocked the door for the sake of etiquette, Yuzu-san opened the door hastily, and her eyes widened for a while, before turning into a serene look, welcoming me with a simple smile.

After all that I have been through, I was glad to be returned with a smile, it is nice to have such a good roommate

"Welcome back, Madoka-san"

"I'm home, Yuzu-san"

I dropped to the bed exhausted, feeling the fluffy bed as though it was my first time to sleep in such a bed. Feeling the warmth, I started to look at my roommate, it was only then did I examine my roommate in personal.

Yuzu's long hair flowed beyond her shoulder, forming a nice contrast with her skin colour. She did look much better with her hair down. I couldn't help but ask.

"Yuzu-san, I wonder why you always tied your hair, you look beautiful in that hairstyle you know"

Her eyes widened in surprise, but then her serene expression had returned "It's a lot more practical, besides, I don't have anyone to impress here"

Nobody to impress? Well, count me as the first then. I rebuked her, "Uh, not really"

"Well, I'm not the one who got a couple of love letters for sure"

(Boom!)

Like a bomb that just detonated, my face turned red in embarrassment, thankfully, the trusty pillow is still there "Iyaa, I'm still embarrassed about that!" I held the pillow close to my face, which muffled most of my speech.

"Ara-ara, no need to be embarrassed, fu-fu," she waved her hand lightly "It'sromance time after all."

She was enjoying this wasn't she? Well, I can't let her have the last laugh.

"How about Yuzu-san? Spending a weekend with boyfriend"

"Yes"

Such a short answer, and yet, looking at the radiance emitted by her face, I can see insurmountable amount of happiness she got from such a simple occurrence. I don't really expect that, not a little.

"I've heard that~"

OH SHI-

"Nohonhon, how many times I told you to knock" Yuzu-san chastised the short girl, albeit half serious.

Honne, Kiyoka-chan, and Shizune popped out from the half-open door, although Shizune is especially not amused for some reason.

"They dragged me into this"

I see.

"Now, now, as the only one around here who had a boyfriend, I demand you to share your mighty experience" I can't lie to myself that even I was slightly interested.

On the other hand, No Honne, you are not threatening in the slightest. Especially if you stretched your lip ear to ear like that.

"Well, not like it's anything special. I mean, he actually read shoujo manga and really, REALLY like sweet…"

Silence ensues as realization kicked, although Shizune-san simply blinked, both Kiyoka and Honne left agape, as if their facial tendon had lose their tenacity.

"WHOAA?"

"Shuush" I told them, this is really interesting, "Please continue" I encouraged her, giving her a nice pat in the back.

"We've met in a bookstore, his appearance and outside mannerism is almost indistinguishable from a girl, but at the same time, our eyes met… and I knew, it's the same kind of eyes Orimura-kun and Dunois-kun had. We've met again several times, and finally talked when we met for the thirdtime; it was when Chiemi-sensei, our favorite mangaka signed her first tankoubon"

"Then?"

"We went to a date"

Once again, the loud duo shrieked "EEEH?!"

I didn't believe it either, Shizune-san on the other hand… just twitched.

"It's not EXACTLY a planned date per se, just that… we just met, and like 'Wanna hang out? There's a new café nearby' and it went very well. The second time is more or less planned, and he confessed on the third date"

"Mmm, and what's your reaction?"

"I said I like him too, but at the same time, I asked him what he saw in me, there's many cuter girl out there"

"Jeez" I put a palm on my face, so did Shizune-san "I cannot believe you botched it like that and still succeed" she said.

Honne wave her overgrown sleeve hastily "Shuush, and what did he say after that?"

Yuzu-san simply smirked lightly "He said that he feel secure around me, feel that there's nothing to fear, that I treat him like I would treat any 'normal' boy. He's been rejected so often, because other girls cannot see past his quirks"

Kiyoka sighed "Well, most girls don't like a boyfriend who's more feminine than them, I think. What do you think, Madoka-san?"

"Hmm, I don't know. But if what I guess is right" I looked at my lovestruck roommate "Girly men knew how to please girls well"

"Exactly" Shizune-san's volume spiked like a militaristic president preaching about the importance of war "Sometimes, boys can be very ignorant about maiden's heart and this is golden opportunity to avoid that"

"Indeed, this is what I like about him. Although, sometimes I wonder if my feelings are that shallow"

Is that a hint of melancholy I saw?

"I don't think so" I muttered.

As if they find another thing that stimulated their disbelief, they all simply responded with "Huh?"

"It's not like we committed ourselves to them for our whole life, not yet. There's so many thing we haven't knew about them, and each time we discover something new, we felt a conflicting feelings of happiness and anxiousness, that we might not even knew about our own identity"

That's right, my feelings for Ichika-nii are like that, I love him, I loved him in the past and now… uncertain of the future. But I don't care, what's most important is that… even if I changed, this is a feeling I will treasure forever, deep inside my heart.

I grinned "What made our hearts flutter, the sort of feelings that won't be there as we grew up and understand more about ourselves and about love"

"YAAAAAY!" At least I had several girls that shared my view point.

~CHIFUYU POV~

I don't even know how and when I ended up here, battle arena rearmost seat, drinking my ass off out of anxiety.

I shouldn't be here, I should be there, with my brother and sister, but no, I just… can't… I can't let them to be fazed by this. Road to future is still a long way to go, and I can't let them grew too soft.

Look at how it ended for me.

But still…

There's something about it a bit off, as if…

I was wrong all along.

No, I can't let that thought nagging me.

"Damn it" I crushed the half-consumed beverage in my hands, the tin can crumpled as if it's made of paper, content spilled outside wastefully.

"Instructor…"

I looked aside and raised my eyebrow, petite girl with silver hair and eyepatch on her left eyes, Bodewig.

"Any question? Go ahead"

"What are you doing here?"

"Drinking of course"

"That's not what I meant, what are you doing HERE… in this miserable, pathetic place"

"Don't get ahead of yourself" my words turned extremely chill, it was sharp remark, like a katana about to be drawn. If it was anyone else, they probably scrambled off in fear "Who are you to dictate my life?"

But for her, it's a delight to hear.

"Excuse me for being conceited, but you're wasting your time here, those… imbeciles, they don't even realize the strength and potential they possess, and put it on a waste" I see where this is going.

"Waste huh" I chuckled cynically.

"Go back to Germany, everyone needs you" is that a hint of desperation I hear from her? Such a young girl, she never moved beyond than what she had when I left her.

Throwing the crumpled can at the closest bin I could find, I glared at her "Aren't you contradicting yourself? Everyone HERE needs me too"

"But-"

"Listen, Bodewig, these are my instructions: Long ago I said to you, do not underestimate your enemy and don't show any weakness," I told her curtly repeating the lecture I gave her on the first day I met her, "But that doesn't mean you can't have weakness, no one is perfect, not me, not you. Everyone has weakness, and by that I mean everyone"

"CAN'T BE, I SHOULDN'T-" I shut her up immediately.

"That's how this world works, perfection is just that: ideal, a naïve dream. When you think the world is not perfect, you need to think the same about yourself because you're part of it"

"One thing you must remember: do not run from your weakness, if you cannot face it with dignity, at least don't show your enemies you can't"

"…I understand"

The tension within my nerve loosened, I… I wish it could be always like this, I wish I can tell everything without messing with anyone and their perception.

I wish… I can face my weakness…

I whipped my cell up and dial certain number.

"[Can't sleep after such a chaotic day?]"

"Somewhat" I said without slightest bit of amusement.

"[Well, I'm not going anywhere…]"

If there's any reason of why we're still best friend, is that he's silent as dead man as listener. Decades of silently coping with our misfit of a group will do that to anyone… Iori Senbei might not be a social recluse now, but he used to be worse.

And so, I spoke

"I'll go straight to the point, are YOU certain Yoshio is dead?"

"[No]" was the reply, I felt like my heart stopped for a second "[… have you met 'him'?]"

"He…" I gritted my teeth before I continued "I met him when I brought the twins to the factory"

"[The full story is best gotten first hand, but even if he's alive, he's not exactly the person we knew long ago]"

"People change" I said to him hastily "You, me, the twins, Shinonon-"

For the first time since long ago, Senbei interrupted someone… and I knew I've lost it.

"[Not exactly the same way… Chifuyu]"

First hand info huh…

"Got it"

"[Likewise]"

"Something you want to talk about?"

"[Well, I am not quite certain… but perhaps you need to watch over Ichika]"

This made me a little curious actually, I heard his simulation result is satisfactory, and I knew exactly how fast he learned.

"I don't see any problem, to be honest."

"[I see a problem with Boost Link System, it's a complex, experimental technology… the ability to increase the synchronization level between the pilot and the machine is not something to be scoffed. The discrepancy between lab test and his combat data is staggering and it made me worried what happened if he somehow he broke the threshold]"

"That's a big if"

"[Which is why I need you to watch him, his development as an IS pilot is beyond our initial expectations right? Not to mention the new power system… sometimes good intention paved a road to hell]"

"…Alright, I'll make sure of that"

~CHARLES POV~

We returned to our quarter as soon as we get in to academy, but Ichika is restless for a reason I found later.

"Damn, it's so tiring, and I haven't finished my homework yet"

"Lazy" I chuckled "Seriously, it's not that hard right? Anything I can help?"

"Nah, my fault, I underestimate it" he whipped out a pen and began scribbling, I tilted my head curiously "At least I have this secret weapon"

"What secret weapon?" I asked.

He smirked and began to open his homework, the real one. Like most elite school, the only papers we use these days are the printed textbook or assignment, anything else is mostly digitalized.

Multiple windows at once, he began to arrange them in a way that I can see everything at once.

"Using this formula, everything can be done in a very short time. You see, question number six and nine is mostly when the position of variable swapped"

"Ah, yeah"

"And this one-"

He skillfully done one question at a time with a speed one won't really expect. You would think that if you gave him a single glance, you won't see someone with top grade in physic and decency in math. But as I heard from multiple sources, his understanding of how stuff works is not merely on paper.

"Finished"

Fifteen minutes, done mine in 20, hmm….

"That was fast; you've got the highest mark in this week's exams too" I can't help but praise him.

"And yet for some reason I have problem with calculus" Now, Ichika's being humble.

"I've seen worse" I assured him and laughed.

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG*

Sound of such unfriendly knock on the door, cutting of the possibilities, I had to guess its Bodewig. And lo behold, apparently I am right.

I mentally pray to God so there will be no bloodbath happening.

Then it happened so fast, the petite girl slipped under my guard and charged at Ichika, the moment I lost my balance, the moment I knew I was too late.

But Ichika don't even blink, not even when a knife almost sliced his neck.

He actually smirked as though he never felt any danger.

"Che, if only you were this strong back then" Bodewig chided, secured her weapon skillfully. I sighed in relief.

"I know it's my fault, not strong enough to protect Madoka or escape" Ichika told her quite calmly as he prepared hot water… for some reason "Coffee or tea?"

"Whatever" Bodewig sat aside of the dining table "I'm only here to ask"

Ichika put a cup of warm cappuccino in front of her; I decided to rest my back on the wall instead, listening openly.

"Go ahead"

"Who is Yoshio?"

Although I see Ichika's reaction, he doesn't seem to be that concerned and gently put his hands above the table. "Chifuyu-nee told you?"

"No, I overheard" Bodewig muttered, apparently felt a little ashamed while at it.

Makes sense, considering how devoted she is to Orimura-sensei.

"… Yoshi, it's been a long time… I think. It all began ten years ago, before I.S. was born…"

"You twins are so cute~"

"He's one of the earliest people I knew, along with Chifuyu-nee, Madoka, Houki and her families. I never remember anything about my parents, not a bit. Chifuyu-nee told me they left, and then, he came"

"Don't spoil them, Yoshi"

"Don't be absurd, Chifuyu. They're barely five years old"

"He always play with us when Chifuyu-nee is busy, I remember he also pestered us to move with his family instead. But Chifuyu-nee refused"

Eh?

"Months after months have passed, as we spend time together, I began to see him as a big brother. Yoshi always had been there, with three of us, and sometimes he brought his parents along. I felt like I have a complete family, despite reality said otherwise. I always thought: that's probably the best I can have in my life"

"What happened to him? Where is he now?"

For the first time since we met, Bodewig asked honestly without hostile intention smudged in her voice. If only she could always like that… I…

"At the same day White Knight incident happens. His entire family was involved in a plane crash"

"He… died?"

"As far as I knew"

"…but I don't see it…" Bodewig muttered "You look a lot more composed than Instructor is…"

"I'm very sure Chifuyu-nee knew him for much longer, that's why she felt it the most …"

"… That's enough information…" Bodewig pushed the chair aside and mumbled "My lips are sealed"

And without farewell, Bodewig left. Her question had been answered, but her curiosity had not subsided a little bit.

~LAURA POV~

"One thing you must remember: do not run from your weakness, if you cannot face it with dignity, at least don't show your enemies you can't"

… Instructor's weakness…

I don't understand.

I always thought that Instructor is invincible.

She stood so high up there that I can barely see her.

She's the almighty champion, the undefeatable Goddess of war…

But… I want to believe her too… if she said she's not perfect… probably…

I need to think, so I returned to arena, hoping that Instructor won't be there, so I can put my mind fully on this matter.

But then, we passed each other, inside the corridor.

Something is different, something… she look a lot calmer than before… could it be…

"Instructor…"

"…what it is?"

"You said that everyone has a weakness right? How you could be this strong if that's the case?"

"There's many kind of strengths, as much as there's many kind of emotions thereof. Every emotion bear different strength depending how you treat it, emotion could also become weakness" she muttered "Devoid yourself of emotion might ensure little weakness as possible, but…"

"You might… never grow stronger…" I completed her sentence.

Don't know why, despite the doubt in her words, she…

I feel that her old might had returned full force; I could hardly breathe… something… something about her current state of emotion did this. Her feelings seeped out into atmosphere…

It's… almost as if she's both excited and agitated for no clear reason.

"Your weakness… is your siblings"

"Yes" It was all clear now.

So I was right all along, it's their fault… but…

"But at the same time, they are the source of my strength"

More question rather than answer is what I got… never once I saw a mere smile from her carried so much power within it.

And the night never felt so long…

3 Days later

~LINGYIN POV~

"I wonder... should I just resign?"

The other girls snorted in response and laughed it off, "Are you kidding? Why should you?"

"I dunno, it's just that" I looked at that girl, Mari, it was her name. The chaos yesterday reminds me that while I'm used to be a victim, I'm not above being the perpetrator either.

"Don't be so irresponsible" her eyes narrowed, her voice dripping with anger "Don't make yourself stoop even lower than now..."

"I knew, which is why I asked"

Using my I.S. as bargain, is not something with semblance of responsibility either. Why do I even care

"No you don't, but I suppose I should apologize" she sighed, I can feel that her rage slipped away, the void in her emotion now filled with guilt and shame "I'm irresponsible myself... and a coward... please forgive me..."

I said nothing when Mari left, the rest of them followed suit.

Did she even have a choice? Would that choice make a difference, considering how much of an insufferable witch I was back then?

"Regardless, you bear the position now, don't even think of running away, the world does NOT revolvearound you" the other girl spat at me and went after her.

Funny think, apparently back then, I used to think so, even if subconsciously...

"But you have a responsibility to fill, that means people revolves around you, don't make them disappointed again"

I blinked, the girl had disappeared, but now I understand. For some reason, I felt my guilt slipping away... or rather, sunk deeper inside and lay dormant. I felt I have to do something...

Now I understand why Ichika complained that he never got his karma. It's not the punishment that's important, but the message behind it.

A sense of enlightenment, so you can carve a better future.

"Well, people reap what they sow right? So do you job well, or we'll never forgive you"

"Leave it to me" I pointed my chest, uncaring about anything else.

My mind returned to where I have been; just outside of the room after the class ended, everyone else had left. I'm the only one here, and there's him…He was alone. A perfect time to talk with him one to one.

"I can understand that sentiment, to be honest"

"Pardon?"

As usual, Ichika's gaze is far, far away. As if he's trying to see the end of horizon, he's probably rekindling the past again… that idiot.

"Fearing your own strength, fearing its influence upon the people around you. With great power comes great responsibility"

I laughed, so hard.

"Does this mean I have to start wearing spandex, climb walls and swing between buildings?" I said jokingly.

He's trying hard not to laugh himself "If you really think so, why not?"

"Coward"

"That I am" as for how this moron could confidently affirm my insult, it's hopeless.

But really, I almost forget… why I loved him in the first place. He was so kind, and yet he's indifferent. He doesn't treat me as special or treat me as an irritating wretch. Ichika treats me as someone, as a person of my own.

No matter how much he changed, from back when he's a very cheerful and talkative boy in the past, to a ruthless conqueror back then, and to a melancholic atoner he is now. That part of him never changed.

"…Hey, our bets still on right?"

He raised his eyebrow, although he seems to get the gist of it "Yeah, so? We regularly spar anyway, though we hardly got definite result"

"Let's try to settle it once more during an individual tournament" I muttered, "sparring shouldn't count because it has little competitive value"

"Assuming we met" he firmly affirmed

"Assuming we met" I nodded.

He raised his armored knuckle at me without hostile intention, instead, his eyes revealed an old fire he had buried deep inside, the willingness to avoid a defeat if possible.

I released Shenlong's fist in response, tapped his own with a soft *klak* sound

"Haah, I really missed your cheerful self. Then again, I'm not one to speak" I smiled at him.

"People change, Rin, sometimes without realizing it, but thanks for the reminder" He grinned back.

And with that, he turned his back on me and left. I sighed, if not for my own pride as his equal, I would almost spill my feelings right there.

God, I think it's a mixed blessing. But no matter what, it's a feeling I must treasure.

To cool my head, I am thinking of having some training session. Ichika and Madoka said they won't join because he needs to adjust with their I.S. for the incoming tournament.

And so, I went to the designated area.

Hmm, maybe I'll try the larger area B. Usually;the rookies trained themselves in arena C. Arena B never devoid of sparring after all. Maybe I could find a worthy opponent? Who knows?

Situation is a bit different, maybe it's the atmosphere. The whisper and murmur filled the corridor where everyone can watch what happened inside arena.

I regret I didn't give a damn and listen for a bit.

Arrived inside the field, I found a silver haired girl surrounded by several older girls, probably the seniors, if I had to judge. She's obviously unfazed... no, she responded by mocking glee all the way. This despite she's half naked the way down, and the seniors are all using rental machines.

I can see why they look pissed, but if this turned out bad, I could not train properly.

"You... you disrespectful twerp... you want a beating don't you?'

"See if you can try"

That stupid twerp, form which class is she again? Oh wait; she's the girl with certain grudge against the twins... hmm... who is she again, Bodewig?

Should I leave her anyway? Probably for the better…

"You... you bitch"

Naah, no way.

"So you're just a couple of cowards who hide behind your numerical superiority? I am disappointed"

Now, now, that's a bit much, isn't it? Too much, Bodewig.

"Nay, nay, excuse me to barge in but what happened here?'

"And who are you, Pettanko-chan?"

I ALMOST felt something snap, but I gulped and chow my anger down my stomach, pushing my conscience to work harder.

"Ah, I'm sorry, my name is Lingyin, I am class 1-2 representative" I tried to suppress my killing intent, it was not an easy task but my eyes aren't smiling.

"Stay out of this" Bodewig is not pleased with my intervention. But of course, I am no charity worker.

"Hey, hey, be respectful to the seniors, it's in the rules isn't it?"

"If so then you shall get out of our sight" one of the older girls screamed "Stay in that little cradle you called Arena C"

"Oh, I suppose you began in the largest arena and for some reason stepped down the line, or else there's no difference right? I apologize, let's go, twerp" I winked at her, the unnaturally pale-skinned shorty clenched. I guess she really, really don't want to pull back.

Miraculously, she did

"I supposed I should take my leave"

Gotcha, let's get out of here before-

"Don't think you can run just like that, flat chest" Killing aura rising….

"Yeah, bow down on your knees, else... I'll kick your ass" Anger reaching threshold…

"On your knees, you heard that? Or maybe your chest is not the only thing that had its growth stunted?" All limits released…

Hearing their laugh, my eyes turn blood red.

"See if I care, bitch." I told them with low voice. My IS was already ready to be deployed any time.

And before retaliation can be given, the short girl unleashed her I.S. and fired her armament; hypervelocity slug soared across centimeter apart from the closest senior, her horrified face mixed with surprise.

Totally worth it.

I summoned Shen Long as well, this is the kind of things I dislike, just because they're older..they think they're holding more authority than us... they can treat us we are inferior.

I knew it's hypocritical of me considering how I am months ago, but I decided... if the violence is the answer, so be it.

As long as I can remember, that with great power comes great responsibility.

"WORTHLESS PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE A DISGRACE!" Bodewig screamed and unveil a pair of beam saber, I dashed forward as well, blade on each hands.

*KLANG* *KLANG* *KRRSSSHHHH*

We clashed with our enemies, and just as I thought, the seniors are no joke.

*WHOOSH* *BANG* *BANG*

Even though there's clear disparity between our machines, they're so efficient at using them. The difference of two years of education in I.S. academy…

*KLANG* *KLANG*

*KRSSSSHHHH*

But that doesn't mean we're losing right there, we are Cadet Representatives, the best of the best in our generation. We have trained in the art of war, we're not infaillible, but we are as strong as we could be.

*CRASH* *CRASH* *

Bodewig smashed through the ambush trap with brute force and combat proficiency, and she doesn't use anything but wrist mounted saber either.

Clearly, even amongst Cadet Rep, she's top of the line. No wonder she acts so arrogant.

"DUCK!" I told her, the twerp dropped herself on her front, and I fired my compression cannon full force.

*PSHHOOOOWWW* *KA-BLAAAAAAM*

One of the seniors took it full force, although she got enough time to raise her plate shield and lessen the damage as well as energy drain.

"Switch tactic! Let's pick them at range!" a voice blared on the other side of arena… there's four of them, in Rafael and Raiders respectively. That meant four multirole units.

SHIT, no matter how you look at it, we're now outnumbered three to one.

*BANG* *BAKOOM* *BANG* *PAPAPAPAPA*

I swiftly dodged aside as hail of dense metal made their way on our direction, however, for some reason Bodewig simply stood there…

And the bullets stop on their own mid air, as if Bodewig simply made a miracle via handwaving.

No… it's…

Inertia cancelling. Losing their mass, the bullets will stay afloat unmoving, unaffected by gravity, yet still affected by air resistance.

This… is her Image Interface Weapon, I've heard about the rumor… but apparently it's true.

"Don't joke with me!"

*BSYAAAAAASH**BSYAAAAAASH**BSYAAAAAASH*

Bodewig counterattack came in the form of hypervelocity assault slugs, each possessing power equal to that of I.S. grade heavy rifle. Even though the unit itself is designed for close combat…

Nordics sure are scary.

*PAPAPAPAPAPA*

And so, we began to continue our fierce resistance against superior number, and I began to realize that my machine began to wither under the volume of assault they delivered. Chipped here and there, and one of my cannon is damaged and risking itself of blowing up.

"Damn it"

If I keep fighting… Shen Long probably won't be illegible for tomorrow tournament.

I wonder if I should just run…

But…

My eyes blitzed toward a particular window… there's my classmates, none of which seems to be happy. I don't know if they're worried or they simply upset on my poor performance… but…one of them caught my eye, it was Mari. I stared at her and awaited her reaction.

Mari simply nodded at me.

And there, I decided not to stop.

"Screw away, you're just interfering!" Bodewig apparently feel insulted, looking at me as if I'm insufficient to stand on her side.

"Shut up; this is my pride at stake!"

I saw a glint of surprise on her eyes, and somewhat reluctant acceptance. Grumbled, she stated her affirmation.

After finally losing one of my cannons, I began to see that two of us managed to deliver heavy blow to our foes as well, one Uchigane has been wrecked to kingdom come, with the pilot unconscious. One more is crippled, with the pilot swearing profusely.

That leaves four of them.

Ten minutes into the fight, divine intervention came upon us.

Two seconds is enough
*WHIRRRRRRRRRRR*

Barrel assembly rotate at magnificent speed, powder charge burnt at astounding rate, sending dozens upon dozens bullet toward our direction.

Numerous projectiles dug the ground, throwing dust and soil sky high. A transparent wall of smoke divided us, halting the seniors' advance and barrage.

"Who is that?" I yelled

on the catapult gate, I saw a silhouette of a girl... a girl I can't recognize.

But whoever is that, I certainly owed her. Even if I couldn't see clearly, the I.S. infrared sensor gave me rough estimation of her appearance. A tall, voluptuous girl with short hair…such a magnificent, powerful figure… carrying medium caliber Gatling on her hand, still bright from its usage.

And then second salvo came from the opposite direction, once again, countless hard penetrator raining upon the obliterated soil, and this time, it's much longer than before.

*PSHOOO* *PSHOOO* *WHOOOSH* *BLAAAM*

Before the dust can subside, the very atmosphere is torn for microsecond by multiple particle blast and concussion missiles streaking from above, causing further chaos.

"Madoka, Cecilia" I muttered.

"Seriously, Ichika-nii had a bad feeling for whatever reason" "Bet he's throwing a hissy fit as soon as he arrive" They said respectively, made me chuckle.

Madoka ditched the spent magazine block, the big empty container rattled before degraded into data. Cecilia just as usual put a smug face, carrying her rifle sideways as a taunt move.

It would be better if Ichika DID interfere, hero wannabe and all, but I don't see him anywhere here.

Just a moment I lose my sight, they tried to attack again. Bodewig grinned in anticipation.

*CRASH-SHA*

But then, a giant sword that would make Sanshiki blush blocked her. Bodewig sure didn't expect such interruption.

"That's enough, Bodewig"

Calmly walked in, Ichika finally made his entrance... without I.S., and yet, he calmly lifted the massive sword, that should be at least three times as heavy as I.S. Katana, itself weight as much as an unloaded standard barbell.

Hmm, maybe PIC trick, I did see that he wore that gauntlet too. Might as well ask him later, but for now… I feel happy.

"Late to the party?" I teased him.

Bodewig, for all her problem with Ichika and all, finally snapped out of her battle lust, having it replaced by personal rage "Out of the way, bastard!" she said.

As swift as wind, Madoka and Cecilia formed a barricade between German twerp and Ichika, rifle raised.

"Stop it, Bodewig. The battle is over" another voice whispered on the com-link, an effeminate voice but carrying strength that of a champion... it was Charles.

Charles apparently managed to sneak in and held one of the seniors hostage, who wouldn't be afraid when not one, but two shotgun is pointed right on their pretty face? Certainly not those cowards.

"I am very certain Louise won't be pleased" he said.

"Shut up! What are your relationships with Onee-sama?!"

"It's closer than what you expect, and I think you wouldn't like the details, senpai" Charles put a very bright smile, and then pull the trigger without hesitation.

*KA-BAAAAANG*

The poor senior collapsed due to the pain she received, even if she's practically unharmed. The young Frenchman calmly hover away, weapon raised.

"Louise is my childhood friend, who I think like my own older sister, and she's also my personal mentor. So please do not act so rashly, especially with my friend… you really won't like it, senpai"

Behind such a serene voice, force of terror is well put.

As he looked at my condition, his firm expression replaced by genuine worry "Lingyin-san, your cannon…"

"Nah, I might not be able to participate tomorrow but no regret, there's always the next time right?"

"You've grown a lot since yesterday" Ichika sighed "I felt like I should be ashamed"

"With your unreasonable guilt, you should, go to a confession or something!" I patted his shoulder hard, rocked him forward whilst carrying his massive sword "Hey, teach me that PIC trick too"

"Ouch, sure! Don't hit me!"

Even though we should be saddened, we all laugh, laugh like we never have. I can see Bodewig and her dumfounded expression; maybe she's less a moron and simply knew nothing on social skill.

"If you brats are done with your reunion, you should be ready for a report right?"

"ORIMURA-SENSEI?"

I can swear one of them needs to go to toilet immediately, but it might just my wishful thinking. Then again, this is the war goddess, demon queen we're talking about.

Figuratively stomping in, she howled "You have my authority to use NEUCOM, don't show your face in the class until those units got repaired"

"Y-yes"

And the seniorsl eft, leaving a trail of destruction and pride behind, with tail between their legs of course. Not even them could face against Chifuyu-sensei huh?

"As for you two, report to my office immediately"

For whatever reason, I could see Bodewig DELIGHTED. Is she a masochist for Chifuyu-sensei?

"Just wait a minute here," Cecilia interfered "How could you let them go and yet-"

"Cecilia, no" I raised my arms "Hai, sensei"

"The rest of you, away"

"CHIFUYU-NEE, HOW COULD YOU…" Madoka growled at the cold hard statement, but then, she repressed hers anger, putting expression as stiff as her own sister, ironic as it is "… just like usual huh? I guess things would never change with you"

And she ran as fast as she could, vapor trail painted the air with mellow atmosphere.

"…go for your Imouto" That cold voice returned for Orimura sensei.

"…sure thing, like usual. Orimura-sensei" and he trailed off, followed by Charles who didn't say anything, but clearly leaving with feeling of disdain.

I can swear Ichika's being sarcastic just now. What the hell is wrong with this family? What the hell is wrong with how she act?! I swear God they're that abnormal.

And I thought my family is bad, this family is a trainwreck, and I wonder how exactly they could even survive intact until now.

Might ask Madoka as soon as her mood returned, because Ichika somehow is a better actor than I thought… this is really infuriating.

Cecilia apparently cannot chew it more either; her voice is so low I felt a chill on the back of my neck "So I guess you're too much of a coward to admit your feelings openly, sensei"

Bodewig, with grade-A fangirl rage, come in her idol's defense "Take it back, dumbass"

The person in question shrugged and chuckled "Fufufufu, as soon as you midgets left the god forsaken office, maybe"

And she had gone too.

That leaves me, Bodewig, and Chifuyu-sensei.

"You have anything to say?"

"No"

Nothing I can say make things better, and apparently, Bodewig is confused as hell with this situation too.

And I thought my head is screwed.

~LAURA POV~

Indeed, just like I knew her, Instructor rarely said much. In her office, she simply asked on how it began. She didn't reprimand us, didn't comfort. She just let us go with a note that we shouldn't repeat such confrontation again in the future.

As if, but I respect her and by that, I'll hold to that words.

One I want to note, I began to grasp how weak Instructor is in front of her so called family. She hide behind a strong front, unable to say what she want to say, and her family could not accept that.

That's stupid of them, but…

Somehow, I don't think what Instructor had done was perfect either…

From yesterday, more and more questions began piling on my head.

Now they're become annoying.

"You" I asked her, the girl from class 1-2, "You know what exactly happened back then?"

"Which one?"

"Instructor… and them, the twins"

She shrugged "Oh, I am surprised myself… but then again, the twins are that emotional anyway, so I guess me being surprised is strange eh?"

"That's stupid indeed; they could not accept her view as true soldier"

Aggressively, she replied in their defense "Aren't you're being the one being stupid? Can't you see we're treated differently? Nepotism suure is not ideal philosophy of a soldier"

Ugh.

"Don't be a hypocritical ass-kisser, Bodewig!" she scowled "One time you're pissed at the senior and you now agree with Chifuyu-sensei to respect them?"

No, just no. That's really far, far from my wish. "I didn't! I always said she had to leave this miserable place away and taught us who is worthy of her"

"Bah, pitiful. Don't be so blindsided, Chifuyu-sensei might be admired for her reputation and strength, but at the same time, I really, really pity her… she couldn't even reach her family because she's so high up there that all we can see is her looking down on us, despite the truth on her part is not so simple"

…I can't say anything. A she left whistling all the way, all I can feel is disappointment on my own self for unable to grasp their own view of the truth.

~ICHIKA POV~

"What the heck is wrong with her? I swear Chifuyu-nee can be a prick sometimes"

I've heard that, from what Cecilia told me, Madoka also enraged during the attack of the mysterious I.S. and Chifuyu-nee's action is as irresponsible as my decision is.

But calling Chifuyu-nee prick for a menial problem like this is a little…

I guess I should clear things up as soon as Rin get out.

"Yeah… I never though Orimura-sensei can be so cold…"

And the sniper due sighed. Finally, Rin was out of the Teacher's lounge, Bodewig waste no time and left without words.

"Oi, what is this, adventurer gallery?"

"We're waiting for you, you know" I told her.

"Meh, it's not like I'm suspended or anything. Seriously you two, that's kind of overboard"

"But-"

"Lingyin-san, what do you mean?"

Madoka and Cecilia are fumbled at her indifference, of course. I suppose the new Rin is like that… a little too mature?

Anyway, I was angry for a good reason, not because Chifuyu reprimanded Lingyin and Laura. No, she also heard the story from their point of view, which meant Chifuyu-nee distrust the senior. On that point, I actually had to apologize not to make it clear.

"Rin…are you granted access to NEUCOM?"

She tilted her head "No, Chifuyu-san didn't say anything about it, why?"

"WHAAAT?! You're not allowed to use NEUCOM?" both Madoka and Cecilia cried.

NEUCOM is a fancy name for a central I.S. repair station, located near Development branch. Its technical name is Electronic Brain World, but everyone thinks the name too cheesy, so Neural Computer is used in response.

Due to I.S. nature being self-developing digital construct, its manual repair process is not done physically; rather, we dive deep into the system and boost up the existing AI system in repairing the I.S.

I don't know how exactly, but apparently Rin is a good friend of Cecilia now, thus the British lady howled a clear concern "But that means you can't participate with the tournament!"

"Eh, my fault there, can't protest"

Normally, a major damage on the frame will take more than 24 hour to be repaired without support due to firmware programming inside the core. However, using NEUCOM, I.S. processing power can be rerouted solely for the repair process by halting the development of undamaged parts, cut the time to roughly 8 hours or more.

I laughed, hard.

"…I knew it… I guess she really had to fumble it, I should just apologize"

As swift as wind, Madoka's hands grabbed my blazer. "Wait, Ichika-nii, why?"

"Told you the truth, Chifuyu-nee did the right thing in this matter" I told my sister and ruffled her head "But the way she did it and anything she say tend to incite misunderstanding. And she's too prideful to admit it and too hesitant to clear it up"

"How?"

"Rin's machine is damaged, yet Chifuyu-nee didn't tell her to use NEUCOM so she can participate. This might seems unfair, but remember first and foremost, Rin and Bodewig had wrecked Academy machines"

Rin chuckled. "As for the seniors, they're punished by doing that repair. The reason is that majority of participant in the subsequent tournament use rental machines, if those machines don't get prepared by the morning, then the tournament might be delayed. If that happens, then I would be the one responsible, right?"

Madoka's mouth left agape, and Cecilia too, she seems understand. I'm glad Rin seems to know the reason too.

"To Chifuyu-nee, it might bother her somewhat. But if she did, she will never tell us. And that's what made me angry, if she really saw us as a family, shouldn't she be more honest?" As I walked slowly, I continue to talk "It's not like we're a couple of innocent kids anymore, we have gone through a lot… Madoka, Cecilia, Rin, Houki… Charles and Bodewig too… we're not ordinary kids, not anymore, although I wish we are. But it that's the case, we might never met at all"

"Isn't that a little selfish?"

"I didn't ask to be pampered you know… I only wish Chifuyu-nee could open herself like she is ten years ago… back when we still look and act like a normal family"

"Hey guess what, guys… I have something to share… fufufufu"

~LAURA POV~

I wonder why I didn't feel angry… well, not as much as before.

Perhaps because he has his own wish.

Even if his wish is against mine.

And if he's willing to fight for it… then at the very least… I'll answer it with my own resolve.

"Ichika really changed huh"

Now that's what I meant…

"What exactly happened last week?"

"…Orimura-sensei, Ichika, me, and you… we all have secret didn't we? It's not for me to tell… if you want to know, ask Ichika"

"No need to" I huffed and left the boy uncaring.

But his next question stopped me on my tracks.

"Bodewig… if I may ask… what do you feel if Orimura-sensei left you cold without explanation? What would you do?"

"Then I'll ask her, I'll ask her until I've got the answer"

"It's the same as Ichika and Madoka-san" he lightly grinned, made my stomach churned… it's… disgusting? No… it's different… it's uncomfortable, and yet, not something that bad…

Confusing

"They all have their hidden desire, and like yours, it's selfish… but at the same time, there are times where they'll give up their desire for someone else, that's what it meant to be a human"

What it meant to be a human huh… I don't even see myself as human, never once…

But if that's the case… do I even have right to ask? Do I even have the right to fulfill my wish?

"A soldier is no more than a tool for their country"

"AHAHAHAHA"

"WHAT'S FUNNY, JERK?!"

His laughter subsided; again, ambivalence had returned to his expression "Before a soldier, you're human. We are, all of us. Inside the battlefield, you could kill someone and probably don't feel remorse, because if you don't, it's either you die or someone else kill for your sake. To be a soldier is an obligation… something you want to do to protect something, someone, or someplace. So you have a place to return…"

Che, as if you know anything… "I never have one… all I knew up until now is that I am a soldier for every second of my life" I told him straight.

I can see he reacted… not the way I predicted, however.

"But you have a precious person, don't you? And that is why you want to be strong, stronger than now… you want to be stronger to live up for that person… It's not your fault you become a child soldier…"

I can see a glint of anger, deeper than the thickest volcanic mantle, hotter than the fiery mould resides within… an anger that's beyond my reach or understanding…

It was, in a way, more than what he had shown back then inside the arena.

"It's because many of those adults are too cowardly to get their own problem fixed, and we children suffer for it… indeed, we have choice, we're just too powerless to fight against their will… by the point we're strong enough, it's too late"

Although half of me felt no need to, I asked anyway "You have someone you want to protect?"

"I did… I have, but… I can't do it to my fullest"

His established personal strength… his unabashed fury… all crumbled within the timeframe of one sentence.

"Why?"

"Contradiction … and I'm a liar and too cowardly to choose"

To be a human… is to show different kind of face… strength and weakness…

Things that won't be accepted by logic alone.

Blindsided from the truth, yet unveiling otherwise unthinkable answer…

Perhaps…

~CHIFUYU POV~

Kids these days haven't matured a bit even though they're much older.

I knew I did the right thing, even if it's hard to present that it's also good decision.

The Twins probably throwing temper tantrum, or at least, imouto is… Ichika knew something better, but seriously, that boy is pretty rebellious these days.

I knew I couldn't always decide for their sake… but…

Everytime I want to say something proper, my mouth just… shut down for petty reason.

As if… I put a revenge on the pampered younger generation… as if they didn't suffer enough as they are…

Just… how long… I didn't remember anymore.

*KNOCK* *KNOCK* *KNOCK*

"Enter"

"Chifuyu-nee"

Reflexively I said "That's Orimura-sensei for you"

I regret that, the very moment it happens. The moment Madoka shown an expression of grief and bowed.

"…I'm sorry… for not asking first… I guess I really am a kid after all… it's such a petty reaction there" Madoka muttered.

Ichika came into her defense, as usual. "I explained everything… I guess it was my fault as well"

To be honest, it's my fault too, but I still…

"…Is that all?"

I can see Madoka's eyes stretched wide in disbelief, while Ichika grimaced.

God, please, if you exist… stop all this meaningless conflict…

"Please… Chifuyu-nee"

"DON'T SHOW SUCH WEAKNESS!" my hands acted the way I don't want to, unnecessary roughness…

When did exactly I become like this?!

I pushed both of them down right onto the table, not wanting to see their suffering. I'm such a coward, am I?

But…

Swift retaliation came; the twins wiggled hard and raised their head. Just a moment…

I saw unrivalled strength and determination-

"STOP THIS CHIFUYU-NEE!"

*SMACK*

The world… it's spinning… a jolt of pain crept throughout my jawline

I landed on my seat, disoriented, all I could see is my little brother and his twin sister clutching their aching heads.

I blinked.

"Chifuyu-nee, you're bleeding"

Ah, that's where the salty taste came from-

And before I can do anything, they kidnapped me and carried me all the way across the corridor.

I should be able to free myself but… I probably hurt them even more…

And for the first time since months ago, I've heard Ichika's voice blared with such authoritarian tone, capable of staggering even the strongest student.

While smiling placidly.

The twins also ran with speed that will make most high school athletes envious, despite carrying an adult woman in tow.

A show of strength, and yet, also a sign of desperation.

"MOVE ALONG! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!

That idiot… this will catch more attention than it would be normally.

Without realizing it, I smiled…

I forgot… when the last time I smiled… especially near them?

"Since Ichika-nii's officially became a Class Rep… no, I think it's after the mysterious attack?" probably Madoka will say that, had she knew. She probably doesn't know, considering what I've done since that time.

Thus we arrive, in the infirmary; they made a ruckus by hijacking the first aid box, made the nearby nurse welp.

As if they synchronized into one being, they forced me to sit calm with force, yet skillfully and gently examined my 'injury'. Both of them swiftly wash their hand and robbed down medical glove out of its dispenser, without slightest bit of doubt or failures.

I can see even the doctor is amazed, and the reason why she didn't intervene as of yet.

"Don't be stupid… what do you think-"

"Stand. Down" they said, in such a chilly tone that it made the doctor jump.

The discrepancy between their warm, tender care and their cold hard expression seriously made me confused. The touch of cotton soaked with iodine does sting, but it's not even what I concerned.

Although… now that I think, we did share the same blood after all… Orimuras on their worst moment become valiant warriors.

Even those irresponsible cowards of our parents.

"As much as I dislike your action sometimes…" Madoka muttered whilst checking the inner part of my mouth "I really don't want to hurt my precious sister, the only big sister I have"

Ichika continued "But if you don't open yourself to us, then what do you see in us as family?"

In a moment of divine harmony, their face and words mellowed down to a beautiful expression "So please Chifuyu-nee, stop being so distant"

In that moment, I felt their resolve filled my heart with warmth and courage.

"Instructor"

Bodewig and Dunois stood up just outside the door, their expression neutral. Although, I feel something changed with Bodewig.

She became somewhat… more peaceful than usual; I can see it clearly in her eyes.

"Do not run from your weakness, if you cannot face it with dignity, at least don't show your enemies you can't"

The same words I just said yesterday, echoing again in my mind.

I stood up and smiled in response… menacingly.

"…But they aren't my enemies, aren't I?" I said to her "All of you are my student, and all of you are irreplaceable… anyway, do you even know my OTHER weakness?"

"Good lord, not that one please" the twins rolled their head looking at each other with horrified expression.

Of course they're horrified; they knew that all too well.

"I am not THAT irresponsible" I grinded their head together, they desperately struggled and released themselves, with a scowl painted on their face afterwards.

"ORIMURA-SENSEI!"

A stampede, no, a HORDE of student arrived in front of the infirmary. At least they didn't charge in, that would be very bothersome.

"We've heard you're injured" one of them shrieked

(No, she really shrieked, though I wish I'm exaggerating …)

"Yeah, thanks to those little scoundrel here"

"Oi, it's not like we want to" they disapprovingly crossed their arms… seriously, when exactly they become this alike for extended amount of time? "Orimura-Sensei"

At last… they didn't say my title with spite.

"Whoa, the twins managed to injure her somehow"

"The untouchable, invincible battle instructor"

"The war goddess of Valhalla!"

"They're really strong, aren't they?!"

I can see it now, Ichika already well known for his unsubtle entry to the world of I.S. and his sister wasn't really a slouch either. But for Orimuras, titles are unwanted burdens most of the time.

It's up to them however they deal with it.

"Now now let's out of here, injured person inside" the twins shooed, or rather, pulled the attention of the blob of estrogen away.


A voice rang in the darkness.

Mechanical constructs the size of manned Infinite Stratos rose up in single file.

"Magnificent, aren't they?"

The second voice in the darkness, "Even so, isn't this a bit excessive?" But this person remained respectful to the first.

"The purpose of games is to entertain the players' right?" Her voice rung with a cheerfulness but the subject manner was frightening.

"Therefore, for the purpose of entertainment…." The person pushed the first button and a computer screen showing the IS academy and the unwary students of what it is to come.

She pushed the second button, one of the mechanical constructs' visors began to glow red in colour.

"Let the games begin…"