Author's Note: I apologize for the long delay in posting this next chapter in the story. Life has a funny way of slowing down even the most prompt of writers, not to mention that I'm currently working on two other stories. Anyway, enjoy the story! The story cover will be added shortly.

P.S.: The disclaimer is going to be located on the prologue of the story.

Chapter 7: First Encounter with the Other Side, Part 5

On the streets of Academy City, 8 miles northeast of the Newbie's location

10:05 pm

"Onee-sama, where the hell are you?!"

Doing a backflip to avoid the slash of the knife, the girl panted, facing the strange doppelganger of an elderly man. Her Tokiwadai uniform was dirty and torn and a drop of blood fell from a cut on her chin. Her green armband, which depicted the white shield and stripes of Judgment, was mostly intact. As one of the strange attackers who are now wreaking havoc on the city, this foe seems to be nothing more than a bunch of leaves that can assume the form of a human being. Not only was the monster so human-like in appearance but the emotionless stare the thing gave chilled the girl to the core. Like a mindless machine, this being will continue to hurt innocent civilians until it is either destroyed or there is no longer anyone remaining.

At all costs, it and its brethren must be stopped.

Reaching down, the girl waved a hand over a band holding several iron stakes that was strapped around her right thigh, touching each of them. While doing this, the girl ran some brief calculations in her head, using Cartesian functions. Instantly, the stakes disappeared. After a couple of seconds, the stakes reappeared, sticking out of the being's chest.

However, the stakes only succeeded in putting holes in the leaves that made up the being's body. Barely harmed, the being charged, knife held high. Swearing under her breath, the girl touched one of the stakes on another band on her left leg, teleporting the object. Seconds later, the knife's blade fell off the handle when the stake reappeared, wedged between the two parts. Not even grunting in frustration, the being continued charging, its fingers transforming into claws.

Concentrating for a moment, the girl teleported behind the being and unleashed a powerful roundhouse kick, knocking it into two pieces. Taking a deep breath, the girl gasped as she barely dodged a dagger of leaves that attacked her from behind, drawing blood from a new cut on her cheek as well as cutting off a few strands from one of her two curly, auburn ponytails. Off balanced, she teleported to a safe distance away just as the two halves recombined.

Panting, the girl scanned her surroundings, looking for whatever she can use to her advantage. Nearby, more of the dangerous beings were moving around, too preoccupied with creating chaos to notice her. Cars were overturned, building windows were smashed in, and lamp posts were pulled down. Several of the creatures were ripping apart a cleaner bot, its mechanical parts reflecting light cast by a nearby burning building.

Fire. Leaves. Teleportation.

Suddenly, an idea popped up inside the girl's head and she couldn't help but to smile. Taking several deep breaths, she ran toward the monster, which was staggering toward her, its right limb morphed into a long sword. Time seemed to slow down as the girl closed the distance, her arms spread out as to give the monster a hug. Raising its weapon, the monster swinged the bladed weapon down, attempting to cut her down. Teleporting at the last second, the girl appeared behind the monster and, before the being could respond, wrapped her arms around its midsection. Praying that the monster wouldn't disintegrate into leaves and that the fire was at least 81 meters away or less, the girl concentrated for a moment and unleashed her power. In the blink of an eye, the entire monster disappeared. Seconds later, a howl of agony joined the general cacophony as the monster found itself inside the heart of the blaze, eventually burning to ashes.

Wiping sweat off of her forehead, the girl breathed a sigh of relief and turned around, staring down the crowd of beings that were now turning toward her. A few of them were even beginning to charge.

Spitting on the ground, the girl smiled derisively and got into a combat stance, taunting the monsters with the beckon of a hand.

"Come on, you bastards," she muttered as they got closer, their arms morphed into various weapons. Like a mother bear robbed of her cubs (figuratively of course), this girl is looking for her beloved Onee-sama and she, Kuroko Shirai, will find her or die trying.

'''''''''''''''''

Rosaria's Hideout

10:17 pm

"I WANT MY MOMMY!" Tensei cried, tears streaming out of his face, as he ran all over the place. Behind him, roots were erupting out of the ground, chasing him. Suddenly, a large root erupted in front of him, threatening to crush him under its weight. Just as it was about to fall on him, it became stiff, jerking involuntarily. At the same time, Rosaria screamed loudly in pain, desperately shaking one of her huge petals. There, a growing fire raged, which was started by a flaming arrow shot by Yumeji.

"Hyee-yah!" Tensei bellowed, his bravado returning as he got into a combat stance. "Your life became forfeit the moment you stood in my way!" Tensei then unleashed a series of punches and kicks on the root, knocking holes into the juicy tissue. Suddenly, a small root in the shape of a human fist shot out of the surface and smashed into his face. Caught unawares by the sucker punch, Tensei didn't even scream as he flew into the squishy corpse of a serpentine monster, plunging into the squishy tissue .

Meanwhile, Cleon, Amaito, Tatsu, Yumeji, and Mikoto were spread out all over the place, attempting to disorient Rosaria with various feints and sneak attacks. According to Cleon, the tactic relies on the fact that Rosaria cannot concentrate on multiple targets at once if they're attacking her at random intervals. The plan worked perfectly in the beginning, with Rosaria being harried by thrown firecrackers here and sprays of plant killer there. However, it wasn't until Rosaria has summoned several strange plants resembling eyeballs when the plan quickly went south. To make matters worse, Rosaria has filled the surrounding area with thick, writhing roots, making even approaching her suicidal. Therefore, the student decided that it was safer to stick together.

"Hey, Amaito-san, can you use your ability or something?" Tatsu asked tensely, barely dodging a root shooting out of the ground. "You can make the earth too hard for the roots to travel through."

"I don't think that I'm that powerful yet, Tatsu-san!" Amaito yelled back. Tatsu could swear that Amaito looked dejected. "If I could control fire instead of earth and stone or if I was more powerful, I'd help you guys more. Hell, I'd help everybody."

"Ack, this stuff is sticky!" Mikoto complained, pulling her hands free of her nullifying substance-drenched shirt. "When this is over, I am really going to take a long bath."

"Keep firing flaming arrows, Yumeji-san!" Cleon called out, armed with a switchblade and a crowbar he'd picked off the ground. "Keep her distracted so that-"

Cleon was interrupted when a root flew out at him. Cleon dove out of the way, dodging the attack, only for a second root to smash into him. Cleon screamed as he was sent flying over to where the broken anti-ritual/ability machine laid. With a loud grunt, he landed onto the concrete and tumbled a few meters away. He appeared to lay still.

"Cleon-san!" the others screamed simultaneously.

With a quick shake of her massive head, Rosaria extinguished the fire eating away at her. Jettisoning the damaged petal, Rosaria grew a new one in its place and turned to face the six students. "So, you think that this is just a game?" she said, her six lips forming a weird parody of a smile. "Prepare to reap the whirlwind!"

Suddenly, her petals began to detach from her head and then whirl around it, glowing a bright red. Air rushed pass the students as it combined into a ball of barely contained force in the center of Rosaria's opening maw. As Rosaria continued to draw in more power, all of the eye-like plants swiveled to look at Amaito, Tatsu, Mikoto, Cleon, and Yumeji.

"I don't like the look of this," Amaito said apprehensively, backing away. "She could be taking that last phrase very literally."

"Curse you, writer!" Tatsu yelled, shaking a fist at the sky.

"Damn it, I can't use my powers!" Mikoto growled.

Without hesitation, Yumeji notched and fired an arrow at Rosaria's thick stalk, hoping to interrupt her. Unfortunately, a thick root shot out of the ground, intercepting the arrow. One could imagine the feeling of Yumeji's frustration matching that of Rosaria's glee at finally getting the upper hand on the heathens.

"PREPARE TO DIE HORRIBLY, HEATHENS!" Rosaria roared, moving her head back as if getting ready to unleash hell.

Just as she was about to strike, a flash of red near her was picked up by the winds and shoved into her cavernous mouth. Immediately, the ball of air disintegrated into a powerful blast of air that kicked up great clouds of dust. Choking on the dust, Tatsu, Amaito, Mikoto, and Yumeji became confused by the choking sounds coming from Rosaria. On the walls of the area, the eyeballs of the strange plants looked wildly in many directions, dark green veins throbbing on the light green surfaces.

Edging closer to Rosaria and hidden by the low visibility of the dust cloud, while her roots flailed wildly nearby, the four students followed the choking sounds until they were close enough to see. They were stunning by what they saw.

Gasping for air, her twin leaves grabbing the stem that is her neck, Rosaria choked and gagged. Her head was turning a shade of blue-green. A large root shot out of the ground behind her and proceeded to whack her back, attempting to dislodge the stuck object. What was even more weird was the unmistakable voice that came from the 'object' in question.

"Mwuahahahaha, it seems that you had just bitten off more than what you can chew! Your choking on me is quite understandably, by the way. Besides, my awesomeness is too hard to swallow!"

It was Tensei.

"Damn it, writer, you have gone and chose the one whose sheer dumb luck can turn the tables!" Tatsu grumbled, half annoyed but half relieved.

"And I'd be damned if we don't use this opportunity now," Yumeji said, lighting up an arrow and notching it. "Attack now!"

Immediately, the four students charged. Stopping about twenty four yards away from Rosaria, Yumeji fired the arrow while Amaito sprayed the plant killer when he got within range. As Tatsu closed in, an aluminum bat in one hand and a can of plant killer in the other, Mikoto went over to Rosaria's right and began attacking the roots there in hopes of distracting the rogue magician. Rosaria's choking gasps were soon joined by wheezes of agony when the flaming arrow implanted itself in the side of her head. Spraying, Amaito trailed the chemical over a considerable portion of Rosaria's writhing body before stopping at the growing fire. The flames ignited the chemical and raced along the combustible trail, drawing a fiery line over Rosaria's body that burned with the ferocity of a Portuguese man-o war's tentacles.

This was the last straw.

Wheezing in agony and fury, Rosaria swept the large root behind her in a wide 180 degree arc and, before the four students knew what has happened, they were knocked away. Mikoto, Tatsu, Amaito, and Yumeji screamed as they flew back in different directions, landing on the ground in several jaw-clenching thuds. The force of the wheezes also has the effect of ejecting Tensei out of her 'trachea' and a bloodcurdling scream of sheer agony drowned out the distant sounds of chaos.

"UWAAAAUUUGHAHAHAHA... AAAAUUUUUUUGHAHAHAHA!"

Flailing around, Rosaria settled down only for a moment to detach four thorns from her stem. These thorns, which were of length of a man's arm, grew roots from their wider ends and spread out from each other, using the roots as legs. Upon finding a desired spot, each thorn implanted itself into the ground as blue veins popped up on the surfaces. Seconds later, a bluish-green bud grew from the wider end of the thorns, pulsing green light. Seconds later, the buds opened and strange monsters resembling a cross between a praying mantis and a pitcher plant stepped out. They were taller than the mandrakes, standing about seven feet tall.

Two of the four monsters turned and spewed streams of water from their mouths, dousing Rosaria in the clear fluid as well as putting out the fire.

Breathing rapidly due to recently choking on Tensei, as well as from pain, Rosaria then became withdrawn, hurting too much to even yell. "My children...," she achingly said to her creations, which swiveled their heads toward her. Even the buds on the thorns swayed their petals in her direction. "I am going to heal myself so keep them busy. Show them no mercy. Kill them all!"

Nodding, the mantises scurried several meters closer to the students, angry hisses slipping through their razor sharp mandibles. The buds closed for a few minutes before reopening, each of them bringing forth three mandrakes into the world. Behind them, Rosaria chanted before spewing out of her mouth a cloud of green spores, which enveloped her in a large canopy. As seconds passed by, the canopy became darker as it thickened and hardened into a huge shell that resembled that of a walnut but can resist the impact of a tank shell.

Literally, this is going to be a really tough nut to crack.

Watching the entire scene, Yumeji, Mikoto, Amaito, and Tatsu became disheartened, realizing that the tables have been turned against them. However, Tensei was gleeful, dancing around as he held up his broomstick and nunchuks, which he'd found inside the serpentine monster's corpse. His slingshot was in his pocket. When he was knocked into the body by the root a while back, he'd hit it with so much force that he broke through the skin and became lodged in the flesh. Using an army knife he'd found on the ground, he then try to cut himself out when he came upon his weapons. Once he finally broke free, he was sucked into Rosaria's mouth by the strong winds.

"How the hell are we going to defeat her?!" Amaito groaned loudly. "We're heavily outnumbered!"

"I swear that the writer is really enjoying our misery!" Tatsu growled, pointing at the monsters. The mantises and mandrakes were closing in slowly. "First, he forces us to fight an unbeatable foe. Now, I bet that he will have us die humorously. When I find out who he really is, I'll..."

Mikoto turned to Tatsu, confusion written on her face. "Writer?" she asked incredulously. She then turned to Yumeji. "What's with Tatsu talking about a writer?"

Yumeji shrugged, his eyes staying on the monsters. He put up his bow and wielded his wooden katana. "It's a long story," he finally said.

"Woo-hoo!" Tensei hooted, causing the others to turn their heads toward him. Even most of the monsters looked in his direction. Tensei then grinned wildly, twirling his weapons as he stared down the monsters. "Let the fight begin! One of the things on my wishlist includes kicking a lot of ass before the beginning of summer. Today's my lucky day!"

Blinking, Mikoto couldn't help but to smile. "Nothing dampens Tensei's spirit, right?" she asked, turning to Tatsu.

Pulling down his bandanna to breath in the warm, moist air, Tatsu blew through closed lips, making a *pftt*. "Too bad nothing increases his common sense, either," he said flatly.

''''''''''''''''

Waking up, Cleon coughed and sneezed on the dusty ground. Spitting out a mouthful of mud, he gingerly got back up, holding his right side. Though nothing was broken, as far as he could tell, there was a dull pain from where he'd landed on the concrete. Readjusting his eyepiece, he looked to where Shinataki and the Gekota leader laid. Both men were stirring, though he didn't expect them to get up anytime soon. Of course, he didn't expect Shinataki to become a problem earlier. Searching for some wires, he found some and went over to Shinataki. Turning the large thug over as carefully as possible without waking him up, Cleon squatted beside him and tied his hands and feet together, remembering the lessons from his father about tying sailor knots. Finished, he looked over to the Gekota leader, debating on whether he should tie him up as well. After much internal debate, he decided not to tie him up. Hopefully, he won't regret it.

Renewed sounds of battle grabbed his attention and Cleon turned just in time to see the others attack what appears to be a new group of monsters, four of them resembling praying mantises with pitcher plants attached to their backs. He was just about to join them when he thought about the machine. Glancing back at the product of his curiosity and foolishness, Cleon remembered the time he'd spent with the thugs, building and, until recently, using this machine. He found it strange that he is remembering all of it at a time such as this when his friends were fighting, though he couldn't help it. He then remembered the parts that the machine consisted of, including but not limited to the lasers, the crystal, the batteries and the mirrors and lens.

These were the parts that were needed to build such an effective weapon.

Suddenly, an idea popped into his head and Cleon immediately went to work. Running over to the anti-ritual/ability machine, he quickly removed the outer covering and disconnected the wiring and components, a blueprint of what he wanted to build forming in his head. A feeling of irony flooded him as he remembered his vow to destroy this machine rather than to use its parts to build a weapon. Having no tools to solder the pieces together, Cleon decided to tie them together with wires, as well as to twist the wires' ends together to complete the circuit. He paused only to pick up a nearby wooden bat to use as the weapon's body. He knew that the weapon would be very dangerous to use but it was better than nothing all.

"Some weekend this is," he muttered to himself.

'''''''''''''''''''''''

Diverolling a mantis' charge, Yumeji spun on a heel and brought the brunt edge of his weapon onto the joint of one of its arms, bending it at an unnatural angle. Screeching on pain, the mantis retaliated by slashing with the other arm. Yumeji jumped back, hissing when the attack cut through his shirt and drew a long superficial cut down his abdomen. The coppery scent of his own blood; however, made Yumeji more aggressive and he leaped forward, thrusting his wooden katana at his opponent. The mantis screamed louder when the weapon pierced the tough, fibrous covering of its torso and penetrated the pitcher plant attached to its back. Water and plant juices gusted out of the wound, flooding Yumeji.

Gasping, Yumeji unleashed a vicious uppercut that pushed the creature away from him and squeezed water out of his long hair with a free hand. He was about to continue the assault when the dying mantis leaped out at him. The attack happened so fast that he didn't even have time to swing his katana. Yumeji grunted when the heavy body of the large creature slammed into him, knocking his weapon out of his hand. Pinned to the ground, Yumeji began screaming when the mantis repeatedly bit him in the head and arms, drawing blood with each bite. A punch to the head only made the mantis more furious and Yumeji found his head jerked back as the mantis grabbed him by his hair, leaving his throat exposed.

Just as Yumeji was about to get his throat ripped out, the mantis was kicked off of him. Stunned by the sudden attack, the monster didn't see the red-haired enemy fly out at it, neither did it register the smirk on the boy's face when its head was suddenly detached from its neck by the wooden katana he wielded.

Helping Yumeji back up, Tensei wiped a smear of blood off a cut on his face with a finger and rubbed it onto his pants. He then handed the wooden katana back to Yumeji. "Keep your weapon close by if you want to live," he said to him, grinning. "Unless you're like me, in which case your awesomeness is a weapon in of itself."

Yumeji grunted, glancing toward the others. Mikoto, Tatsu, and surprisingly Amaito were barely holding their own against the mandrakes and mantises. "Trust me," he finally said, turning back to Tensei. "If I was every bit as awesome as you, I'd be criminally insane hours ago-oops, too late."

Tensei rolled his eyes. "Oh, haha, that is sooo funny I forgot how to laugh."

Yumeji was just beginning to wipe water off of his mouth with an arm when he remembered the strange oil Rosaria sprayed onto him and Mikoto. Strangely; though, he didn't taste the supposed bitterness of the substance, as he tasted only water instead. "Well, that was unexpected. Was she lying?"

Before Tensei could respond, a flash of blue light caused him and Yumeji to glance in its direction. Seconds later, both boys dove out of the way to dodge several balls of bluish energy zooming at them. Coughing on dust, Yumeji turned his head and narrowed his eyes. Newly created by the buds and now approaching them were no less than four mandrake mages, each sporting a scowl that reminded him of his grandfather. The difference; however, is that his grandfather isn't trying to kill him at the moment.

"I hate magicians!" Tensei whined, getting up. "They never play fair!"

"I know," Standing up, Yumeji faced down the new foes, which were raising their hands in front of them. Balls of unstable energy were beginning to form between their palms. As Tensei watched, Yumeji held his hands to the sides and waited, a derisive grin on his face which, coupled with blood flowing from the bite marks on his face, made him look murderous.

"What the hell are you planning to do, Yumeji-san?!" Tensei ironically questioned. It is strange that he, the self proclaimed 'Tiger of Nagatenjōki' , would object to Yumeji's standing up to four mandrake mages, considering that he himself wanted to become a giant serpentine monster's snack a few hours ago just to unleash horrific internal injuries on the creature.

"I have an idea," Yumeji said as the enemies' attacks powered up even further. "Go and help out the others. I'll take care of these bastards."

Had Tensei been Tatsu, he would've strongly objected, adding that Rosaria has nullified his abilities. Instead, Tensei grinned knowingly. "If you seek to match my awesomeness, be my guest," he said before running off to join the others.

As the mandrake mages raised their hands, each cradling a ball of energy, Yumeji took several slow and deep breaths, focusing. Being a kendo instructor, his father taught him the importance of remaining calm and focused when under pressure. According to him, each obstacle is actually a test of wits and patience, something to be overcome by strategy and perfect timing rather than mindless brute force. Also, it is very important to stay calm and as unfazed as possible to avoid panicking like a headless chicken.

It was for this reason that Yumeji didn't even blink when the four mandrake mages unleashed beams of bluish energy at the same time.

Yumeji's smile didn't waver when the four beams streaked toward him at a rate of twenty meters per second. While the others were shouting, Yumeji's smile deepened when he caught a glimpse of the mandrake mages' faces. They wore smug expressions, believing that the lone human in front of them has no chance of stopping their coordinated attack. Unfortunately for them, Yumeji has a habit of proving enemies just like them wrong.

When the beams got close enough, Yumeji brought his hands together in a thunderous clap. All of a sudden, a powerful shockwave erupted from the clap and collided with the beams, pushing them back. Unprepared for the sudden reversal, the mandrake mages quickly begin to throw up shields of bluish energy just as the compressed energy was thrown back at them. One of them; however, was too slow and was blown to pieces by the energy, only to be scattered everywhere by the shockwave. Seconds later, the shockwave slammed into two of the buds, ripping their petals off.

All over the area, Rosaria's eye-plants throbbed, their veins swelling, and a gurgled growl came from within the huge shell behind the monsters.

"Woo-hoo, Yumeji-san's got his power back!" Amaito cheered, pumping a fist into the air.

"Finally!" Tatsu grumbled as he sprayed plant killer into a mandrake's face. The creature wheezed as it breathed in the stuff, eventually shriveling up a few seconds later. "Now we can stop relying on Tensei-san!"

"Hey, what's wrong with my technique?!" he asked, miffed at Tatsu. At his feet laid the mangled bodies of several mandrakes and two of the mantises. "Besides, I was doing all of the dirty work!"

"Yes, but you don't have to be so 'action hero' about it! It's not like we're in a sci-fi/fantasy/action/romance manga!" Little did Tatsu know of the sheer irony of his remark.

"Hah, you're mad because you can't touch my level!"

"I am at your level, you idiot! We're both Level 0's!"

"That's not what I meant!"

"Can't you guys argue at a better time?" Mikoto grunted, bashing a mandrake's head in. Green blood and sickly yellow brains sprayed onto her clothes. This only fueled her rage and, with a howl, Mikoto whirled around and smashed through three mandrakes in one swing, scattering their pieces everywhere. On a roll, Mikoto smashed a sideway kick into the face of the last mandrake, obliterating it. Even without her electrifying abilities, Mikoto Misaka is a formidable opponent.

Her face red with disgust and fury, Mikoto turned to face the remaining mantis, who was circling her, looking for an opening. Earlier, Mikoto found this opponent to be more nimble and intelligent than the mandrakes, even striking quickly and withdrawing before she could retaliate. Now that its comrades are dead, this mantis is more cautious and wary, realizing that one wrong move will mean its demise.

As it continued to circle her, the mantis begins to formulate a plan. As Mikoto crept closer, her bat held as to strike the mantis when it charges upon her, the mantis attacked. Ducking under the swing, its larger frame deceptively nimble, the mantis swinged the brunt edge of its arms under Mikoto, tripping her. A whack from the flat side of its other arm knocked her into the air. Opening the lid of its pitcher plant, the mantis leaped forward and, with no warning, scooped the unfortunate Tokiwadai ace up into the fibrous container. Shortly after, the plant rocked side to side as Mikoto struggled in the rising water inside, desperately trying to escape.

If it has the ability to feel satisfaction, the mantis would've warped its mandibles into the parody of a smile, if it could even do that.

Tatsu, Tensei, and Amaito tensed when the mantis walked toward them, its arms held open in a razor sharp parody of a hug. Growling, Tensei placed himself in front of the two, readying his nunchuks, while Amaito and Tatsu aimed their spray cans at the monster. Behind them, Yumeji was fighting the mandrake mages, their magic ineffective against his blasts of sound. He was oblivious to what was going on.

Stopping about five meters away, the mantis crouched and gave a loud challenging hiss, its sharp mandibles waving furiously. On its back, the pitcher plant stopped shaking as Mikoto finally stopped squirming. Tears forming in his eyes, Tatsu walked forward, stepping beside Tensei as Amaito does the same.

"Your kind has taken too many lives today, including one just now," Tatsu growled, squeezing the nozzle of the can slightly. "I'd die before I let you take any more."

With a wild squeal, the mantis raised its forearms as if to attack. Before it could do so; however, a bright flash of light shone from inside its pitcher plant. Before anyone could register the sudden change, the light shone brighter in an instant like a huge flashbang, causing the others to cover their eyes. In fact, the mantis was disintegrated by the blast, its pieces being vaporized by bolts of electricity that permeated the area. The eye-plants on the sides of the buildings spontaneously exploded like so much popcorn as the bolt struck them. Of course, the popcorn fanatic Tatsu would've been dancing for sheer joy at the comparison if he wasn't trying to keep his eyes from being burnt off. Even Yumeji and the last mandrake mages were bracing themselves for the sudden assault on their senses.

When everything finally settled down, Amaito, Tatsu, and Tensei uncovered their eyes to see a reinvigorated and smirking Mikoto standing before them, electricity arching over her body. The small group was surrounded by a cloud of steam, as Mikoto has flash boiled the water inside the pitcher plant. The explosion of steam has sailed over Tensei, Amaito and Tatsu, though, so that they only experienced the blinding flash of light, as well as a little bit of heat. Mikoto was fine too, as the water have boiled away and expanded so fast that it felt more like a steamy hot bath rather than a scalding cauldron.

"The Ace is back," she announced, grinning.

"What the hell kind of lame catchphrase is-, " Tensei was about to say. His hair was sticking out in all directions, electricity coursing among the strands.

"Good to have you back, Mikoto-san!" Tatsu said, interrupting Tensei. "Now let's go kick Rosaria's butt!"

"I wish that I was that powerful," Amaito muttered gloomily. "My abilities really suck."

With a sympathetic smile, Mikoto went over to Amaito and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Amaito-san," she finally said. "I was once a Level 1 who'd believed that I was weak, even considering myself useless. However, instead of pitying myself, I worked hard day and night, pushing myself to my limits and beyond. Whatever tests the administrators sent my way, I hammered and hammered my way through them all until I finally overcame them. I am the Level 5 I am today because I'd never given up when others did."

"But that takes too long! If only there was a faster way to become stronger."

"If there was a faster way, it would either be worthless or downright dangerous."

Amaito sighed, clearly not convinced. "Okay, whatever..."

As Yumeji finished off the mandrake mage, the two intact buds swelled up to four times their size as the other two buds grew new petals. The buds pulsated as they begin concocting new monsters. A growl that reminded the Newbies and Mikoto of the serpentine monsters echoed from within one of the buds. By the rate that the monsters were being formed, Mikoto knew that she won't be able to stop the buds in time. She had already tried to fry one of the buds, only to realize that they were covered in a rubber-like resin that absorbed her electricity.

As shocked as she was about the revelation, Mikoto was even more surprised by what happened next.

One moment, the two buds were producing some monsters, with the newly formed petals of the other buds blasted by Yumeji's shockwave beginning to close. The next moment, iron stakes appeared out of thin air, pinning the petals of the buds shut. The other two buds, however, had their petals pinned to the ground by the stakes before they could close, leaving their vulnerable interiors exposed.

"The cavalry has arrived!" sang a familiar voice above her. Looking up, Mikoto was confronted by a sudden hug and a faceful of uniform top. Unable to breath, Mikoto concentrated and unleashed powerful bolts of electricity, electrocuting the person before blasting her off of her. Hitting the ground with a thud, the girl was practically drooling, her auburn hair standing on ends. However, one would be correct if he compared the girl's expression to that of Tensei in the presence of Aiho Yomikawa.

"Damn it, Kuroko!" Mikoto growled, dusting herself off. "Will you stop doing that?!"

"I can't help myself, Onee-sama!" Kipping up, Kuroko was overjoyed, on the verge of tears. "I didn't know what happened to you! I mean, chaos was everywhere and you were nowhere to be found. Only when I saw a bright flash of light coming from this way when I realized that you were actually here."

Despite her frustration, Mikoto couldn't help but to feel a tinge of shame. "I sorry, Kuroko," she finally said, giving her a small smile. "Thanks for coming."

Her eyes sparking, Kuroko was about to pounce on Mikoto again when the latter gave her a stern look. "However, don't even think about it."

"There you go with the sweet talk, Onee-," Kuroko froze when she saw the four boys looking at her. Kuroko's eyes narrowed dangerously, making the expression that only a jealous roommate could make. "Onee-sama, who are these guys? You're not trying to do a fivesome behind my back, are you?"

"Shut up, Kuroko!" Mikoto snapped, her face reddening at the audacity of her question. "We're fighting together, idiot!"

"That's right," Tensei added, puffing out his chest, smirking. "Besides, Mikoto-san's not my type."

In the blink of an eye, Kuroko teleported to within a foot of Tensei's personal space, a vein throbbing on her forehead. Despite being around Cleon's height, she was much more intimidating. Even Tensei began to waver slightly. "What's wrong with Onee-sama, Disrespectful Boy-san, she's not woman enough for you?"

Tensei shrugged. "Nah, I'm into older women. You can have her."

Kuroko raised an eyebrow. "You sicken me."

"You sound funny," Tensei countered.

"Okay guys, enough," Yumeji interrupted before the situation could get out of hand. "We have a magician to stop, remember?"

"Oh right," Mikoto said, building up bolts of electricity. Electricity arched in the air around her, illuminating the area. Just as Tensei was pushing his hair back to its original shape, a stray bolt of electricity caused it to puff outward, much to his annoyance. After a few minutes of preparation, Mikoto unleashed four powerful bolts at the buds. The two that were pinned open were obliterated while the other two were cooked by the sheer voltage of the attack. After several seconds, the buds fell apart, spilling boiling liquid onto the ground. The serpentine monster within each bud flopped lifelessly onto the ground, looking brighter in color than their predecessors.

"Steamed vegetables, anyone?" Tatsu quipped, causing the others to laugh. Even Kuroko has forgotten her beef with Tensei to chuckle.

Their laughs; however, were silenced when a loud, gurgling roar erupted from within the huge shell enveloping Rosaria. Digging in a pocket, Mikoto took out a game coin as roots erupted from the ground. She then flicked the coin into the air as the others trying to dodge the roots, her arm stretched toward the shell and her thumb poised to flick the coin toward the target, creating her famous signature move, the Railgun. Nearby, Kuroko teleported away to dodge a root that smashed Tensei in the face, knocking him onto the ground.

"Hey, not cool!" he yelled at her.

As the coin fell toward her thumb, Mikoto narrowed her eyes as a vine bursted from the top of the shell, dislodging a piece that nearly fell on Tatsu. Screaming something about 'stupid writer', Tatsu was then grabbed by several vines and pinned to the ground. As the coin fell closer and closer toward striking distance, time seemed to slow down as more vines broke out of the shell. A monstrous petal emerged from the growing hole.

"Time to die!" she muttered as the coin fell within striking distance.

Unfortunately, at that precise moment, a root shot out of the ground right beside her, catching her unawares as it has appeared too suddenly for her AIM field to pick up, slamming into her. Yelping, Mikoto was then knocked into someone, who coughed at the impact and quickly grabbed her, keeping her from landing on the ground.

"Are you alright?" It was Yumeji. He too was weary and battered.

"I'm fine but my chance is ruined," Mikoto said bitterly, looking up at the shell. "I was so close-"

Suddenly, nighttime turned into day as a loud whir came from behind them. Before Yumeji and Mikoto could turn to look, a beam of dark purple light flew overhead, heating up the air around it. It slammed into the shell, cutting through the fibrous, shock-resistant and steel-hard material as effortless as a red hot knife through butter. Apparently, the beam has flash-boiled the fluid inside because the entire shell exploded in a spray of fragments and steam. Everyone screamed as they were knocked back several meters, beaten and bruised. Even Kuroko didn't escape in time. Fortunately; however, no one were very close to the explosion and the fragments were thrown in a safe direction. Otherwise, they would've either been hit by the fragments or scalded to death by the liquid.

Groaning but able to stand, Mikoto stood up and looked around, peering through the dissipating fog that smelled of steamed coconut milk. She could recognize the others getting up, checking for any broken bones or mortal wounds but finding none. Kuroko too was fine, though she was miffed at her uniform being torn further. When Tensei pointed out that she has nothing to show anyway, it took all of Tatsu's effort to keep Kuroko from teleporting a stake into his head which, in his opinion, contains nothing to harm, anyway. Consequentially, it took Amaito's every effort to keep Tensei from ripping off Tatsu's head.

Mikoto perked up when she heard the crackle of electricity from behind her. Turning to look, her eye narrowed at the shorter figure that was approaching her. Dark purple light shone from the tip of the weapon he was carried, the heat the thing gave off evaporated the surrounding mist. When the fog finally cleared, Mikoto was surprised by what she saw. The weapon that the person was carrying was strange, with a laser attached to a slightly charred wooden bat insulated with pieces of metal and wires leading from it to a purple crystal shard that were surrounded by tiny mirrors. The first series of mirrors seems to be positions in a way as to direct the energy to a second series of lens and mirrors at the end of the weapon, building up and releasing the energy at the pull of a makeshift trigger on a handle attaching to the bat. Two large batteries provided power for the weapon. However, what was even strange was the confident smirk on the person's face.

"Someone called for the big guns?" Cleon finally said, holding the weapon like a RPG launcher and pointing it away from Mikoto's face. Electricity crackled over its surface. Sweat was flowing down his face due to the heat the weapon gave off. "I don't know about you but I'm ready to crank up the heat!"

'''''''''''

6 miles from destination and en route

10:26 pm

The convoy flew down the mostly abandoned street, overturning stray vehicles and plowing through any hostile being that walked into its path. Consisting of five Anti-Skill APCs, two black armored cars, and a white, unmarked van, this convoy continued to follow the coordinates showing the last location of the drone. In the distance, the occasional explosion shattered the otherwise prevalent silence, aside from the humming of engines.

In the back seat of the white van, the woman yawned as her fingers drummed the steel suitcase she was carrying. Next to her were the older researcher and another, slightly younger man from another research facility. Since he'd helped developed the anti-ritual/ability machine, albeit without his employer's knowledge, the woman had brought him along, knowing that his help in salvaging and modifying the machine would be invaluable.

"I have to agree with this young woman," he was saying to the older man. "The crystal should be fortified with quartz and more carbon next time. Otherwise, the continuous exposure to the laser will cause it to shatter."

"I understand that but if we do that, the laser won't react to the crystal fast enough to produce the nullifying light. It will result in a slower rate of fire."

"Yes, but the effects could increase exponentially."

"It doesn't matter now," the woman interrupted, turning to the younger man. "Dr. Hisako, you were once an audiologist and a neurologist, right? Certainly, you can convert the frequencies into sound waves that can achieve the same results as the light"

Dr. Hisako straightened his glasses. "Well," he was beginning to say. "I know how to but there are at least two problems..."

"Enlighten me."

"The first problem is the time. Though such an undertaking should take no more than seven months, However, I have my other work cut out for me so I could only be finished in almost a year."

"We have plenty of time, Dr. Hisako," the woman assured. "Now, what is the second problem?"

"The second problem involves my job. My employer suspects that I am secretly working for your company, one of his major competitors. If he finds out, I will lose my job."

The woman raised an eyebrow. "So what?" she queried. "You can always work for me. Beside, the benefits and pay is nothing to sneeze at and you will be much happier. By doing this favor for me, you are helping yourself."

Dr. Hisako looked downcast. "But I love working for Barashinko Pharmaceuticals."

Smiling, the woman placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "You are overstretched and beyond your limits, Dr. Hisako. You are too young to wrinkle your handsome face with worry. You see, the solution is to commit yourself fully to one company. I'll leave it up to you to decide which one is worth your while.

Witnessing the scene, the older man sighed drearily, envious of the other man's youth and the attention he was getting from the woman. "I wish that she could say the same thing to me," he muttered to himself.

The woman turned to him. "You'd said something?" she asked.

The man jumped, stammering, "I-I was s-saying that b-b-being with our c-company is the r-right place to be."

Dr. Hisako yawned. "Well, *ngh*, I hope you're right. Barashinko's retirement pension is amazing."

The woman's smirk turned into a grin. "Why cherish memories of your employment with Barashinko after retirement when you can truly enjoy working for us while you work?"

Dr. Hisako thought for a minute. Finally, he conceded. "I'll do it."

"Wonderful!" the woman cheered as the convoy rounding a corner. "You're just in time, Dr. Hisako. We're about to work on something big, something that could very well change Academy City forever. You won't regret it, I promise."

'''''''''''''

Rosaria's Hideout

5 minutes later...

"Whoa, that was so amazing!" Tensei gasped, his eyes fixed on Cleon's weapon like those of a child gazing at a huge cake. "Let do that again!"

"I think that it could only melt through concrete and stuff," Tatsu corrected him, rolling his eyes. Despite being beaten up, he was smiling for the first time in hours. He then began to wonder whether the weapon could be used to make popcorn at an accelerated rate

"Yes, this weapon reminds me of what-her-face's ability," Amaito added

"You mean Meltdowner?" Yumeji asked him.

"Yeah."

"Who's that?" Cleon wondered

"She is one of Academy City's top five Level 5s," Mikoto explained. "She's at Rank 4, right below me. Other than that, I don't know much about her, neither have I ever hanged out with her."

"She's a secretive and, some even say, a very rude girl," Kuroko added, pouting. "Glad that she's not a Tokiwadai student. Wouldn't want a second snob trying to run the whole school.

"Who's the first-," Mikoto was about to ask when she looked into Kuroko's eyes, getting her meaning. "Oh, you meant her."

"Um guys, we still have a problem," Amaito said apprehensively, pointing to a large shape emerging from the remnants of the destroyed shell. A low growl of rage and agony filled the air as the steam began to clear. Vines erupted out of the ground, flailing around for anyone unlucky enough to be within range. Immediately, everyone got in a combat stance as Cleon aimed his weapon at the entity.

Suddenly, a powerful earsplitting scream shattered the relative quiet like glass. Windows that weren't already broken by the initial battle disintegrated into sprays of glass shards and wood splinters. Before anyone could cover his or her ears, a powerful concussion wave knocked them off of their feet, sending them flying back. Even Yumeji, who can control sound waves, was surprised by the suddenly assault.

Cleon grunted when he hit the ground, earning him a nasty bump on his back and a burn on his shirt as he shielded the delicate and unstable weapon with his own body. Nearby, Amaito and the other groaned as they feebly picked themselves off the ground.

"I swear that if I get knocked onto my ass one more time, I'll go crazy," Tatsu grumbled, rubbing a new bruise forming on his lower back.

"Oh wow, that was fun. Let's go that again," Tensei said sarcastically, shaking off miniature versions of Sogiita Gunha cartwheeling around his head, his eyes a pair of swirling spirals and drool dripping out of his mouth.

"You're actually enjoying this?!" Kuroko asked incredulously, obviously lost by the sarcasm. "You are one weird boy."

"You are one weird girl, sounding like an old woman. Next, you'll be asking me where you put your dentures."

Suddenly, Kuroko teleported off the ground, reappearing in front of Tensei. She was just beginning to unleash a vicious kick, only for Mikoto to shoot a bolt of lightning past her head, causing her and Tensei to jump in fright.

"Can't you two focus your attention on Rosaria and not on each other?!" Mikoto growled, an eyebrow twitching.

"Oh right, Onee-sama!" Kuroko complied, blushing. Onee-sama looks cute when she's upset, even more so when she's furious.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Tensei grumbled, folding his arms over his chest.

"Good, now let's-WHOA!" Mikoto gasped as she barely dodged a thick vine shooting out of the ground. Seconds later, more vines shot out of the ground. As the others dodged the attacks, Tensei and Tatsu unfortunately weren't fast enough and were subsequently knocked into the air. Minutes later, a vine flew up and slammed into Tatsu's groin with teeth-gnashing force, sending him in a mid-air roll

"S-s-stupid... w-writer," Tatsu grunted in a high-pitched voice, holding himself. "Low blow... u-utterly f-f-f-fatal."

"I want to fly but not like thiiiiiiiiiiiis!" Tensei yelled as he fell back to earth. He grunted when he slammed into someone, knocking the person back. Bouncing off the person, Tensei miraculously landed on his feet. Tatsu; however, was less fortunate: he landed into a trash heap, burying himself into the pile of filth He later exclaimed something incoherent, though someone with a keen hearing could make out his disgust.

"Stupid writer, this dirty diaper is inches from my face! It really stinks!"

Rubbing his eyes, Tensei was about to boast about how cool he is for making such a landing when someone gave him a forceful shove. Gasping in surprise, Tensei stumbled backward to avoid falling onto his ass. Looking up, he was about to yell at the rude person when he saw his face.

"Hey, watch who you land into, idiot!" Shinataki growled, pausing when he got a good look at the smaller person. Slowing, his annoyance bubbled into sheer rage. His dark brown eyes bulged out of his eye sockets, red veins popping all over the surface. As his growing frown turned murderous, Shinataki's lips curled back into a feral snarl that would've even given the Tokiwadai dorm supervisor pause when facing such a furious foe. What flowed through those powerful teeth was the accumulation of sheer hatred at everything the red-haired boy put him through, starting with the utterly foolish thing he'd done to him earlier.

"YOU!"

Blinking, Tensei backed away slowly, recognizing the man as the thug who suffered a blow to his groin earlier, courtesy of Tensei. Gulping down in fear, he held his hands up in defense, realizing that such a man is dangerous than even the Tokiwadai supervisor, at least to him.

"Now I understand that you're pissed at that little stunt I've pulled on you earlier and that it was very inconsiderate of me," he chuckled nervously. "So, as a result, I would like to say that I'm really sorry, uh sir. Now that that's taken care of, let go kick Rosaria's-"

"YOUR ASS IS THE ONLY THING THAT I'M GONNA KICK, YOU LITTLE RUNT!" Shinataki bellowed, taking another step toward Tensei as he cracked his knuckles. There were long bruises around each of his wrists that were caused by his hands and feet being tied together by the wires, which the Gekota leader has cut off with his switchblade. "I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"

"Um, sir-sama or whatever your name is-"

"The name's Shinataki, you little runt, or do you want your statement to be your last words?!" Shinataki snarled, a bit calm but still furious.

"Right, Shinataki-sama, uh... As you can see, we're currently in a battle so it's not the time to cry over spilled milk, so...-"

"THE ONE WHO'S GONNA TO BE CRYING IS YOU!" Shinataki roared, charging at Tensei at a deceptively fast speed. Diverolled out of Shinataki's way to avoid being knocked senselessly, Tensei was about to take off running when Shinataki grabbed him by his shirt and flinged him effortlessly toward the trash pile. Tensei's high-pitched screams turned into a grunt when he landed on Tatsu, who was beginning to climb his way to freedom, stuffing him deeper into the filth.

"Stupid writer, why meeeeeeeeeee!?" he yelled out from underneath Tensei.

As Shinataki slowly closed in, Tensei frantically clawed through the trash, flinging various objects at the approaching thug. Shinataki either simply swatted them aside or dodged them without even a change in pace. If one Shinataki was this terrifying, not even Tensei's worst nightmares could fathom what an army of him could do to him.

Flinging a broken stroller with all his might, Tensei gasped when Shinataki simply slammed a fist through the device, smashing it into two pieces. Teary-eyed, Tensei squealed like a schoolgirl as Shinataki grabbed him by the scuff of his shirt and yanked him bodily into the air. Tensei watched in horror as Shinataki's free hand curled into a fierce-looking fist. If that can destroy a stroller with insulting ease, just think of what it can do to a fifteen year old's body.

"Please don't hurt me! I'm really, really sorry!" Tensei squealed.

"HAH, THAT SHALL BE YOUR LAST WORDS AND YOUR EPITHET!" Shinataki roared, bringing his fist back to unleash a series of bone-crushing and gut-pulverizing punches. "PREPARE TO DIEEEEEEEEE-*Gulp*!"

Shinataki was so busy ranting at a suspended Tensei that he'd never noticed Tatsu erupting from the trash pile, holding a white bundle of sorts. He was even more surprised when he shoved the bundle, which turned out to be a dirty diaper, in his gaping mouth, cutting him off mid-sentence. He'd even shoved it so forcefully into Shinataki's mouth that it became lodged in there. The shock of the assault caused Shinataki to let go of Tensei, dropping him onto Tatsu.

"Damn the writer and your luck, Tensei!" Tatsu growled, pushing Tensei off of him.

"I appreciate the soft landing," Tensei whimpered, still shaken by Shinataki's display of rage. Shinataki, on the other hand, was still in shock, his fingers trailing the surface of the diaper, dumbfounded.

"Yeah, whatever," Tatsu glanced at Shinataki, who was beginning to fume as the smell of stale baby urine reached his nose. Blue lines of disgust were forming on his forehead as veins swelled violently. "Let's get out of here before he goes berserk."

Apparently, Tatsu has spoken too late.

Immediately, Shinataki flew into a frothing rage as he struggled to dislodge the diaper stuck in his mouth. Yelling incoherently due to his mouth being full, Shinataki finally gave up and lunged at Tensei, attempting to grab him. Ducking under the grab, Tensei then diverolled a punch and grabbed Tatsu by the arm, dragging him with him toward the battle, with Shinataki pursuing the two.

"This doesn't make any sense!" Tatsu gasped, trying to keep up with Tensei's rapid steps. "You killed a lot of mandrakes in hand to hand combat and even enticed a huge monster to eat you, yet you are afraid of fighting a mere human?!"

"I can't hit people!" was all Tensei could say.

"What?!"

"I can't hit people!" Tensei repeated as they neared the battle. "Otherwise, I'll get in trouble. I-I'll explain later, okay!"

"You're really weird, you know that? You kicked me in the face earlier this afternoon, remember?"

Tatsu's question only made things worse. "Oh my god..."

Tatsu sighed. "What is it now?"

"Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god,*Inhales* Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god Oh my god,*Inhales* Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god Oh my god, Oh my god,*Inhales* Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, *Inhales* Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my – "

"Enough with the repetitive mumble jumble!"

"Oh my god, I've violated my mom's express order! I am so dead!"

"Your mom isn't here!"

"Yes, but she has spies. They're everywhere."

Tatsu was about to say something but decided that it wasn't even worth it. Tensei tends to become paranoid when frightened. Instead, he decided to turn his focus toward the battle ahead. The others were busy dodging volleys of cactus pricks flinged by Rosaria. The nun-turned-plant monster looked much worse, considering that she was boiled alive when Cleon fired the beam directly through her protective shell. Several of her petals, tenderized by the immerse heat, have simply fell off of her head. Her leaves looked as if they could also fall off any minute. Even her stalk looked gummy and ached with every move. The only things that remained healthy were her vines and roots. However, her predicament only made her angrier.

Being the slowest of the five, Amaito's belly was bristling with pricks, though they didn't even slow him down at first. However, the poison that was seeping into his bloodstream through the hollow projectiles seemed to intensify his pain. One moment, he was spraying the plant killer at Rosaria, barely dodging the roots and vines and the next, he was keeling over, his pained grunts slowly turning into screams. Seeing the Nagatenjōki student go down, Kuroko teleported to his aid. Suddenly a root whacked her from behind, pushing her onto the pricks stuck to Amaito's abdomen. Amaito screamed louder when the pricks were pushed deeper into his skin. Stuck by the pricks, it was a matter of time before Kuroko too was screaming in pain, unable to teleport away to dodge an incoming vine. The blow lifted Kuroko off her feet and slammed her into a wall. The Tokiwadai student slumped to the ground, unconscious.

"KUROKO!" Mikoto yelled, becoming even more furious. Without hesitation, she launched a lightning bolt at Rosaria. Unfortunately, despite being tender, the stalk still retained some of its electricity-dampening properties and only suffered a light scorching.

"Use your Railgun, Mikoto!" Yumeji called out to her, wielding his wooden katana "Me and Cleon will distract her.

"Right!" Mikoto nodded as she took out a game token.

Nodding to Cleon, who nodded back, Yumeji unleashed a loud war cry, which he amplified using his ability, and charged. The war cry stunned Rosaria, rooting her in place with intense vibrations and essentially making her a sitting duck. As Yumeji closed in, Cleon took a firing stance and leveled the weapon upward, aiming at a spot on Rosaria's head. Just as Rosaria has regained control of her body, he opened fire.

The beam vaporized a sizable portion of Rosaria's head, as well as two of her six lips. Howling in agony, her vines trailing over the cauterized wound, Rosaria failed to see Yumeji as he ran the weapon through her stalk, barely dodging the thorns on the surface. In an agonized rage, Rosaria quickly leaned in the direction of Yumeji and, before he could respond, slammed a particular thick vine onto him, smashing him into the ground, as well as creating a Yumeji-shaped crater underneath him. To his credit, Yumeji didn't even make a sound.

Detecting a flash of light, Rosaria quickly swayed toward the ground, grunting in pain when the game token ripped off a chunk of her stalk as it zipped past her, flying faster than the speed of sound. It was nearly a fatal blow.

"Dammit!" Mikoto cursed, gritting her teeth. She was breathing hard. "That was my last coin, too!"

A second beam of purple light, fired by Cleon, burned its way through Rosaria's stalk, causing it to slump dangerously. Quickly fortifying the cauterized hole with several thick vines, Rosaria counter attacked by unleashing a hail of blue energy similar to those thrown by the mandrake mages. Swearing, Cleon scrambled to avoid the balls of sparks, only for a few of them to slam into him, knocking him to the ground. The weapon slid out of his grasp.

Withstanding a torrent of bolts from Mikoto, Rosaria retaliated with a mass of roots. Blowing most of them to pieces, the exhausted Tokiwadai ace was overwhelmed by the rest. To her credit, Mikoto stood her ground far longer than everyone else before being knocked back and then entrapped by the roots.

Turning back to Cleon, Rosaria raised four large vines, sneering inwardly. Cleon watched in horror when several horn-shaped growths formed on the tips of the vines. It didn't take him any longer to realize what Rosaria was planning to do.

"Isht's becaushe hov hou hat hou and hoar hrends nanaged to lia thish long againsh ne ('It's because of you that you and your friends managed to live this long against me')!" she screeched, her words a bit slurred due to her two missing lips, which were slowly growing back. "Hush, ilsh he becaushe hov hou hat hou hill hie! Now shay oar hrayers ('Thus, it'll be because of you that you will die! Now, say your prayers!')!"

Before Rosaria could attack; however, she was distracted by the arrival of Tensei and Tatsu below her. As Tatsu went over to Yumeji's still form, Tensei was swaddling Rosaria's stalk, a gleam of mischief in his eyes.

"Please, Shinataki-sama, don't hurt my mom too!" he was saying, pretending to be frightened. "She may be a monstrous rose but she's all I got!"

"Hit ahray hrom he, heathen ('Get away from me, heathen!')!" Rosaria hissed, sweeping Tensei away with a vine. "I'd hrather hie han ho hother sush ah little haemon('I'd rather die than to mother such a little demon!')!"

Growling, Rosaria gulped when a shot of pain erupted from the base of her stalk. Looking toward the source, Rosaria gasped when she saw a monster of a man ripping through the gummy material with his bare hands, ripping it off like so much paper. His face was a mask of unspeakable fury and his words were nothing but growls and snarls, courtesy of a diaper lodged in his mouth. It was clear the Rosaria what the man was planning to do.

"Get off of me! Get off of me!" she squealed normally as her two damaged lips have been completely restored, attempting to swat the man away with vines and roots. Holding fast to her like a locust devouring a blade of glass, Shinataki only dug deeper into the green flesh, froth seeping through the corners of his mouth.

"Die pagan!" One of the horn-tipped vines pierced Shinataki in the shoulder. Though he was too furious to feel any pain, the smell of his own blood made Shinataki even more furious and he grabbed the vine just as Rosaria lifted it into the air. Timing his jump, Shinataki let out a muffled roar as he swinged straight into Rosaria's gaping mouth. The sounds of punching and muffled yells and screams filled the air.

Feeling the vines and roots slacken, Mikoto pushed her way out of their grasp, freeing herself. Without hesitation, she ran over to Kuroko, who were groggily coming back to consciousness. Cradling her best friend in her arms, Mikoto pushed aside a handful of Kuroko's curls just as the teleporter's eyes opened.

"Am I in heaven?" she asked, practically drooling. "Oh, don't pinch me! I don't want this dream to end."

Mikoto pinched Kuroko in the arm, causing the latter to jump, a look of pained disappointment on her face.

"Wakie wakie," Mikoto muttered to Kuroko, smiling. "Glad that you're still in the land of the living."

"Yumeji-san, wake up man!" Tatsu plead, shaking Yumeji's furiously. Having carried him to a safe place, Tatsu was now trying to bring him back to consciousness. However, Yumeji gave no indication of stirring.

"Please...come to...," Tears were forming in Tatsu's eyes, a few of them dropping on Yumeji's face and rolling down his cheeks. He then closed his eyes, sobs escaping from his mouth. "I'm...I'm sorry for saying, 'Screw you' when we thought that Tensei-san was dead. "Please-*hic*, please come back to us...*sniff*."

"Apology accepted, though I was hoping that I was lying in the lap of a girl."

Opening his eyes, Tatsu was greeted by a smiling Yumeji, who began to stretch, yawning. Relief flooded Tatsu and he surprised Yumeji with a quick but tight hug. Yumeji paused for a minute before managing a shrug and patting Tatsu reassuringly on the back.

Letting go of Yumeji, Tatsu stood up and helped Yumeji up. "So," he asked him. "How are you feeling?"

Yumeji sighed, his body aching badly but still tolerable. "The next time I meet a vegetable," he finally said. "I'm going to make sure that it's smaller than me."

Tatsu shrugged. "Well, as least it's not trying to kill you."

"Yeah, that would be really embarrassing. 'Yumeji, a Level 3 Phonomaster, killed and eaten by a carrot!' "

Both boys laughed as they ran toward the others.

Amaito was swearing profusely as Tensei and Cleon were gingerly plucking the barbed pricks off of his belly. Closest to the flailing, screaming form of Rosaria, Mikoto was nursing Kuroko's wounds, the latter's eyes sparkling at who she perceived to be her role model, best friend, and much more, much to Mikoto's chagrin. In fact, Kuroko's attempt to snuggle was quickly met with a burst of electricity that fried the teleporter, as well as caused her auburn hair to stand on end.

"Damn it, Kuroko!" Mikoto growled, sighing. "You have just been smashed into a brick wall, head first, and the first thing you want to do is to cuddle up with me!"

"But I love you, Onee-sama!" Kuroko drooled. Glancing toward Rosaria, Kuroko was reminded of something. Her expression became a bit more serious. "Onee-sama, we must end this battle quickly. The longer we delay, the more people that'll get hurt or even killed."

"I know that, Kuroko."

"Plus," Kuroko continued, raising an index finger. "You still got to prepare for that trip to Russia for that demonstration."

Gasping, Mikoto couldn't believe that she'd forgotten about the trip. Apparently, Academy City's administrators are paying her big money to showcase her abilities to its partners as a testament to how far the City of Students has come in its research. Though more people would think nothing of this except for the money, Mikoto could help but to believe that there was more to this demonstration than show-and-tell. Whatever it is, she intends to find out.

"When will that be?" she asked her.

Kuroko rolled her eyes. "Perhaps chasing after that spiky haired ape like a starry-eyed puppy has dulled your brain cells-"

"It's nothing like that!" Mikoto angrily interrupted, blushing heavily. "He's an arrogant idiot who goes around thinking that he's better than me!"

Ignoring her roommate's outburst, Kuroko continued, "Anyway, you'll be leaving on the 1st of July, only a few months from now. You're the type who usually packs early so I suggest that we wrap this up."

Nodding in agreement, Mikoto glanced in the direction of the five boys, who were regrouping. Rosaria was still struggling to cough out the rampaging thug who was trapped in her mouth and was slowly losing. "Let's go meet up with them and defeat that loud bitch," she finally said, grinning.

Kuroko shared Mikoto's flesh-eating smile. "You took the words right out of my mouth, Onee-sama,"

Giggling, the two girls got up and ran toward the boys, confident looks on their faces.

"OW, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!"

Smirking, Tensei tossed aside the last of the pricks and helped Amaito to his feet. The latter's belly were dotted by tiny red pinpricks, some of them oozing blood. "There you go," he said. "You may stop crying like a baby now."

Sniffing back tears, a pissed Amaito grabbed Tensei by his shirt and brought him within a few inches of his face. "Try getting an assful of pricks that intensifies your pain and we'll see what you have to say!" he yelled in his face.

"Actually, heh heh, they were only stuck to your belly, not that I'm denying how much space they have there."

"Screw you and same freaking thing: they hurt like hell!"

"Well, as least they're not lethal," Cleon spoke, studying a prick he carefully held in his fingers. "Though a considerate amount of the pain originated from the barbs irritating the skin itself. Have the barbs been any longer, plucking the pricks out would've seriously torn the skin, causing massive pain and damage, perhaps even bleeding".

"Remind me to avoid every cactus I find like a plague," Amaito told Cleon, settling down as he let go of Tensei.

Cleon smirked. "I'll be sure to remind you when we're stranded in a desert with no water to drink."

"Who needs cactus water, anyway? I've heard that a person can last for a long time in a desert by drinking his urine."

Cleon gagged, blue lines of disgust forming on his forehead. "Remind me not to be stranded in a desert with you."

"Better to be stranded with me than with Tensei here. He may suggest that we lick the sweat off of each other's brow."

"Oh, come on now, Amaito-san!" Tensei countered, rolling his eyes. "With my uncanny luck and awesomeness, we could stay alive in a desert for a long time, no problem about that! Besides, we can take a sip of each other's blood, just as the Mongols have done to their horses in the past."

Before Amaito could reply, Tatsu and Yumeji arrived, with Mikoto and Kuroko not too far behind. Taking a deep breath, Tatsu let out a long sigh and looked disgustedly at Tensei and Amaito. "Now that you two guys are finished chatting about which body fluids can keep you alive in a desert if drunken," he was saying. "Let's finish this up so that we can go home and eat popcorn."

"You're still obsessed with popcorn at a time like this?!" Amaito asked incredulously.

Ignoring Amaito, Tatsu turned to Cleon. "So, Cleon-san," he began to ask. "Do you know of any way to quickly defeat Rosaria?"

Cleon thought for a minute. "Well," he finally replied, stroking his chin with a finger. "I have this plan that involved setting fire to the explosive substance inside those cannon charges. However, it's extremely dangerous."

"Not if you manage to throw an intact charge at Rosaria and get the Railgun to ignite it with a lightning bolt when it is close to her head," Yumeji added just as Mikoto and Kuroko arrived. "Even if the charge doesn't kill her outright, it'll give us a small window of opportunity to-"

A flash of red light, which was followed by a loud roar, interrupted Yumeji. Turning toward the source, the seven students tensed at what they saw. Raising a trio of red vines into the sky, Rosaria's remaining petals glowed a bright red as a huge ball of red, unstable energy materialized within the confines of the strange vines. A few vines tossed to the side an unconscious and badly bloodied Shinataki as new vines and roots, each of them covered in thorns, waved furiously around Rosaria, daring anyone to approach. Minutes later, leaves that once made up the shapeshifting monsters that were terrorizing Academy City swarmed to the area, mingling with the ball of energy. A few of them formed into runic symbols that encircled Rosaria and the thorny growths like a protective barrier.

"AHAHAHAHA!" Rosaria screeched gleefully, waving the vines furiously. "TIME TO SWITCH TO PLAN B! IN A FEW MINUTES, THIS SPELL WILL CAUSE UNPRECENDENT DESTRUCTION TO ACADEMY CITY, HITTING IT WITH THE FORCE OF A SMALL NUCLEAR WEAPON! NOT EVEN THE GREGORIAN CHANT CAN MATCH THE SCALE OF SHEER ATROCITY! THOSE WHO SURVIVE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RESIST THE MIGHT OF THE CHURCH! BEFORE I SEND YOU ALL TO HELL, I WANT YOU TO SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU CAN!"

"Like hell we would allow you to do that!" Mikoto growled, building up electricity. "You would have to do it over my dead body!"

"This ends now!" Tatsu yelled, getting into a combat stance. "You have gone too far!"

"If you think that you can stop me, you're welcome to try!" Rosaria challenged. Taking a deep breath, Rosaria begin to chant:

'Life of the earth, gardener of mankind,'

'Listen to your pruning tool, who's now calling to you...'

"We got to stop her from finishing the chant!" Yumeji shouted, notching an arrow. Setting the arrow head alight, he fired the arrow at Rosaria. Trailing a stream of smoke, the arrow was put out by the barrier, a handful of its leaves burned to cinders, and the arrow itself were knocked to the side by one of the thorny vines. Grunted in disappointment, Yumeji hurled a powerful ball of sound, only for it to splash harmlessly against the barrier.

"Let me try," Cleon offered, aiming the weapon at Rosaria. When he pulled the trigger, he noticed three undesirable things: first, the weapon didn't fire, second, there was a shattering sound as the purple crystal was shattered into a thousand pieces as the buildup of energy inside erupted and, third, Cleon was knocked back by the sudden concussion wave of heat that was so intense that his shirt and pants were reduced to ashes and his eyebrows were burnt off. Fortunately, no one was near him, as they weren't sure about the stability of the weapon. On hindsight, they were right all along.

'Give me the power to clip off the branches of the wicked, '

'And the blessing to purge their roots.'

"What the-what the hell happened!" Tatsu wondered aloud.

"Cleon-san, are you alright?" Amaito asked, deeply concerned but obviously trying not to chuckle despite the predicament.

Sitting upright, Cleon blushed heavily as he quickly tried to hide his white boxer briefs, especially since Mikoto and Kuroko are nearby. Both girls were looking away, blushing at seeing the half naked boy. "What an embarrassing way to fight a foe," he whined, on the verge of tears. "Remind me to be extra careful around lasers."

"Hah, hah, hah!" Tensei chuckled, oblivious to what was going on. "It seems that the barrier only negates elemental attacks and allows physical attacks to pass. Too bad it can't negate the element of Tensei!"

'Wicked are they, who give to the world their poisoned fruit,'

'Devious are they, who enticed the naïve with their sweet, tempting scent.'

The ball of energy were growing bigger by the second.

"Hey, Sogiita II, your hair's on fire," Tatsu snorted.

Looking up, Tensei's eyes bulged out of their sockets at the sight of the fire that was now consuming his hair. Started by a burning piece of fabric, the flames were spreading quickly toward his scalp.

"AAAAUUUUUGH, GET IT OFF ME! GET IT OFF ME!" Tensei screamed, running around and flailing his arms. "IT BURNS, IT'S CRAZY, MAN! IT'S TRYING TO EAT ME!"

"Stop, drop, and roll, idiot! Running around only speeds it up!"

'Therefore, give me the scythe of the reaper, '

'That I may cut down the wicked in a grand harvest, '

"If I wasn't in so much pain, I would've teleported on top of her and finished her off," Kuroko grumbled.

"I guess that it's up to me!" With a shout, Mikoto unleashed a powerful stream of electricity at Rosaria. The sheer amount of voltage lit up the area and, for a moment, Mikoto thought that she'd defeated Rosaria. However, her hopes were dashed when Rosaria remained standing.

'When the stalks of the wicked have at last withered, may righteousness spring forth from the newly sanctified ground, '

'AS SURELY AS THE SUN FROM THE DARK, CRUEL VOID!'

The unstable ball of red energy flashed once, signifying that it is ready to unleash hell.

"No..." Mikoto breathed, unable to believe what was happening. They have failed, no... she has failed Academy City. She is the third highest ranking Level 5, the Ace of Tokiwadai, in fact, not that any of that mattered now. Believing that the end is near, Mikoto allowed herself time to remember all the great things she have done while living in this city: befriending Kuroko, however awkward it became, enjoying her school life, eating various foods, donating a lock of her hair to research so that people like Tatsu's now dead brother could live normally, even repeatedly dueling that spiky haired upstart countless times, which was honestly entertaining. Even in her dying moments, Mikoto will never regret anything.

Just as Mikoto was about to close her eyes, she was jerked back to her senses by a shout, "AS LONG AS I LIVE, NO ONE WILL MESS WITH MY CITY!"

Turning her head, Mikoto's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets at what she saw. Running at Rosaria at full tilt, a man who appeared to be in his early thirties was carrying what appeared to be a cannon charge. He was dressed in green and black and was wearing various bead necklaces and plastic rings depicting the smiling face of Gekota, of whom Mikoto is secretly a fan. Even the cap he was wearing and his shoes was decorated with the smiling frog's image. Hell, even his black hair has streaks of green strands. If she wasn't so dumbfounded by the man's appearance, Mikoto would be giddy over meeting such a strange fellow fan.

Standing up, Cleon's eyes widened at the sight of the leader of the Gekota Gang. Amaito, Tensei, and Tatsu saw the man approaching in stunned silence as Yumeji glanced at the charge in his hand. When he saw the man raise it behind his head, obviously about to throw it, Yumeji immediately knew what he was up to.

"Everyone take cover!" he yelled, hitting the deck. As the others begin to follow suit, the Gekota leader threw the charge as far as he can. Growling, Rosaria reached for the suspended explosive with a few vines, missing completely. The charge continued along its trajectory, flying toward the unstable mass of energy. In a desperate, last ditch effort, Rosaria flinged all of her vines at the explosive, save for the three vines maintaining the swirling mass overhead. For every miss, the charge flew closer to the energy mass, closing in at twenty feet. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. Five feet...

One of the vines caught the explosive in a crushing coil, breaking opening the casing and sending the contents spreading everywhere. Rosaria was in a mood of elation for a few seconds before she realized her mistake.

"Charbroiled roses, anyone?" the Gekota leader grumbled, being the last to take cover. "They smell better than fried carrots."

"NOOOO!- " was all Rosaria could say before the energy ignited the powder, creating a raging infernal that tore through the area like a fiery demon. Pieces of vines and petals flew everywhere as the area glowed with the brightness of a miniature sun. Soon enough, the fire were spreading through the alleys.

After a few minutes, the fire have dissipated, allowing the students and the single adult to get up, some of them coughing in the ash-filled air. Most of them have singed clothing. Cleon, on the other hand, loss all of his body hair, save for his head of curls for an unknown reason. Tensei; however, was remarkable unscathed, since Tatsu have made the mistake of lying on top of him, shielding his from the flames However, Tatsu too was reduced to his underpants. The kernels he kept in his pocket had been popped by the intense dry heat

Good thing that he'd ran out of firecrackers long ago. It was even more fortunate that the heat haven't reached the cans of plant killer he was carrying, though the grappling hook set he'd never got to use was reduced to a scorched pile of hooks half buried within the scorched remains of the rope.

"CURSE YOU, WRITER!" was all he could say before choking on the sooty air.

Rubbing his eyes, Cleon took off his eyepiece to clean it before replacing it. Looking to where Rosaria once stood, he was relieved to see that the monstrous rose she was controlling was nothing more than a smoking heap that reeked of burnt flowers.

Apparently, the Gekota leader has an impaired sense of smell.

"We did it!" Tensei shouted, slapping Cleon on his bare back, right when he'd first slapped him when he first met him. Cleon winced, tears forming in his eyes. That spot was starting to heal, too. "We defeated Rosemary and saved Academy City!"

Despite his pain, Cleon could've help but to smile "You're absolutely right, Tensei-san. Also, her name is Rosaria."

"Same thing, only that she got defeated by the Amazing Tensei Tiger and his squad, the Newbies!"

"With the help of Mikoto and Kuroko, you nitwit," Tatsu sighed, smiling. He was covering himself up with his trash lid. "Also, don't forget the strange Gekota fellow."

"Forget the Railgun!" Tensei sighed.

Cleon blinked in confusion. "Wait, weren't you glorifying her in class yesterday morning?"

Tensei shrugged. "Mr. Fujimake is a big fan of Mikoto! How could I face him if he knew that I can't stand the Railgun?!"

"What is he going to do, flunk you?" Tatsu asked him.

"Do you guys notice his appearance? He looks like the male version of the Tokiwadai dorm supervisor!"

"He's nicer than she is, so what."

"Yes, but he exudes that same fearsome aura, especially when angry."

Tatsu was about to say more when Amaito, Mikoto, Kuroko, and Yumeji gathered around them. Seconds later, the Gekota leader joined them, carrying a still unconscious Shinataki over his shoulder. Shinataki's mouth was now closed, as the leader has managed to dislodge the dirty diaper stuck in his jaws.

"I have to say," the Gekota leader finally said, grinning. "I've never had this much fun in my life, neither have I met such a unique group of people, especially you Cleon." The man held out a hand. "I am honored to meet you."

Despite the man being the leader of a gang who kidnapped him and forced him to help build a dangerous machine, Cleon felt genuine respect for the man knowing that, inside the hard exterior, there was a man who has such great potential, if only he could stop using it to further a Skill-Out gang's ambitions.

"Likewise," he finally said, shaking the man's hand.

"If you ever need any backup or any help of any kind, you'll know soon enough where to find us or, rather, we'll find you."

"Um, thanks."

"Sweet, now we have a posse!" Tensei said excitedly, thinking of the possibilities. "We can raid bad guys' lairs, break down doors, stomp heads, catch criminals and take names,-"

"Tensei-san..." Tatsu muttered, annoyed.

Tensei turned to Tatsu. "Yes?"

"Can it,"

"Fine, whatever."

"Well, we'll be sure to utilize your help, when the time comes," Yumeji spoke, nodding.

The Gekota leader smirked. "Spoken like a fellow leader. Oh yeah, I almost forgot..." Taking off one of his necklaces, he tossed it to Mikoto, who caught it, trying to keep herself from going crazy with Gekotamania, especially in front of Kuroko.

"Issue #27, first necklace in the series to be manufactured from parts made in the United States. Very rare, yet very valuable."

"Um, thanks," Mikoto said, blushing heavily as Kuroko looked on, disapproving her roommate's love for the children's toy brand.

"Well, I got to go check on the boys. Fighting such a powerful enemy can cause one to rethink his priorities and affiliation. Take care."

As the students bid the Gekota leader farewell, Kuroko turned to Mikoto, placing her hands on her hips. "Onee-sama...," she droned, taking on a maternal tone. "What did I tell you about playing with toys?"

"It's... I... hrrr, I'm not interested in Gekota or any other toy brand! Why would you care, anyway?"

"Because, number one: you thanked him for the necklace and, two: you just put that necklace in your pocket."

"I-I didn't want to hurt his feelings and I am saving it to give to a kid!"

Kuroko rolled her eyes. "Whatever..."

As the two girls chatted with each other, the five boys were reminiscing the battle.

"Woot, what an amazing night this is!" Tensei hooted, pumping a fist into the air. "I wish that we can do this every day!"

"Speak for yourself!" Amaito muttered before turning to Tatsu. "Anyway, what that guy did was amazing! You saw how he threw that charge? It's as if he used to be a soldier."

"He probably was, or at least has the experience," Tatsu agree. "However, nothing is cooler than the ray gun Cleon has built. Rosaria didn't know what hit her!"

"I sort of feel sorry for her...PSYCH!"

Both boys laughed as Yumeji yawned. "So, what did those thugs do to you, Cleon-san? Did they hurt you?" he asked, testing the bowstring of his bow. "My reason for asking is that I want to know how much I can trust in Gekota Man and his gang."

Cleon shrugged. "They only wanted me to help them build a machine to help them win against Rosaria, for what good it did them. It's where I'd gotten the parts for the ray gun. The strangest thing about the leader; however, is that he looked as if he was once a professor."

This caught Yumeji's attention. "Go on."

"Also, there's the case with the materials needed for the machine. The parts can easily be put together by anyone, even by unskilled hands, plus they looked pretty high-tech to me."

"A sort of experiment, perhaps to measure a Skill-Out gang's capability against powerful magicians and rogue espers," Yumeji breathed. Sighing, he looked back to Cleon. "I can't say I know what's going on here or who that man really is but, someday, I plan to do some research on him. Though we don't know his name, I am pretty sure that we'll find his picture somewhere on the city's database. As for this machine, I have a feeling that the higher ups may have a hand in-"

"CLEON, LOOK OUT!" Amaito shouted. Unfortunately, it was too late.

No less than four sharp objects pierced Cleon's back, jutting out his chest. Coughing up a glob of blood, he gave a pained groan as the horn-tipped vines lifted him into the air. Overcome by shock, which was quickly replaced by fury, Amaito, Yumeji, Tensei, and Tatsu charged toward the ragged form of Rosaria. Having crawled her way out of the monstrous rose, Rosaria had whispered a quick spell to control four horn-tipped vines and attacked Cleon with them. When the four boys got closer enough, Rosaria whispered a spell to control a fifth vine. With this, she swatted all but one of the boys away. Having dodged the vine, Yumeji was closing in, his wooden katana raised. Sidestepping his downward slash, Rosaria planted several fierce kicks into Yumeji's gut. Catching a sideward kick with one hand, Rosaria backhanded Yumeji with the other to push him back and unleashed a strong knee to the groin, causing him to fall onto the ground, hissing curses. As he rolled on the ground, she began to savor what little victory she has.

"Huahahahahaha!" she chortled, a psychotic sneer on her face, her eyes widened with hatred. "All of this is your doing, Cleon! I bet that you even arranged for that barbaric criminal to jump into my mouth and wreak havoc. You're at the end of your line, you abominable genius!"

"You're...the one... who's 'abominable', Rosaria...," Cleon weakly spoke, losing much blood. "In fact... you disgusts... me."

Rosaria gave Cleon a flat stare. "Agnese Sanctis shows much more respect than you, heathen!"

"Takes... a heathen... to know one..."

Rosaria's already constricted pupils shrunk even more as she took Cleon's comment as a personal affront. "DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH, PAGAN!"

"NOW!" Mikoto shouted. Immediately, Kuroko, who was now feeling better, teleported Mikoto behind Rosaria. Before the rogue magician could react, Mikoto wrapped her arms her torso. It didn't even take the crackling of electricity for Rosaria to realize that she's screwed. Immediately, her mask of fury quickly morphed into an expression of terror. Tears began to flow down Rosaria's cheeks.

"Please, *sniff* have mercy on me..." she whimpered.

"God has mercy," Mikoto growled. "I barely do."

Rosaria screamed as bolts of electricity coursed through her body, causing her to light up like a human light bulb. Dusting himself off, Tensei helped the others up and glanced at Rosaria, a big smile on his face.

"I knew that Rosaline was very conductive to electricity. Kind of reminds me of that experiment involving a small light bulb attached via wires to several electrodes stuck into a potato."

"True," Kuroko agreed, teleporting next to him, surprising him. "The electrical current required to light the bulb is generated by the reaction of the ions inside the potato to those present on the electrodes."

Tensei sighed. "Do you always butt in other people's conversations and give input that no one cares to hear?"

Kuroko scoffed. "I was merely educating you-oh, I forget, your brain has too much space for air and not enough for storing information. Pity."

Crossing his arms, Tensei gave Kuroko a flesh-eating smile. "If you were a type of soda, you would be what most people would call, 'extra-flat'."

Giving Tensei a flat stare, Kuroko sticked her fingers in Tensei's pants, grabbing the waistband of his underwear. Concentrating for a moment, she teleported it above his head, causing him to yelp in surprise as it fell over his head.

"I love my body, especially my legs, which is more than what I can say for your pink underpants."

"Hey, no fair! They were once white until some fool threw his red socks into the same washer!"

"Really...,"

Suddenly, the vines holding Cleon up collapsed, sending the fatally wounded student plummeting toward the ground. Seeing the scene play out, Kuroko quickly teleported to him. Grabbing him, she teleported him to a safe place. With the help of the others, she managed to slow the bleeding somewhat, knowing that it alone won't keep Cleon alive. He needed medical attention immediately.

After almost a minute of electrocuting the rogue magician, Mikoto let go of Rosaria. Stumbling forward, Rosaria bent over and emptied her stomach, much to Mikoto's disgust. The Ace of Tokiwadai back up slightly to avoid breathing in the sickening odor that arose.

"Ah... Mama," Rosaria whimpered deliriously, twitching uncontrollably. Her normally curly, shoulder length hair was now a puffy, red afro. Her Italian accent was jumpy due to the spasm that affected her jaw muscles. "Would you like... for me to... plant some more... basil?" Without warning, Rosaria fell onto her face, landing in her own vomit.

Disgusted, Mikoto turned away, instead focusing her attention on Cleon's critical condition. Racing to his side, Mikoto was aghast by the sheer brutality of Rosaria's attempt to kill him. Experiencing such a devastating attack, it was a miracle that he was still alive, courtesy of the other's efforts, though internal bleeding is still a major problem.

"I'd never... thought that I... would face...a life-threatening...situation in the...first week that... I enroll into...*sigh* Nagatenjōki...," he panted, his skin obtaining an ashy pallor.

"Hang in there, Cleon-san," Tensei calmly said, trembling. Behind him, Yumeji was calling for paramedics. "As long as you're still breathing, you will live."

'He's right," Amaito agreed, nodding. "You can't go. You just got here."

"Your being missing were enough to push us to the edge," Tatsu said. "Please, don't let our efforts be in vain."

"You've found me... It is not in vain."

"Yes, but we want to take you home alive," Yumeji responded, hanging up the phone. "Emergency line's clogged with calls. We'll need a miracle-"

As if on cue, red and blue lights flashed into one of the larger alleys as the sounds of sirens and a large number of vehicles echoed throughout the area. Moments later, a motorcade consisting of personnel carriers, armored cars and an ambulance poured into the area. The carriers rolled to a complete stop and Anti-Skill officers poured out of the back, swinging their guns here and there, securing the area. When they reached the unconscious body of Rosaria, the squad's officers gave the order and two men picked up Rosaria and handcuffed her as the rest trained their guns on her. In the flurry of activity, a pair of paramedics pulled a gurney from the back of the emergency vehicle and made their way toward the students.

"Well shave my hair through the middle and call me a priest," Tensei smirked, relief flooding him. "Miracles do happen, even in the Science Capital of the World."

'''''''''''''''''''

11:19 pm

Minutes after the students were escorted out of the area, the woman's motorcade arrived at the scene. Having to take many detours due to debris on the roads, it took the healthy portion of an hour before a suitable path could be found. Nevertheless, they have arrived at the scene when the children are away and that is what ultimately mattered.

Now is the time to doing an after battle assessment, as well as to collect the machine

The disposal crew, who were cleaning up the area, didn't pay that much attention to the group of scientists who were surveying the area. Looking around the ravaged area that served as the target's final battleground, the woman couldn't help but to whistle at the evidence of the sheer amount of effort the Skill-Out gang put into fighting the rogue magician. However, it seemed to be for naught: according to one of the Anti-Skill officers belonging to the motorcade that was already here, there was no sight of the gang when they arrived here. It was as if they have retreated in the middle of the battle.

Interesting though, his report tells of finding no more than seven students upon arrival to the area, including, of all people, the Railgun herself. By the weapons they carried, it can be assumed that they fought the target themselves and won.

"The means that the children used to defeat Rosaria is astonishing," the older scientist breathed excitedly. "They may even fight better than the Skill-Out gang we were studying."

"But, in stark contrast to ITEM, for example, they are nothing more than newbies," the woman pointed out. In one hand, she held a cylindrical object. Various tiny objects rolled around inside the larger object with every movement. "Highly trained groups such as ITEM will tear them apart without any effort, even with the Railgun's help, though the boy who sparked my interest could truly be unique."

"You mean that boy who'd directed his friends into making an impossibly accurate shot at the target despite facing strong winds?"

"Precisely," The woman took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Have you found any information about him?"

The older scientist looked over his notes. "Um, let's see," he finally said, flipping through the pages. "His name is Cleon Richardson. He's an American who hails from Library City in California. He's a Level 2 Mental Compute ability user who can incorporate and manipulate data in various ways and at a much rapid processing speed than normal human beings. He can also formulate calculations and predict outcomes based on those calculations. It's even possible that he can manipulate physical objects in the same way, making just about anything out of everything without the need for manuals. He's basically like a human computer, if you will."

Nodding, the woman looked up into the cloudy sky as a light drizzle fell on her face, her long, wavy orange hair waving in the wind. She closed her eyes and muttered, "Yellow." Opening the lid of the cylindrical tube, which turned out to be a small can of candy, she dug a finger inside and pulled out a yellow piece of candy, just as she have predicted. Eating the candy, the woman closed the top of the can and asked, "Dr. Teyomori, what do you know of Mental Compute besides what you'd just told me?"

Not quite used to the woman's uncanny ability to correctly guess the color of the candy she will pick out of the can, Teyomori pushed the thought out of his mind. "Mental Compute is an extremely rare ability, rarer than most of the abilities of which we're familiar with. In fact, it's very difficult for anyone to acquire it through the Power Curriculum. Therefore, it's a greater possibility that Cleon have obtained the ability naturally."

The woman's eyes widened for a moment before finally relaxing. "An interesting specimen, isn't it? Well, it's a shame that he's a Level 2. We would have to wait until he improves further before we can act."

"Correct,"

Patting Teyomori on the head, causing him to blush so heavily that he looks like he has a fever, the woman continued walking toward the machine. "Now, let's check on the prototype."

Hisako was already there, talking to a pair of scientists as he pointed to the large salvaged machine. Inspecting the machine, the woman was surprised that most of the components, save for a laser, the crystal, and other missing components, were all still there. Teyomori's reaction is similar, except that he is also frustrated at someone vandalizing the machine on which he'd tirelessly worked so hard. It's like having one's child taken and utterly misused and then discarded once its use have been fulfilled.

"So," the woman finally asked Hisako as she glanced down at the machine. "Can the machine be recovered or would we need to build a new one from scratch?"

Hisako adjusted his glasses. "Well, with the replacement of components, as well as the repair of the outer shell, this machine can be used again by the end of July," he explained. "However, the crystal is completely destroyed. Apparently, someone took the crystal and other vital components and made this." Motioning to one of the scientist, Hisako took a long object from a female scientist.

Interested, the woman examined the object closely. Though the parts were badly scorched, she recognized the battery pack, the wires, and the remnant of one of the lasers. A fixture was attached to the leading portion of the laser, obviously to hold the crystal. The entire unit was attached to a badly scorched wooden bat via wires. It took one look at the makeshift trigger at the bottom half of the bat when the woman realized the true purpose of the weapon.

Teyomori noticed the weapon and smirked, "An effect of Mental Compute, perhaps?"

The woman nodded. "This is interesting. I've never knew that these components could be built into some like this," She turned to face Teyomori. "Inform our allies in the Administration. Tell them to keep an eye on Cleon's progress throughout school, especially on his shifts in level. When he becomes a Level 4, we will move on to the next phase of our plan."

"Yes, it shall be done...Dr. Lifeline," Teyomori complied, bowing.

"Now that the prototype has proven itself to be successful, and will be more effective with the use of sound waves," Hisako asked. "Have you thought about what to name it?"

Dr. Lifeline, Therestina Kihari Lifeline, yawned and answered after readjusting her glasses, "Since it nullifies the rituals of magicians and the abilities of espers, therefore decreasing their capacity in battle, it shall be named Capacity Down."

"Ooh, nice name," Teyomori agreed, nodding.

"An appropriate name," Hisako agreed, scratching his head. "But Capacity Down needs more testing to truly gauge its potential since it wasn't used that long. Who will you give copies to in order to do so?"

Therestina smirked heartily. However, despite her warm exterior, a cruel and malicious cunning could be seen in her blue eyes. "I have in mind a Skill-Out gang. In fact, since its original leader is still in jail, I have a feeling that the current leader is going to be much more cooperative."