For those of you who don't know what it is, I'm going to fill you in here. I use the term 'Hyperspace Arsenal" quite a few times in this chapter. This term refers to the ability to manifest weapons from seemingly nowhere, just like the way Charlotte stores her many weapons for the Rafale Revive, or even when an I.S. in standby mode is activated and it kinda just forms out of fucking light. So, that's what I'm referring to with the Hyperspace Arsenal, for your enlightenment.


Five days. Five long days was what it took for Church to repair that accursed wall he had smashed upon arrival at the I.S. Academy. And even after all of those weary, tiresome hours of work, it still looked like an amateur's drywall patch-up attempt rather than a professional repair. Church eyed the gymnasium wall that had earned his eternal hatred. If he had his way, he would never lay eyes on it again.

He wasn't exactly sure why he had spent such a long amount of critical mission time on such a thing, but Church found he didn't really care. After all, on a subconscious level it was probably because he had been looking to delay the start of his mission as long as possible with anything that could have been considered a viable excuse.

Even so, the mere sight of the wall that had plagued him for the better part of a week made Church very irritable.

I think we have done a fine job, Operator.

I think that I don't care whether or not I did a fine job: if anyone has anything to say about it I'll blow this place to smithereens weeks ahead of schedule. Besides, what do you mean 'we?' I did literally everything.

As if Church's dour thoughts had been overheard through some sort of telepathy, he was addressed from behind the moment he finished his thought. "Oh, Church-Kun, the wall looks rather nice."

The American pilot turned to face Yamada, standing behind him and admiring his fixer-upper handiwork. He wasn't sure when she had arrived: in fact, he hadn't seen her at all for the past week of repairs. Of course, he hadn't seen anyone he had been acquainted with since he had started. That probably had something to do with the fact that he was not required to attend classes or anything, but still...

"Hm... well, if you say so. At this point, I'm so frustrated I may end up breaking it again."

The comment was met with a short giggle from the woman, despite the fact that he had meant it quite literally. "I see. Well, it is Saturday, so if you would like, the students are allowed to participate in mock battles on the field in preparation for tomorrow's weekend tournament. It may help you release your pent up frustration."

Church couldn't help but cock an eyebrow at her. He was still confused and worried as to how the existence of Exeter had been revealed before he had even arrived, but he had yet to be arrested or attacked by authorities, so apparently no one knew what his ulterior motive was even if they knew about his suit. Even so, he wasn't eager to perform a show for the entire student body. The less people that knew about his assets the better...

"I'm not a student. Also, broadcasting the Exeter suit's existence to the entire student body is a terrible idea."

Yamada made that trademark apologetic grin of hers, as well as a nervous laugh, and Church got the feeling that he was about to hear something he didn't want to hear.

"Why do I get the feeling that you're about to give me bad news?"

"Well it may not be so bad... it's just that, well Church-Kun, the whole school...er...kinda already knows."

Oh my... this is unfortunate.

"W-what?! Why?! How?!"

Yamada kneaded her hands together anxiously. "W-well... it's quite difficult to keep such a secret, especially when you accidentally crashed into one of the Academy buildings. Not to mention that you were seen by two other girls, so we had no choice but to come out with the truth."

Church cradled his head in his hands and sighed. "You've got to be kidding me..."

Mistaking his dissatisfaction as anger at her, Yamada bowed apologetically and quickly tried to remove blame from herself. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't be angry! I only told the classes because Orimura-Sensei told me I should!"

Dammit... less than a week and shit is hitting the fan all over the place... fuck it then, I might as well take her suggestion and get rid of my now very much amplified frustration...

Church waited for Yamada to finish her unnecessary apologies before speaking to her again. "Well, it that's the case, I guess I might as well take your advice. Go ahead and lead the way..."


Upon stepping onto the training area, Church began to analyze all of the aspects of the would-be battlefield, not that there was much to analyze. It was really just a large stadium surrounded by bleachers. What type of training field didn't have any form of cover? Church began to think that, but quickly remembered that I.S. combat was mostly aerial. Sometimes he forgot his new purpose, considering that Exeter was originally a power-suit for infantry operations.

Since the field wasn't too terribly interesting, Church began to identify all of the students that occupied it. Most of them were students he didn't recognize, although he did spot the girl who had been wearing the 'Pikachu' pajamas on Monday, although she was now wearing one of the student issued I.S. sync suits. Unfortunately, off to the right was not only several of the Academy's Representative Candidates, but also Houki Shinonono and both Orimura siblings. Of course, Chifuyu wasn't arming herself for combat, but all of the others were.

Church noticed that Rin was not among them, although a moment of searching showed that the girl was seated nearby in the bleachers above. She didn't have anywhere near as many bandages as before, but her fatigued look and occasional massages of her aching body attested to the fact that she was in no condition to be piloting. Besides, her right arm was still in a sling, and was probably still broken. As for her left arm and her torso, it was impossible to tell what state they were in. Either way, such gruesome injuries didn't heal in a week, and Church still thought that the girl should have been resting instead of being out and about.

Yamada led Church over to the group of teens, and Church already knew that his opponent would be one of them. The thought made him a little anxious, since he hadn't fought an I.S. in a while. However, he was confident in his abilities, and he quickly dispelled his misgivings. He hadn't dealt with all that many specialized I.S., so Church didn't really know what he was up against, but then again, these girls had never fought Exeter either, so the disadvantage went to both sides.

Having already activated Exeter before entering the field, Church carefully noted the expressions of the people surrounding him. Bodewig glared at him menacingly, which was no surprise at this point. Apparently a week had done nothing to mitigate her distaste for him. As for the rest of them, Alcott was giving him a derisive look, while Dunois was examining Church's suit, clearly fascinated by the tech. Shinonono cast a brief glance in his direction, but she quickly returned her attention to Ichika Orimura, who was merely staring out into the field. All in all, none of them seemed to have any good interest in Church, rr any interest at all really. Only Bodewig and Alcott seemed to look at him as a person, but it was obviously as a person that they harbored no fond feelings for.

On the other hand, Church didn't like being subject to so much disdain without due cause (Excluding Laura's reasons of course), so he returned at least Cecilia's fierce glare, not that she could see it behind his visor. "I don't quite like that look you're giving me. You really want to get creamed that badly?"

Interrupting before anyone could make a retort, Chifuyu seemed more amused by Church's fighting words than irritated. "Eager to get started are we? And feisty too. I can see why you and Miss Huang get along."

The rest of the crew did not seem so amused. Bodewig's angry gaze intensified as Church angered her further. "If you're that eager to receive an early grave, I'll be happy to oblige..."

Chifuyu glanced at the German girl with disapproval. "You won't be fighting him, Bodewig."

"Why not?! Instructor, I-!"

"Don't start with me, Laura."

The silver haired girl fell silent, although the menace in her pointed gaze was not diminished. Church was glad he was inside of his suit, safe from the petite girl's fury.

"Well then, I assume you'll be choosing my opponent then?"

Chifuyu nodded as she eyed the I.S. pilots around her. "That's right. And since that is the case... Ichika! Get ready."

"W-what?! Why me?"

The boy's older sibling leveled a stern frown at him. "Because, you're the least challenging pilot here, and I think our guest needs to start on a low tier."

Now both of the young men were offended. Church didn't say it out loud, but his thoughts were none too pleased. Low tier? Just who does she think she's talking about here?

As for Ichika, he merely sighed in defeat. He knew better than to oppose his sister.

The would-be opponents walked themselves to opposite sides of the field, and the students that had been frivolously polluting the arena with a lack of activity scattered. Once the field was clear of any possible 'accidents', both pilots readied up their unique combat systems. As Orimura's I.S. materialized, Church opened up the database in his visor and searched for info on the hostile machine.

Cerberus, have we never fought with this model before?

Cerberus took mere seconds to search for all information relevant to the Japanese model. I'm afraid not Operator. The model being used by our opponent is a unique armament. There is only one of this Byakushiki, as it was specifically designed for Orimura. All I can tell you is that it is a prototype Fourth Generation I.S., and that it has but one melee weapon, the Yukihira, unless it enters a Second Shift.

Church nodded to himself as he allowed himself to soak up this information. So this I.S. is where the data for Shinonono's true fourth gen unit came from. However, if it only has one weapon, we can assume that it is either very powerful, or has some sort of special ability that compensates for its other shortcomings. Not to mention that this kid played a key role in destroying the Gospel. His sister is just ribbing him when she brings up a lack of skill. We can't underestimate him or his machine, even if it just a prototype.

Your caution is most well-placed Operator. However, it seems our time for analysis is over. It's time to fight.

The brief mental conversation between the two of them was interrupted by a declaration from Chifuyu at the sidelines. "Whenever you're ready, you may begin."

With no other confirmation needed, Church now identified this whole area as a free fire zone. As with Infinite Stratos, the weapons he decided to use were constructed at will as he selected their data from the suit's memory banks. In fact, it was exactly the same as I.S. weapon tech: after all, instead of creating a completely new method of arming weapons, why not just move the already working technique from I.S. to the new creation?

That being the case, Church wasted very little time in selecting Lysander from his hyperspace arsenal, allowing the weapon to appear in his hands in mere moments. It did not look very different from a typical sniper rifle, but Lysander was in fact a miniature Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. It was somewhat similar to a railgun like Laura's, but it worked quite a bit differently.

Having drilled the mechanics of all of his weapons into memory long before now, Church couldn't help but visualize the firing process of this coilgun as he allowed a reticule in his HUD to settle on Byakushiki. A number of Solenoid coils throughout the barrel would be magnetized in sequence to rapidly accelerate a ferromagnetic-tungsten slug towards the target at monstrous speeds.

Of course it was all more complicated than that, but Church didn't care to think of all the more math-heavy parts to it as he pulled the trigger on the weapon, the Exeter suit automatically locking down to counter the gun's massive recoil.

The concussive blast from the barrel itself kicked up dirt from the ground below it, testament to the amount of force the fired slug carried with it. Ichika, having been prepared to dodge a projectile, but not one quite that fast, was only able to partially dodge the attack. The heavy slug still clipped Byakushiki's left wing, allowing it to transfer its powerful force to the target as planned.

Besides lowering his shields by about nearly a full third, Ichika's I.S. was sent spiraling into the ground behind it, much to the shock of the entire audience. Everyone had honestly expected Ichika to land the first hit.

Of course, said pilot was no amateur by now, so he recovered much too quickly for Church to line up another round from Lysander, which required considerable time to reload. Byakushiki was now mobile, and therefore almost impossible to hit with Church's current weapon. Since Lysander required armor lock down to fire, it was impossible to track a moving I.S. with it. It had been created to land first or last strikes against slow-moving targets, and little else. That being the case Church allowed the weapon to dissipate into particles of light the moment his opponent began evasive maneuvers.

A weapon that was almost useless in fast-paced combat struck most of the observers of this match as strange, but then again, it had worked, had it not?

Aiming to close in on his opponent while he was switching weapons, Ichika rushed Church with his inactive Yukihira. Unfortunately for him, Exeter had plenty of weapons that were built right into the suit. They didn't need to be constructed from the database, so there was no true opening to exploit in this situation. Of course, these weapons were generally not as powerful as the kind that needed to be retrieved from the hyperspace arsenal, but as Church readied his next weapon, he wasn't concerned with damage so much as keeping the melee Byakushiki away from him.

A lot of Exeter's weapons were miniaturized versions of much bigger ones, including the M61 Vulcan rotary cannon that was emerging from a slot on Exeter's forearm. This was the kind of machine gun used by Apache attack helicopters and fighter jets, but this smaller version definitely lacked the same firepower. Even with Exeter's recoil compensation, there was no way Church could handle the kick of automatic 20mm fire from his outstretched arm, so the size of these bullets was drastically reduced, though they maintained the insane fire rate of 6000 rounds a minute.

As he unleashed a devastating hail of bullets towards the oncoming Byakushiki, Church questioned just how Exeter's nanobots could construct ammunition that fast. Or were the bullets themselves actually pulled out of the hyperspace arsenal as well? Both sounded kind of ridiculous, but one way or another Church was firing a projectile weapon that didn't actually have a magazine. Regardless of how it worked it did, so he ended his curiosity there.

Meanwhile, Ichika was not in the business of diving straight through enemy fire, so he was again forced to retreat into the sky as Church tried to run him down with a storm of automatic fire. Ironically, Church himself had yet to actually move from his starting point. Of course, he was hardly going to win that way, as Ichika could just evade him indefinitely at this rate. For that reason, Church activated Exeter's own flight abilities and took off into the air as well, all the while suppressing his foe with that deadly 6000 rounds a minute. The bullets themselves may not have inflicted much damage individually, but with such a high concentration of them, even the toughest I.S. shield would be rapidly drained.

Either way, the situation was currently more of attack and defend than an equal combat. With no long range capability of his own, Ichika could do very little besides dodge as Exeter followed his every maneuver in pursuit. Of course, Byakushiki moved much faster than a bullet itself actually could, so Church wasn't landing any real hits like this, prompting him to double his firing rate.

Raising his other arm, Church unleashed his second mini M61 Vulcan cannon. After all, why have only one when you could have two? This meant that Ichika was now forced to handle 12,000 bullets every minute, and from more than one angle.

Since Church was now able to project his ammunition in two different directions, he made sure to fill Ichika's flight path with one stream while chasing him down with the other. This new tactic lead to a lot more hits on Byakushiki, though not enough to severely deplete the unit's shields.

To the audience below, it become ever more obvious just how different the Exeter suit functioned to an I.S. The majority of I.S. weapons were heavy hitters that aimed to deal massive damage with every blow, just like Lysander. Few I.S. employed small arms weapons that aimed to drop shields with focused fire. Most pilots and companies preferred big guns or powerful swords, instead of small arms. That was why most Gen 3 I.S. used energy weapons as opposed to projectiles.

Regardless, the point was that it was a situation Ichika had not dealt with too often. He had fought against steady projectile fire before when sparring with Charlotte, but he was still more used to countering power weapons than concentrated fire types. Even so, he knew he had to get out of this situation, or his foe would just chip his shields away a bit at a time.

Knowing that he could take a lot more hits from this small arms fire than he could a more powerful weapon, Ichika decided to trade off some shield energy for putting an end to this one-sided situation. At a moment in their chase that Exeter was close enough for it to work, Ichika activated Byakushiki's Ignition Boost, flying at top speed directly through the hail of bullets coming his way to close in on his unprepared opponent.

Much to his own chagrin, Church really had been unprepared for this counter, leaving him with no chance to dodge at all. All he could really do was put a stop to firing and use his arms to block Byakushiki's metal blade instead. The impact resulted in a painfully loud clash of metal, but more importantly, it dealt significant damage to his shields, lowering them by a full seventeen percent.

With the two combatants in perfect melee range, Church opted against using weapons at all in favor of simply swinging his free left leg in a powerful thruster-enhanced kick. With the difference in size between Exeter and Byakushiki, he could only target Ichika's arm, but even so the straightforward attack knocked Byakushiki away from him and dealt even more damage to its shields.

Since straight up hand-to-hand combat was very rare in I.S. combat, a lot of the match's observers were shocked to see a human-sized machine successfully attack an I.S. with it. Without a doubt, fighting Exeter was much different than fighting an Infinite Stratos unit.

With some distance to maneuver now, Church decided to descend to to the ground again. After all, with only melee attacks to worry about, it was actually better to be on the ground, as it removed one of the directions Byakushiki could come at him from.

Now that he had some time to access his hyperspace arsenal again, Church settled on using his König Dual Sniper Rifles for the next exchange. These large machine sniper weapons formed on his back, at which point they unfolded to point over Exeter's shoulders. Church wasted no time in firing this highly accurate machine guns at the I.S. still above him.

Despite the speed that the projectiles traveled, Orimura had plenty of time to evade them. Of course, Exeter automatically tracked his movements and compensated, keeping focused fire on the target, but like before it wasn't entirely effective. Ichika continued to strafe back and forth in an attempt to dodge all of the fire. Naturally Church wasn't really hitting him, and therefore not accomplishing anything, but for now, Ichika was kept at bay by the attack, and he couldn't get close with his one melee weapon. It gave Church time to work out a new strategy, but it also gave his opponent time to do the same.

Cerberus, arm the AZ missiles.

Affirmative, Operator.

This missile pod materialized on Exeter's back Hard Point. When a target was locked, it would launch twenty-six homing missiles at the enemy. Without a doubt, having to dodge the DSRs and AZ missiles simultaneously would be difficult for Orimura to do. Activating the new weapon, Cerberus modified the firing lines so that the missiles would split evenly and target the enemy from both the left and right. With the DSR fire suppressing him as well, Ichika would be hard-pressed to come out of this one unscathed.

The missiles launched out of the back module, split evenly into two groups of thirteen, and accelerated towards their target. With bullets hounding his every move and missiles coming in from two different directions, Ichika was effectively caught in-between them all. Considering the hits he had already landed, Church expected this to end the match. He watched with satisfaction as the missiles converged on their target, but there was no explosion as they finally converged on Byakushiki. At the last moment, Ichika had rocketed forward and cut through the missiles as a whole while they were bunched together. Before Exeter could redirect its DSR fire to intercept the approaching target, the distance between the two machines had dwindled to mere feet once again. Whether or not this was a second Ignition Boost, Church didn't know.

Deciding that evasion was his best option, Church ducked down as far as he could, barely dodging Yukihira as it sliced through the air above him. Unfortunately, it also sliced through his left DSR barrel while it was at it. Shield strength on the weapon extremities wasn't quite as strong as elsewhere on the suit.

Using his thrusters to increase the distance between he and Ichika once more, Church threw a displeased glare at his opponent as he allowed his damaged König rifles to dissipate. He noticed the other Representatives on the edge of the field, watching the battle with various expressions, though the most annoying one by far was the look of amusement on Cecilia's face. She in particular was laughing derisively as she watched the battle.

"Is that the best that American piece of trash can do? I can't believe you thought you could beat an expert pilot like Ichika with that!"

The severity of this insult was greatly reduced when Ichika claimed to be far from an expert pilot over an open comm channel, but even so Church still glared at the girl. Unfortunately, he noted that most of the other Representatives seemed to be thinking the same thing. At least it looked like it, from the expressions on their faces. Only Rin appeared to be feeling differently. Still in the bleachers, she merely looked on with interest, not seeming to root for either side. In fact, it looked as though she were debating over which pilot to support.

Wary of getting distracted, Church returned his attention to his opponent, who had not moved after his dash at Exeter. From a tactical standpoint this made little to no sense: if you had to be in melee range to fight, why on earth would you maintain your distance from the enemy? Heck, Church had even been distracted for a moment, so Ichika could have definitely closed in. Then again, maybe he wasn't taking this seriously enough to consider that, or maybe he just wasn't the type to attack an unready foe. Either way it was a wasted opportunity for him.

Seeing an opportunity to show off his true prowess, Church allowed the AZ missile module to dissipate and selected the plasma blade, Sieglinde, for his next weapon. He noted the looks of amazement in the audience's faces as they witnessed the blade manifest itself. Most, if not all I.S. used lasers when it came to energy type weapons. Plasma was unheard of as a form of combat, and therefore, Exeter's plasma weaponry was the pride and joy of its engineering team. Even so, he still felt like Bungie could sue them for the weapon's creation, even if it looked nothing like the game equivalent.

Warming up his thrusters for the series of close-range clashes about to take place, Church readied another special weapon in his other hand. Although technically this weapon was considered lethal even to shielded pilots, Church was hoping that Byakushiki's Absolute Defense would protect its pilot from serious harm. Despite the awe being experienced by the audience, Ichika was not distracted in the slightest. He simply readied Yukihira to meet Sieglinde.

The two pilots ignited their thrusters and rocketed towards each other, causing the distance between them to dwindle rapidly. As one closed in on the other, both Church and Ichika aimed their respective blades at the torso of their opponent. Church, at the last second, twisted his body in a way that evaded his enemy's attack while still landing his own. However, he only landed a glancing blow with Sieglinde, and Byakushiki's shields were still holding up after the encounter.

As the two machines slid to a stop across from each other, Church noted the look of worry on Ichika's face, though he had good reason for it. Exeter was a much smaller unit than any I.S., and it also functioned like a human body instead of a mech. Those two aspects made Exeter a very maneuverable machine, making close quarters difficult for any enemy pilot. Compared to another I.S., Exeter was much smaller and therefore much harder to hit.

This time, Church decided not to participate in this high-tech joust with his opponent. Instead, he let the Japanese boy come to him. As his adversary blasted towards him, Church noticed that the Yukihira he wielded had entered a second attack form of some sort. This must've been the special ability that Church himself had predicted. In preparation for a counter, Church readied the secret weapon of his own that he had armed earlier. He raised his arm and pointed his palm at the oncoming enemy in front of him, and began charging up Niddhog, Exeter's current most powerful weapon; a sonic cannon that could exert three times the yield of the city-buster dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The difference in this weapon, however, was that it concentrated all of that force in one small area. The blast would likely pulverize both Byakushiki and its pilot.

While this would certainly bring this fight to an very quick conclusion, Church was not bothered by the lack of flair the duel would have. His training had always told him to end engagements as quickly as possible. The sooner an enemy was eliminated, the less chances you had of being injured or defeated. Besides, why hold off on his most powerful attack when he could simply use it now to end the battle? There was no reason to wait any longer than he already had.

But as Byakushiki drew near, a small spike of conflict arose within the American operative. Niddhog was not a sparring weapon. Its only purpose was to annihilate. That being said, it was very likely that he was about to kill another human being. One close to his own age even, with lots of friends and a sister who would be heartbroken over his death. And for what? Following orders?

Of course, even on a practical level it would be foolish to kill Ichika so early in the mission. If Church turned everyone against him this soon it would be nearly impossible to gather the data he needed on everyone's I.S. Without a doubt, he was jumping the gun here...

Either way, Church had mere seconds to reach a decision, and when Ichika was less than thirty meters away, he did. Deciding against committing murder at this time, Church aimed Niddhog at the ground in-between he and his opponent, and braced himself for a massive shock wave and a lot of debris. Having already charged the weapon, he had to fire it somewhere, and towards the audience was not the best idea. As he fired the super weapon in-between he and his foe, the entire stadium was filled with a deafening clap that would have easily destroyed the hearing of both pilots had they not been protected by their respective technologies. The wave of sound was accompanied by a wave of force, followed by tons of earth dislodged by the blast. Church, despite his attempts to the contrary, was blasted backwards by an impact greater than a bullet train, and was flung all the way to the opposite end of the stadium. He slammed through the shield and into the metal alloy wall, leaving a massive dent in the structure. Despite the armor he was wearing, he was instantly rendered unconscious by the impact, leaving everyone else to deal with the aftermath of this short, yet undeniably destructive battle.


"...is he alright?"

"We can't tell, since his suit is still active."

Church heard foggy and distant voices in his head, but the only thing they did was intensify his headache. He slowly cracked one eye open, then the other, only to find his vision filled by his HUD, playing a recording of the ridiculously brief battle with Ichika Orimura.

...Cerberus?

Church's tentative question was met with an enthusiastic response. Ah, Operator! You are not discontinued! How tragic-

Yes, I know. Tragic. What happened?

Having cut off the pointless banter of the machine, it continued with a neutral tone that bore no emotion, as if Church had smitten its enthusiasm with his words.

Of course Operator. The close proximity from Niddhog's discharge caused an impact that rendered you unconscious. You were carried to the infirmary by Academy instructors. You are still in your suit because Fail-safe Tau 29X-SS prevents Exeter from shutting down while the pilot is unconscious. I also regret to inform you that you missed earlier. Your opponent is still very much alive and his Byakushiki has only suffered level C structural damage. Exeter on the other hand, has suffered no damage to the frame. Weapons are generally not as effective against their creators...

Unsure of just how serious 'Level C' was, Church thought to ask. So just how bad is Level C structural damage?

Damage levels range from D to A, followed by a Level S. D is the lowest, and refers to damage that is purely aesthetic. Level C refers to damage to the armor itself, but does not extend to internal component damage. Of course, since an I.S. needs its armor in optimal condition to protect its pilot, I.S. with Level C damage need to be repaired before use. Level B refers to internal component damage, and Level A describes damage significant enough to result in complete system failure. Level S damage only pertains to an I.S. that has been completely destroyed, both armament and core. That would be what happened to the Silver Gospel. Suffice to say, your Level C damage was not enough to kill Ichika Orimura.

I wasn't trying to kill him Cerberus...

Cerberus thought this was a joke. Oh, nonsense Operator! Why waste such an opportunity? There is no need to feel ashamed about missing your target. Niddhog has quite a kick-

I'm serious. I wasn't ready to kill him. I'm not ready to kill anyone. Not yet...

Cerberus remained quiet as it processed this, but when it finished, its tone once more lacked emotion. So long as you are ready when it is necessary, Operator-Epsilon. You have a mission to fulfill.

Cerberus then signed off in order to check on the suit itself, but Church followed it with a vocal remark anyway. "Yeah. Don't remind me..."

A tapping on his visor startled Church out of his own thoughts.

"I think I heard something. Hey, are you awake in there?"

Church deactivated the battle replay, and its image was replaced with the face of a familiar Chinese girl with several band-aids and bandages on her face, trying to peer past Exeter's reflective visor. Before she treated him like a fish at an aquarium again, Church deactivated Exeter completely, and the suit began to fold away before dissipating. As it finished, Church found himself lying in the exact same bed Rinin had about a week ago.

"How ironic."

Catching onto his meaning, Rin smiled at him. "Isn't it? Anyway, if your spine isn't broken or anything, You need to get off your lazy ass and come on already. You've been lying there for nearly three hours."

Church rubbed the side of his face as he sat up. "You don't have any questions?"

Apparently finding his question pointless, Rin merely shrugged. "Sure I do. You blasted a crater a fourth the size of the stadium and almost as deep into the ground. But I doubt you would tell me what that weapon was even if I asked." With that answer, Rin then leaned forward and pecked the boy before her on the cheek. "All I'm gonna say is thanks for not shooting Ichika with it. I saw how you pointed it away at the last second."

While it was hardly a kiss to boast about, her touch made Church blush just a little, though he managed to keep his composure. "I-isn't that a little much for a thanks between two people who've only known each other for essentially a day or two?"

"Hey, you could have killed my future husband y'know. But you chose not to; I think that deserves a little more than a verbal thank you, and my arms hurt too much to give you a hug. One is broken, in case you've forgotten."

Church decided not to press the matter any further. "Chifuyu isn't going to make me fix that hole too, is she?"

Rin laughed at the thought of the misery that would bring upon the boy in front of her. "Nah, I don't think so. Something like that is going to need professional repairs. Not like your DIY crap on the gym wall."

"You're welcome for the free labor... anyway, you said I need to come on already, but where am I going?"

Displeased with his ignorance, Rin gave him a look that said she couldn't believe he didn't know their destination. "It's Saturday, you idiot. I said I would prove to you that my food is a better quality than that fast food crap in your country. I've already got all the ingredients in my bag, so now we'll just head to your room to cook it. So let's go already. Every second we waste is another second the good name of gourmet Chinese food is tarnished by your heretical beliefs!"

"I... uh... don't think you want to go to my room..."

"Well you aren't going to mine."

Church shrugged, unwilling to debate with the girl, especially since she was doing him a favor by cooking dinner. "Fine. But believe me when I say that you're going to regret this. Follow me..."


"What the hell? Church, you actually have to sleep in this... whatever the hell this is?"

Church nodded as Rinin gawked at his terrible living quarters. "Yep. It hasn't been all bad. Minus the occasional cockroach, the foreboding miasma, and the earwigs, it's-"

"Turn around."

"I take it you aren't cooking for me then?'

Rin looked at him defiantly. "Of course I am! But not here! This place is a dump, I can't believe you have to sleep here! Even you don't deserve that!"

"'Even' me? What the hell does that mean?"

"Just shut up and follow me. Geez, I should have known your room would be crap if it was all the way up here..."

Church stared after the girl as she stormed off, and wondered if he really wanted to be anywhere alone with her. But then he looked back into his 'room', and knew that anywhere was better than there.


As you can see, Church doesn't believe in Anime Law#32: Conservation of Firepower. Why save the best for last when you can use the best earlier?