Infinite Stratos, and all its characters, belong to Izuru Yumizuru

Text means Ichika's thoughts.

Part 1, Chapter 9: Minion Get!

XXXXXXXX

Thursday, the day of the tournament

IS Academy, Arena 1

Chifuyu and Yamada were in the control tower, as well as the teachers for class 1-4.

Rin and Laura launched out of the west side launch pad while Ichika and Charlotte emerged from the east. All of the students were watching with bated breath- they had all heard about how much Ichika's team gets along with Laura. The people from the various IS companies and teams were excited, as well. This was the first time they would get to see Ichika Orimura, the man who can pilot an IS, as well as Charles Dunois, the man debuting the Raphael Revive Mk. II, in actual combat.

For this match, Ichika has twelve sword bits equipped, eight speed bits, eight smokers (because he still hasn't given up hope on them), and six new-types that each used one bus slot. Charlotte was running a massive pile of weapons, mostly so that would be prepared for every situation.

"Match... Start!" Chifuyu barked.

As soon as the match started, Charlotte barreled towards Laura while Ichika circled Rin. Charlotte took out a pair of SMGs and started firing at Laura, who easily blocked with AIC. Rin began firing her Dragon Cannon, but Ichika easily dodged a couple hits from that. Rin was keeping her distance, and when Ichika began flying towards her, she reversed her direction- right towards Laura. Once Rin was about halfway to Laura, Ichika activated his speed bits and used the boost in speed to accelerate right to Rin. Ichika turned from Rin and used ignition boost to charge behind Laura, with Yukihira materialized and activated. Laura sensed his presence and blocked with AIC.

Damn, there goes the easy way...

"Charles! Plan B!" Ichika shouted.

Ichika deactivated and dematerialized Yukihira and surrounded his right arm with extended sword bits. He let six of the smokers and two swords fall to the ground and wait on standby.

Charlotte disengaged from Laura and switched targets to Rin, who began trying to close the distance while firing her Dragon Cannon, which Charlotte dodged or blocked with a shield that she had brought specifically for this battle.

At the same time, Ichika was constantly attacking Laura, forcing her to the defensive. Rin tried to take a swing at Charlotte, but she dodged back and continued her stream of fire.

"Ichika! UN-5!"

Ichika pushed his right arm with the four swords towards Laura and then accelerated, going the same direction as Laura while forcing her to maintain AIC. Ichika materialized a new-type bit in his left hand, released its whip and wrapped it around Charlotte. He used the bit to throw her high in the air, then dematerialized it and switched it out for a sword bit, which he threw at Rin.

Rin dodged easily, but that was enough for Charlotte to fire a rocket at her and then switch to the sniper rifle, with which she used to start shooting. These shots were faster, but Rin was still dodging about half of them. Rin let off more shots from her Dragon Cannon, but Charlotte was still dodging because she was taking the shots without using the scope.

Ichika flew back from Laura, who used this opportunity to fire her railgun at him. He dodged it. He swiped his hand with the sword bits attached quickly, causing them all to launch at Laura simultaneously. He materialized and activated a whip bit in his other hand, and while Laura was busy blocking his swords, he wrapped the whip around her leg.

As soon as Laura noticed this, she activated several of her wires, firing at Ichika. Ichika tried to dodge most of them, but they were connected via his whip and he didn't want to release, so he was unable to dodge the one headed to his left hand, which was holding the whip bit.

Ichika shrugged, materialized and activated Yukihira, and cut the wire off. He then used all of strength to throw Laura, and while she was on the way down he dematerialized his blade bits that she had blocked.

Once Laura had landed, he activated the smokers, quickly covering the ground of the arena in smoke. He smiled smugly before he dematerialized and then rematerialized the whip back in his hand, unextended. He then activated all eight of his speed bits and took off towards Rin. Charlotte took out the rocket launcher, and began firing with a one-second delay between shots.

Rin swore under her breath, and started dodging the rockets. She took a quick look around her surroundings to discover that neither her teammate nor her opponent's teammate were within sight. Charlotte fired two rockets, each with a tenth-second delay between them and the previous shot, which threw off Rin's rhythm. Ichika took a swing at Rin's right arm, which just barely missed, so he deactivated Yukihira and wrapped her torso in one of the whips before using the whip to hold Rin in place while Charlotte used her rockets on fully-automatic mode to deplete Rin's shield.

"Charles! Plan C!"

Laura fired off a couple of random blasts from her Railgun in Ichika's general direction, which both missed. Sadly for her, this revealed her location. Ichika threw Rin towards Laura's location, then activated one of the sword bits that he had been keeping on the floor of the arena and had it target Rin. Rin was unable to regain control of her IS before she was about to collide with Laura, who used AIC to nullify Rin's momentum before she crashed and lowered both of their IS' shield energy. Unfortunately for both of them, Ichika had planned for this to happen, and so while Rin was suspended with AIC, she felt a sword impact in her back, depleting what little remained of her shield energy.

Ichika dematerialized his whip and took out eight sword bits, rearranging them into a shield in his left hand. He dematerialized all of the scattered sword bits for later use.

"I told you the smokers would work." He called to Charlotte.

"Yes, yes, you were right. Where is Bodewig-san?"

Laura had moved from her last location and was currently using the smoke to her advantage.

Inside the observation tower were three very surprised teachers and one smug-looking one.

"What... what the hell was that?" Class 1-4's homeroom teacher asked.

"That... was my brother. And his partner. I think he planned for these instances, I recall hearing him call out a 'Plan B'. He probably planned for about half of the things that they just did to go wrong and had plans for those instances as well. Dunois is smart, he probably memorized all of them as well."

"Orimura-sensei, if there was a 'Plan B' then wouldn't there be a 'Plan A', as well?" Yamada asked.

"If I had to guess, Yamada-kun, I would say that 'Plan A' was to take out Bodewig using the Barrier Nullifying Attack on Yukihira. Effective, but Bodewig is a little more clever than to fall for that..."

Back in the arena, the smoke was fading away.

"Charles, plan G!"

Charlotte took out a different pair of SMGs, which fired larger, exploding lasers. After every shot, she switched them with a different looking SMG that fired the same type of shot. Most of the smoke was blasted away by that point, but they still didn't see Laura yet.

"Ichika, SMGs 1-4 are out! I need 30 to load a new clip!"

"Thanks for the update. DS-30-3, then wait for the signal."

Charlotte flew down to the south corner of the arena and took out her rocket launcher.

"Oy, Mädchen! Are you just going to hide there like some coward, or are you going to face me?" Ichika shouted.

A rail gun blast flew from an area to the right and below Ichika. He blocked it and Charlotte started unloading the rocket launcher in full automatic. After she ran out of ammo, Ichika materialized Yukihira and flew down, shield-first, to where Laura was, only to be greeted by an extended spear in his stomach.

"Okay, didn't see that one coming." Ichika grunted, before flying around Laura while laying down sword bits on the ground. He was halfheartedly slashing at Laura with Yukihira. Just before the rockets arrived, he activated all of the sword bits to stab Laura (who blocked all of them with AIC) and flew away. All of the rockets seemed to connect.

"That had better have hit her, Charles! It cost me three sword bits, and I think a couple of smokers!"

Not waiting for the smoke to clear, Charlotte took a couple of shots with her sniper rifle in Laura's direction, while Ichika dematerialized all of his bits that were currently deployed. Ichika materialized Yukihira in his right hand and held three of his sword bits like a claw in his left.

Laura launched herself out of the smoke cloud, and Ichika charged after her. Charlotte took out an assault rifle and followed, making shots when she could, but she was directly behind Ichika, so that made it a little hard for her.

Laura activated both her laser swords, and parried away both of Ichika's strikes before knocking him back with her railgun. She then turned to Charlotte and hit Charlotte a couple of times with her railgun, but when she was charging up her third shot the combined effect of one of Ichika's sword bits ramming into her stomach and one of Ichika's whips wrapping around her leg caused her to completely miss her shot and fire at the audience instead, who were fortunately shielded by a nigh-indestructible barrier.

The audience that had been in the area hit by Laura's railgun blast would forever curse their luck, as they had to wait for smoke to clear and were not able to see what happened next.

Charlotte moved herself slightly to the side of Ichika, so that while Laura was trying to attack Ichika, she also had to busy herself blocking rapid attacks from Charlotte's assault rifle instead of the deadly attacks that Ichika was capable of.

Ichika rapidly dematerialized his claw, and then materialized three more whips and wrapped them around Laura's other limbs. He had the whips attach themselves to the ground, rooting themselves deep enough in the ground that Laura wouldn't be able to force them out, and far enough apart that Laura wasn't able to really move much.

"Charles! SG-1!"

"Right!" Charlotte materialized a gun and threw it at Ichika, who caught it easily. It looked, for all intents and purposes, like a white bolt-action rifle, but it was double-barreled.

Ichika flew right above Laura with the gun in his hands, having dematerialized the sword bits for it. He put his left foot on Laura's right shoulder, and kneeled with his right knee between her left arm and leg.

He brandished the gun above her.

"Do you know what this is, Mädchen?" He asked calmly.

"Halt die Schnauze, Du schwule Sau!"

Ichika's right eyebrow twitching in anger.

"I'll tell you then."

He fired for the first time.

"THIS!"

He fired again.

"IS!"

He fired once again.

"MY!"

He fired once more.

"BOOMSTICK!"

He fired his shotgun one more time. Laura tried to use AIC, but she wasn't expecting more than two shots from the shotgun for the first couple of words, because of how it looked. After that, she had no time to bring up her AIC.

"I... lost? I lost in the first round? This... this is unacceptable!" Laura screamed.

Laura started thrashing around. Ichika was knocked off her, and he flew away, just out of reach of the electricity that was now coming out from her IS.

Charlotte tried to shoot at Laura with a pair of SMGs, but she was electrocuted and passed out.

"Shit! Charles!" Ichika flew over and grabbed Charlotte, carrying her away from Laura while keeping an eye on his opponent.

Laura's IS began to melt and bubble around her body, and she began screaming as it enveloped her.

So... You activated the VT system, did you. I didn't mention it to Charlotte, but I think I know how to handle this.

"All students! This is a level D state of emergency! Please evacuate immediately, teachers are on their way!"

Right, like we can wait for them...

As the black mass surrounding Laura took shape, Ichika's face hardened into a mask of rage. Forming into the outline of a woman carrying a large sword, Ichika's eyes widened as realization dawned on his features.

That's... Chifuyu-nee...

"So, you even go this far, do you, Mädchen..."

Ichika materialized Yukihira and all eight of his remaining sword bits, then tried to attack Laura. She blocked his sword with her own attack, then hit his right leg with her sword. The armor shattered, cutting his leg and knocking him back. His IS dematerialized, out of shield energy.

Ichika crawled to Charlotte.

"Charles... wake up... I need an energy transfer..." He moaned. He shook Charles.

"Ichika... what do you need it for?" Charlotte asked, sitting up and opening her eyes.

"That." Ichika said, pointing at the thing that used to be Laura.

"Why?" Charlotte asked.

"Because it's copying Chifuyu-nee, and it's by my pride as a little brother and man that I must defeat it." Ichika explained.

Charlotte giggled, then looked at Laura, who was now surrounded by teachers on standby, then back to Ichika.

"Alright. However, if you lose, you have to wear a girl's uniform here at school from now on, and we'll switch roles to match it."

Ichika's eyes widened. He then nodded, smiling confidently.

"Okay. And if I win, we're going on a date Sunday."

Charlotte squeaked a little before blushing. She nodded vigorously after, smiling.

"It's a promise." Charlotte responded. She took out a cable and plugged it in to Ichika's standby IS.

"Approving energy transfer."

Charlotte's IS dematerialized, and Ichika's reappeared, with only the wings and legs.

"Huh... Ichika, did you want to fly?"

Ichika smiled.

"I believe... you already know that answer..."

Ichika summoned two of the remaining sword bits, throwing them both and pinning the giant IS' arms. He activated the Barrier Nullifying Attack on a third one held in his hands and flew in at it. It was slowed down enough by the bits in its arms that when it tried to strike his chest, it got his left arm instead, and he made a shallow cut that opened a slit in the thing's chest. It widened, and Laura fell out. As the thing was evaporating, Ichika dematerialized his IS and caught Laura.

"Why are you trying to be strong? What makes you strong?" Laura asked.

"I'm still weak. No matter how much stronger I get, I'll still be weak." Ichika replied.

"But, if I do get strong one day, there's somebody I want to defeat. Somebody I want to destroy. Somebody that I can't forgive."

"I... see..." Laura began,

"That's so... so completely like that person..."

"Yes. That's why, I want to know. Will you help me, with your strength, to destroy my enemy, Laura Bodewig?"

XXXXXXXX

An hour later

IS Academy cafeteria

As Ichika and Charlotte were eating dinner together, Ichika received a text from Chifuyu.

Entire incident is classified. Wasn't installed by her. Tell me about this sort of shit next time, I'm letting you get away with this warning. Don't use Tabane's simulator during the school year again, it's an unfair advantage.

She only said school year...

"Huh." Ichika said out loud.

"What is it?" Charlotte asked.

"Oh, it seems like that entire incident is classified. Too many people would get in too much trouble, or something. We aren't allowed to use the simulator again, but that's fine. I only wanted it for that fight, anyway. I'll send it back to Tabane-nee tomorrow."

Ichika pretended not to notice Houki standing there, watching them, and Charlotte's back was to her.

"So, what do you want to do for our date Sunday?" Charlotte asked. Houki visibly flinched.

I feel kind of bad about doing this to Houki-san, but she just doesn't know when to give up.

"Well, we're moving to the Seaside Academy soon, so I thought that we'd go get swimsuits. After that, there's a nice movie place in the area, and there are a few restaurants there that I've always wanted to try but haven't."

Because they didn't meet my requirements. Sadly, none of the ones that do, besides Dan's, are decent for dates, so I'm stuck. And there's no way in hell I'm taking somebody on a date to Dan's house.

"Sounds like fun."

Houki eventually strode off, and Yamada came running up to Charlotte and Ichika.

"Good news, you two! The Men's large bath is now open!"

Great. I've been wanting a decent onsen for a while now.

"I'm heading over, Charles." Ichika stated. Charlotte started following him.

"What is it?" Ichika whispered.

"If we go at separate times, people will be suspicious. This is for the best."

Do I even have that kind of self-restraint?

...Probably...

"I see. Let's go, then."

At the bath...

"Alright, you can come in, Charlotte!" Ichika called.

"Ri-Right." Charlotte replied.

Ichika heard a splash, and felt soft skin on his back shortly after. He felt his face warm up.

"I-I'll move..." Ichika said.

"No, no, it's fine. There's something I wanted to talk to you about." Charlotte chattered.

"What is it?"

"Since I'm going to stay in school, I'd rather not spend my entire time here as a guy. Is it okay for me to..."

"Of course it's fine. Don't think for a second that I have any right to tell you to not do that."

Charlotte turned around and grabbed his shoulders.

Oh shit woman, are you trying to test my restraint? We could get in all sorts of trouble if something much more than this happens...

"Thank you, Ichika. For everything you've done so far." Charlotte replied.

"Are you sure you want this, Charlotte? More than likely, I'm going to try to protect you by hiding you away from everyone if we become any closer. I don't think you want that."

Charlotte laughed.

"I trust you, Ichika. I'll trust you to make the right decision." Charlotte replied.

Ichika smiled and held her left hand in his right while closing his eyes. They stayed like that, for a few minutes, each listening to the other breathe and enjoying the peace and privacy after a hectic day. After a while Ichika began,

"We should go back to our room, Charlotte. We still have some homework left, and I have some shipments to make and plans to lay."

"Right." Charlotte replied.

Ichika got up and left the bath, getting changed into his clothing and waited by the exit. Charlotte came out behind him, changed back into a man, a couple minutes later.

Meanwhile, at Laura's room

Laura was sitting in her bed, having successfully driven away her poor, poor roommate. Not like it took much effort on Laura's part. She dialed a number on her cellphone.

After one beep the phone was answered.

"Clarissa, it's me. I am in need of advice."

A stern woman who sounded to be in her mid-twenties responded.

"What's the problem, Second Lieutenant Laura Bodewig?"

"It is about Ichika Orimura." Laura responded.

"Ah, the younger brother of Instructor Orimura, correct?"

"Yes."

"What is the issue?"

"He has defeated me in honorable combat, and asked me to aid him in destroying his enemies."

Clarissa paused. This was not consistent with what she had pried out of Chifuyu back when Chifuyu was in Germany and Clarissa got Chifuyu drunk. The info was almost worth it, too.

"Are you sure that's what he said?" Clarissa asked confusedly.

"Yes, positive."

"He didn't say anything overly chauvinistic about protecting you that just sounded like asking for your strength?"

"No, he asked me to, and I quote, 'Will you help me, with your strength, to destroy my enemy, Laura Bodewig?' I believe you can now see my problem. I look forward to your advice."

"Roger. The Black Hare squad stands with you as always."

Clarissa thought for a moment.

"Have you tried making him your wife?"

Laura sputtered.

"P-Pardon?"

Clarissa sighed.

"Have you tried declaring him your spouse?"

Laura thought for a moment.

"No, I don't think that would go over well."

"Why not?"

"There's this other guy in the school, and they spend a lot of time together and I think they're 'dating' and the Instructor had a talk with this other guy about not breaking Ichika Orimura's heart."

Clarissa thought, trying restrain a nosebleed.

"Then, you think that if anyone, this other man would be the spouse?"

"Yes." Laura replied without hesitation.

"Then this other guy shall be the Misses, and you shall call Ichika Orimura your Commander from now on!" Clarissa proclaimed. Laura could hear clapping and cheering from the other members of the squad in the background.

Laura's mouth made an 'o' shape.

"Hooo... I see..."

"Do you understand, Bodewig?"

"Yes, Clarissa! Thank you for your advice! I shall follow it to the utmost!"

"Good." Clarissa grunted, ending the call.

XXXXXXXX

Friday, start of classes

IS Academy, classroom 1-1

Yamada looked at the classroom awkwardly.

"Um... I have another 'new' friend to introduce today..." She announced, voice shaking.

Charlotte walked in politely, smiling radiantly.

"I'm Charlotte Dunois. It's nice to meet you all, once again!"

Ichika was sitting in his usual spot, with his head resting on his clasped hands, trying hard not to notice the length of Charlotte's skirt, or her chest, or anything else that might cause him problems. He was failing.

Goddamn those were on my back and I didn't try anything? I hate being restrained.

"Sooo... Dunois-kun was actually Dunois-san?" One of Ichika's classmates asked.

"Huh?" Houki and Cecilia asked angrily, feeling rather cheated.

"Didn't the men's bath open yesterday?"

"Yeah, it did! I even saw the two of them going in it!"

"Wait, so doesn't that mean that Orimura-kun knew all along?"

"Huh, so the Misses really was..." Laura mumbled.

Charlotte shot Ichika a concerned glance. Ichika waved it off and smiled at her.

It's not you that they're going to be mad at. It's me.

Rin busted down the wall to their classroom, piloting her IS while on the way in.

"Ichikaaaa... How dare you play games with my dreams and fantasies!" She shouted, while charging up the Dragon Cannon.

Shit, there's no way I'm going to be able to dodge that without my IS.

Rin fired, but Ichika didn't feel anything.

Looking in front of him, he saw Laura blocking the shot using AIC.

Well, should probably be polite.

"Mädchen! You saved me. Thank you."

Laura stood in salute before him.

"Of course. I was doing my job as your subordinate, Commander."

Commander, huh? I can use this...

"Very well. Mädchen, you are dismissed. Return to normal classroom duties."

"Yes, sir!" Laura replied.

Charlotte looked at Ichika bemusedly. Ichika smiled at Charlotte.

Well, would you look at that? I've gained a minion...

XXXXXXXX

Friday night

IS Academy, outdoors

Houki was standing outside the arenas on her cell.

"Hi hi, are you hiiigh~? It's everyone's idol, Tabane Shinonono~"

Houki growled and took the phone away from her head.

"Wait, wait! Don't hang up, Houki-chan!"

Houki put the phone back by her ear.

"Nee-san..." Houki growled.

"No, no, no. You don't need to say anything, Houki-chan. I know exactly what you want. Even though you never write." Tabane said with mock sadness.

"Anyway, you want it, don't you? Your own personal machine?"

Houki calmed a little.

"Of course, I have had one ready for a while now~ Top-of-the-line, like any others that I make, and also different from normal. And it's even a match for the white and orange ones!"

"And this machine's name is... Akatsubaki!"

XXXXXXXX

Sunday morning

The mall

Ichika quickly obtained Laura's cell phone number and added it to his contacts. She added his as well, but under the alias, 'Commander'. He wrote her in as 'Mädchen', so it was fair. Ichika and Charlotte agreed that they could take advantage of Laura's new loyalty to make sure that nobody was following them. (Charlotte said that it would be helpful, but Ichika knew that she just didn't want to word it in any particular way that was rude. Ichika also thought that this habit of Charlotte's was adorable, though he would never admit it, and so he let her think that.) The only people whose texts Ichika was even supposed to read during the date were Chifuyu's, Charlotte's and Laura's.

Charlotte had very little casual female clothing and Ichika had plenty of casual male clothing that he didn't want to wear, so they elected to go in the school uniforms. They rode the monorail to the town, and from there walked to the mall.

As soon as they had entered, Ichika received a text.

From: Mädchen

You're being followed by the Chinese girl and the British girl. What do you want me to do, Commander?

Ichika showed the text to Charlotte.

"I know what I'm going to do, but I thought you should know."

"Thanks, Ichika."

Ichika grabbed her hand and started walking. With his other hand, he wrote up the reply, which Laura received.

From: Commander

Keep with them. Use any excuse needed to make them let you stay in their group. Keep an eye out for trouble, and keep them away from us.

At some point while he was writing this text, Charlotte had wrapped both of her arms around Ichika's and was current pressing his arm against her chest.

"You know, if everyone is calling you Charlotte, my calling you that is no longer special. I think from now on, I'm calling you Char. No objections." Ichika said.

"Char?" Charlotte asked. Her cheeks reddened slightly.

"Yep. It's fast and intimate. It fits better than other options, too. You do like it, right?"

Not to mention my now second-favorite Char. Who was a complete and total badass. Just like you.

"Yes, I do." Charlotte replied, nodding her head rapidly and blushing slightly.

"Good. I'm glad." Ichika smiled.

While Ichika and Charlotte entered the swimsuit store, their three followers waited outside. Laura was watching the area around her, Cecilia was grumbling into a tissue, and Rin was watching with curiosity and some degree of pride.

"Char! How's this one?" Ichika held up a bright green speedo.

Charlotte rushed over.

"No. Definitely not. Where did you even get the idea for this? It's a definite no."

Ichika blinked.

Huh. I didn't think it was too bad...

"Then, how about this one?" Ichika held up a striped pair of trunks.

Charlotte stared at him, wide-eyed.

"You're kidding, right?" She asked.

"No, why? I know that Chifuyu-nee doesn't like my taste in clothing, so she picks all of it for me, but..."

"Oh, I see. That explains a lot. From now on, you aren't allowed to buy clothing without either my or Orimura-sensei's approval, okay?"

Ichika stared at her incredulously.

"If it makes you happy, Char, sure. What do you want me to get?"

Charlotte handed him a pair of dark blue board shorts.

"Find the right size. I hope you can at least remember that. I'm going to pick a swimsuit."

I should probably expect this to take a while. She is a woman, and she is going clothes shopping. I think I remember Chifuyu-nee telling me once that buying a swimsuit takes even longer.

Ichika waited about fifteen minutes before Charlotte came to him.

That was faster than expected, but I'm not going to complain.

"Alright, here's mine. Let's go check out." Charlotte told him.

Ichika nodded. They paid for their swimsuits and began heading out the door.

Ichika received a pair of texts.

From: Mädchen

I see a large group of men in black suits coming in from the entrance that you took into this mall. They're walking with purpose, and they look armed. Commander, please advise.

From: Dan

Ichika, here I am, carrying bags for my sister, and what do I see? Rin, Alcott-san, and some silver-haired girl spying on you and... dare I say it? Your girlfriend shopping for swimsuits. Then, I turn around and see a bunch of men in black suits coming in from the entrance. What did you do this time?

Ichika swore under his breath.

Dan still keeps the mirror with him when he goes out places, right?

To: Dan

From: Ichika

Dan, go to Rin-san and Cecilia-san and escort them out the back. Don't look behind you any more than you have. Drop the mirror off with the silver-haired girl first if you have it.

To: Mädchen

From: Commander

Mädchen, the man with dark red hair and a bandana is a trusted friend of mine. If he has one, he's going to give you a mirror and take Rin-san and Alcott-san away from here. After he gives you the mirror, subtly join up with Char and I, then pass me the mirror. Keep with us, and keep your wits about you. If Char and I separate, for any reason, stick with Char and listen to her unless she tells you to do something that you think risks her safety.

Ichika hit send for both.

"Char, keep calm and walk normally. We're going to work our way out to the back door. I have you-know-what with me still, but we hopefully won't need them." Ichika whispered.

"Ichika? What's going on?"

"We're coming close to the only time of year that Tabane-nee makes a public appearance. There are often a large number of people that try to take me hostage to get to her. I was careless. Mädchen is meeting up with us soon, we need to go."

Shit. If they do anything more than try to follow us, we're in trouble. My IS isn't good for combat in an area where there's a lot of people. Char and Mädchen's IS' are monitored by their governments along with the school and they need permission for deployment. Which we won't get here.

Laura walked next to Ichika and handed him the mirror. Looking out behind himself with it, he noticed that Dan was acting like he was picking up a pair of ladies with Rin and Cecilia.

"Mädchen, do you keep any weapons on you?"

Laura blinked at Ichika for a second.

"No, sir. It's hard to acquire such things in Japan. Should I keep one with me?"

"Please do. Here." Ichika handed her a knife that he had kept in his jacket, which was wrapped to look like a scroll.

The bits on my IS are light enough for use outside of my IS, but I haven't practiced much with partial deployment before. I should remedy that next time I can train, partial deployment will be very useful.

They were walking to a larger group of people in the center of the mall. Ichika noticed out of the corner of his eye that Dan's group was leaving via one of the side exits.

Using his mirror, Ichika noticed that the men in black suits were still following them, but from a distance.

Once they entered the larger group of people and blended in, however, Ichika could hear gunshots.

"Alright everyone, out of our way and we won't shoot you!"

The large group of people all started screaming and began filing out through the sides to the side exits. Ichika's phone beeped.

From: Chifuyu-nee

I'm giving you full deployment permission. Your priorities are to ensure of the safety of the civilians and the exits. I'll be watching.

Ichika blinked.

"Mädchen! Char! We've been granted full deployment permission by the instructor. On my signal, deploy and open a three-way comm link!"

Laura and Charlotte acknowledged him.

Ichika deployed a smoker and covered the crowd in smoke, which triggered the fire alarms.

"Char! RU-5! Prioritize children and the elderly!"

"Right!"

Charlotte flew off, and began helping people to the right exit.

"Mädchen! Keep the men with guns away from the civilians! Use your wires when needed!"

"Yes, sir!"

Laura flew back to the central hall and activated her AIC, carefully blocking all of the gunshots. She used her wires to drag the men on the higher floors back down to the first floor.

Ichika flew to the left to help people there to safety.

This is my fault. The least I can do is get these people out of here.

Some of the children on that side were looking at him in wide-eyed awe, especially the boys.

"Look Mama! A boy piloting an IS! I thought that didn't happen!" A small boy called.

The boy's mother smiled at him.

"That, my dear, is Ichika Orimura. He's the only boy in the world who can pilot an IS."

Ichika smiled at them.

"Now, my friends are helping evacuate some of the other people here. Could you please leave the building from the side exit over there?" He asked politely.

The woman nodded and grabbed her son, then ran off to the exit.

Evacuation went surprisingly smoothly, and nobody was injured too badly. A couple of sprained ankles from the older and younger people, but Ichika or Charlotte just carried them to the exit. Once everyone was out, Ichika called into the comm link,

"Mädchen, we're done! Restrain the enemy!"

"Yes, sir!"

Laura deployed her wires.

The wires wrapped around the men in suits, piling them up in restrained heaps. The men shared a look of horror before screaming and struggling to get out their restraints.

"She's coming! Let us go! She's coming!"

Laura glared at them.

"Who's-" She began.

All of the lights in the building went out. The power lines had been cut.

A massive crash resounded through the glass roof as a large shape fell to the ground.

Before them was a woman with long red hair. She had cruel gold eyes and a well-developed figure. She was piloting a large red IS that had eight dark orange legs and a pair of bright yellow arms.

Mounted up each leg was a series of a half-dozen tubes and on the end of each arm was a claw. The wings were much larger than normal and six large cannons were built in to each wing.

IS not in database detected.

Proceed with scan?

Y/N

Yes.

"Aaahh, the Orimura-boy. And look! A Kraut and a Frog. No wonder my men were taken out so easily..."

Scan complete.

Great Arachne is its name? Half of those tubes shoot some sort of sticky, immobilizing fluid and the other half shoot flames. The fluid hardens when undergoing extreme temperature changes and is stored at room temperature. Those hands are pairs of Shield Piercers as pincers.

The cannons on the wings are actually impact cannons that are slower but pack an even bigger punch... This will be tricky...

Save IS to database?

Y/N

Yes...

"Mädchen! Char! We're leaving! Our primary objective is complete!"

"Oooh nooo, I think you're fighting, Orimura-boy. After all, you do want to know something about five years ago, riiiight?"

"Ichika, what is she-"

Ichika materialized and activated Yukihira and his shield of bits.

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT?"

"Weell, I wasn't directly involved, but our group did it..."

"Who are you people?" Laura asked.

"We are the Ruined Country Weaving Industry- Phantom Task, and you. Are in. The way."

Unforgivable.

They took her away.

Unforgivable.

They took them away.

Unforgivable.

I can't even remember what they took.

Unforgivable.

But I know it was important.

Unforgivableunforgivableunvf orgivable...

"UNFORGIVABLE!"

Ichika flew up and then, like a hawk, tried to swoop down on his prey.

Charlotte withdrew her favorite pair of SMGs and Laura began charging her Rail Gun, firing at the Great Arachne.

The Great Arachne fired all of its Impact Cannons at Ichika simultaneously. Before he could dodge, the Great Arachne raised its right arm and attacked Ichika. The shock from the blow caused him to pass out, and this made all of the shots hit. This covered him in minor burns and scratches as they pierced his absolute barrier, activated from his lack of consciousness.

"Target secured. Mission complete. Withdrawing." The Great Arachne's pilot stated into her comm link.

A few shots from the sky were the only warning she got before a pair of missiles came flying down on her. Cecilia was blocking the roof of the mall.

Not willing to waste this chance, Laura released her wires, managing to grab and drag away Ichika.

Before the pilot of the Great Arachne could turn to go after Laura, Rin ran up and whacked her legs with her two scimitars, hacking away. The Great Arachne's pilot just laughed and fired some of the fluid from one leg, covering Rin from head-to-toe with sticky, white goo.

"This is gross!" Rin complained.

The Great Arachne activated three of its flamethrowers, which heated the fluid on Rin's body and caused it to harden, immobilizing her.

A loud, electronically-disguised voice echoed from seemingly nowhere.

"Autumn! What's taking so long? You said you secured the target."

Autumn swore under her breath.

"I did! Then these girlies started playing with me and managed to get him back! I'll take care of it in a minute, just wait a bit."

There was a pause.

"Autumn, pull back. I have secured the secondary target."

"M, shut the hell up. The grown-ups are playing right now."

"Autumn, Squall gave me full authority for this mission. Are you going to go against Squall's orders?"

Autumn screamed in frustration.

"FINE! I'm withdrawing for now!"

Autumn barreled upwards, flying straight to Cecilia, who tried to go after her, but was sprayed by the liquid and a flamethrower, forcing Cecilia to land on the roof.

Chifuyu immediately entered the center of the mall, a panicked-looking Yamada in tow. Chifuyu scooped up Ichika's and Charlotte's bags and took charge of the situation.

"We have three minutes to leave here before police and reporters swarm the place. I'll take Ichika away from here. Dunois, Bodewig, take Huang and Alcott with you and fly back to the Academy. I'll take my brother to the school infirmary."

Laura handed Ichika to Chifuyu, then picked up Cecilia and flew off. Charlotte stared at Chifuyu blankly.

"What are you waiting for? Go!"

"Will Ichika be okay?"

Chifuyu sighed.

"Yes, he will. Now get going!"

Charlotte grabbed Rin and flew back to the Academy.

Chifuyu sighed.

"Come, Yamada-kun. We need to take my brother home."

Yamada, who had been spacing out and looking around at the wreckage in the mall, yelped.

"C-Coming, Orimura-sensei!"

XXXXXXXX

Two hours later

IS Academy Dorms, Ichika and Charlotte's room

"What happened?" Ichika asked, slowly regaining consciousness.

"Ichika!" Charlotte cried.

She grabbed his hand.

"I was worried!"

Ichika brought his other hand up and pushed some of her hair behind her ear. He beamed at her.

"Hi. What did I miss?"

Chifuyu coughed. Charlotte jumped back and Ichika turned the other way, blushing.

"You missed a rather impressive demonstration of good judgement on Bodewig, Dunois and Alcott's parts, followed by an excellent demonstration of bad judgement on Huang's part and another one on Alcott's part." Chifuyu explained.

"Ah. Did Rin-san try and fight that thing in CQC? By attacking the legs?"

Chifuyu looked at him, clearly impressed.

"You got a read on it with True Sight?"

"It's the first thing I do when I'm deployed and see an IS that isn't already in the database. Those legs can shoot a type of sticky fluid that hardens when exposed to extreme temperatures."

"Ichika. I must say, that while your performance during the actual combat scenario was... less than stellar, the evacuation of the civilians, which you agreed was your priority, was a success and there were no major civilian injuries or casualties during that encounter. The press wants to talk to you, and that isn't happening until after we back from the seaside academy, whether you want it to go that way or not."

"Yes, Chifuyu-nee."

Chifuyu looked at Ichika and then Charlotte.

"I'll leave you two alone now. Try not to make me an aunt..." Chifuyu waved on her way out.

Ichika and Charlotte started blushing.

"So..." Ichika began,

"Want to show me your swimsuit?"

"Ichika, you pervert..."

XXXXXXXX

AN: Aaaand, there you have it! I hope that you all enjoyed this chapter. Yes, this is divided into parts. Part 1 will be ending at chapter 12 and, as I intend to update every Wednesday for the rest of the month, should be ended by the start of October. The next chapter will be called "Divergence", the one after it is called "Setsura", and the final chapter in Part 1 is called "Phantom Task". I'll let you all guess about what happens next however much you want. Until next week. Also, Part 2 starts after a 1 week break. The first chapter will be longer than usual, though.