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

Text means point-of-view character's thoughts

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Tatenashi

Sunset

About twenty minutes south of Tabane's meeting hall, over the ocean

Tatenashi ducked under a sword before stabbing her opponent in the stomach with her lance, firing it at the same time as her impact.

Her target, Snowstorm, was sent flying back in the air.

As another opponent flew behind Tatenashi, a massive, spiraling gout of water erupted from the ocean below her.

There should be three left, counting these two. They appeared from almost nowhere, but I was able to lure them to the ocean- my environment.

A flurry of light blue lasers came from Snowstorm's direction and a spinning whirlpool appeared in front of Tatenashi, blocking the attack.

Hail was recovered from the gout of water that she had been hit by and fired a missile at Tatenashi, who had flew out under the whirlpool and was now flying at Sprout, who was gathering green energy to a cannon mounted on her chest.

One of Tatenashi's water drones erupted from the ocean, surrounded by water, and drilled into Sprout's back as Tatenashi fired the machine guns in the tip of her spear into her opponent's chest. Tatenashi got close enough to the water and pointed her spear directly downwards, where water slowly gathered around the tip. As the drone continued to drill into Sprout's back, a second drill of water lanced into her chest, draining her shield energy.

From the beach off to the side, Tabane witnessed another member of Phantom Task's shields going down, and used some of the weapons in her personal storage space to drag Sprout over and keep with Sapling, who was restrained and guarded by Cayce.

And then there were two...

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Part 2, Chapter 8: The Battle of IS Academy, Part III:

Spring's Fall

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Ichika

This isn't going well...

I'm tiring. Winter is well-rested. I've lost contact with half of the others, and at least one is dead. Two extra are out of commission. I'm low on shield energy.

Scan Complete

The cone is temperature manipulation. The snowflakes on her back magnify the combat ability of her weapons. The rapier can freeze or cool the surrounding air. Fold-Out-Armor, high speed.

Ichika materialized Fubuki and fired at Winter twice before charging her. Winter dodged both attacks, and all four of the half-snowflakes on her back vanished. The rapier in her hand lengthened by about a foot and thickened. The bottom of its handle lengthened and both began to exude steam.

Ichika slashed at Winter, but she easily blocked. He fired at her twice, she sidestepped both attacks. Ichika and Winter began exchanging blows with their swords and Ichika switched Fubuki out for Hyouzan, which was slowly taking more damage.

Ichika stabbed Winter, trying to get under her guard, and Winter used this distraction to stab his shoulder. Ichika ignored the reduction of his shield energy and had all of his Hyouchuu in sword-mode stab Winter's back.

Winter failed to dodge the majority of them, and they stuck to her back.

The Hyouchuu changed themselves to thrusters and started to take control of her flight path, moving her up in the sky and away from the main battlefield, closer to Charlotte and Spring.

Ichika activated Yukihira as he flew after Winter, who accelerated with the Hyouchuu and activated Ignition Boost to shake them off. Ichika ordered both of them to switch over to laser mode, and had each of them shoot Winter whilst launching themselves away from her.

Ichika activated Yukihira while Winter spun, dematerialized her main gauche and took out her icicle cannon. Winter fired at Ichika twice, and he cut through the icicles both times. Winter activated the Fold-Out-Armor on her rapier, and when Ichika dove after her, she brought her left arm up to block.

Winter used the momentum from Yukihira and its attachment in her arm to move it away from any vital points on her body, while stabbing upwards with her rapier.

Ichika's pained scream, in time with Winter's own, told her that she had hit something- when she looked, she had driven her rapier through his far upper left pelvis.

However, Ichika managed to complete his slash and cut off Winter's left arm just above the wrist.

Winter screamed in pain and rage before disengaging and flying away from Ichika and the battlefields.

"We will settle this, Ichika Orimura!"

Ichika groaned, and looked down for a place to land as he felt the adrenaline leave his system and the pain, as well as exhaustion, take over. He was almost out of energy, as well. He dematerialized all of his weapons and landed in some trees by where Charlotte was fighting. When he was couple feet above, his IS ran out of power dematerialized itself. He rolled with the landing, only to feel searing pain in his right side from his injury.

Ichika undid his tie and wrapped it as tightly as he could around his injury. He then wrapped and tightened his belt around that, and then put his suit coat under his knee to give it some support.

He put himself into position to watch the rest of Charlotte's fight, knowing that he'll just be a distraction if he stayed nearby.

"This is Orimura. I'm down. Out of energy. Near Dunois. Call emergency crew..."

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Houki

Houki was cleaning the blood off of her swords when she heard,

"This is Winter. I need support, I'm pulling out of combat."

"This is Squall. Summer, pull out and aid Winter with her retreat and get her back to base. Everyone not currently locked in combat, pull back with them. Those who are in combat, finish and then retreat."

Houki sighed forlornly to herself before blasting her way through the doors and walking up to the steps, flying away from her bloodbath to meet up with Winter. She took one last look at the corpses of the three IS pilots who came after her, before flying away.

Ichika... One day... You will be mine.

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Charlotte

Charlotte ducked under a stab from Spring's trident, which was followed by a downward slash that she blocked with her pistols in an x-guard, which she used to push herself away from Spring. She flew below Spring, switching to a pair of SMGs to attack while flying away.

Spring flew at Charlotte with her trident, and slashed to the side, bisecting both of Charlotte's SMGs. Charlotte stomped into Spring's stomach, her IS-augmented strength creating a small shockwave as she pushed Spring into the ground.

Charlotte switched to a revolver in her hand and fired it at Spring, to keep Spring's downward momentum going.

Spring's impact with the ground caused a couple of cracks to be created in the concrete from sheer force of impact.

Charlotte flew down, foot first, and landed her right foot into Spring's stomach, a six-foot diameter crater with cracks spiderwebbing the ground forming at the point of her impact. Spring didn't move from her location. Charlotte collapsed on the ground, staring at Spring, as if daring her to move again.

The only indication that Charlotte had towards Spring still being alive was the rhythmic movement of Spring's chest.

"Thank God. I was starting to think you just wouldn't permanently go down, bitch."

Spring didn't respond.

"You are out of energy, right?"

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Laura

Laura had a bored expression on her face, arms crossed over her chest and silver hair flowing in cool sunset breeze, as she stared down with Squall, dozens of crackling balls of energy stopped mid-air, as soon as they got within two meters of Laura's location.

Laura's IS had changed drastically from its prior appearance.

Her entire body, save her face, was now covered by armor. Her legs were covered by thick, black plates, though her leg armor looked more like chain mail at the knees. Crimson lines accented the rough edges all across her legs, and her feet seemed to have a warm crimson sphere on their soles. There were four vents going up the outer side of each of her legs that seemed slightly out of place.

Her torso was covered in lighter, more form-fitting armor, but intricate spirals of crimson originating from another crimson sphere in the center of her chest added some flavor.

Laura's arms were covered in plates of medium thickness, not nearly as heavy as what covered her legs, but not as light as her torsos's armor, either. Her wrists seemed to almost have handcuffs clasped around them, but there was no chain attaching them and they slowly tapered down to her elbows. You could see four vents built in to each of her wrists. Drill-like crimson spirals originated around the handcuffs and ran up to her elbow. There was a crimson sphere on the back of each of her hands.

Floating above Laura's shoulders were a pair of blocky, cylindrical black objects. They seemed to have shaped themselves from shadow and almost drew light to themselves. If you listened closely, you could hear a moderately contented humming emanating from them.

Attached to Laura's back was a pod about the size of her torso that didn't seem to weigh her down in the slightest. The black pod had several golden veins glowing and you could almost think that then energy within them was moving.

At her hips were a pair of mirrored spiked extrusions covered in a half-dozen of the glowing spheres each. They sometimes moved randomly, almost of their own accord, and they had several golden streaks lining their sharper edges.

Laura rapidly moved her hands apart, and almost as soon as she did so, the balls of energy that had been closing in on her vanished. Both of the objects above her shoulders began glowing a deep, almost purple, red while the humming increased in volume and intensity.

A pair of massive blasts of purple, sparking energy came flying out of Laura's new railguns an astonishing rate. Squall was only barely able to dodge the brunt of the attack, but was still hit on her leg. The beams left a couple of thin streaks of light in the sky before fully dispersing.

Squall flew to Jessica and began to engage her with a pair of energy swords as Laura flew towards the two of them. Just before she was going to stab Jessica in an opening in her gap she was violently yanked away from her target.

"No! I will protect them! Your fight is with me now, Squall!"

The whips out of Laura's left wrist were retracting at a rapid rate, dragging Squall around like she was nothing more than a ragdoll, and all of her struggling just caused her to collide with their ruined surroundings more.

In Laura's right hand, a spear of purple energy appeared out of seemingly nowhere. She threw it, with force that caused the air to whip around it. Squall barely managed to guide herself away from its impact, but was able to evade neither the explosion nor the subsequent shockwave.

Squall was freed from the whips, however, and was able to bring up an energy shield almost immediately before impact. The energy shield barely held up over the course of the beam. Somehow, one of the two spike-like clusters around Laura's waist had vanished.

The pod on Laura's back opened and several dozen black missiles flew in various directions after it, their crimson glows leaving streaks in the slowly darkening sky.

"Schwarz! Hagel!" Laura yelled as Squall desperately spun out of the way.

Squall was firing as many of her energy balls as she could to destroy those missiles before they hit her and was being fairly successful. She didn't notice Laura until it was almost too late and barely sidestepped a stab from a purple sword in Laura's hand.

However, just after sidestepping, she found herself immobilized, like something was completely stopping movement in that direction. Laura flew back just before the three remaining missiles hit.

Laura heard panting within the smoke of the impact and recalled the Engelsflügel that she had deployed to Squall's location.

"Why do you fight, Silver-haired one?" Squall asked.

"Because there are people I must protect."

The smoke warped around an energy spear that came flying right out of it. Laura easily blocked it with AIC.

"Why protect? What about orders? What about the mission? You're a soldier, aren't you?"

"I am a soldier. I will always be a soldier. I can't imagine a life where I'm not a soldier. I've just decided change what being a soldier means to me."

Laura charged at Squall with an energy sword in hand. Squall blocked with an energy sword of her own.

"Hooh? And, praytell, what is your new definition?"

"If you have orders, obey them!"

Laura snapped the fingers on her left hand and an explosion occurred on Squall's back.

The whips on my wrists detach at the tips, which are explosive.

"If they're weaker than you, protect them!"

Laura put her hand on Squall's chest and materialized a second energy sword. Squall barely managed to get out of its range.

"And if they threaten those precious to you, those who you wish to protect, your country, or innocents..."

Laura flew back and used AIC to keep Squall away. Both of her hands and the railguns on her shoulders began glowing and gathering energy. The massive pair of spears in her hands were thrown first, followed by firing the railguns.

Squall flew above the spears, which knocked her upwards.

Laura pointed at Squall with her left when when Squall was right in front of the railgun blasts.

Schwung Absturz!

Squall suddenly stopped moving and took both railgun blasts head-on.

"And if they threaten those precious to you, those who you wish to protect, your country or innocents, you crush them. That is what it means to be a soldier!"

When the energy beams cleared, Squall wasn't anywhere in sight.

"She's retreated, Vasquez. Let's see to our teammate and begin to call emergency crews. It sounds like the fighting's over."

Laura landed carefully and winced, gritting her teeth, as the adrenaline wore off and she started to feel having a solid piece of metal stuck in the length of her right arm.

Well, looks like I get an artificial arm to match my eye.

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Charlotte

Charlotte got up, dusted herself off, and began to search for Ichika.

The impact of a trident in her stomach was rather surprising for her, however.

She barely dodged to the side from an attack that probably would have separated the top of her head from the rest of her body, instead getting a moderately deep cut on her left cheek, just below her eye. While she was dodging, she brought her revolver up to Spring's forehead.

When it was touching Spring's forehead, Charlotte fired, despite the dawning horror on Spring's face.

As Charlotte's upper body was covered in blood that wasn't her own and Spring's lifeless corpse slowly let its remaining lifeblood flow out, Charlotte's eyes widened and her pupils dilated.

Tears began to sting her cheeks as she vomited her lunch. She dematerialized her IS and covered her mouth as she began to hyperventilate.

Oh god... Oh god... Oh god...

She's dead. She's dead.

I killed her.

I'm a monster.

Ichika!

Where's Ichika?

I need to find him.

He'll know.

Oh god...

Charlotte calmed her breathing down slightly, and wiped her eyes and mouth. She then opened a link to the general comm channel.

"Ichika? Where are you?"

"By the forest, Char. I'm pretty much right behind you."

Charlotte turned, and her face lit up when she saw Ichika. She ran over to him as quickly as she could, but suddenly sullenly stopped running and slowly walked to him.

"Char. Get over here." He said outside of the comm channel.

"But-"

"Char. Get. Over. Here."

"Yes..." She replied sadly as she walked over to him.

She bent down over him and looked down into his eyes.

Ichika brought his hand up and gently traced the area below the cut on her face.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" He asked softly.

"No, but doesn't your injury hurt?" She replied, equally soft.

"It does, but it's not life-threatening as long as don't do too much to it, and you should see the other guy." Ichika softly stroked her cheek.

"What happened to her?"

"Let's just say that Phantom Task is going to be very glad for Tabane-nee's artificial arms in the near future."

Ichika gently leaned forward and touched his forehead to Charlotte's.

"Char, you aren't a monster. You did what you needed to do to protect yourself and others. You avenged Cecilia-san. She probably would have killed you if you hadn't. I won't say I'm proud of you, because you shouldn't be proud of killing, but I want you to know that I still love you, alright?"

"Ichika..." Charlotte choked as she threw herself into his arms.

Her body was wracked with sobs as she latched herself to his chest, where his shirt was developing an ever-larger wet spot.

"Sssh... It'll be okay..." He murmured softly to her as he gently stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.

Ichika reached into his pocket, took out his cell phone, and dialed the emergency line.

"Yes, I'm at IS Academy... Oh, you already have some crews on their way? I was the person in command of the operation. I think I have at least two people in need of immediate emergency attention and another person who's died. Police would be good, too. The underground shelters are a mess. I'm pretty sure that the enemy managed to get into them. There a surprising lack of fires, though. Where do you want us to gather the survivors? Right, on it." Ichika flipped his phone shut.

"Char." He gently shook Charlotte's shoulder.

"Y-Yes?"

"Does your IS still have energy?" He asked gently.

"Let me check."

She closed her eyes for a second.

"Yes, it does."

"Char, can you carry me to the area in front of the fallen central spire and tell everyone that's where we need to go?" He asked her.

"Sure, give me a sec." She told him. Charlotte materialized her IS and carefully lifted Ichika up in her arms.

Once Ichika was secured, she flew to their gathering point while saying on the Academy-wide channel,

"This is Dunois. The enemy is nowhere in sight. All survivors, report to the ruins of the central spire. It's where the emergency crew will start to meet us. Team 3 inform all students of this information. Check all of the rooms, even the ones that have already been hit, for survivors."

Charlotte landed at the side of the fallen spire and rested Ichika against it. Laura and Jessica were carefully carrying somebody between themselves.

"Is she alive, Mädchen?" Ichika asked.

"Yes. The emergency crew will need to get here soon, though." Laura replied in a clipped tone.

"So... Second Shift, Mädchen? That makes two of us, doesn't it?" Ichika grinned.

"Yes... Yes, I suppose it does, doesn't it?" Laura replied, a smug smirk visible on her face.

"I suppose you're pretty much a tank now, right?" He asked.

"...What?"

"...Nevermind."

Alessandra's voice suddenly popped up over the the general channel.

"I'm glad that we've been searching the shelters for survivors. The first few should be coming up now, but I've just found Orimura-sensei and Yamada-sensei. They're both alive, but Orimura-sensei has a broken leg and Yamada-sensei has a head injury. They're both unconscious. I'm bringing the two of them up."

"Chifuyu-nee's... Alive?" Ichika asked, hope and disbelief evident in his voice.

Charlotte smiled, relief evident on her face.

Thank god...

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Squall

Several hundred miles off the coast of Japan

Night

"Why the hell weren't the weathers helping us at all?" Summer demanded.

"Because for most of them, their orders were to go after Tabane Shinonono. Only Summer's stayed around long enough to command the golems, and they left, too. The fact that they haven't come back yet means that our enemy had us outnumbered and some unexpected abilities. They did, after all, kill Spring and take off one of Winter's arms. We are lucky that Ichika Orimura's IS cauterizes wounds, or else Winter would have bled to death by now. We can't afford to mess up like this again. Engaging those pilots can only end in disaster, though our primary objective was completed."

M flew up next to Squall, silently introspecting.

"Did you complete your objectives?" Squall asked.

"Yes, Squall. Let's go back to base."

We won't fail next time. We can't.

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Charlotte

September 7th, 2030, 7:50 P.M.

Tokyo General hospital

Charlotte sat in the cafeteria, absently picking at her food with her left hand while staring down at her right, squeezing her index finger like she was pulling a trigger at semi-regular intervals.

It only takes one squeeze to kill somebody.

I remember that, back when I first started training.

I guess I never believed it until now.

It just didn't register to me, that I could kill somebody with a gun.

IS battles are normally in a controlled environment, with minimal chance of injury.

Why?

Is this why we have the Alaska Treaty?

Because ISs can kill anybody, from a superior range?

Is it because an IS can level a building with little effort, no matter how it was designed?

There are craters and destroyed buildings all around the Academy island.

Is this what being a pilot means? Destruction? Death?

Death...

Cecilia...

Why did it have to be you? We were friends.

We could have been more careful about it. We didn't have to do it like this.

You had too much left to do.

You never got to continue your family line.

You never got to keep your family line.

Why?

It's never right. It's never fair, not to anyone.

Charlotte sighed forlornly to herself as she took a single bite of her food. She couldn't taste a thing.

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Rin

Rin was sitting in the chair outside of Kanzashi's hospital room.

She went right by me. I didn't even see her.

And then she could have done me in easily a dozen times if it weren't for Dunois-san.

I'm so useless.

And now Cecilia is dead.

I'll never get to apologize.

I'll never get to convince her that her cooking's terrible.

I'll never get to have fun with her again.

It's all my fault.

I was useless against Spring, and now Dunois-san had to kill her.

God, she probably feels terrible about that.

If Ichika hasn't reassured her about it yet, I'll kick his ass.

...No, he always was pretty perceptive about that.

This could have gone so differently, had I only been stronger...

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Jessica

Jessica was walking through the halls to the cafeteria.

Huh. So the idiot was more competent than I had thought.

Still, he could have tried harder to keep Charlie out of there.

And now she's killed.

Idiotic bastard.

Still, Bodewig was much more skilled than I had thought.

She's quite good at fighting, too.

She'll make a fun sparring partner.

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Laura

Laura was standing at attention outside of Ichika and Chifuyu's hospital room.

Second Shift, one Season dead, another short an arm with her identity revealed due to the Commander's True Sight.

Four allies dead, one likely to be paralyzed from the waist down, the Academy levelled, most of the faculty and students dead.

This was a loss.

At best, a Pyrrhic victory.

If I recall, the President is leading the organization that fights these people.

I'll have to make sure that the Commander knows to bring me with him when he signs up.

I have to do my duty, after all, and these people are a threat to everyone.

I just need to do my duty...

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Chifuyu

Chifuyu stared at the wall, silent tears streaking down her cheeks.

They're dead.

My students.

Most of them.

Gone.

Dead.

So many of them.

They had so much that they wanted to do.

And now they can't do anything again.

Can't achieve their dreams.

Just dead.

Gone.

Like that Season that Charlotte killed.

No...

Ichika needs to reassure her, if he hasn't already.

I should probably too, as her teacher and future sister-in-law.

Heh.

Yeah, that's how it's gonna go, no doubts about it.

At the very least, she's a damn sight better than the simpering fangirls that my poor, poor, ever-suffering Otouto is going develop after news of this gets out.

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Ichika

September 8th, 2030, 10:30 A.M.

Tokyo City Hospital, Orimura joint room

"Yesterday, in a nigh-unprecedented event, IS Academy, just off the coast of Tokyo, was attacked by terrorists. As we all know, IS Academy is where we train the world's next generation of IS pilots, and is purely a high school. It is protected by a barrier using similar technology to what the ISs use. Though we have yet to receive an official statement from any of the brave students involved in the Academy's defense, we do know that around one hundred ISs of unknown origin were seen breaking in to the Academy. Official numbers for casualties haven't come in yet, but it looks like the Academy itself has been destroyed. Is this why we have the Alaska Treaty? Because this is the kind of damage that can be done with an IS? Stay tuned as we find out more."

Ichika clicked the TV off as he ran his hand through Charlotte's hair. She had stayed in his hospital room most of the night, and only fallen asleep recently.

"Chifuyu-nee, I'm going to need to make a statement soon. I was in charge of the operation, it's my job to tell people about how it went. Will you sign the proper paperwork for me to do so?"

Chifuyu sighed.

"Ichika, you can't wait until you're discharged from the hospital?" She asked exasperatedly.

"No, I can't. I need to do this. We both know it."

"Fiine. Visiting hours start in half an hour, and you'll be swarmed by reporters the instant that happens. We'll let it happen soon enough. Wake up your girlfriend."

Ichika smiled softly to himself as he looked down at Charlotte and gently shook her shoulder.

"Char. You need to wake up." He said.

"Ichiikaa? What time's it?" She responded sleepily, as she blinked the sleep out of her bleary eyes.

"It's half an hour to visiting hours. Unless you want to answer awkward questions to the press, you should probably get up and get some food. Once Chifuyu-nee and I are discharged, the three of us can head back to my house, since you'll need a place to stay, but until then, you need to go get something to eat."

Charlotte nodded, stretched and walked off, Ichika smiling softly in her direction as she left.

"Ichika, I never thought I'd see you that relaxed." Chifuyu observed.

"Is it a bad thing, Chifuyu-nee?"

"No. No, it's not."

Everything's started now, huh?

I'm going to make a difference.

I can make a difference.

I'm going to fight.

I'm going to win.

Cecilia-san is gone, yes. She's dead.

It's a little cold of me, but I can't bring myself to mind all that much. She was okay, but we never did much together. Char and Rin-san are probably going to take it the hardest out of all of us, though.

I have no idea how Kanzashi's feeling. With those injuries, she could be anywhere from dead to paralyzed.

Team 4 is all dead, from what I've heard. It makes me feel cold that I don't care about them dying as people, but more as the fact that, as commander, their deaths are going to go on my record.

I cut a woman's arm off, and all I can think of is that I'm proud of it, and slightly disappointed that I didn't get all of her.

It disgusts me.

I disgust me.

Don't worry, Char, it's not you that's the monster.

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Ichika

A half hour of introspection later

The first reporter in was the one who got the official statement.

He just so happened to be with the nation's largest news network.

Ichika didn't care.

He just wanted to get it off his chest.

"Orimura-san, could you please give us some sort of statement about what occurred yesterday at the Academy?"

Ichika summarized the battle from what he knew had occurred and the few details he had obtained from the others. He tried to keep things portrayed in a light so that any blame on the group's actions would be placed on either himself or Phantom Task, as he had taken the role of commanding officer.

Honestly, the media seemed quite impressed that a group of teenagers, even if they had been in training to a while, were able to do as much as they did.

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Ichika

September 10th, 3:00 P.M.

Dan had visited Ichika in his hospital room once. He cried manly tears and complained about Ichika 'always getting to be the badass one'. Ichika and Chifuyu had both been fine to go on the 8th, but the doctors wanted to keep them in for observation for a couple of days.

Laura decided to skip the long series of surgeries available to her that could keep her out of combat for a while, instead electing to replace her arm with a prosthetic from the elbow down. The order was being processed, but she wasn't to leave the hospital until the new arm was in, to keep her under observation.

Ichika and Chifuyu had picked Charlotte up from the hotel that she had been staying at, after the Orimura siblings had been discharged, and were now heading back to their house to rest from the events a trio of days prior. Tatenashi had said that she would be in contact sometime within the next week or so, and to rest until them.

When Ichika, Chifuyu and Charlotte arrived home, they were greeted by three letters and a pendant sitting on the kitchen table...

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AN: So, here we are. The pentultimate chapter of Part 2. End of fights and part of the aftermath. Laura hitting Second Shift.

It's funny, because in the way I think of this, the character development has made Ichika a Seinen hero and Laura a Shonen hero. In canon, Ichika is definitely a shonen hero and Laura is adorable. She's not going to be nearly as defrosted as she was in canon, especially not now that fighting has begun.