Well this certainly took a while :/ Nevertheless I hope there are people still reading this. The recent volume made me get of my fat arse and actually do this, so happy readings to anyone who's still around. I'm doing my best to avoid trying to make a complete canon re-hash, hence the earlier introduction of Kanzashi and Tabane.

Right now I'm reviewing Revengeance to get an idea of how an IS would play like. While a bit over the top and overpowered, it's the closest thing we have to a modern comparison. I'm still bad at writing fight scenes, so expect the fight with Cecilia to be undetailed or stiff.

Oh, and as for my earlier comment about Chifuyu not being a bro-con: Sarcasm doesn't travel well over the internet.

"You're a representative candidate?"

Kanzashi immediately blushed at the question, hiding her face underneath her towel in an effort to escape Chifuyu's surprised gaze. Next to her, Houki gave her friend a slightly reprimanding look, causing her to cough awkwardly in embarrassment. It wasn't her fault that their new acquaintance/friend (It was hard to tell given her reticence) decided to just out and out say that she was one of the most important people in the country. Representative Candidates were chosen among the hundreds, if not thousands of applicants who wanted the position and getting it was hard.

And as much as she disliked that Alcott girl, she had to admit that becoming a representative at such a young age was hard: Most of the ones chosen tended to be in their early adulthood at the very least, and that was with connections and money helping to grease the palms. She didn't think Cecilia's attaining of the position was through bribery alone - even she could see that the girl was stubborn and determined - but the way she went on and on about how much better she was because of it and how much inferior everyone else was really grated on her nerves.

"That's...that's right..." Kanzashi nodded, her entire head still being covered by the white towel, "Don't...don't act like...it's a big deal," She continued, "I'm just saying...that I know about IS frames...and I can help you train this week..." She took the towel off her face, though she still refused to turn around and meet Chifuyu's gaze. The girl was shy, as she would find out later on.

"Really? Why would you do that?" Chifuyu asked back, stowing the towel in the locker and grabbing for her change in clothes, "I don't mean to sound ungrateful - I could use all the help I can get here - but I'm surprised you're offering to help me given that we just met. Is there anything you want in return? I can't really pay you for your troubles; it's not like you need it, given the paycheck Cadet Representatives get."

"You're being kind of rude. She's offering to help you and you act suspicious." Houki pointed out, grabbing for her own clothes. Chifuyu turned to her best friend and stuck her tongue out slightly; an immature gesture she wouldn't to anyone but her closest friends. Kanzashi saw her and giggled slightly at the sight of the serious schoolgirl sticking her tongue out immaturely like a kid who got scolded.

"Well excuse me for wanting to be careful," Chifuyu snapped back lightly before turning back to Kanzashi, "Sorry for coming off as mean or suspicious. Alcott tried to do the same thing with the whole 'I'm a representative candidate so I'll help you to prove I'm so much better' thing earlier. You seem to be a nice girl, so I'd hate to find out you were secretly a jerk or something."

"It's...alright..." Her lips twisted into a slight smile, "I understand...your suspicions..." She paused and grabbed her uniform, her grip on it tightening slightly, "I...didn't really...have a reason to offer...I just wanted...to help...since I have nothing better to do..." She blushed slightly at the admission, "Representative candidates...don't get homework...and other projects...so-"

"So you wanna do something else with your time other than staying in your room doing nothing," Chifuyu finished for her. Kanzashi hesitated slightly before nodding, "It's fine with me," She shrugged, "At least you aren't doing it to try and make yourself look better than everybody else. Besides, I don't exactly fancy fighting that Alcott girl with the trainer unit. She may be a brat, but she's a rep candidate and everyone there goes through at least a few months of military training. It's insane."

"I...wouldn't know...I skipped training..." Kanzashi pursed her lips at her statement. She'd only been chosen as the Rep Candidate two weeks prior to the start of the school year, meaning she had to spend one week getting her personal IS calibrated to her specs and the remaining week attempting to do some training in the vain hope that she could catch up. Needless to say she failed on the second task, which the corporation leaders immediately pegged as her fault despite it being them who waited so long till announcing who was to be the candidate.

Chifuyu didn't ask. If she didn't want to say anything then she wasn't going to ask.

"And you could use some training refreshers," Houki cut in again, "Ichika-sensei may have taught you, but that was a few months ago. We should reserve the arena for practice starting tomorrow. Also, we need to start kendo training again after school," Chifuyu raised an eyebrow at the sudden suggestion, "Using an IS requires more than reading a training manual: The pilot herself has to be trained and fit so the machine's movement blends with theirs perfectly. Why do you think cadets have to go through training and cripples are ignored despite potentially having high ranks? The machine can't make up for everything."

"Agreed..." Kanzashi commented.

"One has to wonder why a machine for sports is so important," Chifuyu whispered to herself. Although of course she already knew the answer to that: Anyone who sincerely believed that the IS were just for sports and nothing else was either a kid who didn't know any better or an idiot. Because anyone with even half a brain and one eye could see that there weren't any sports that required missile launchers, gatling guns, railguns, katanas and other weapons of mass destruction. Personally she wondered how the populace kept believing it.

"But that leaves the machine calibration," Chifuyu continued, "Sarashiki-san might be a pilot and she might know how, but I'll need her help with moving the IS and as a sparring partner afterwards. Is there anyone in the engineering branch I can request help with?"



Whatever Kanzashi was about to say was drowned out by the sounds of crashing as the door to the open bath slammed open. Chifuyu watched, her face a mix of shock and annoyance, as the peach haired girl sleeping in the bath charged into the room and all but tackled the frail bluenette into the floor. Houki looked like she wanted to fight back against the mysterious 'attacker', but Chifuyu held her back. Something told her that Kanzashi wasn't in any danger.

She was proven right when it became evident that the girl was hugging her rather than trying to attack her.

"Kan-chan~ You're so mean~" The girl whined, "I told you to wake me up before I took too long~! Now I'm gonna get all wrinkly~!" Chifuyu was sincerely glad that they were all girls here, or else the sight of the buck naked girl might have caused quite a few problems. At least her onii-chan had learned not to walk into rooms unannounced: He'd learned his lesson after the tenth time of him walking into the bathroom while she was in it and getting a few blows to the head in response. A bit disproportionate, but he needed to learn to knock and immediately turn around once it was obvious that he wasn't alone. Too many times he would freeze up and stare at her in whatever state of undress she was in.

And she didn't like it...not at all. Of course not, that would've been silly and degrading.

"Is...isn't it the maid's job to wake up...before the master?" Kanzashi replied back, her normally timid voice lacing with a hint of annoyance. Without waiting for an answer, the shorter girl pushed her friend off and looked down at her now dripping wet uniform in slight distaste. This was the only uniform she brought with her to the lockers and she left her sleeping wear back in her room.

"So mean~" The girl replied, completely ignoring her would-be master's words. A small glare from Kanzashi caused her to change the subject before she pushed her luck, "Hey~Hey~ So I heard you guys talking about needing help with calibrating and stuff! You need help, right?" She turned to Chifuyu, who could only nod incredulously at the girl's carefree demeanor, "Yup, I knew it~ Guess that mean you want my help, huh?"

"Your help?" Chifuyu asked.

"Yeah~" She stood up straight and did a mock salute, "Nohotoke Honne of class one at your service~!" She yelled out, Kanzashi facepalming behind her at the bombastic introduction. Chifuyu was still trying to process that the girl was her classmate and she never noticed, "I'm one of the members of the engineering branch and no one asked me to help them yet~! But it's okay~! My duty first and foremost is to serve Kan-chan and all her friends~!"

Houki looked at Honne in disbelief. She was a member of the engineering branch? It was only a couple of days into the school year, so she must have applied yesterday and already got accepted. How odd; usually there were days of prep-time and examination before members were chosen, which was why all the branch students who were helping out were second or third years. To be chosen so quickly one needed to either connections or a large amount of skill in calibrating.

Honne's smiling face was suddenly covered with a white towel, "Dry yourself off first...you'll get everyone here wet..." She shook her head and sighed, "Make sure to towel off properly...or you'll get a cold..." She went to Honne's locker and pulled out a uniform, "...And make sure...to drop these off...at the laundry room later...Your onee-chan will...get mad if you don't..."

...Who was supposed to be the maid here again?

"Thanks for the offer Nohotoke-san," She turned to look at Kanzashi, "Um, she seems really enthusiastic about helping, but..." She let the question hang. As annoyed as she acted, it was pretty obvious by her actions that she and the more energetic girl were close and she didn't want to offend either of them if she could help it. She was already strapped for help as it was and turning away two possible allies would be a really boneheaded move.

"Yes...she's a member...of the engineering branch..." The way Kanzashi said it made it apparent that she couldn't quite believe it either, "Honne-chan can calibrate an Uchigane unit...or a Rafael if you prefer...Due to the training unit's system reboot...any upgrades and changes will be reset after at least two sessions...so we need to constantly re-add...any changes that you need," She paused slightly in thought, "We'll also...need an arena to practice in...I can ask for it

"You do need all the help you can get," Houki commented, "But we're going to have to start planning our schedules. The match starts on Monday next week and it's Tuesday right now. Starting tomorrow you'll have five days, and that's only if you're willing to use the rest day on Sunday. I'm sure Ichika-sensei will give you leeway to skip classes starting tomorrow - I expect Alcott-san will do the same. But all of us still need to go to classes, so we need to schedule it so that our kendo exercises don't clash with the IS training."

"I'm free during lunch...starting tomorrow..." Kanzashi informed them, "There's a group study...about IS practicals...and all Representative Candidates and Cadets...aren't required to go...so I can train with Chifuyu-san starting noon tomorrow...and I can ask for one of the arenas to be...reserved up till Friday. After that... we'll have to see if we can reserve another..."

"That means we don't contradict," Houki nodded and turned to the remaining girl, "What about you, Nohotoke-san?"

"Mmmm~ I'm free anytime~!" Kanzashi facepalmed again, "I mean~ All engineering branch students are excused from class whenever a student or a rep asks for their help~ So I can be there anytime you need me~" Chifuyu sincerely hoped she wasn't just using her as an excuse to skip class. Considering the girl slept for over half her classes, she was willing to believe that this could have been the case.

"Then I guess I won't have any free time starting tomorrow," Chifuyu sighed, "Still, I don't want to lose to that brat and inflate her ego even more. This is all Onii-chan's fault; he shouldn't have tried to make me the class representative in the first place. Now I have to deal with an angry rep and a bratty one at that. Such misfortune," She said, mimicking her acquaintance's behavior.

"You look like you're having fun, though," Houki pointed out.

"Shut up," She slapped Houki's shoulder lightly, although the smile she had on her face made it apparent she didn't disagree. She was right: Despite the utter stupidity leading up to it, she didn't truly mind that she had to fight come Monday next week. She made two new acquaintances and she was meeting her friends next week with Houki in tow, so a few days of training and one skipped rest day didn't really matter in the long run. And if...when she beat that Alcott girl, victory would taste oh so sweet.

And that was how she found herself in this situation.

"Hey, slow down!" Chifuyu yelled. Her opponent ignored her calls and slashed down with the katana she held in her hands, an attack that Chifuyu barely managed to roll out of the way of, "Hey, I said slow down!" She punctuated her statement by throwing a knife at her opponent, which simply bounced off ineffectively against the invisible shield. The helmeted attacker turned to her and she could have sworn she felt her heart skip a beat, despite all reason and instinct telling her that it would be fine since it was just a sparring match.

"...Crap," She turned tail and ran, the silent attack trailing behind her and waving the katana around like an insane serial killer, "Hey, hey, hey! This is a training match! You're being way too hard!" She called back again. The attacker seemed to pause for a second, just long enough to think she was safe from being pasted, before she pulled out another dagger from God knows where.

She charged forward, bringing both the dagger and sword down on her like she wanted to split her in half. In response, Chifuyu dodged to the side before throwing a punch against the helmet of her opponent, "Ouch!" She pulled her hand back and sucked in her teeth. That hurt! What the hell were those personal units made out of? Even with the gauntlet of the Uchigane it felt like punching a brick head on.

"Nice...try..." Chifuyu cursed under her breath as she grabbed her by the arms and pulled the blade she was using away from her grasp, "It's...over..." She raised her free hand and re-summoned the the katana she was wielding. Boosting away wouldn't work and punches were already being shrugged of. Chifuyu did the first thing that came to mind.

She headbutted her.

"Ah...!" Kanzashi's eyes widened from behind her helmet at the unexpected attack. Capitalizing, Chifuyu boosted away before throwing the remaining knives she had at Kanzashi's IS. Through her sensors she could see the white IS' shields drop by about a quarter.

Kanzashi shook off the dizziness and charged forward again. Chifuyu scanned through her inventory and frowned in frustration as she saw that she was now empty. Great; all her knives were gone, her sword was missing and the IS she was using handled like a merry go round with an elephant on one side. She would've done better on foot, all things considered.

"Well, I'm out!" She raised her hands in frustration and deactivated the unit. Almost immediately the lights of the indoor arena dimmed and Kanzashi's IS froze before she was also forced to deactivate it. A safety measure in case someone decided to use the IS for a grudge match and went too far: When using the arena one had to register their IS in first. When registered for fighting they were linked to the system and once their opponent's IS stopped the system would force a shutdown to ensure that no one would get hurt. Evidently there had been many...accidents in the past from fighting pilots and...well, the saying 'It's all fun and games till somebody gets hurt' would be an accurate way to describe it.

Or in the academy's case, maybe losing an arm...or a leg...or a spleen.

"What...happened...? Kanzashi tapped the holographic terminal and dismissed the helmet keeping her head sealed. On the upper viewing stand she could make out Honne cheering her on and heaping congratulations for her victory - Not that it felt much like a victory given the circumstances. What basically happened was the equivalent of an athlete winning a race against an opponent who lost both legs.

"Well, first of all, you nearly killed me," Chifuyu bent down and panted, wiping the accumulated sweat away from her forehead "Second, the Uchigane stinks. I move like I'm being weighed down by bricks and you can only add two equalizers before you reach the limit. And among those equalizers all I have to go for me are throwing knives that are as effective as throwing eggs against a wall or a grappling hook that's too weak to actually pull anyone without expending too much energy, meaning I'm hurting myself more than my opponent."

"Nobody...said it was easy," She made her way to the bags and grabbed two towels, throwing one of them Chifuyu's way, "Cecilia Alcott is using Blue Tears...a long range type unit...and she has a few battle drones called BITS as well," She picked up the water bottle and brought it against her lips clumsily, "Haaa...You need to disable the BITS first...and then you have to dodge her missiles...and then you have to avoid being hit by her sniper rifle...How is your aim?"

"This feels like fighting a bad video game boss," Chifuyu collapsed with her back against the ground and closed her eyes in exhaustion, "We already tried the Rafael unit and it handled even worse than the Uchigane, not to mention the recoil of that stupid gatling gun. The knives can't move fast enough, using them against the BITS is right out. So the only choice I have is either dodging everything - fat chance of that happening - or taking everything and hoping the shield holds out; which it won't, since the shield on these training units is complete garbage."

"...You have my sympathies..." Kanzashi sat down next to her and sighed. They'd been training for two days now, and so far they had absolutely nothing to show for it. Kendo with Houki was easy; Chifuyu moved like a swan on water and proved to be a match even against her kendo fanatic friend. But when it came to using an IS she was like a baby taking first steps, which was especially odd given the fact that she had apparently already been trained by her older brother before and managed to beat one of the instructors during the entrance exam.

"Thanks, that makes me feel so much better," She replied sarcastically, not even bothering to open her eyes, "Moving with Onii-chan's IS and the training IS they gave me for the entrance exam was much easier. The IS here handle like ass...sorry for cursing," She apologized halfheartedly. Kanzashi shrugged and waved off her words. There was a truth to her words. She didn't know what she'd do if she had to b

"This would be so much easier if I had my own personal IS," Chifuyu forced herself to sit up, "Don't suppose you'll let me borrow IS for one day? I'll be your best friend~" She smiled and clasped her hands together in mock begging. She was usually much more serious than this, but she found out quickly that being serious with the Sarashiki girl wasn't as relaxing or effective. It was probably a contributing factor to why Honne acted so nonchalant about everything: It was one of the few ways to get her to reply in anything other than one word sentences of clipped answers.

Kanzashi laughed at her action, "I can't...sorry..." She smiled back at her, "Personal units and cores...are attuned to the pilot...until the government says so. It stops...the pilot from lending it to others...and the IS being taken from her. There was an incident six years ago...where a pilot lent one of her friends her IS...because she thought nothing bad would happen."

"I'm guessing this doesn't have a happy ending," She commented in a deadpan.

"You don't...want to know..." Chifuyu looked slightly miffed at the ending being cut off, "There was...an incident...and it took two swat teams...and two other IS pilots in order to stop her. The people involved...were never the same..." She drank from her water bottle again before tossing the empty container away; the cleaning bots would pick it up later.

"Great, tease me and then don't follow through," She pursed her lips together before she pushed her knees against her chest, "I'm tired. In the morning I re-read the book to see if it'll help me get better, at lunchtime I have to get thrown around like a ragdoll because you turn pyschotic whenever we fight," Kanzashi blushed at the blunt observation, "And at dinner I have to keep up with Master Houki Shinonono, scion of the Shinonono style martial arts. I feel like a star in a bad action movie."

"Sorry...but Alcott-san...won't stop because you tell her to...so I can't either," Kanzashi said, "You need to keep up with her...and a way to avoid her BITS. They have a minor AI and act independent of their pilot...provided they've been given a target. Slashing the BITS will be hard...but it's the only way...you can focus on Alcott-san without any distractions. The grappling hook is magnetized...so you can pull them in one by one."

"Yeah, and while I'm doing that I'll be getting bombarded by missiles, bullets and the other BITS: No thanks," Chifuyu shook her head in frustration and grabbed her hair with both hands, "Argh, this is way more frustrating than I thought it would be! Can't we just fight it out in a kendo match or something? I'm pretty sure I can win that with both my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back."

"You could always...forfeit," Chifuyu looked mildly annoyed with the suggestion, "She might make fun of you...but nobody else will really care...since she's a Representative Candidate. Do you...really want to become the class representative...that much?"

"Not really," She answered back immediately, "It's just...I really don't want to hear her laughing at me and rubbing it in my face that I gave up before fighting her, especially since I already made fun of her before: She'll never let me live it down, and since we're classmates I just know she won't shut up about it. I'd rather fight and lose than not fight at all," She suddenly laughed, "Sorry, I guess Onii-chan's speeches have been rubbing off on me. He never shuts up about always trying your best and never giving up in the face of insurmountable odds. He says it's what helped him to rescue me."

"Rescue you?" Kanzashi asked back curiously.

"Huh? Oh right, I never really told you. Well, I guess it's no secret: I was kidnapped three years ago," She smirked as Kanzashi's eyes widened. The same reaction every time, "I don't know why they did it, to be honest. All I know is that I was caught on my way back from school - Onii-chan couldn't pick me up since he was busy preparing for the Mondo Grosso. ...Anyway, long story short I was kidnapped and kept in a dark room for a few hours till Onii-chan saved me. I don't really remember much about what happened after that. I can't even remember their faces."

"That's terrible..." Kanzashi looked down sadly.

"Yeah, I guess it was," She replied neutrally, "My guess is they wanted Onii-chan to lose the Mondo Grosso or something," She scratched her head again, "Or maybe they wanted something else; I don't really know. Onii-chan told me that the kidnapping was a group effort and not everyone had the same goals. He even told me something about an American senator ranting about nanomachines, but I don't really remember much. It's the reason I'm here in the first place, or so Onii-chan tells me. He says he wants me to be safe, but honestly I think he's just thinking about my future too much. I'm not really interested in being a rep or being an IS researcher. I'll probably be a teacher or something - I already feel like I'm babysitting a bunch of kids with Dan and Rin around."

"You're...really close to your older brother," There was a hint of sadness in Kanzashi's voice.

"I guess," Chifuyu leaned back against the ground again and looked up at the domed ceiling, "Onii-chan's been the only one with me ever since our parents left. I don't really remember much about them, but whenever I ask him he just clams up and tells me he doesn't want to talk about it. Not a lot of things can make him angry, but whenever someone brings up our parents he'll try to find a way to change the subject or just leave the room entirely. I'm pretty sure he hates them, although I can understand his reasons considering he had to take care of me by himself since I was about six."

"And you? You...don't hate them?" Kanzashi asked hesitantly.

Chifuyu shrugged from her place on the ground, "I don't really know them well enough to make sure. They left us, but maybe they had a good reason or they wanted to be with us but couldn't. Or maybe they're just selfish jerks who didn't really want kids and decided to skip out one day. Until I'm sure I really don't want to waste time and effort being angry at them. They could be alive out there now or they could be dead, but in either case it's none of my business now. I can't even remember their faces or a time we acted like a family. It's always been Onii-chan who's been with me."

She remembered the day he rescued her. Explosions, gunfire and...wrestling moves if she remembered correctly. And then the darkness receded and he was there, hugging her and telling her everything would be okay. Despite the fact that his IS was nearly destroyed and he was barely able to stand, he didn't let her go till they managed to reach the police and the ambulance that took them both to the hospital. It was at that moment that she realized that she truly loved him.

...In a totally platonic way, of course.

"My parents are...distant," Kanzashi brought her own knees up to her chest, "They always tell me about the...duty of the Sarashiki family and how we...always have to do what is right...or something," She shook her head and sighed, "I don't know...sometimes I wonder if the Sarashiki family is really a family...or just an organization that happens to be related. Everyone smiles at the parties and meetings...but they talk behind each others backs...and always talk about placement or ranking...on who should be the heir or the leader...and who should be tossed to the streets..."

"Parental issues seem to be norm nowadays, right, Sarashiki-san?" Chifuyu asked cheekily, receiving only a slow nod in response, "Come on, we should stop talking about depressing things already: I don't want to get depressed, especially now that there's a nine out of ten chance of me being pasted all over the arena walls come Monday next week. Like..." She racked her brain for ideas before she saw the white bracelet on the pale girl's hand, "Like your IS. Tell me about it."

"This?" She raised her wrist and twisted it around to show Chifuyu the concealed form of her unit, "This is Byaku-Shiki...an experimental IS they completed...only a few months ago...and are still experimenting on," She lowered her wrist again and fondled the bracelet carefully, "It...doesn't have many weapons...just a regular beam katana and a few off-hand weapons...but the Ignition Boost is faster than other IS...and all the weapons are made for countering against weapons...Unfortunately...the weapons are hard to use for someone...who only has a small amount of training."

"Ah, so that's why you were swinging it around like a rabid samurai," Chifuyu joked, although Kanzashi nodded all the same, "A katana, huh? Reminds me of the sword Onii-chan used back during the Mondo Grosso. Yukihira: A sword that makes you win the second you hit someone, but good luck trying to do that while your shield's being drained through a straw every time it's on. I don't know how Onii-chan managed to win the Mondo Grosso with just that stupid sword."

"Sounds...difficult..." Kanzashi commented blankly.

"So is a samurai IS, Sarashiki-san," She replied with a smile, pointing at her bracelet "Why don't you train with me and Houki and later? I'm sure it'll help you balance with that sword later on. You can swing it around, sure, but flaling around like a baby with a knife isn't going to get you very far against professional opponents. I'm sure Houki and I can teach you a thing or two about sword techniques.

"Is...Is it really alright?" She asked shyly.

"Sure: Just ask you maid for permission," She pointed at Honne who, as expected, was already sleeping in the stands, "It's a good way to pay you back considering you've been helping me since yesterday. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, right? Come on, it'll be fun."

"I...o-okay," Chifuyu gave an open grin at her confirmation, "But...call me Kanzashi...instead of Sarashiki...it doesn't matter what honorific you use...I don't like being...called by my last name," She finished off slowly.

"Alright then, Kanzashi-san," She clapped the timid girl on the back before standing up, offering her a hand up, "Come on, we should go get something to eat while we can: I've been starving ever since I skipped breakfast."

"R-Right..." Kanzashi nodded with a smile and accepted Chifuyu's hand.

Training with Kanzashi proved...interesting, to say the least. While Houki was surprised at first with Chifuyu's request, she nevertheless agreed to the girl's request to train on the condition that Chifuyu's own training not be compromised in the process. And so, with shaking hands, Kanzashi Sarashiki, for the first time in her life, fought using a wooden sword and without the aid of any machine.

The results were rather fun to watch. Chifuyu wished she had her camera with her.

There was flailing: A lot of flailing and attempted stabbing. While her IS' built-in combat aid allowed her to function well enough despite her lack of training, the absence of it meant her chaotic flailing turned into...well, chaotic flailing. While she did indeed get the most hits in, most of it was made in the process of her spinning around in a panic whenever Houki got within even a three feet radius of her.

Soon the kendo fanatic had exchanged her training in favor of teaching Kanzashi the basics such as posture, grip, stance and other things she had already learned by the time she was seven years old. Chifuyu didn't mind it: She didn't have the hear to tell Houki, but the training really wasn't doing much for her - She'd already trained and practiced everything that her best friend had taught her and she was pretty sure that she couldn't improve any more, at least not in a way that would help her given the short amount of time they had.

"Onii-chan, are you there?" She knocked on her older brother's room for the third time that night. She wasn't going to gain anything watching Kanzashi flail around, funny as it was, so she needed to seek the advice of her older brother. Maybe he could offer her aid or, at the very least, give her some advice that she could use. Well, that and she needed to check whether Tabane had come to visit again. She didn't fancy her brother choking to death on one of her signature death hugs.

"Chifu-chan? Is that you?" Her brother's voice answered from within, "I'm on the phone now. Just type in the code and let yourself in." With a sigh, she typed in the four digit code and entered the room quietly. At least he wasn't being attacked by Tabane-san or a bunch of rabid students and stalkers. She honestly didn't know which was worse.


"You're coming here? Are you sure that's a good idea?" He looked up from his desk and mouthed a 'Please be quiet for now' at her, "Okay, okay. You just completed the rep candidate training last week, right? Right, so I think you should take at least a couple of months to get used to the IS before you decide to come here. No, it's not because I don't think you're up for it. Even the best soldier needs adequate time, right?"


"No, just you're doing a good job! Okay? I don't think you're wrong at all," He looked up and gave her a look that made it obvious he was thinking the opposite, "Okay? So just- Why don't you put Clarissa on the phone? I'll call her and tell her- She was the one who told you to come here? Really? Damn, what is going on over there? Alright, I'll talk to her later...and you can stop calling me instructor. It's been two years now."

Instructor? What was he on about?

"Alright, so there's no way for me to convince you to- What? No, I'm sorry: I'd rather you come here alone than take another year off as an instructor there- No, no, it's not because I don't like you or think you're inadequate!" Her Onii-chan was having a hard time... "I have responsibilities here and someone to look after. I've told you all about her, right? So I can't afford to- Hey, put down that gun!" A gun!? "Don't bother hiding: I can't see you, but I still remember the sound you make whenever you reload. Just...just put down the gun and stop pouting, okay? I'll talk to Clarissa tomorrow and see what we can do about this. So put down the- You want to what? ...Fine...Instructor's orders, happy? Okay, I have to go. Bye!"

Chifuyu heard a bang that sounded distinctly like a gunshot before the connection terminated. Chifuyu looked at her brother, her face a mixture of curiousity and the want to now know what exactly just happened. Was her brother cavorting with lunatics and gun nuts now?

"Sorry about that. She's just a...little girl with a bit of an odd mindset," Chifuyu gave him a disbelieving look, but she chose not to press it, "Anyway, what is it that you need, Chifu-chan? It must be important if you've come all the way here."

"Um, yeah, it's about the class representative match this coming Monday," She coughed awkwardly, "I'm not really sure what I should be doing to-"

"Oh, the match on Monday! I almost forgot!" Ichika slapped his forehead, "Sorry. It's just that you never showed up for class so I never got the chance to tell you. A lot of things have been piling up - Clarissa sending her here, Jason going missing, Natasha telling me about that Silverio Gospel thing she's going to pilot. Ah, but that doesn't matter right now! Come on, Chifu-chan! You'll love it!

And that was how she found herself being, quite literally, dragged by her older brother to one of the more secluded hangars in the school.

"What is this place?" She looked around warily. All around her she could see old IS units; from the first generation, by the looks of their designs. Was this some kind of museum in the school built for the old units? Why would her older brother bring her here?

"Sorry I never told you this: It took me a while to make the arrangements necessary to get it here in the first place," He sighed, "I had to promise Tabane the rest of my weekends this month and to buy here whatever she wanted, but I got it! He clapped Chifuyu's back gently, "She used the data from my IS to make it. So you have to make sure to treasure it,okay?"

"Make...what, Onii-chan?"

Rather than reply, he flicked the switch on the wall and lit the area up in a bright white light. Her gaze was immediately drawn to the spotlight at the center of the hangar. An IS stood there, but nothing like the ones she's seen before: It was thin, thinner than some of the first generation IS', and looked more like a futuristic suit of armor rather than bulky robot limbs. Her eyes traced down its thin structure, her eyes taking special note of the grayish metal and the dark blue cloth that replaced any parts where the metal was missing. It was like a full body suit.

Her hands found themselves feeling the IS' structure. The metal was cold, but it was smooth and she could see the amount of detail that went into it. Her hands then felt for the cloth, which was warm to her touch and comfortable to feel - The materials that one needed to make this wasn't garden variety fabrics and metals, that was for sure.

And finally, she made her way to its back. Through the grayish metal she could see a circle, its entire length and width taking up the entire suit's back. On the small circle she could see six holes: Sheaths, her mind figured out. These were sheaths for storing swords or whatever else that could fit into them. She counted them again. Six holes, that meant six weapons if her guess on what it was turned out to be correct.

"You like it?" Ichika ruffled her hair affectionately. She could only nod, "Tabane based her on the White Knight, but she gave it enough of a design change that you can claim it as your own IS," He tapped its helmet, "A lot of second and third generation IS don't use full helmets anymore, but I think it's still useful. This will allow you to see through smoke and other things blocking your vision, but the three hundred and sixty degree point of view had to be dampened. You eyes would break from the strain if we didn't lower it."


"And here," He grabbed at the cool metal, "The armor was made thinner to allow for faster movement, so you'll be able to dodge and outfly most IS out there. Be careful, though: This means you can't take as many hits and collisions will shake you up more because you don't have as much protection. So if there's even a small chance of dodging, take it. It can't take as much abuse as the rest of the third generation units and it relies more on speed. The weapons it uses also means that staying at range puts you at a disadvantage."

"Got it..."

"And finally, this," He pointed to the circle on its back, "This is where you can store your weapons. Right now you can hold six, but who knows, maybe you can hold more when you shift," He winked at her, "You should do first shift when your IS finishes calibrating itself to you, so you'll find out soon enough. Right now I put Yukuhira in here, mostly so you have something to practice with. Be careful when using it - It can end the match in one hot, but every second it's active your shield drains out."

"Alright..." She wasn't listening. She was like a kid in a candy store being offered up the biggest house of candy. An IS. Her IS. She couldn't stop the goofy smile that made its way to her face. There was just one thing she wanted to know, "What is its name?"

Ichika held onto her shoulders gently, "Tabane named her the 'Kurogane Shoujo' - The Iron Maiden, if you prefer it in English. Make sure to take care of it, alright? It cost your Onii-chan his free time and paycheck for the entire month. It's yours now, so take good care of it and make sure to keep it with you at all times. I won't always be there to protect you, but with this you won't need me to."

Yes. She would take care of it now. This was her IS and...wait, what did he just call it?

"Onii-chan...what did you say its name was?"

Okay, her mood suddenly shifted. Her expression went from wonder and glee to...annoyed exasperation? What was going on? "Uh...Iron Maiden. It's a catchy name, don't you think?" He certainly liked to think so. Of course he would have preferred something more basic like 'Steel King', but Tabane insisted that they name it like that in the official registry.

"Onii-chan...you do know what an Iron Maiden is, right?" His confused gaze said it all, "Onii-chan, an Iron Maiden is a torture device from back then that killed people slowly whenever they entered it...and you named my IS after it. ...What were you thinking?"

"Huh? But-But Tabane was the one who..." His explanations teetered off into incoherent mumbles. Chifuyu palmed her face slowly and sighed. Some things just never changed, and her bunny eared tormentor was one of them.

Alright...that was a pain in the arse to write. Since the next chapter's a fight scene...it might take a while. Oh well, bye for now and see you when I see you.

OcarinaofRhyme - Dan's one of those joker flirts: He'll flirt with you and laugh if you play along, but if you're his friend and you seriously respond he'll back off immediately and apologize. He's in the 'Don't date your friends since it'll make things awkward if/when you break up' camp. Everyone in the group knows this and just lets him be.

We'll see what happens with Rin: They could still have a friendly match and the Golem attacks regardless. Also, romance isn't a priority, so even if I do put it in it'll be a side-thing and not overtake the plot if possible. I specifically didn't put it in the tags. So for the most part the tags say Adventure/Humor and we're going to have...well, Adventure/Humor with ship tease moments sprinkled in. I bet a few yuri lovers are already trying to make the talk Chifuyu has with Kanzashi into something else.

LatinStoryteller - Does there have to be a pairing? Not ever IS fic is romance, and this is classified under Adventure/Humor for a reason.

But, you know what? I'll indulge the hopeless romantics that seem to read this fic.

The snip below will likely be never used due to it being a massive shift in tone, but read if you want. Warning: You may feel the urge to throw up or ingest Brain Bleach after reading the snip below. You have bee warned.

"Get off me!" Chifuyu pushed against him, her fists beating against his chest in an effort to push him away from her. His predatory gaze never left hers, his reddish brown-irises staring into her own. He could kill her if she wanted, and there was nothing she could do about it - Or at least that's what he thought. His hands cupped her jaw with surprising gentleness and he forced her to look at him "Do you remember me?" and "Do you know who I am?" These were the unspoken words he was imploring to her.

She didn't answer him.

"Do I look familiar to you?" Again, she didn't reply. His smile twitched and he touched his lips to hers for just barely a second. She shuddered and her temper flared, her hands balling into fists at the action. He wanted to get a rise out of her, to break her down and make her into something that he could manipulate. She wouldn't let him, not even if he killed her.

"I don't know you," Her venomous words reached him. His smile turned into a frown for just a split second, so brief that she almost didn't see it, but his smile widened once again. This was the Chifuyu he knew, the headstrong girl that refused to bow to anyone. She hated, she would kill him in a heartbeat, and yet he found himself craving her gaze and attention - Her hate. It was like a drug: He grew addicted to it, even as he knew that it wasn't right or healthy for him. The euphoria he felt was real, moreso than the cuts he gave himself whenever he saw his reflection.

"You never change," A depraved chuckle escaped his throat, "Why do you deny it? Look at me. I'm the brother that you wished to always have. He will never love you, not in the way wish him to. You'll always be standing next to him, but never close enough to satisfy yourself. So why not give into temptation? Just for one night, destroy your limits and accept that you want this. He'll never be what you want him to, but I can."

"Shut up," He kissed her again, his tongue slithering into her mouth this time. She gave no yell or moan; she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of it. She did something else instead.

She bit down. Hard.

He gave no yell of pain and no whine of displeasure as he pulled away from his, blood staining his lips. The smile never left his face, even as the pain multiplied. She shuddered in disgust as she saw his tongue, bloody and damaged from her bite, come out and lick his bloodstained lips; the blood was both hers and his.

No, he was wrong. He wasn't her brother. Her brother was the older sibling she looked up to, the one who was always there with a reassuring smile and held kindness in his eyes that was obvious to anyone. He was young, almost the same age as her, and his smile was twisted and broken. His eyes were filled with nothing but the depths of depravity he had sunken to. Even if he had the same dark hair, the same reddish-brown eyes and the same face. He would never be her brother, and she would never accept him.

"Who are you?" She finally asked back.

He stepped away from her and opened his arms wide, as if inviting her to hug him. Under the moonlight, his reddish eyes stared at her with deranged happiness, "You already know the answer to that, right...Chifu-chan?"

"I'm Ichika Orimura."

Aww, isn't that romantic? :) So yeah, it's not that hard to figure out that it's a genderbent Madoka. But since I don't know whether I'll gender bend her or not, the chance of me using it is really low. That and the tone is a really big shift, and Yandere boys tend to not be popular.

I dare anyone to see her affection for Ichika as platonic :p