Authors note: So uh, wow you guys really like my stuff. You also seem to have REALLY high expectations for me seeing as how none of my stories have reached the 50,000 word limit yet much less 100,000.
Anyway, this is the second chapter of It Started with a Kiss, please enjoy.
It Started with a Kiss Chapter 2
Despite a thorough questioning by Chifuyu, Ichika did not provide her with much information besides the fact that he was an Ashikabi, Yume-nee was a Sekirei and that they were going to get married when he got bigger and became a man. Since even Ichika didn't know what an Ashikabi was and as far as Chifuyu was concerned a Sekirei was a bird, this was of course less than helpful. Chifuyu was however concerned about Ichika's comment about getting married. She only backed off of that point after Ichika continuously and happily insisted that he was the one to suggest that they were getting married.
Despite this, Chifuyu was worried for her brother for many months after his kidnapping, going so far as to enlist Tabane to hack satellites and do searches for "Yume". None of the searches turned up anything and Ichika was left alone by everything and everyone. Eventually Chifuyu's paranoia waned, after her year in Germany her worry was basically gone, though she did maintain an alert for anyone who showed too much interest in Ichika.
The only thing different about Ichika after his kidnapping was a slight change in attitude, he was still the happy smiling kid he had always been, but he was more diligent in his work. At school, at the dojo, around the house, everything Ichika needed to do was done right the first time or he did it again. He also took his kendo training more seriously in general, advancing faster than he had been and asking Chifuyu for more advice when he could.
It wasn't much, but a slight change can make a large difference over time. Seven years after the kidnapping, Ichika was a national level kendo competitor, an A level student, as well as being an excellent cook and a pretty decent masseur. Chifuyu was proud to have him as a little brother; he was everything she could have wished him to be. Then something completely unexpected happened.
On his way to an exam, Ichika somehow managed to get lost and find an IS or Infinite Stratos and activate it. IS's were the pinnacle of military technology, so far above everything else on earth that contingency plans for dealing with rogue IS's involved other IS's or nuclear warheads. They were also only able to be operated by women. Nobody knew how he did it, not even the IS's inventor Tabane Shinonono, who was questioned at length by her friend Chifuyu Orimura. Which made Ichika's ability to activate an IS world-wide news.
Yume had just returned to her MBI tower room from the sparring room with Musubi. She had showered in the communal showers with the ever cheery 88, answering her seemingly inane questions with the patience of one long used to such things. She had taken the young girl under her wing ever since she had rescued the once sick girl from her kidnappers and gained a shared Ashikabi. She had also quit the discipline squad about a year ago, leaving it in the capable if violent hands of Karasuba.
Yume was proud of Musubi, under her guidance the young Sekirei had come far in her training. She was still overly cheerful and more than just a bit airheaded, but her hand to hand skills were coming along nicely. Sighing in exhaustion, Yume collapsed into her MBI provided chair, wondering for the umpteenth time how Musubi maintained her cheerfulness even after being thrown to the mats for hours.
Glancing at the clock, Yume decided she wasn't that ready to sleep yet and reached for the remote of her small TV, also MBI provided. Turning it on, she was presented with the face of a well-known news personality saying something about the newest young celebrity. Yume didn't enjoy celebrity gossip, something about it made her skin crawl. Raising her remote, she was about to change the channel when the picture of the new celebrity flashed up onto the screen.
The remote fell from her nerveless fingers as she stared at the picture. It was him, it was her Ashikabi, it…it was Ichika, it really was. Yume felt her body heat up at just the sight of him, it had been seven years since she had seen him and he had grown up so much, he was so manly now. But the smile…and the eyes, they were the same. He had that same silly grin and his eyes still held that warmth and kindness from seven years ago.
She stared at the picture, trying to memorize it so she could put it next to the image she had of a silly but brave little boy. She barely heard what the newscaster was saying, something about him doing the impossible and activating an IS. She mostly brushed it aside, not caring what he did, just wanting to see her world as he was now, at least until she heard, "will now be attending the previously all-girls IS Academy."
Yume froze at that, her insides chilling, as she suddenly paid much more attention to the news. It seemed that Ichika had somehow activated an IS, something which even she knew was supposed to be impossible, and would now be attending the IS Academy. There was more than that of course, endless speculation, rumor mongering, etc… all the things that went on around a new and apparently secretive personality. But in Yume's mind only one thing mattered, that Ichika was going to an all-girls school.
She almost broke down crying right there. Why? Why did they have to be so cruel to her? She had been doing fine, living on without her reason to live. Preparing, just in case he remembered that promise he made when he was little. Then they gave her an image of him, something she would have previously given her left arm for, only to tell her that he would be the only male in a school full of teenage human females.
Why had she gotten her hopes up? He probably didn't remember her anyway. If he did, there was no way he would after this. With all those girls around him, he would forget any scrap he held onto that involved her. She would be washed away in a sea of young, nubile flesh. Not that she was likely there anyways…
But she would endure, just like she had these past seven years, just like she would the next seven and the seven after that. She would endure…with just the memories of a kiss and two pictures in her head. She would endure…she wouldn't cry, she had promised she wouldn't cry, if she cried she would break the promise. The promise he gave her, the promise of forever and ever.
Turning off the TV, she slowly padded to her bed and rocked herself to sleep.
When he entered the IS Academy, Ichika was nervous, nervous because he wasn't prepared. He had never had any IS training and was therefore behind all the girls. So he worked, worked very hard at becoming better acquainted with the IS. However, what did not make him nervous were the girls.
He had never mentioned it to Chifuyu, but Ichika had been approached by girls before his entrance into the Academy. Something about his attitude, looks and overall charm had garnered him more than his fair share of attention from the fairer sex. But he had never taken any of them up on their offers. It just never felt right, like there was something missing that he needed before taking the next step. So, by the time he was enrolled at the Academy he was a past master of letting girls down gently. This was a good thing, as his Y chromosome garnered him more attention than a wounded gazelle surrounded by hungry lions.
His first year passed relatively easily. After easily renewing his childhood friendship with Houki Shinonono, he soundly defeated Cecilia Alcott for the position of class representative, earning her respect both as a male and a pilot. Later, he defeated and befriended his other childhood friend Lingyin "Rin" Huang, in a close fought battle between the first year class representatives. As the year progressed, Ichika became more and more proficient with his IS, Byakkushiki, allowing him and Alcott to win the first year IS tournament, notably beating out the pair of Charlotte Dunois and Laura Bodewig, both of whom had transferred into Ichika's class mid semester.
With each victory Ichika's status grew, Academy girls who had previously ignored him joined the hype as he proved himself. But he still showed no interest in them. After the incident at the end of his first semester, where he and Houki had easily subdued a rogue IS with the help of Houki's new custom IS Akatsubaki, Ichika literally had girls throwing themselves at him, certain they were the one who could win him over.
But none of them could. Even the five closest to him, Shinonono, Alcott, Huang, Dunois and Bodewig, could not win him. For a while rumors circulated about him liking men, but these were put to rest after Ichika went on record saying he liked girls, but had already promised himself to someone. The identity of the girl was discussed to no end, but eventually the Academy surrendered to the inevitable and left Ichika alone, mostly content to simply be his friends; until he became a second year and had to start all over again.
His second and third years went much the same as the first. He became ever more proficient with his IS, eventually becoming student Council President his 3rd year. His grades were high, but not the highest in the class. He even challenged his sister to several IS battles, always losing, but coming closer to victory each time they fought.
Finally, at age 18, Ichika was close to graduating from the IS Academy. He would be the first and only male to ever graduate from the prestigious institution as well as being one of its top students. He would also have the distinction of being one of the few males in the world who could legitimately claim to have true self-control regarding women. The only thing he had left to do was to survive the senior trip to Tokyo….
Ichika Orimura sighed as he led the 3rd Year students of the IS Academy off of the buses they had ridden to Tokyo and into the evening light. Despite most of them being eighteen years of age, to Ichika it seemed that they still acted like they had when he met them three years ago as they filtered towards the hotel lobby. Using his six foot frame to keep an eye on the generally much shorter girls, Ichika caught the eye of his sister Chifuyu, who nodded in response to his shepherding of the happily twittering girls.
Eventually, between the student representatives and the teachers, all of the 3rd years were ushered into the large hotel they would be staying at.
"This is one of the finest hotels in Tokyo," said Chifuyu, "We will be staying here for two weeks. During that time you will not increase the workload of the staff any more than necessary. Do you understand me?"
"Yes ma'am!" came the combined reply.
"Now head up to your rooms and unpack," said Chifuyu, "Dinner will be served in one hour." Turning to her brother Chifuyu said, "Ichika, come here."
"Yes Miss Orimura?" said Ichika, looking down into his sisters eyes.
Chifuyu sighed, before looking back to Ichika, "I know you worked hard on finding a hotel to fit all of us, but somehow they booked the wrong number of rooms. We're short five and the hotel is full, so the teachers will be doubling up and so will some of the girls. Which means…"
"Which means I can't stay here," said Ichika with a sigh. He should really be used to it he thought, there had never been a class trip where they had managed to get his room set up with the rest of the students.
"Yes, that's it," said Chifuyu, something like pity appearing briefly in her eyes. "We've managed to find a place for you to stay, but due to it being tourist season it's quite a distance away. As a result," she paused, looking up at him with a serious face, "As a result and with regards to your previous excellent conduct here at the academy, you will be excused from all but two events, the representative dinner next Saturday and the closing ceremony the Friday after that. All other events you can come to at your discretion."
"Yes Miss Orimura," said Ichika, bowing to his sister. "Where am I staying?" he asked politely.
"A place called "Izumo Inn"", said Chifuyu, looking at the paper in her hands, "Its location is marked on this map. You just have to get there, the landlady has already been contacted and the Academy paid for your two weeks. Ichika," said Chifuyu, letting some of her sister side slip out, "Be careful in the city, you don't know what kind of people you might meet."
"Yes Chifuyu-nee," said Ichika in a low voice, "I will be careful."
"Good," said Chifuyu, back in teacher mode. "Now go get your bags and head out," she said, handing him the paper and a map.
Bowing once more, Ichika turned and headed back for the buses to get his bag. On his way he ran into Yukari Sahashi, his Student Council Secretary.
"Ah Sahashi-san, can I have a minute of your time?" said Ichika, getting the attention of his comrade.
"Oh Ichika Senpai!" said the excitable girl, "What is it? Can I help you with something? Do you need a sleeping buddy? ~I'll volunteer~"
Ichika sighed; Yukari had been one of his many admirers and had never quite given up the hope of "Getting with Him" as she put it. She had originally tried to use her position to become closer to him, but after being rejected repeatedly they had settled down into something that resembled a normal friendship. By now Yukari saying something ridiculous to him was practically her standard greeting.
"No Sahashi-san," said Ichika in the tone of long suffering acceptance, "I do not need a sleeping buddy. But you can help me with something."
"Anything you need Ichika Senpai!" she said, brightening despite his rejection.
"Well," said Ichika, "I need you to take over my duties for the trip. Miss Orimura just told me that they screwed up the rooms again and I won't be staying with the rest of the students, but quite a distance away. That means I won't be around for most of the trip."
As he finished speaking, Yukari's face turned into a picture of utter devastation unlike anything Ichika had seen since reviewing WWII. If he wasn't used to her complete overreactions he might've felt bad about it. As it was, he still felt bad about it, but only because he really should've been the one doing his job.
"But, but Ichika senpai~" whined Yukari, "What about all the time we were going to spend together~ I had it all planned out, karaoke, shopping, dinner. I even had a love hotel picked out~"
"Yukari…," said Ichika, his voice taking on the edge he used when she went too far.
"Fine…" she said, muttering under her breath, "I can take Ichika-senpai's jobs."
"Thank you Yukari," said Ichika, patting her on the head, "I owe you one."
When Ichika patted her head, Yukari's face immediately turned from devastation to something that would have shot out light beams and hearts had it not been real life.
"Oh thank you Senpai!" said Yukari happily, "If I do a good job will you take me to dinner?"
"Hmm," said Ichika, musing about Yukari's request. "Alright," he said, "If you do a good job I'll take you to dinner. As a friend," he made sure to add.
"Yes!" said Yukari, jumping up and hugging Ichika, trying to grind herself into him, "I promise to do the best job I can Senpai!"
"That's nice," said Ichika in a flat tone, before pointing off behind Yukari, "But you should really watch those girls who are trying to leave already before you say you're doing your job."
"Eh, where?" said Yukari, releasing Ichika and turning to where she thought he meant.
But there weren't any girls and Ichika used the distraction to grab his bags and start walking towards his destination. Behind him he heard Yukari yell, "Ichika Senpai you're so mean!" Sighing, Ichika looked at the map Chifuyu had handed him and started walking, having spent several hours in a bus he wanted to enjoy the cool night air.
Heading generally north, Ichika made good time despite the congestion. It helped that he was bigger than most of the people around him as well as being physically fit. It also might have had to do with the wooden training swords that were tied to his bag.
After almost thirty minutes of walking, Ichika neared a park. Deciding to enjoy the greenery, he crossed the street and headed for the nearest entrance. Mostly ignoring the people around him, Ichika enjoyed the trees, something he didn't get enough of at the Academy. Following the path, he meandered through the park, taking his time and enjoying the air.
When he reached the main square, Ichika finally looked around, checking to see how many people were about. Most of them were couples being lovey dovey, walking around holding hands or sitting on benches together. There were also a few businessmen around, talking on phones, ignoring the plants and simply using the paths to move faster. There were also a few strange people about, some standing around being shifty, others just walking around looking weird. Then he spotted somebody completely unique.
Sitting alone on a bench was a woman. At first Ichika thought she was some kind of addict or bum from her blank stare, but something made him walk a little closer. She had drawn her legs onto the bench, apparently to keep warm as the only thing that Ichika could see her wearing was a long doctor's coat. As he got closer he noticed something else, the doctors coat had blood on it. Looking about, he saw everyone else in the park ignoring her, pretending not to even notice her presence.
Looking back to the woman, Ichika's eyes fell on her just in time to notice her shiver mightily. Ichika knew he had a white knight complex, it had always been there. Despite his not dating girls, he had always cared for them more than they knew. Seeing this poor woman alone on a bench, he couldn't leave her; his spirit literally wouldn't let him. So he hefted his bag and strode purposefully in her direction.
Akitsu was cold, not just physically, but deep in her soul. She was broken, a failure, a "Scrapped Number". She could no longer have an Ashikabi; her purpose in life was gone. Nobody wanted her anyway, all the people walking by proved that. She doubted even MBI would come for her; they were the ones who had thrown her away in the first place. So she sat on a bench, planning to waste away. She had been sitting for some time, when something caught her attention, a pair of shoes. They were black she noted, black like she felt inside.
"Hey Miss," a voice said with concern from somewhere above the shoes, "Are you hurt?"
Akitsu moved her head up, from the shoes, to the white pants and jacket, up to a man's face, a face that looked worried. Something flickered inside her for just a second, but she dismissed it, others had asked about her but they had left soon enough.
"No," she said to the face before dropping her head again.
Looking into the woman's face, Ichika finally noticed that she was beautiful. She had some sort of weird tattoo on her forehead, but that wasn't what he noticed. Her face had such a look of pain on it, her blue eyes almost completely flat, it was something he had never seen before. Her hair was short, colored a pale brown, but somehow still managed to cover her face. A wind blew then, flapping her coat and drawing his eyes down. Her breasts, Ichika's mind noted as it was trying to figure out what exactly to do, were…quite lovely. Pale skin, nice shape, they looked firm…Ichika shook his head. This was not what he needed to be doing right now.
Ichika set his bag down and kneeled before the strange beauty, bringing his face close to her level. The woman was obviously troubled; her face alone had shown him that. But for some reason he didn't think that was her fault and that made him want to help her more.
"Why are you out here like this?" he asked her, worries slightly abated since she wasn't injured.
Akitsu looked back up to the man's face, it was lower this time. Why wasn't he leaving like all the others? They usually left about now. But this one still showed concern.
"I am," she said, her voice slow, "I am broken, a failure."
Ichika saw that the woman thought she spoke the truth. Something horrible must have happened to her for her to really think that. But he also saw a flicker in her eyes, like talking to her was bringing something back.
"I don't believe that," he said, his voice gentle, encouraging, "A girl like you can't be a failure."
Akitsu just stared at the man. She wasn't a failure? How could he think that? But as she looked at him, she could see that he truly believed that she wasn't a failure. A face that gentle could not possibly be lying. The small flicker inside her came back, slightly bigger this time, and she couldn't make it go away.
Ichika watched the woman's eyes flicker again and this time they stayed brighter. She didn't say anything though, so he asked her, "Do you have anywhere to go?"
"No," said Akitsu, her voice still near monotone, "Nobody want's me." Even as she said that, a thought lit up in the back of her head. Maybe he would take her somewhere? But why? Why would he do that? She was trash, something to be discarded. And where did that thought come from anyway?
"Hmm," said Ichika, face turning thoughtful as he tried to decide what to do.
This was it, thought Akitsu when the man's face changed. This was where he got up and left. Where he threw her away like everyone else.
"Why don't you come with me?" said Ichika, extending his hand and gently smiling, "I don't actually live here, but I've got a room that's relatively close by. How about you come with me, get some clothes and we can figure out to do from there, ok?"
Akitsu again just stared at the man, her face finally shifting from apathy to surprise. Why did he care? Why was he being so nice to her? She didn't understand, she had absolutely nothing to offer this man but failure.
Seeing the woman's face change, Ichika worried that he might have scared her. So he tried to calm her down. "I'm not a weirdo," he said, embarrassment on his face, "I don't want anything and I promise not to hurt you. I'm just worried about you."
He was lying, thought Akitsu, he had to be. Everybody wanted something from her. But his eyes, those deep brown eyes, they told her that he was telling the truth. He really didn't want anything from her, he would not hurt her and he was worried about her. He…cared about her. The flicker of whatever it was grew larger, not quite a blaze, but it filled her with warmth, melting some of the chill in her soul.
Unsure of what to say, Akitsu just nodded and took his hand. He was warm, she thought as he gently pulled her upright, his hand was warm. She wished she could have someone like him as her Ashikabi.
Ichika felt happy when the girl took his hand. He wasn't sure why, but he was really glad that she was coming with him. As she stood up she shivered a little, reminding him that it was chilly out and that she wasn't wearing very much.
"Here," he said buttoning up her lab coat, "Put your hands through the sleeves and we'll go."
Akitsu did as he asked, sliding her hands into the sleeves of the coat. His hands were gentle, she noted, just like the rest of him. As he finished, she finally managed to say something.
"Thank you," she said, her voice showing inflection for the first time.
"You're welcome…" Ichika said before pausing, realizing he hadn't asked the woman her name. "I'm sorry," he said, embarrassed, "But I forgot to ask your name. Mine's Ichika, Ichika Orimura."
"Akitsu," she said in response.
"Well Akitsu," said Ichika, taking her hand again "Let's go so we can get you warmed up."
"I don't think so," said a voice behind Ichika, "the Scrapped number is mine; I want her for my collection."
Turning around, Ichika saw that the speaker was a young man. He was dressed in fine, white clothing and had three people behind him, two of whom were holding obvious weapons. The rest of the people in the park had also noticed the weapons and were leaving quickly, leaving no witnesses in the area.
"What?" said Ichika, not believing what he just heard.
"You heard me," said the young man, "The scrapped number is mine." Gesturing behind him he added, "I suggest that you hand her over."
Ichika could not believe what he heard. This…brat, he talked about Akitsu like she was a thing, a possession. It awakened something very primitive inside Ichika when people talked down to others and this was worse, this was…unforgiveable.
"No," he said, voice hard as he stepped in front of Akitsu, "I will not let you take her."
The boy laughed at him. "You have no idea what she is, do you?" he said.
"I know she's a person and not a toy," said Ichika, anger coloring his voice, "Something you apparently don't."
Akitsu had been surprised when Ichika stepped in front of her. When the Ashikabi had demanded that Ichika give her over, she was certain he would. But he didn't. He defended her, putting himself in danger for her. The anger in his voice, it wasn't directed at her, it was for her…to protect her. The fire in her rose further, becoming a blaze. Her face felt hot. Stepping closer to Ichika she grabbed his arm, her body demanding that she touch this man.
Ichika was surprised when Akitsu grabbed his left arm. Turning his head slightly, he looked over just in time for her look up at him. Since Akitsu was nearly as tall as him, it put their faces rather close. Close enough for him to see the red coloring her cheeks and the want in her eyes.
"Akitsu?" he asked, confused about her reaction, "Are you alright?"
Akitsu didn't know what was wrong with her. Touching Ichika had made her whole body light up. Instead of being frozen, she felt like she was being roasted alive. If she hadn't known better she would've thought she was reacting to an Ashikabi. As she looked into Ichika's concerned eyes she choked out, "So…hot…please…"
"Hey!" said the boy, "Get away from her, she's mine!"
"Mikogami-sama," said the man behind him with warning in his voice, "I think you should step back."
"Why should I?" demanded Mikogami, glaring at the man.
"I'm not sure how," said the man, his attention completely on Akitsu, "But I think she's reacting to him. And I don't think you should be near her when she does."
"What?" said the boy, his face turning to surprise as he looked back to the couple standing in front of him, "How is that possible?"
Ichika missed the byplay between the two men because he was completely focused on Akitsu. She had pressed her soft body against him and her face was so close to his, her eyes so demanding that he couldn't look away. It was strange, his nerves felt like they were burning where she touched him, but it felt right at the same time.
"Akitsu?" he asked again, his voice hoarse even as his face was moving closer to hers.
The fire inside Akitsu burned so hot; she thought she should be a crisp on the ground. But Ichika's face was so close, she just needed to get there and she would be better, her body knew that Ichika would make it better…
"Please…" she whispered, bringing her face to his, "Please…"
And then he kissed her.
Several things happened in a short period. One was the grey haired man jumping forward; grabbing the well-dressed boy and then leaping back an impossible distance along with the two women.
The next was that ice blue wings shot from Akitsu's back. They weren't feathered; instead they appeared to be shaped from raw ice, sharp, dangerous and amazingly beautiful all at the same time. While this was happening Akitsu felt like she was going to die, she was so hot. But Ichika kissing her felt so good and while that was still going on she wouldn't let herself die. Then she felt her crest move from her forehead to her back and the feeling inside her turned to the most loving, comfortable thing she had ever felt in her life. When the crest moved Akitsu's wings turned to a halo of ten blue lights and a layer of ice shot out around her and Ichika, covering almost a ten meter radius.
The last thing that happened was that several computers beeped in the tallest building in Tokyo.
Takami Sahashi was working late again. With the Sekirei plan almost ready to begin and with more Sekirei being released everyday she just didn't have the time to do everything that needed done at MBI.
She was currently doing paperwork, the most boring but necessary aspect of her work. Checking off the last box she needed on the requisition form, she then signed it and moved it to her outbox. Sighing, she stretched her arms above her head before grabbing and then lighting a cigarette.
As she took her first puff her computer beeped, demanding her attention. Turning towards it, she clicked the alert that had come up. Data exploded across her screen, so much that she took a minute to figure out what it was telling her. When she did figure out what it was telling her, the cigarette dangling from her lips fell to the ground where she absentmindedly ground it out in the rather nice carpet her office was covered in.
After staring at the data on her screen for another minute, she reached for the phone on her desk to call the control room, but it rang first. Picking it up, she brought it to her ear in an almost casual manner that belied the feelings swirling inside of her.
"Dr. Sahashi," she said into the mouthpiece.
"Dr. thank god you're still here!" came a voice she recognized as the third shift control room leaders, "The computers just went crazy down here, they keep saying that the scrapped number got winged. And the data were getting, it's just impossible!"
"No it's not," she said calmly, almost serenely, "I've seen this before it's not wrong."
"What?" said the voice at the end of the line, its excitement changing to confusion.
"I said I've seen it before," traces of her normal brusque personality returning to her voice, "Kill your alerts but keep gathering all the data you can. I want to know everything you can tell me about her Ashikabi." Pausing she thought for a second before saying, "I'll be down in a minute, get Yume and Musubi up there so I can talk to them."
"Ye-yes ma'am," said the voice before she hung up on it.
"Yume, why are we being called up so late?" asked Musubi, the normally cheery girl yawning from sleepiness after she asked her question.
"I don't know Musubi," answered Yume, leading the younger girl towards the control room, "it's probably important though."
Pushing open the doors to MBI's Sekirei control room, Yume and Musubi were treated to the rare sight of frantic activity in the normally calm room. Looking around, Yume saw Dr. Sahashi bent over one of the terminals. Leading Musubi towards the Dr. Yume wondered what was going on; nothing she could think of would bring this level of confusion to the normally composed workers. As they got close, Dr. Sahashi stood and turned from the terminal she had been looking at.
Spotting Yume and Musubi the Dr. headed towards them as well. "Good, you're here," she called out, gesturing to both of them to follow her.
"What's going on Dr.?" asked Yume.
"Your Ashikabi is in the city," Takami said simply as they reached a new terminal.
Yume froze when Takami said that. Her heart started beating fast and her breathing became ragged. "Really?" she managed to say, her voice filled with emotion.
"Yes," said Takami, busy typing something into the terminal, "We know it's him because he just winged Akitsu."
"But wasn't she broken?" asked Musubi innocently.
"Yes," answered Takami, "Just like Yume and you were before he winged both of you Musubi. That's why we're sure it's him."
"Where is he?" asked Yume, her heart pounding in her chest. She wanted to, no, she needed to see him. It had been ten years since she had held Ichika and knowing that her Ashikabi was so close to her caused her to want him even more than she normally did.
"We're not positive," said Takami, apparently finding what she wanted on the terminal and then turning to face Yume, "Akitsu managed to disappear from surveillance and we haven't managed to reacquire her. All we know is that she was headed north the last time we saw her and there have been several reports of strange people with large weapons in one of the northern parks."
"That's all I need," said Yume, turning on her heel and grabbing Musubi's hand, "Come on Musubi, we need to go find our Ashikabi."
"Yume, wait," said Takami, causing the brown haired Sekirei to turn to her briefly. "You need to be careful," said Takami, worry in her voice, "You're Ashikabi is unique so there might be people after him. Make sure you take care of him."
"Of course," said Yume, "I would never let anything happen to my Ashikabi." Turning back she led Musubi out the door.
Staring after them, Takami turned back to the terminal she had been working on. Pictured on the screen was a tall young man with black hair and brown eyes. Data was still coming in, but several things were already apparent about the young man and some of them were sure to draw the wrong kind of attention towards him, possibly from MBI itself.
Staring at the picture Takami muttered under her breath, "I hope you're right Yume."
When Ichika finally managed to break the kiss with Akitsu, he opened his eyes to see the pale woman staring at him, a beatific smile on her face.
"You are my master," she said, her voice ringing with fulfillment, "Forever and ever."
When Akitsu said "Forever and ever" in that tone of voice, memories flashed into Ichika's head. Brown hair, screams, softness, an evil feeling, a promise…Ichika shook his head. Where had that come from? It was at the back of his head, but he couldn't quite find it. Then some words came forward, Ashikabi and Sekirei.
"Master?" asked Akitsu, worry in her tone, "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine Akitsu," said Ichika, eyes again seeing the woman. "Akitsu," he asked, "do you know the words Sekirei or Ashikabi?"
"Yes," she answered her tone back to its normal tone, "You are my Ashikabi and I am your Sekirei."
"I think…I think I have more," said Ichika, his voice unsure, half-forgotten memories playing in his head.
"What!" yelled the boy, who had again approached the pair, "How do you "Think" you have more Sekirei, you either you do or you don't!"
"It was a long time ago," said Ichika absentmindedly, not paying attention to the boy's tone, "I can't really remember."
"Wha?" a strangled tone came from the boy. "Mutsu!" he said, turning on the man standing behind him, "You said that the Sekirei had only been released recently!"
"They have," said Mutsu, his tone cautious, "But there were rumors that a few had been winged beforehand."
"Who?" asked the boy, "Which numbers? How powerful were they?"
"I don't know," said Mutsu, "That's why they're rumors."
"Number 8, Yume and Number 88, Musubi," said Ichika, more memories coming forward, "I promised…forever and ever."
When Ichika said that, Akitsu shifted uncomfortably, drawing his attention back to the pale woman.
"Is that what you want too?" Ichika asked her. Akitsu didn't move for a moment, but then her head made a small up and down motion.
"Then I promise you forever and ever as well Akitsu," Ichika said, wondering why it felt right to say that.
The quiet woman just nodded and again snuggled closer to Ichika, drawing his arm tighter against her. Which Ichika noted, brought his arm right between her very soft breasts.
It was then that that the woman with a scythe standing behind Mikogami stepped forward. Hefting it, she said, "Since he just winged her, I say we take them both out now so we don't have to deal with him later."
"That's…" Mutsu started, but was interrupted by Akitsu.
The woman had stepped in front of Ichika, summoned and fired a razor sharp ice shard in front of each of Mikogami's Sekirei while summoning even more around her before anyone else could move.
"You will not harm my Master," she said, her tone holding just a hint of anger.
"Like I was saying," Mutsu said, his hand on his sword, "That's not a good idea. She was number seven. I might be able to take her, but you two are outmatched. Mikogami-sama, I suggest we retreat for now."
"That's fine Mutsu," said the boy, looking curiously at Ichika, "I have no interest in fighting right now. In fact," he paused there, "I think fighting this man would be a bad idea."
"What?" said the scythe wielder, her voice scornful "He's just a human."
"No Yomi," said the boy, still staring at Ichika, "This is not just any human. This is Ichika Orimura, the only male able to use an Infinite Stratos. Which makes him very interesting as well as very dangerous."
"Him," said Yomi, "He's dangerous?"
"Yes," said Mikogami, pointing to the white bracelet on Ichika's right wrist, "If I'm not mistaken, that is his IS right there. Am I right?" he directed the last at Ichika.
"Yeah," said Ichika, deciding to humor the kid, "That's Byakku-shiki Setsura."
"That's so cool!" said Mikogami, visibly shocking everyone but Akitsu, "I'm one of your biggest fans!"
"Uh…" said Ichika, his brain managing to finally skid out of control, "Thanks, I guess."
"Mikogami-sama?" asked Mutsu, "Shouldn't we be leaving if he's so dangerous?"
"No!" said Mikogami, "This is the only man who can truly be equal to a woman today! The only man who can really be himself!"
"Akitsu," said Ichika to his Sekirei, who still had several dozen sharp icicles floating in the air around her, "I think you can stop…whatever it is that you're doing. I don't think he'll let them attack us now."
Akitsu didn't say anything, but a slight twitch of her head acknowledged Ichika's suggestion and the icicles disappeared from the air. She however, did not move from in front of him. While this was going on, Mikogami had continued to extol Ichika's many varied and partially imagined virtues to his stunned Sekirei.
"Uhm," said Ichika to Mikogami's back, not really trying to get his attention, "We're going to go now." Grabbing Akitsu's hand he said, "Let's go." Pulling the ice woman after him, Ichika grabbed his bag and headed towards the exit opposite of the excited teenager. Mutsu was the only one that actually noticed them leaving, but declined to alert his master, not wanting him to spend any longer than necessary out in the chill spring air.
Several minutes later, Mikogami was still talking about Ichika, now explaining how Byakku-shiki was one of the best IS's ever made. He was interrupted by the arrival of Yume and Musubi, who appeared in standard Sekirei fashion, leaping from the sky. Yume landed right in front of Mikogami, but Musubi managed to crash into Yomi, flattening the scythe wielding Sekirei.
Grabbing Mikogami's shoulders, Yume asked, "Where is he? I know he was here."
"Where's who?" asked Mikogami, his train of thought not managing to catch up to the excited Sekirei.
"Ichika!" Yume said, "Where is he?"
"Oww…" said Musubi, just now managing to sit up on top of Yomi.
"He's right…" said Mikogami, pointing over his shoulder, "Where'd he go?"
"He left about five minutes ago heading north," supplied Mutsu, who was mildly amused by the whole thing, "Look for a woman wearing nothing but a doctor's coat and a tall guy in white."
"Thanks!" said Yume, then turning to the just standing 88, "Come on Musubi, we've got to catch them!"
"No problem, Yume," said Mutsu, watching the two nearly identical Sekirei leap away.
"God Damn it Mutsu!" yelled Yomi, who was just now standing up, "Why did you let them get away!"
"I wasn't aware we were supposed to stop them," answered the tall, calm Sekirei.
"But she landed on me!" exclaimed Yomi, rage obvious in her voice.
"Enough," said Mikogami, his eyes pointed north, "Let us return home now, there's nothing left for us here."
"Yes Mikogami-sama," said Mutsu, who politely grabbed the young man and started back south, accompanied by Yomi and Mitsuha.
"Mutsu," said Mikogami as they leapt across the Tokyo skyline, "I want to meet him again."
"I don't," said Mutsu.
"Why?" asked Mikogami, "He was quite polite, even after we threatened him."
"Because of his Sekirei," said Mutsu, "The first five were the most powerful of the Sekirei's, but numbers six, seven and eight were nearly as powerful even before they were winged. He has winged seven, eight and eighty eight, which means that he is probably one of the most powerful Ashikabi's in the game already, even if he doesn't know what's going on."
"Hmm," said Mikogami, thinking over what Mutsu had just said, "It looks like the game is going to become much more fun now that he's here.
Mutsu just shook his head.
Ichika hadn't had a destination in mind when he had pulled Akitsu away from Mikogami and his three sycophants. He had only wanted to get away before they had a fight. Now that they had gotten away, Ichika realized that he was slightly lost. Not only that, they were getting a lot of stares because of how Akitsu was dressed. Looking around, Ichika searched for somewhere that he could take the pale woman that would be out of public view.
Spotting a likely building, Ichika pulled Akitsu after him, ignoring the strange looks that followed them. Entering the building, Ichika was greeted by something he had never seen before. It was an otaku store. It was filled with various things from all sorts of popular shows and manga's, from the actual materials to things such as figurines and cosplay.
Since it was late at night, there were only a few people wandering around the store and most of them seemed to know what they were looking for. When Ichika entered and then stopped with Akitsu close behind him, it drew the attention of the store attendant, who came over to them.
"Can I help you?" she asked, approaching the unlikely duo.
"Uhm," said Ichika, looking around the store and then back to Akitsu, "Do you happen to have anything that might fit my friend here? She uhm…lost all her clothes in a fire."
"Uhn huh," said the clerk, looking at Ichika, then to Akitsu, then back to Ichika, her face saying that she was deciding on whether they were just weird or if she needed to call the police. Apparently deciding they were just weird, she looked Akitsu over once more before saying, "We should have something I think, but your friend is a little taller than average and quite…large." She said the last while looking at Akitsu's chest, which managed to stick out even with the doctor's coat covering it.
"Uhm, yeah," said Ichika, glancing at where the clerk was looking before looking back to the clerk, "I don't really know what would fit her so if you could help…"
"I've got it," said the clerk, gesturing to Akitsu, "Come with me and we'll see if we can find something for you."
Akitsu looked at Ichika, who nodded and said, "I'll be here when you get done."
Akitsu nodded and followed the clerk towards the back of the store, where most of the costumes were located.
Ichika, not knowing what else to do, stayed out front and started looking at the manga on display. He had spent a couple minutes browsing and was about to pick up one that seemed interesting when his phone went off. Reaching into his pocket he flipped the phone up to his ear.
"Hello?" he said, wondering who could be calling at this time of night.
"Iikun!" said a very loud and high pitched female voice.
"Hello Tabane," said Ichika, holding the phone slightly away from his ear, "Why are you calling at such a time?"
"It's because Iikun is naughty!" declared Tabane.
"What?" said Ichika, not understanding what she was saying.
"I figured it out! You kissed another one!" said Tabane at high speed, "Byakku-shiki told me you did! That's why you can do it!"
"Slow down Tabane," said Ichika, totally confused, "I don't understand what you're saying."
"It's because of that nasty man and his toys!" Tabane continued without regard to what Ichika was saying, "That mean man, with his stupid ideas and crazy talk! That's why you can do it Iikun! And if you get more you can do it better!"
"Tabane, said Ichika, "I have no clue what you just told me."
"Sorry Iikun I gotta run! There's so much exciting stuff going on and I have to keep up with it all! Say hi to Chi-chan for me!" With that, Tabane ended the call.
Ichika took the phone off his ear and stared at it, wondering if he had just hallucinated that whole conversation. But knowing Tabane, she had probably actually been trying to tell him something. Whether what she had tried to tell him was important or not was something he didn't know.
Sighing, Ichika put the phone back in his pocket. He had just found the manga he had chosen again when the store clerk surprised him.
"We're back!" she said, from behind Ichika, causing him to spin around in surprise. What he saw then made him shake his head to make sure he wasn't seeing things.
Akitsu was standing beside the clerk wearing what might generously be called a kimono. It certainly had the appearance of a kimono, being white with black trim and a large black bow in front. But that was where its resemblance ended. Where a normal kimono covered, this revealed.
On the bottom it looked mostly normal, except that Ichika caught a glimpse of it as it swirled, causing it to show entirely too much of Akitsu's leg for his wellbeing. On top it was even worse. The material was literally off the edge of Akitsu's shoulders, causing it to show a great deal of her breasts and the entirety of her cleavage. It was only held together by a chain that went across the mid part of her breasts and there was another chain that went around her neck like a collar, ran down between her cleavage and disappeared beneath the large bow that was fastened right below her breasts.
Ichika could not help but stare. While he had been at a school that was entirely girls besides him, nothing he had seen could prepare him for this. Akitsu had literally centimeters of cloth between her and indecency. It became worse when she noticed him staring and managed to stand up straighter, thrusting her chest out even farther, something Ichika would have sworn was not possible.
"I wasn't sure exactly what to get her," said the clerk, standing cheerily between the two, "But when I asked her about your relationship she gave me just the right idea. We've had this in stock for the longest time and nobody ever wanted it. But when she put it on I knew it was exactly what you'd be looking for."
"Exactly what I was looking for?" said Ichika, turning his face towards the clerk.
"Yes!" said the clerk, "We're not a specialty store, but we cater to all types. You never would've struck me as the type, but when she said you we're her master I was certain you'd love it. Isn't it perfect?"
"Uhm," said Ichika, his mind going through all the things that were wrong with it, starting with what it would do to his health, "What do you think Akitsu?"
Akitsu was quite for about three second before she said, "I like it."
"Great," said Ichika, wondering how this was going to work out in the long run, besides the added strain on his heart. Turning to the clerk he said, "I guess we'll take it."
"Excellent!" said the clerk, her voice entirely too cheerful for Ichika. Holding up a bag she said, "Since they were the only ones we had I grabbed the two extras as well. Altogether they should only cost 9700 yen since they're on special discount."
"Sure, fine," said Ichika, not really sure what else to do seeing as how he didn't have anything that would fit Akitsu in his bag. Smiling happily, the clerk led Ichika and Akitsu towards the checkout counter where she proceeded to ring them up.
"9700 yen just like I said!" chirped the clerk happily.
Ichika sighed as he pulled out his wallet. He had brought a decent amount of money with him because of the trip, but to many more purchases like this and he would need to get more money. Handing over a 10000 yen bill Ichika looked at Akitsu who seemed uneasy.
"Is something wrong Akitsu?" he asked, worried about the quiet woman.
After the mandatory pause that seemed to come whenever she spoke, Akitsu said, "Ah, yes," and pointed towards the window where there was a girl staring at them. She was…unique looking.
She was of around average height, about 5'3", 5'4" with brown hair that was cut short in front with a long tail in the back that flapped in the wind. She was dressed in an abbreviated miko outfit, the white haori looked correct but her red skirt was cut like someone going out clubbing. She also had on white upper thigh high stocking, shin length brown boots and was wearing red fighting gloves. Her chest also appeared to be the biggest Ichika had ever seen, beating out even Akitsu's.
As the girl stared at him, Ichika stared back. He had a funny feeling that he'd seen her somewhere before, but he couldn't place it. As they continued to stare at each other another woman came into view. She looked similar to the girl, like an older sister.
She was the same height and had the same general face shape, though hers was stronger and more mature while her chest was smaller. Her hair was cut almost exactly the same as the miko girls. Her outfit appeared to be a tight black leather top with red piping, a short black skirt similar to the miko girls, along with the mandatory upper thigh stockings, black this time, and calf length black boots.
The woman walked up to the miko girl and apparently asked her something, Ichika could see her mouth move but couldn't hear anything. The miko girl didn't respond, but put her hand up and pointed at Ichika. The older looking woman turned towards Ichika an impatient look on her face. But when her eyes met his, her face went slack, like she couldn't believe her eyes.
Ichika's brain was now screaming at him. He remembered her face, he was certain. That was…Yume. The memories flooded in now, her breaking in and rescuing him, the kiss, and her saying goodbye with tears in her eyes, only stopped by a promise of him coming to find her. That made the other one Musubi, all grown up from the little girl he remembered her as.
The three of them stared at each other for a little while more, until Ichika's concentration was interrupted by the cashier saying, "And three hundred yen is your change!"
"Thanks," said Ichika absentmindedly, sticking the change into the bag containing Akitsu's extra outfits. Grabbing the bag with his right hand and Akitsu with his left, he headed out of the store, his eyes on the two nearly identical women standing there. Shoving open the door with his shoulder, Ichika led Akitsu out into the night, stopping in front of the two women.
Yume couldn't believe it. Ichika was standing there, not five feet in front of her. But she couldn't move. It had been so long, so very very long since she had seen him in person. For Musubi it hadn't been the same, she had no memories of Ichika and just the word of her elders that she had already been winged. That meant that she only felt the instinctual pull to find her Ashikabi, she didn't know that she missed him.
But for Yume it was different. She had met her Ashikabi, knew him and felt his love. That made the ten years since then a constant low level torture for her. Most of the time she was ok, but about once every three months she went into a day or two long mood where she withdrew from everyone and simply…remembered. It was the only way for her to cope with not having her Ashikabi near her.
Now with her goal in life so near, she couldn't reach it. She couldn't raise her arm to stretch out and touch him. Her heart was beating so had she wondered why it hadn't pounded out of her chest. Her breathing was choppier than an ocean storm. It was taking all of her being simply to keep standing.
Ichika could feel the…need coming from Yume. It was something almost instinctual, something that existed on a primal level that she couldn't control. It had been so long for her that the hunger was eating at her. Setting down the bag in his right hand he squeezed Akitsu's with his left, waiting for a return squeeze before letting go.
Then he took a step forward and after that another. That put him right in front of Yume. Ichika could see her quivering as he closed. Slowly he raised his left hand and put it on her cheek.
When Ichika's hand touched her Yume felt…complete, it was the only word to describe the feeling inside her. She stood there for a moment, letting his hand warm her cheek while her emotions welled within her. Then Ichika said what she needed to hear.
"It's alright Yume," he said, his voice soft, "I found you again so it's ok to cry now, because I'll be here, forever and ever."
With that Yume's tears started. First it was just little rivulets running down her face. Then the first sobs. After the first three Ichika's hand moved to the back of her head and pulled her to him, wrapping his right arm around her as well. He felt so warm against her, so real. She wrapped her arms around him as her head hit his chest and the tears really started to flow.
Eventually Ichika could feel Yume calming down, but he could also feel his other two Sekirei becoming…jealous wasn't the right word. It was more like they were becoming more aware of their need to be with him. Lifting his head, he saw Musubi, tears almost in her eyes, staring at him and Yume.
Ichika raised his right hand from Yume and gestured Musubi forward. The young Sekirei wasted no time and attached herself to both Yume and Ichika, sharing the warmth. Ichika put his hand on her back, rubbing it gently as she started to sniff onto Ichika's side almost in time with Yume.
Turning his head, Ichika looked over his shoulder and gestured to Akitsu with his left hand. The ice woman didn't move for a moment, but then quickly stepped towards Ichika. Pausing just a second, she then placed herself next to Ichika, just barely touching Yume but initiating the contact nonetheless. Ichika wrapped his arm around her as well, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
The scene lasted for several minutes, the two nearly identical brown haired girls sniffing into Ichika's chest, their hands wrapped around Ichika and each other. Alongside the pale woman dressed in white who appeared distant, but in reality was just as much a part of the scene as they were.
Ichika, being the only one who hadn't had a true emotional revelation that day, was the first to recover. Looking about he saw relatively few people around. With Yume and Musubi only sobbing occasionally now, he decided to end the crying and begin the healing.
Akitsu was the first; she had lifted her head right after he did. After her it was Musubi who was in a better position to respond to his movement. Yume was last, though hers lasted just a little longer than the others. After he was done, Ichika was surrounded by three content women and three pairs of wings, one ice blue and two light pink.
End note: So, how'd I do? I wasn't entirely pleased with it to be honest, but that could just be my self deprecation coming out. I'd really appreciate reviews on this one, there's just so much that I'm not sure I could pick out what I'm proud of and what I'm not happy with.
Also, because this series has a lot of possibilities, I've put a poll up on my profile. It will let you, the readers, choose probably one, maybe two extra Sekirei's for Ichika depending on the voting. It also will depend on how fast you vote as several of the options, IE Miya, Karasuba and Uzume, will need to have elements written in early for them to make sense in the story.
So please review, vote and I'll see you guys with the next chapter.
AN 6/15/2017: Like the previous chapter, minor wording changes and edits. Nothing major.