Special thanks to Zidana123 for beta-ing. I recommend you all take the opportunity to go over the previous chapters. They are now largely mistake-free.

Disclaimer: I don't own Valvrave.

xXx

Interlude: Before we go to War

xXx

It began with a question.

"Is Sashinami Shoko here?"

Saki raised an eyebrow as she looked up from her book, Polidori's The Vampyre this time.

"L-Elf," she greeted the silver-haired Dorssian standing at her door. "Nice to see you too, and no, she's not here."

"But," she added, closing her book and putting it down. "I am guessing you already knew that."

L-Elf looked at her for a moment. "Why would you think so?"

Saki frowned. So that was how he wanted to play this? Fine then. "You've been avoiding her ever since she returned to the Module. Are you really telling me you haven't been keeping tabs on her through the security cameras?"

"I have no need to resort to that to avoid a high-school student," L-Elf replied in a way that made it seem like he was denying her words even though he really wasn't.

Saki sighed. Typical L-Elf answer.

"However," L-Elf added. "You are correct in assuming it is not her I wished to see."

"I am guessing this is not just a social visit then?" Saki asked. She sat at the edge of her bed and crossed her legs, causing her skirt to ride up a little. Just about every other male in the Module would have used the opportunity to peek at her thighs, but L-Elf's gaze didn't even waver.

Saki's right eye twitched. She didn't want him to look nor had she expected him to, but the complete lack of interest kind of pissed her off.

"It is about Sashinami Shoko," L-Elf said, and the way he said the name made Saki sit a little straighter. She knew that tone. It was the same one he had used back then. "Is she ready?"

Saki frowned. Echoes of a conversation that had happened a few weeks ago drifted to her ears.

"It would be in our best interests if you kept an eye on her."

Everything had seemed so simple back then.

"She's better. That's all I can really say," Saki said after taking a moment to consider her words. "She hasn't fully regained her confidence, but she is more stable now than she was a few weeks ago. However, if you expect her to be like the old Shoko, you'll be disappointed."

L-Elf considered her words for a moment. "Would she be able to perform her role?"

The question made her stomach perform a backflip. No, not just the question but the tone. The way L-Elf spoke about Shoko was detached, clinical... unfeeling. Then again, she hadn't exactly been feeling all that empathetic towards Shoko when she had agreed to L-Elf's suggestion.

"Already?" Saki asked.

"Recent events necessitate it," L-Elf replied, his blue eyes coolly peering into hers. "Remember, to the rest of the world Sashinami Shoko is still the face of Module 77."

Saki smiled bitterly. Those words again. That had been how he sold her the idea the first time around.

It had been shortly after they had rescued the students drifting through space and before she had confronted Shoko. Back then, she had nothing but anger towards the former Prime Minister.

When L-Elf had suggested she approach Shoko in order to keep tabs on her, she had accepted.

She hadn't wanted to do it at first. Not out of respect for Shoko, but rather because she wanted nothing to do with the girl. However, she had been forced to admit L-Elf had a point. Her negative opinion of Shoko aside, Saki couldn't deny Shoko was too important to be left alone.

To the people outside the Module, Shoko was still the leader of Module 77 and to the people in the Module, Shoko was too significant to be ignored. Like it or not, she was an important existence for Module 77 and the probability of them needing her charisma in the future was high.

That was how L-Elf had convinced her.

Saki had accepted the job. She had kept an eye on Shoko and slowly rehabilitated her as per L-Elf's instructions, all for the day when they would need to use her.

It would have been easy if Shoko weren't so hard to hate.

"She's not ready for any type of public speaking," Saki said, shaking her head. "She's still too insecure. She'd never agree to it."

"I'm certain you can sway her opinion if the need arises," L-Elf said in a matter-of-fact tone. "She has become attached to you during these past days."

Saki's reply was instant. "Nope."

L-Elf raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"If you want to convince Shoko to do something, talk to her yourself," Saki said, shrugging. "You have been avoiding her long enough. I am not going to manipulate her for you."

"You agreed to this," L-Elf reminded her, his eyes narrowing so slightly she would have missed it entirely had she not known him better.

"I did." Saki did not deny it. She stood up and walked up to L-Elf, meeting his gaze without fear. "I was so angry back then that I had forgotten it."

"Forgotten what?"

"I had forgotten that Shoko is a good person."

This time, there was no missing the narrowing of L-Elf's eyes. Most people in the Module would have averted their gaze from L-Elf's frosty glare, but Saki held her ground.

"Do you have a problem with that?" Saki challenged, crossing her arms.

"Several," L-Elf replied coolly. "Putting arguments about morality aside, I cannot imagine anything good could come from our meeting. To say my feelings towards Sashinami Shoko are negative at the moment would be putting it mildly."

Watching L-Elf try to control his emotions was amazing in the sense that someone who didn't know him would never notice it, yet someone who did would never fail to notice it.

If you knew what to look for, L-Elf was quite expressive, Saki mused.

L-Elf was angry about what happened during ARUS' attack and Saki could not really blame him for it. She hadn't even been there and she was still a little angry at Shoko for the whole thing. If she hadn't been passing right over that particular part of the Moon at that precise moment, L-Elf and Haruto would have died there.

Not that it had helped Haruto in the end... but it could have been much worse and that prospect terrified Saki.

"Sashinami Shoko is necessary for the Module's future," L-Elf said, almost forcing the words to come out of his mouth. "She possesses a natural charisma and sense of genuineness that most politicians lack. Thanks to those qualities she gained the leadership of the Module."

Plus a big moon festival, Saki added mentally.

"Those qualities are also why she failed. They allowed her to rise to a position she was not yet ready for. Unchecked, she is dangerous. However, if we can exert more control over her she can become useful," L-Elf said, not showing a scrap of guilt for reducing Shoko to the level of a tool. "For the world Haruto Tokishima wanted this is-"

"Don't!" Saki said, raising her finger. If L-Elf's glare earlier had been freezing, then Saki's could have caused people to combust on the spot. A flash of red crossed her eyes and if it had been anyone else, L-Elf would have dismissed it as a trick of the light. "Don't you dare use Haruto's name as a tool!"

A crack actually appeared on L-Elf's facade at her words. "I am not-"

"You are," Saki shouted. "You did it last meeting as well. Did you think I wouldn't notice? You used his name to sway us to your side."

A bitter laugh escaped her lips.

"It must be very convenient for you. You say his name, look human for a moment, and suddenly we are all doing your bidding for Haruto."

Using death and tragedy to advance a personal agenda. It was something Saki was not unfamiliar with. During her idol days, there had been one annoying group she had to compete with. It had been a trio, each one of them worse than the other. When the cameras weren't rolling, they were always at each other's throats. The only reason they hadn't broken up was because none of them had what it took for a solo career.

Then tragedy struck. One of them died in a traffic accident. At least, that was the official story. Those in the business knew it had been an overdose.

Regardless, the two girls who hadn't possessed even an ounce of positive feeling towards their teammate were soon shedding countless tears in front of the cameras. Using that tragedy they had rapidly increased their sales and popularity.

It had been utterly disgusting.

Just like this.

"Is that all Haruto is to you now? Another tool?" Saki asked. "You two were friends."

To that L-Elf had nothing to say. She wouldn't understand, he told himself. She couldn't. There was too much at stake. What he did was necessary. He wasn't ashamed. He wasn't embarrassed. He wasn't guilty at all.

Yet L-Elf found himself averting his gaze.

"I expected better from you," Saki said at last. "I don't know why but I did. Just... just leave."

L-Elf did.

xXx

Once upon a time, when the school had been a school and the students had been students, one would almost certainly have found Kitagawa Iori in the Student Council room. It was just the way things were. Whenever there was Student Council work to be done, the Vice-President would be there, tirelessly toiling away.

The fact that she got to spend more time with Satomi that way had nothing to do with it.

Really.

However, there was no Student Council anymore. No afterschool meetings. No more getting distracted by Satomi's focused gaze as he balanced the budget.

That had all been a lifetime ago.

That was why Ninomiya Takahi did not find Iori in the Student Council room. It had been the first place she had checked just to be on the safe side. She had then gone through Iori's usual hangouts with similar results. It was only after a lot of searching around the campus that she had to resort to actually asking if anyone had seen her.

The answers she had received were not what she had been expecting at all. In fact, she had almost believed it was a joke when she first heard it.

However, Takahi could not deny what she saw with her own eyes.

Kitagawa Iori did not hear her enter the building nor did she notice her steps as she made her way towards her. The girl was too focused on her task. Her hands moved with dexterity and vigor Takahi would have never associated with the girl. Sweat shined on her forehead and her eyes burned with intense concentration.

Takahi raised an eyebrow as shy, innocent Iori actually roared while sending her opening flying away with a vicious uppercut, leaving a trail of blood in the air. Victory sounds came from the speaker and the screen flashed with the words "YOU WIN" prominently displayed.

Iori allowed herself a satisfied smile. She took a deep breath and wiped some sweat from her forehead before she turned around.

Their eyes met.

Takahi arched a delicate eyebrow.

"T-this i-is n-not what it looks like!" Iori said, wildly waving her arms around as her face went from white to red, then settled on an interesting shade of purple.

"Isn't it?" Takahi asked. "I believe we are far past the point where an explanation is necessary."

The once Vice-President of the student council was enjoying herself at an arcade like a common teenager.

Although it was not kind to say it, Module 77 was very much a ghost town. Since the school campus had enough space for all the remaining students and then some, the large majority of the buildings in the Module were completely uninhabited. Movie theaters, bars, and stores were completely without personnel. There was nothing to stop the students from going to these places and taking whatever they wanted; many of them had done exactly that.

The arcade Iori was using was no different. It was an empty building to which no one went to anymore. Somehow, it had become the girl's hangout spot.

Takahi did not want to imagine how that happened.

"It's not like that," Iori cried out, spreading her arms as if her thin body could somehow hide the bright screen that showed all the high scores had been taken by her. "I wasn't...I was just...checking to see if they worked?"

Takahi raised a hand. "Stop. Please. This is just embarrassing."

From Student Council Vice-President to Gaming Addict. How far some people fell.

To Takahi's surprise, Iori did not shrink back from her. Instead, she glared.

"Okay, fine! I was playing," Iori said, her hands clenched into fists at her sides. "So what? I am free to do what I want with my personal time."

It wasn't like she had anything else to do. Her past actions put her at odds with the current government and most students did not feel comfortable interacting with her. Besides, it wasn't like she was all that comfortable hanging around the others either.

Too much baggage.

"That you are," Takahi admitted, crossing her arms under her breasts. The motion just made them look even bigger and Iori knew she was doing it just to annoy her. "To each their own, I suppose."

"Why are you even here?" Iori asked, eager to get Takahi out of her hair.

"Think," Takahi said in that annoying high-handed way of hers, as if Iori was a peasant that was tolerated but far from wanted. "What possible reason could I have for seeking you out?"

Iori frowned. For once not because Takahi annoyed her... not just because of it at any rate.

"Oh," she said, crossing her arms and looking away. "That."

By "that" she meant the contents of her last talk with Ninomiya.

If any of the students wanted to rebel again, there was a decent chance they would try to contact her. She needed to be on the lookout for that and contact Takahi if it happened.

In plain terms, she was bait.

Like it or not, she had turned herself into a significant figure for the Module. Not popular. Not loved. Not feared.

Just significant.

"Yes, that," Takahi said. To her credit, she did not look entirely comfortable with the subject at hand either. "Has anyone approached you since our last talk?"

Iori shook her head. "No," she said.

"Have you heard the other students discuss anything of importance?" Takahi asked next.

"Am I your spy too now? Do you expect me to keep track of everything?" Iori snapped at Takahi. However, the blonde did not react. She just kept starting at Iori with an impassive expression on her face.

Iori sighed. "No, I haven't heard anything important, but I don't think I am the most reliable source since..."

Iori waved a hand around.

"Of course," Takahi said. If she had been spending all her time at the arcade, then her contact with the other students had been minimal. "Try to keep a closer eye on things from now on. From here on, things are going to be... troublesome."

Iori gave her a look. "Are you talking about the situation in Module 60?"

Takahi blinked. She had not been expecting that.

"How?"

For a brief moment Iori looked puzzled. "You don't know," she realized, a smile blooming on her face. Takahi did not like that smile at all.

"Know what?"

"Pilots have already been briefed on the mission details," Iori said, content to let Takahi draw her own conclusions.

"You?" Takahi shouted, her eyes wide and one delicate finger pointed to the girl in front of her. "Of all people, you?"

"I took the test and qualified," Iori said, doing her best to imitate Takahi's casual arrogance. Judging from the twitch of the blonde girl's eye, it worked. "Unlike someone I could mention, I actually managed to complete the course on my first try."

Iori's gaze lowered. "I guess it is only to be expected. I didn't have those things blocking my way."

Takahi flushed scarlet.

xXx

The hangar was busy with activity.

L-Elf had given the orders and now all the mechanics were working non-stop to make sure the Kirschbaums were in top condition. It was long, tedious work that was largely useless in practice yet could not be skipped under any circumstances.

The machines were brand new. The probability of something being wrong with them was minuscule. They didn't even have pilots for most of them just yet. However, they could not afford to take any risks because the safety of the Module depended on these machines.

Worst of all, there were not many people in the Module with the expertise necessary for the task. There may only be ten Kirschbaums, but they were giant robots. Performing maintenance on a car was hard enough. Performing maintenance on an eighty-ton metal giant was nothing less than a herculean task.

"Argh, I can't do this anymore!" Toru Miyamachi shouted, gripping his hair between his sweaty fingers. His tools loudly fell to the floor next to him.

Toru was a stocky teenager of above average height. He had messy brown hair which was usually covered by a cap worn sideways. Normally, he had an easy smile on his face, but now he just looked tired.

He was not alone in that. His friend, Seiya Kamisugi, took his words as the signal to collapse next to him.

"Come on, guys. It's not that bad," Yusuke tried to cheer them up, but the quick glares the two sent his way put an end to that. Some people could control the mood of a room with a smile, but Yusuke was not one of those people.

Besides, he wasn't exactly all that happy at the moment.

"Okay, yeah. It sucks," he admitted. In a louder voice, he said, "everyone! We're taking a one hour break!"

Numerous relieved sighs and a few cheers filled the room. There would have been more cheers if everyone wasn't so tired already. Yusuke just sighed and let himself fall to the floor next to the Kirschbaum they had been working on. Meanwhile, Seiya reached into the cooler they had brought with them and took out three soda cans.

"Here," he said, giving one to Yusuke and another to Toru before taking a seat at their side.

"Thanks, buddy," Toru said as he took the can and opened it. Yusuke just nodded in his general direction, too tired to properly thank him.

For a moment, there was silence as the three friends took their first sip.

Seiya was the first to break it.

"It's just not fair," he whined, resting his head on his knees.

"How long did you last?" Toru asked, instantly understanding what his friend was talking about. "I don't think I made it past ten seconds."

"I hurled in the simulator," Seiya replied, his tone wooden. Both of his friends winced.

"Ouch." It was all they could say.

Yusuke hadn't exactly lasted long in that thing, but at least the contents of his stomach had stayed there.

"I heard Juto made it," Yusuke added a moment later.

"Of course, he did," Toru said, waving a hand around. "Have you not seen the guy? He's all muscle."

"Guys like that don't need the added coolness," Seiya grumbled. "Piloting giant robots is supposed to be the domain of people with no experience or qualifications!"

"Anime does make it look easier," Toru admitted. He pressed the soda can against his cheek, enjoying its coldness.

"You just fall into the cockpit and pick it up in a few minutes. That's how it always goes. Name one time it didn't," Seiya complained, shaking his soda can emphatically before taking another sip.

"Mazinger Z," Yusuke replied instantly. "Kouji wrecked the city during his first try."

"Shinji kind of sucked at first," Toru added. "And that was with a thought-controlled robot. There is also the first Macross. Hikaru sucked hard in robot mode."

"You're not supposed to find examples!" Seiya shouted, face red. The high-school student hung his head in defeat. "I wanted to be a cool giant robot pilot."

It was a sentiment that was shared by the other two. The three had witnessed the realities of war in various ways, but certain fantasies were hard to let go of.

The pilots of Module 77 had shined too brightly for people not to aspire to be like them.

"What happened to Haruto," Toru began, "it really did seem like something out of an anime. There were soldiers all around and suddenly, this giant robot shows up and beats them. When the cockpit opened and Haruto walked out, I couldn't believe it."

"He looked really cool back then," Seiya said, a smile tugging at his lips as he thought of happier times. "It was amazing how things changed. I mean, before that he was just Haruto, you know?"

Yusuke nodded. He did know.

Haruto was Shoko's friend. That had been his claim to fame.

He hadn't been a known delinquent like Thunder or cool like Inuzuka-senpai. He had just been Haruto. If one needed to describe him before the invasion then saying he was the guy who hung around Shoko would have been enough. Haruto simply didn't stick out.

Kind of like them.

"It was like he had become the protagonist of a mecha anime," Seiya said, his arms moving excitedly as he talked. "The entire world had its eyes on him. Everyone wanted to be his friend. Every time there was an attack, he'd get on the Valvrave and beat back the Dorssians!"

"He also had all the girls throwing themselves at him, all the pilots did," Toru noted, not without some envy. A blush appeared on his face as he thought of something. "Say, do you think those guys ever got to, you know..."

It'd have been way too sad if they had died without ever getting the chance to.

"Haruto definitely did," Yusuke replied absentmindedly. The matter-of-fact way in which he said it drew amazed looks from both his friends.

"No way!"

"Who?"

"Who else? Ruki," Yusuke replied, shrugging. "I thought it was obvious."

Seiya looked like he was going to burst into tears. "B-but she's an idol! They are supposed to remain pure!"

"No, wait," Toru spoke, shaking his soda can. "He's got a point. Beyond all those pictures of them together on his Wired account, there were also the times when they didn't show up for the cabinet meetings. That was pretty suspicious."

From an outside perspective, it was truly easy to misinterpret the actions of the two Valvrave pilots as those of a couple sneaking around.

"But what about the bro-code?" Seiya asked, his eyes almost brimming with unshed tears.

"Eh, be honest, if a hot idol wanted to date you, what would you do?" Yusuke asked.

"...point."

"I'd have thought Haruto would have ended up with Shoko, though," Toru mused. The tall teen put his now empty soda can on the floor. "They had the whole childhood friends thing going on."

"Guess Shoko didn't act fast enough," Seiya said. "Childhood friends rarely do."

"Fast is definitely the right word for it," Yusuke said, taking a sip from his can. "Remember the election?"

"Yeah."

"What of it?"

"Do you remember seeing either Haruto or Saki there?" Yusuke asked, drawing shocked looks from both his friends.

"No way."

"Shoko got NTRed hard."

Yusuke nodded. "That she did... It'd have been great if a love triangle had been the worst thing to happen."

The words escaped from his mouth before he could stop them, instantly sobering him up. "I mean, we can't help but see being a pilot as cool and all, but Haruto is not here anymore. Akira-chan and Ruki are the only ones left."

The other two reluctantly nodded now with more somber expressions on their faces.

Although their lives may have looked glamorous from the outside, being a pilot had consequences. Life wasn't like Gundam where you could be replaced by your identical twin next season. Every time the pilots had gone out it had been a gamble and not everyone had survived.

"Do you think they were ever scared?" Seiya asked.

"If they were, they never showed it," Toru said, shrugging. "Those bastards were too damn cool. I can't even be jealous of the attention they got because they deserved every bit of it. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for them."

Yusuke looked at his soda can before raising it. "To the pilots," he said.

"To the pilots," the other two said, mimicking their friend's action.

A moment of easy silence followed.

"Even so..."

"Yeah..."

"I want to be a pilot!"

xXx

Shoko was alone.

Months ago, the notion would have been laughable. Shoko was too much of a people person to ever be alone. If Shoko was not with Haruto, she would be with Marie or one of the many people that made up her long list of friends. Shoko could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and by the end of it, they would be talking and laughing like old friends.

That had changed.

It was only after spending so much time in Saki's room that she finally felt comfortable enough to go outside. The Module was fixed so she could go to the city above and get some fresh air. She had been looking forward to seeing the school again, but...

Shoko sighed.

The school was the same as always. It had been a big surprise considering everything that had happened there. If it weren't for a few leftover bullet holes, no one would be able to guess what had happened in that building. Satomi and his crew had done a good job.

Yes, the school hadn't changed.

The students had.

The way they looked at her now. The way they traded looks and whispered to each other when they thought she wouldn't notice.

It was heavy.

Once, that type of looks had just rolled off her. She could wear shirts most would balk at without a care. Her cooking looked absolutely hideous yet she was damn proud of it because she knew it was delicious.

Before, she could be strong. She could be Sashinami Shoko with pride.

Now those looks and whispers had become more than she could bear. Each one was an arrow to her heart and her fragile confidence could not take that assault. Trying to get away from it all, she had ended up leaving the academy.

As her footsteps led her through the familiar but empty streets of Module 77, Shoko couldn't help but feel she was running away.

During the early days of their fight against Dorssia, the empty city had given her a sense of adventure. Back then, she had chosen to focus on the positives and had seen the empty city as an opportunity to do all those things she hadn't been allowed to do before.

Now the emptiness held no more adventures for her. There was nothing to marvel at and that suited the current her just fine.

A frown marred Shoko's face as soon as that last thought took form. She saw a can lying on the ground and kicked it as hard as she could. It bounced three times on the ground before coming to a rolling stop.

The action brought Shoko no joy at all.

Maybe... maybe she had changed as well. She had lost too much. She had lost friends. She had lost her father.

She had lost Haruto.

Although it felt cruel to think it, maybe it was the last change that mattered the most to her. It certainly was the one that caused her the most pain.

As she kept walking through the Module, Shoko couldn't help but notice her feet were leading her towards a very familiar location. She was no longer in the city. She was in a place she hadn't visited in quite some time.

The cave.

Seeing it again was bittersweet. It looked the same as the last time she had seen it. At least, that's how it felt for her. The entrance was sealed off as per her father's wishes. They had used explosives to collapse it, but she felt that if she could get in she would find everything just like it had been when they had left.

She reached out with her hand and touched the cave's exterior.

When was the last time she had come here? Not since she had entered high school at the very least.

However, it felt like coming home. Like she had never left. She felt more at peace at the moment than she ever had since returning to the Module.

That's right. She could be at peace here because... because they both made that promise here.

It had all happened years ago.

People needed nature. Green spaces helped them relax. They provided them with temporary relief from their busy lives. It was one of the reasons why plenty of cities had parks.

The plans for the Modules had taken that into consideration.

Modules did not need forests and mountains to function. However, they had been included in their construction. They created the illusion of a natural environment. They also allowed people to practice hobbies like camping and mountain-climbing. They allowed people to be in touch with nature.

Shoko liked nature.

She liked nature as a kid as well. She had liked going to the forest and exploring. Since her father was rarely at home, she was free to do as she wished most of the time. She had been a willful child back then.

That time she had dragged Haruto along. She usually did. With Haruto, she didn't need to worry about what his father would say. Much like her father, his was rarely home. Often times they only had each other for company. It was what had made their friendship so strong.

That day was not supposed to be any different. She had gone to the forest and taken Haruto with her. She had found the cave the other day and had wanted to show it to him. She had even brought flashlights and snacks. She had thought it would be fun to go exploring there.

It hadn't been.

They had gone too far inside the cave and gotten lost. She had been scared, so scared. Nothing more than a little girl lost in the vast darkness. The simple flashlights she had brought with her were nearly useless against the cave's empty darkness. She had broken down crying.

Haruto hadn't.

Haruto had helped her. Haruto had made her tears go away until the adults came to rescue them. Even though he should have been angry with her for putting them in that situation. Even though he should have hated her, Haruto had...

Haruto had promised...

Shoko closed her eyes, trying to fight the tears she knew wanted to get out. Sharp pain throbbed in her chest.

People often made the mistaken assumption that she was the stronger one of the two. Shoko knew better than anyone how false that was. She knew it because Haruto had been strong when she hadn't been.

Ever since then, she had tried to be strong. She had tried to be as strong as Haruto had been back in the cave. She had done her best to change her weak self into someone better. A new and better Shoko. Someone who could help people instead of dragging them into trouble.

That was why when Haruto hadn't remembered the promise... that was why...

Shoko bit her lip and punched one of the large rocks covering the cave's entrance as hard as she could.

Pain erupted in her hand.

When it came to flesh vs rock, it was not even a competition. This time tears did escape from her eyes, but the pain was far from emotional. With any luck, she hadn't damaged her hand beyond a few bruises.

Shoko brought her wounded hand close to her chest and rubbed her tears away with the other one.

Just how much had she really changed since then? She had thought she had done a good job, but now... now she wasn't so sure.

Did she like the Sashinami Shoko she had become?

Would Haruto approve of the person she was now?

Just... just what was she supposed to do?

It was like being stuck in the cave all over again, Shoko thought as she sat on the ground, hugging her knees close to her chest.

Only this time there would be no Haruto to pull her out.

"Sashinami Shoko."

The voice reached her ears and she recognized it instantly. She looked up and blinked just to be sure she wasn't seeing an illusion.

"L-Elf?" The word came out as a question. It felt like a joke. She had looked for him so hard and never found him, yet he chose to show up here of all places?

How did he even know about this place?

However, L-Elf's expression provided no answers. He only had four simple words for her.

"We need to talk."

xXx

Interlude: End

xXx

AN: I have to admit I was surprised by the amount of PMs asking when the next chapter was coming out. Most of those I didn't really get the chance to answer. Either because I missed them or because when I did see them too much had passed so I felt awkward about replying.

Anyway, thanks for the support guys. Seriously.

As always, don't forget to leave a review.

If you like this story, consider checking out my other fanfics, and if you like those consider checking out my books (address available on my profile).

Till next time!