A/N

King: Hi there. I'm sure you've noticed by now that I try to avoid top ANs so you can get into the story, but I have a few things to say.

My delay this time, in addition to my hectic schedule, was that I was outlining the plot a bit further, which involved some retcons in the previous chapters. As for what these retcons are, well... (grins)

(a Christmas present slides into the room)

Tohka: *jumps out of it* Surprise everyone! Did you miss me? ;)

King: (bounces in place) That's right everyone! As of now, Tohka is here to stay, and she'll be joining me here in the AN's.

Tohka: It all started when I initially helped King with making the original planned outline for everything, but in the process? I noticed the original outline might be a bit too... obvious with our intended direction. As a result, I helped him make a new one, and that delayed Chapter 11, since it was a major turning point as you'll see by the end of the arc. Now, for the retcons in general? King, give me a white board and a marker!

King: (wheels in the white board with ten different colored markers and an eraser) Here you go!

Tohka: *eyes widen* Wow, that's prepared. *clears throat* First off? I can't mention every retcon, or I guess change might be a better description of a few, since some will only be possible to reveal after certain events happen. However, for the ones we can tell you about?

*starts writing a list on the board*

~ Kurumi:
Due to her preference in almost entirely using them alone, her elemental powers are now only time-based.

~ Origami:
Ryouko is now her Aunt and adoptive mother (her father's sister, having taken his wife's surname) from canon that introduced her into the AST, which explains how her suggestions were accepted so quickly.

~ Tohka:
Instead of energy, she now uses the darkness element we took from Kurumi (based on her finger orb attack looking like such), and is also Raizen's 2nd idol, being the "Recreational Ace" to Origami's "Super Genius." She's also the only Spirit who can make a true barrier, as she did with the missiles fired at her in the anime's first episode.

~ Non-Character:
Tohka is stronger than canon and an SS-Rank Spirit while Kotori is (for now at least) weaker being a B-Rank Spirit, which shows the danger of Yoshino since we've labeled Humans as C-Rank threats.

*clears throat*

Tohka: And that's pretty much it. Some of the things above have spoilers for their reasons, so not everything about them can be revealed yet. Though I can say the change of Tohka's element isn't anything major. Due to her and Origami being the harem's heads, we felt the latter's powers of light after becoming a Spirit was a good foil to make them complementary opposites that help show their relationship.

King: (claps hands) So, as you can see? we've made changes to character relations, along with, as we've already explained, some physical changes.

We do have more changes but obviously, those are spoilers for further down the line.

Tohka: We didn't change enough to make you have to re-read, but still feel free to do so if you want since King's schedule will likely mean Chapter 12 won't be for a while. I do recommend going back to the arcade scene in Chapter 10, as we decided to actually show the full-dance dance off between Shido and Momo, and it's amazing!

King: (scratches neck in embarrassment) The worst times are when I'm supposed to have a clear schedule, which in theory means we can work on things... (slumps shoulders) but then something comes up out of nowhere and interrupts or prevents us from starting in the first place.

(shakes it off)

(grins next to Tohka) So, I think that's everything (pulls out overstuffed folder and checks it carefully so nothing spills) unless we missed something.

Nope! That's it for this chapter's top author notes!

Tohka: Actually, think we can say this much. *smiles* This chapter had its own changes, but that's because it's a vital one, as Kurumi's story has the same weight it does in canon. Especially with how we hinted Sawa's existence in the events of V3 instead of how canon revealed them during the events of V16.

King: Oh! Here we go. (seen with a magnifying glass, looking at small writing on a page margin) Yep, there's the note saying we can mention that.

As for acknowledging Sawa's existence? Well, that's a bonus-slash-side effect of basing a story that has now released all 22 volumes of its main story, and now has its 4th season on the way, but that simply gives us writers more content to work with. Plus, it gives readers a curiosity on how that content will be used. Though it can be a bit of a headache should canon likely contradict a fic in some way. Fortunately, the essence of most fanfics is that they're usually an AU anyway. (smile)

Tohka: And now with that said?

Both: Let's continue with the next exciting segment of Kurumi's arc! (snaps our fingers) We hope you enjoy it!


Season 1

Arc 3 - Predators and Prey

Chapter 4 - Hunting Ground


Night fell in Tenguu City as a carpet of stars twinkled high above.

At the moment, a young girl in a white sailor uniform stood alone at a high ground park, her sight on the city below. A breeze made the girl's blonde hair dance, but she paid it no mind.

"Today went well, wouldn't you agree?" Mayuri said.

"It did. Well, mostly" a female voice said next to her.

There had been no indication of the new arrival. One moment, Mayuri was alone. The next moment, she was accompanied by a busty teenage girl with short pink hair that was slightly braided.

She wore a sleeveless scarlet blouse with cream-colored ruffles and a navy ribbon tied underneath her bust over a white shirt, a golden necklace chain that leads to a heart shaped pendent with a blue jewel in the middle, a pair of navy shorts that matched the shade of her ribbon, white socks, and brown shoes that completed the ensemble.

"Why mostly?" Mayuri inquired.

"Because she almost ruined it by attacking those men in the forest." She answered.

A sigh left her mouth.

"Honestly," the girl said. "If she hadn't left when she did? I wouldn't have been able to further hide her from the AST without exposing myself."

"Shido-sama succeeded in delivering the offer for a new life," Mayuri said. "All that's left now is hope he convinces Kurumi onee-san to accept it."

"Do you think she will accept it?" the girl asked, sounding worriedly.

"I don't know." Mayuri admitted, "All we can do now is hope for the best."

She looked up at the scattered stars.

As she did, a set of thirteen stars could been seen as they twinkled sequenced for a brief moment.


Tohka walked with a spring in her step towards Origami's room.

Dinner had passed and everyone had already showered and headed to their rooms. Tohka however had a curiosity she wanted to clear up with Origami.

When she reached Origami's room, she knocked soft enough to be heard without bothering the other rooms.

The door opened, revealing Origami in a half opened white button shirt that showed her modest swells, with the hem reaching her thighs though there was a slight opening that revealed her pink panties.

"What is it?" Origami asked.

Tohka blinked, not expecting Origami's nightwear. Weren't pajamas the clothes to sleep with?

"Tohka?" Origami called.

Tohka soon jolted. "Eh?!"

"What did you knock on my door for?" Origami asked.

"Oh, right!" Tohka whispered loudly.

After taking a moment to recollect herself, Tohka asked her question.

"Today was fun wasn't it?" She smiled.

"It was," Origami said with her usual bland tone. Tohka didn't let it bother her... much.

"So," Tohka rocked on her heels. "Would it be safe to say that we... went on a date?"

Tohka noticed Origami slightly raised an eyebrow, and her bangs shifted just a tiny bit, indicating she tilted her head a bit. Tohka felt proud for noticing.

"You're not exactly right, but..." Origami began.

Tohka tried really hard to maintain her smile as she tried to understand what that meant.

"I guess you're not technically wrong either." She added.

She had no idea what Origami meant by that, but at least managed to keep her smile. Win!

"So that's a yes?" Tohka asked.

"Yes," Origami said. Tohka suspected Origami maybe, just maybe, was amused with her. "It was a date."

"Yes!" Tohka pumped her fist. "There's still time left."

"Time left for-!" Origami was quickly cut off by Tohka.

Tohka had grabbed Origami's shoulders mid talk and pulled her in for a kiss.

"Mmph!?" She muffled out.

By her grip on her shoulders, Tohka felt Origami tense up. However, she stayed frozen for the entire minute the kiss took place.

Tohka then broke the kiss, and smiled at Origami's clearly surprised, and clearly blushing face that was currently shaking a little.

"Made it!" Tohka cheered softly.

"W-What was that for?!" Origami harshly whispered, just barely catching herself from shouting.

For obvious reasons, she was unable to maintain her usual demeanor.

"Well, you're supposed to kiss at the end of a date, right?" Tohka said. "We had a date, but we didn't kiss at the end. Almost. But I noticed and fixed it!" She put her arms on her hips and jut her large chest outward in pride.

The act caused her impressive bust to bounce three times, to Origami's annoyance.

"Big breasts and airheads really are a package deal, aren't they?" She remarked.

"My breasts?" Tohka commented.

Looking down at her breasts, she put both her hands on them like she was grabbing a handful, making Origami stiffen up before her body lightly shook and her eyes began to spin as she then saw Tohka began to bounce them up and down in what most boys would consider a fairly hypnotic manner.

"Are they supposed to be special or something?" She asked. "I know mine are a lot bigger compared to other girls, but they feel normal to me, except for when Shido touches them. Ooh! I wonder if I can sleep in his room again tonight!"

Tohka turned around and immediately headed to Shido's room.

As she hummed to herself, she barely heard Origami mutter, "She might be in the lead for now, but I'll surpass her soon enough," followed by her door closing.

Giving one last glance towards Origami's door, Tohka wondered what she meant before skipping into Shido's room.


I walked to school with trepidation, unsure of Kurumi's thoughts after her sudden departure. To my fortune - or misfortune, I'm not sure yet - I found Kurumi at her locker not long after entering the school.

"Good morning Shido-san," Kurumi greeted with a smile.

"Good morning," I said, returning the smile.

She's not acting like a killer, and she doesn't seem annoyed like she was at my parting words yesterday.

"I had a lot of fun on our date," Kurumi said. "You have to ask me out again in the future."

I decided to take a chance.

"It'll be in the near future then," I said with a smile as I took a step forward. "Or did you forget my offer?"

Kurumi pushed back her bang a bit, hinting at the heterochromic eye I didn't quite see at the park due to her gun in my face. Pretty sure it was gold though. Kind of unusual really, even for me.

"Yes," she said at length. "I do remember you saying some nonsense about saving me and people like me."

"It's not really nonsense, I-"

"Such wishful and naïve thinking..." Kurumi interrupted, "is something I have neither the time nor patience for."

She took a step forward. She placed an index finger under my chin.

"Let's put all your promises to the test, shall we?" Kurumi smiled. "Meet me on the rooftop after class."

The bell sounded in those moments, and Kurumi gave a sly look before she turned and walked away.

I exhaled as I watched after her.

The school day had gone completely normal despite Kurumi's somewhat ominous words and there had been no other chance to talk since then. It turned out a bit cloudier than expected, but it's hardly the first time Mother Nature had chosen to mock the weather reporters.

Everyone was now getting ready for clubs or to go home. Hmm, what clubs does this school have anyway? Not sure I would join any while dealing with Spirits, but who knows?

"Shido-senpai!" a girl called. I stopped at the staircase leading to the third floor as Momo came up the steps from the first floor. I stepped down and met her on the second floor. She said, "I'm glad I caught you before you went home."

I wasn't going home, but she didn't need to know that.

"Hey Momo," I said with a smile. "You need something?"

Momo rocked on her heels. "Could we talk in private?"

"Um..." I probably shouldn't, since I don't know how Kurumi will react to my delay, but I've never really been good at saying 'No' to a cute girl. I can say it, it's just not easy. "Sure."

I led Momo to a small space where cleaning supplies seemed to be stored.

"So, what's on your mind?" I asked.

Momo fidgeted in place, wringing her hands together as her face reddened. At that moment, my eyes widened as I recognized the pattern, right as her mouth opened.

"I want to be part of your harem!" Momo confessed.

And there it was, the words I feared had been spoken. I made to speak but Momo quickly interrupted me.

"Please don't say anything yet!" she said in a rush.

The words planning to leave my mouth stopped.

"I know... I know it was meant to be a one-time thing, and I went to our date fully committed to that." She tucked a hair strand behind her ear. "But... as the date went on, all the feelings that I planned to leave behind? They... they just grew stronger, and I found it harder and harder to remind myself that I'd have to let you go when it was all over, yet I still was able to remind myself of our promise."

She began to tear up.

"But then... our kiss happened," She confessed as a tear left her eye, "And all the effort I put into upholding that promise faded. It was at that moment I felt a surge go through me, and realize just what drew me to you. Realized that... I've truly fallen for you."

And it was then I felt myself freeze.

Maybe he could excuse this from his current situation, the fact that his girls had been OK with letting him give her even one kiss in general, or maybe the fact that kissing was a vital part in how he aided the Spirits that was the cause behind him realizing the one thing he had learned about kissing over his travels.

Specifically, the fact that kisses were often the answer to love.

People could skirt around their feelings or wander around lost without certain of how they truly felt about someone, but it was often that the moment two people kissed that the true extent of their feelings became clear. Doubts strong enough killed them, or beliefs strong enough finally made them ignite and blossom... and it seemed that Momo didn't just have a simple schoolgirl crush on him based on this logic and her own words just now. Was it possible that she was who Shido would have gotten together with if he hadn't interfered with all of this? Was this situation unavoidable?

I screamed internally as these thoughts hammered my mind while still keeping an outward nervous calm. Good lord, what do I do now?!

"Momo," I started, unsure of what to say, "I-"

My words were stalled once again as she immediately ran up to me, making me back against the wall from the sudden act. An act that fully emphasized her features, and made him fully witness Momo Matsuda's appearance for the first time.

She had eyes that were pink and made him think of ripe peaches, eyes that he was certain she had been named after. Her brunette hair was a lovely caramel brown, long enough that it went past her shoulders, but stopped near the top half of her chest, near where her the bottom half of her arm began. It had many strands going out of place, but this only made her face that had never touched makeup look all the more beautiful. A true unkempt beauty as many would call it, which matched all the things he knew she loved.

Her figure was, as he knew already, very developed for a Freshman student.

She was about a head and a half taller than her height of 155 cm, but he could feel her gifted chest touching his chest, and saw how it was comparable to Reine's... no. That wasn't true. With how close she was now? He could easily tell her size was bigger than hers. Maybe a tad smaller than Tohka's, possibly around 98 cm in size? Specifics aside, this girl had a body that most could mistake as a High School Senior's if they didn't focus on her height, or assume she was short.

"I... I know this is selfish, and that I don't have a right to ask this, especially without Tobiichi-sempai or Yatogami-sempai's consent, but... please. Please, let me be allowed to love you... Shido." Momo begged as she struggled to not break down and cry.

I had to admit it, the courage she was showing now was impressive. The kind that Origami might have actually praised her for if she heard it and it wasn't aimed specifically at me. Such bravery was enough that I thought back to what he thought of before he tried to speak, and she cut him off. Some of the worlds he had been to before had him see harem situations where only one girl truly won the boy's heart in the end due to various reasons either linked to the boy or said world's laws working against polygamy.

Sometimes, the winner was someone unexpected, or maybe even normal.

'Were the Spirits meant to be like that before I came here? Was Momo the one who should have ended up with Shido, and I'm the X-Factor that could ruin this?' I thought to myself, starting to wonder if it was still right for me to reject after all of this.

However, at that moment, I was struck with sudden fatigue before that thought could finish. I nearly stumbled in place. My surroundings got darker for some reason.

"Ugh," Momo groaned as she began falling towards the floor.

"Momo!" I called out, checking her for injuries, "Are you okay?"

"Sen... pai," she whispered before losing consciousness.

I put my hand up to my intercom in my ear. "Guys! Talk to me!"

"Maria is checking now," Kotori said. "Okay. According to Maria's scans, it looks like Kurumi formed a boundary field around the school. It weakens whoever is inside of it by stealing their energy, their... time, in a sense."

"But why would she-" I was cut off by the sound of static from the P.A. system.

Kurumi's voice came out of it.

"Shido-san," she said. "Can you hear me? It's time for you to prove how far you're willing to go to save a monster like me." She giggled. "You might want to hurry up to the roof you know. Clock's ticking."

She giggled one last time before the speakers went offline.

"Kotori, check on Tohka and the others." I said as I breathed deep and channeled the Reiryoku through my body. The fatigue passed. "Okay. I'm ready for Kurumi."

"Be careful Shido," Kotori told me as I went up the stairs.

I pushed open the door to the rooftop, which was easy to do since the handle and lock seem to have been shot off, and entered the rooftop.

The feel of the air did not improve. If anything? The sense of weakness seemed to intensify as I walked forward towards Kurumi in the center of the roof. She had her back to me, not acknowledging me until I got halfway to her.

She spun on her heel, sending her black and red dress fluttering before Kurumi raised the hem of it, slightly lowering her body as she bowed.

"Welcome to your final exam, Shido-san." She greeted.

"Kurumi!" I said loudly, not wanting to fall into her pace. "What's the big idea with this barrier?"

A familiar laugh escaped her throat.

"Isn't it amazing?" Kurumi smiled as she spread her arms wide, as if displaying the barrier. "It's like my very own castle, and the idea for the barrier is easy. It's my way of making sure you take back what you said this morning."

She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them as they glowed a threatening red color that would scream villainy and evil to most who saw it.

"After all, you're not going to save someone that's willing to kill all your friends."

There was a twitch to my hands as I reigned in my anger, refusing to let it take over.

"Kurumi you don't have to do this!" I said loudly.

"Quite the contrary Shido-san," Kurumi said, an oppressive air around her as she stepped forward. "You seem to be under the impression that I'm a damsel in need of rescue. Well, I'm not."

Her eyes closed again, her smile fading as it became a serious frown, and her eyes gained a deadpan look to them that highlighted her stance in the matter between them.

A representation of the strong wall Kurumi had formed around her heart.

"I'm going to kill everyone in this school, and take your power for myself and be one step closer to achieving my goal!"

I stamped down the instinct to attack Kurumi for threatening my territory. I took a step and Kotori shouted in my ear.

"Shido! Hostiles incoming!" she announced.

A second later something slammed on the floor a distance away, kicking up a dust cloud and cracking the floor.

The somewhat expected and very unwanted voice of Slade came out of the dust cloud, "The Nightmare Spirit, and the mystery Wizard. Today must be my lucky day."

"This just gets better and better," I sarcastically remarked as numerous of those Cyclops robots decloaked.

I quickly turned my focus to Slade.

"I'd call this overkill, but you people don't really care about things like that do ya?" I inquired, my eyes briefly glancing at their current positions.

"No," Slade confirmed.

"All this for little all me?" Kurumi asked playfully, giggling without worry as the aerial robots circled us. "I'm flattered. However,"

She raised an arm high.

{The world darkens and grinds to a halt as the Emperor of Time makes its presence known}

"Zafkiel!"

Black lightning swirled behind Kurumi before taking shape as a massive clock. Roman numerals depicted the time, and the hands were represented by a flintlock pistol and musket of intricate designs that immediately formed in her hands.

"Sorry boys, but I'm afraid your time is up," Kurumi said with a grin.

I felt my heart stop.

No… freaking… way!

"You're a Time User?" I shouted as my body shifted into a stance that recognized both Slade and Kurumi as threats.

Kurumi giggled. "A girl gotta have some surprises, Shido-san."

"With that kind of power," Slade said as he pulled out his bronze saber. "Capturing you will definitely make my boss happy."

'Good lord why can't life ever be easy?!' I complained, now between a veteran mercenary and his robot army and Kurumi.


Origami fell to her knees almost immediately.

Her surroundings had grown dark, almost as if the moon had covered the sun. Shifting her sight to both ends of the hallway, she saw fellow students lying on the ground or leaning against the wall.

Origami grit her teeth as she rummaged her pockets, glad her self-preservation had warned her that Nightmare would try something like this.

Princess had acted in self-defense. Hermit would usually be evasive.

Nightmare on the other hand had always been hostile. Out of all reported Spirits, Nightmare was the only one that actively killed Wizards, and worse, regular civilians.

Origami took out the device from her pocket. "Identify, Master Sergeant Origami Tobiichi. Activate Basic Realizer." Her territory activated, and her fatigue vanished. She exhaled. "Combat Wiring Suit, engage."

A faint light covered her body, quickly replacing her school uniform with an AST Wiring Suit.

AST and Spirits were a secret topic, but with everyone unconscious, it wouldn't be a problem.

Either way, this was an emergency!

Origami rose and dashed through the corridor. Her communicator beeped.

"Origami, report," Ryouko ordered.

"Nightmare is in Raizen High," Origami said. "Send in reinforcement immediate-."

The sound of gunshots filled her ear before the sizzle of her communicator followed.

She halted her steps, noticing her target stood ahead of her.

Instead of the familiar uniform she had worn earlier, Kurumi now wore a gothic dress of red and black colors that Origami recognized as her Astral Dress.

"Where are we going in such a rush, Origami-san?" Kurumi asking, giggling.

"Nightmare," Origami said with a growl. "Stop whatever you're doing or else."

"Hee, hee, hee..." Kurumi laughed. "Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't do that. Not until I prove him wrong that is."

She moved her right hand from behind, revealing one of Zafkiel's rifles.

"Let's see if he'll save me after I kill everyone in the school." She stated.

Origami dashed forward, arming her No Pain saber. Kurumi responded by aiming her rifle. Origami felt something was off. Even with her track record, Kurumi shouldn't be this confident in using her rifle at this distance. Unless-

Her foot sank into the ground, disturbing her balance as she glanced down.

Origami saw that Kurumi's shadow, now pulsing a mixture of black and red, had snaked all the way to where her foot was. Almost instantly, Origami sent a mental order and the handgun holstered on her left thigh flew to her left hand.

She aimed at Kurumi and fired at the same time Kurumi pulled the trigger, causing the bullets to strike and shatter one another. Origami then used her territory to push herself back then leaned to the side to dodge a bullet, before the two girls properly faced one another.

"My, what impressive reflexes you have there." Kurumi praised.

Origami grit her teeth in response. Second Lieutenant Liddell's report on Nightmare never mentioned her shadow having such an ability, so how was she supposed to beat a Spirit that a former SSS Alpha Team member couldn't kill permanently!?

'No!' She told herself.

She'd never given up before and she wasn't going to start now. She raised her No Pain saber in a defensive position in front of her while keeping her gun ready at her side.

Her pistol would normally hold only nine bullets, but her meticulous nature and her drive to be the very best had led her to modify and increase its chamber to hold twelve bullets and be able to shoot two of them in a burst fire.

Any further adjustments would've made the gun inoperable and gotten her in trouble with her superiors, but she made up for that limitation by training to maximize its use in every situation she could.

'I can win!' She thought.

Origami then saw that Kurumi's shadow was a normal shape at the girl's feet, but still had the black-red tinge. She had best avoid touching the shadow.

Origami then aimed and fired at Kurumi, who did the same towards her.

Just like the first time, the bullets clashed. Only this time, there was a second bullet behind Origami's first bullet, which flew unimpeded straight into Kurumi's rifle.

A sharp noise rang out as the rifle flew out of Kurumi's hand and made her gasp in surprise.

Origami rushed forward, taking advantage of the opening she had made for herself, and thrust her saber at Kurumi's chest. Her eyes widened when Kurumi, without any hesitation, chose to block it with her forearm, keeping calm as the saber sunk into her skin.

"Nice try!" Kurumi shouted.

"Guh!" Origami coughed.

She was then blindsided as she was struck in the stomach from a fist swung from below. Kurumi lashed out with her stabbed arm, worsening the wound but seemingly not weakening her strength as her backhand struck Origami on the jaw.

"Pth!" Origami coughed again.

"Now, hold still." Kurumi said.

Origami tried to reorient herself, but numerous hands, all of which were a deathly pale color, suddenly rose from the ground and nearby wall. Before she had a chance to react, they latched onto her arms, legs, and neck before slamming her into said wall and placing her in a chokehold.

"What is this?!" Origami croaked.

"What's the matter, Origami-san?" Kurumi taunted. "Liddell-san didn't mention this in her report? Oh wait, that's because I never used this ability as she killed me over and over again!" Kurumi giggled darkly.

Origami struggled to break free, even though she could barely breathe right now, but the arms held strong as Kurumi rose her hand out... then tightened it into a fist.

In response, the hands holding her neck tightened and fully cut off her air supply.

"Please don't struggle too much," Kurumi said as she placed the muzzle of her pistol under Origami's chin. "Since Liddell-san proved herself to be a cut above the rest of you Wizards, I need every drop of power for her eventual arrival. True, I've been playing around with her, but there's just something about her that worries me, and I rather avoid a setback."

Origami saw Kurumi grin in her dimming vision as she struggled to keep herself conscious.

"This will definitely change his mind about saving me," she whispered as she tapped the trigger.

"Origami-senpai!"

Origami heard the sound of shattering glass, a gunshot going off, an impact of sorts.

"Origami-senpai!" a voice called.

Origami groaned as she opened her eyes, which were a bit blurry from what she just endured. The most she could make out right now was what looked like a grey person with brown horns tending to her.

"Who…" Origami croaked. Her throat hurt. A lot. And there was a throbbing pain along the left side of her face.

"Origami-senpai, don't move! The bullet grazed your head, and the wound is still bleeding!" The person stated.

Blinking once? Origami finally saw who was helping her.

It was Mikie, wearing an AST Wiring Suit of her own, more than likely having equipped it in response to the rest of the school falling unconscious and realizing Nightmare was the cause of it.

Regardless of her teammate's concerns, Origami still forced herself to sit up. Mikie's loudly hopeful voice needed a mute button.

"Where is… Kurumi?" Origami demanded.

Mikie, who had been ecstatic at Origami regaining consciousness, suddenly looked gravely ill. She turned to the side and saw Kurumi's limp body impaled to the wall with a No Pain saber.

"How did you…" Origami started to ask, but then stopped once she saw it.

Mikie was slightly bleeding from her ears.

"You overexerted yourself." She realized.

"Haa, haa. I needed to, haa," Mikie said with shallow breaths. She wrapped her arms around herself. "I... I needed to stop her before she killed you, Origami-senpai..."

Origami petted Mikie on the head.

"You did well," Origami said. She looked out the broken window and saw that the barrier was still active. "Contact HQ again and request reinforcements. The barrier is still active even though-… I'll be heading to the roof. That's where Nightmare said she'd be earlier. Maybe there's something up there maintaining the barrier."

She got up, and stumbled a bit before she began running down the hall.

"Origami-senpai!" Mikie shouted as she followed. "You haven't recovered yet. You won't last long against whatever is up there."

"I'll be fine," Origami answered, looking back at the lagging Mikie. "You're the one that should wait for backup."

Origami turned the corner.

Right into the front of Kurumi's gun barrel. Her eyes frozen as she saw her, knowing she just saw her dead body... and then they widened as she realized how it was possible.

'This is a-' She thought.

"Goodbye," Kurumi said.

That was the last thing Origami heard before a gunshot rang out.


Tohka felt her body lose strength and nearly fell to the ground.

"What… What is this?" Tohka said through gritted teeth, managing to lean against the wall for support. "I can't… move my… body."

She let out a grunt and collapsed onto her knees, her breath heavy.

"Huh?!" Tohka grunted when she saw the other students lying on the ground, either on the floor or against a wall. "What the hell?!"

A ringing from her pocket got her attention.

Tohka sluggishly pulled out her phone, seeing the caller was Maria, and hit the speaker button.

"Maria?" Tohka asked.

"Tohka, you need to use your Reiryoku to counter the barrier!"

"Barrier?" Tohka asked. "Wait, is… is this Kurumi's doing?"

"It is," Maria said. "Shido already went to get her to remove it. But until he can, your Reiryoku will need to protect you."

"Got it," Tohka said.

Tohka closed her eyes and focused. She felt her core hum in response as her powers of darkness flowed.

A moment later, Tohka was standing straight, wearing a Limited Astral Dress based on her School Uniform.

"Good. Now I can-"

A gunshot rang out.

Tohka just barely dodged to the side as the bullet went past her face.

"Who did that?" Tohka shouted.

"Hello Tohka-san," a voice called out.

From the dark shadows of the corridor, a girl in a black and red dress came into view.

"Kurumi?" Tohka asked.

Wasn't she supposed to be on the roof? Did something happen to Shido!?

"Could you entertain me for a bit, Tohka-san?" Kurumi asked, lifting her rifle.

Tohka narrowed her eyes.

It didn't matter if Kurumi was here or on the roof. Her instincts told her that right now, Shido was still alive, and she sure as hell wasn't going to let him fight it alone.

"In a fight where people's lives are on the line," Tohka said to herself, thinking back to her lessons with Shido. "either yours or another's? Eliminate the threat as fast as possible."

Tohka calmed her breathing, and sharpened her focus. Whenever we trained, Shido's first move was usually a knockout move, and Kurumi was a threat right now. She might be a Spirit they had to save, but that didn't mean Tohka should let her attack innocent people. Kurumi had to be stopped.

"Now!" Tohka shouted, entering Kurumi's guard.

She saw as Kurumi widened her eyes in surprise at her speed in her sealed state. Tohka swung her fist, and struck a powerful straight into Kurumi's chest.

"Gah!" Kurumi grunted.

The force sent Kurumi tumbling down the hallway. Tohka quickly followed, remembering the times when Shido quickly recovered from her strikes, and knowing she couldn't let Kurumi have that chance.

Kurumi laid unmoving on the ground, and Tohka slowly stepped towards her.

"Kurumi?" she asked, kneeling down and shaking her. There was no response.

Tohka hadn't expected an actual knockout with her tactic, but with that dealt with, she could go help Shido. Tohka quickly ran past the unconscious Kurumi, seeing a few students were still in the hallway, but it looked like most got away from Kurumi's attack.

Or maybe they were just somewhere else in the school.

She reached the section with the stairs, and prepared to climb them when suddenly, her instincts screamed at her!

'Get back!' They screamed.

She immediately hopped back from the first step, just as numerous white arms launched themselves out of the walls, floor, and ceiling. They quickly rushed towards the hall's center, and embedded themselves together to create a wall of limbs.

A few of them managed to grab Tohka's left arm, pulling her closer in an attempt to attempting give the same chokehold they had against Origami.

"No... you... don't!" She screamed.

She ripped her hand free using her incredible strength, causing the arms that grabbed her to dissolve, and leave her panting for a moment.

'If that had actually got me... I would have been in trouble!' Tohka thought.

"My, my... that was quite impressive." Kurumi's voice said from behind her.

Tohka turned to see Kurumi emerging from the floor like an elevator a small distance away, smirking.

"I didn't think my threat against Shido-san would get you angry enough to kill me. Hee, hee, hee."

Tohka forced herself to keep still.

Kill Kurumi? From a single blow? That shouldn't have happened. Tohka was only using a handful of her actual power. Against Kurumi's full Astral Dress, that blow should've left her knocked out at best, bruised at worst... and only then did she notice the oddity in her choice of words.

She was standing before her right now. How could she be dead? If she was, then the barrier should have fallen, and she wouldn't be looking at Kurumi right now.

"What's going on here Kurumi?" Tohka demanded.

She needed to find a way to the roof, but using Sandalphon with her fellow students scattered around the school was a bad idea. While the current section was clear for three classrooms or so, Tohka had no idea about the rooms above and below them.

"I just wanted to keep Tohka-san company," Kurumi said, raising one of her guns. "After all, Shido-san is very busy right now."

"Why are you attacking the school?" Tohka demanded.

"Quite simple really," Kurumi said, taking aim. She gave a chilling grin. "Shido-san seems convinced that he can save a monster like me. So, I'm going to prove him… dead wrong."

Bang!

Tohka twisted her body to avoid the bullet as she rushed at Kurumi, her left hand latching onto Kurumi's gun hand.

"Not this time!" Kurumi roared.

"Gah!" Tohka grunted in pain.

Despite the fist she just took to her grunt, Tohka held her ground, making Kurumi's eyes widen as she saw an orb of dark energy form at her fingertips.

"Ha!"

Tohka shot the orb forward but two arms rose from the ground and blocked the attack, dissipating into particles.

"Damn, you're resilient," Kurumi reluctantly admitted.

She had been around long enough to learn information on some of the other Spirits, and knew that the AST and DEM labeled her as an S-Rank threat, with Tohka being one of if not the only Spirits who surpassed that as a SS-Rank threat.

It had been her hope that, having learned her powers were sealed, that she would be weak enough for her to fight. Unfortunately, that seemed to have only had an effect on her Reiryoku and not her physical strength.

'I won't let that stop me though!' Kurumi thought.

She let out a shout as she fired her pistol, only for Tohka dodged each shot with the footwork she trained with Shido, which further irritated her as it made Tohka look like she hadn't gotten any weaker at all.

"Honestly, why would a Spirit as strong as you live among trash like humans?" Kurumi questioned.

"What good was that strength when all it did was turn the world against me?" Tohka responded.

"So what?" Kurumi challenged as she stopped shooting. "I'm a much bigger blight on this world than you ever were, and you don't see me rushing to lose my power!" Kurumi said with venom in her voice.

"I'll never surrender my power. Not until my wish comes true. Then nothing will matter anymore!" She angrily screamed.

Kurumi fired again but Tohka kept dodging. Tohka gathered power into her fist and punched the energy sphere at Kurumi.

"Yah!" Kurumi exclaimed.

She ducked as the sphere went over her head, and exploded on a far wall.

"You can punch your energy attacks?!" Kurumi questioned.

Tohka wisely decided to keep her mouth shut, as that had been the first time she had ever done that technique, and knew she shouldn't give Kurumi any edge right now.

"To hell with this!" Kurumi shouted.

"Wha!" Tohka felt a shiver as the hallway darkened further and giggles echoed all around her.

Countless spectral arms launched out of the darkness, and there was no space to escape.

No choice! Tohka thought.

She took a swinging stance as the arms neared her, knowing there was no time to summon her throne, and instead focused on the weapon it held.

"Sandalphon!"

The hallway exploded.


Kotori slammed her console as she watched events at Raizen unfold.

"That girl has to be out of her mind!" Kotori growled. "Why would she set up a barrier like that?"

"Origami Tobiichi has activated her realizer and is readying for combat," informed Shiizaki.

"Tohka," Kotori heard Maria call out. "You need to use your Reiryoku to counter the barrier!"

"Is that… another Kurumi?" asked Mikimoto.

The main screen showed Shido and Kurumi talking on the roof while side screens showed Tohka and Origami each facing another Kurumi in their respective hallway.

"She can be in multiple places at once?!" Kotori exclaimed.

"So, she can make clones of her past self. That would explain why she was harder to track compared to other Spirits." Reine realize.

A warning sound blared. A fast-approaching bogey was flying down towards the roof, making Kotori panic as she noticed their speed.

"Shido! Hostiles incoming!" Kotori quickly shouted into her microphone, warning Shido.

She then slumped back into her chair, sweating.

"This is not good," Kotori muttered to herself as that mystery wizard landed on the roof. She bit her lollipop into pieces as many robots appeared out of thin air and Kurumi summoned her Angel. "This is really not good."

Kotori began to feel her heart pound in anticipation and her blood boil. Her Angel simmered beneath the surface, wanting to burn all the threats she saw before her to ashes.

And if the situation got any further out of hand? She would have to take to the field, and do exactly that.

Reine intently observed her screen as Shido, Kurumi, and the mystery Wizard readied themselves for combat.

Even with her normally impassive face in place, to those who took a closer look? They might've noticed the tiniest quivering of her eyes, and a small, almost unnoticeable bead of sweat.


A/N

King: (claps once) Woo! Finally! I did not think it was going to take this long to post this chapter.

Tohka: (gives deadpan) Neither did I, especially as we finished the updates for each chapter last year, and you said we couldn't upload them until you got this chapter up... which I still claim was unnecessary.

King: (sweats) You mean the revisions mentioned at the top? Yeah... that's hindsight for me. XD But let's focus more on the chapter and less on the writer huh? (grin)

Tohka: (briefly laughs) Nice try, but I'm gonna be focusing on that until New Years.

King: (sighs and gives defeated smile) That's fair. So, about the chapter?

Tohka: (smiled) Could have been longer, but right now? This is the best Christmas Miracle you can give everyone who loves this story.

King: (snaps fingers) (a banner unfurls from above saying "Merry Christmas")

Tohka: (giggles) Anyways, as you can tell? We have a set up that will bring Momo into the harem officially. That was my idea due to how the design King made for her, and the role she had in the previous chapter made it feel wrong to end things there. That, and DAL never had a "normal" harem member in it.

King: (grin) Inspiring my readers with ideas. I love it!

Tohka: (giggles again) And the ideas I helped you make.

King: I love those ideas too. And going forward, the readers will see those ideas and more.

Tohka: Now, let's hope Ch 12 isn't going to wait until 2022 arrives to be uploaded.

King: (snickers as I press a button on a small remote and a Christmas tree lights up) I'm confident that won't happen. (shrug) Of course, I can't guarantee anything, but we'll do our best! (gives a thumbs up and twinkling smile)

Tohka: (gives cat smile) Hey, everyone? How about we make a bet that if he does take two years again... he has to wear a dunce cap until the end of the next arc.

King: You want me to wear a dunce cap for that long?! (laughs in good humor)

Tohka: It's good motivation to avoid wearing it by getting the next chapter done sooner... (giggles) I'm pretty sure you'll be making that chapter longer than 5k words, so that's a challenge of its own.

King: (thinks a moment) Probably. I do write long chapters. (pause) Does 5k count as long/big chapter? (snickers)

Tohka: (shrugs) I can't really answer that since my minimum tends to be 7k, and I'm more likely to hit 9k most of the time as my average, so... maybe?

King: (laughs) Looks like we need more references do find out if we do long chapters or not. But long chapter or short, Ch 12 should be out before I have to wear the dunce cap. No dunce cap for me!

(briefly looks to see Tohka holding it, just in case) (narrows eyes in challenge) You won't be putting that on my head. (grin) (Looks at the readers) Better chance of Ch 12 than of me in a dunce cap.

Tohka: We'll see you all then.

King: Looking forward to seeing your reactions to Ch 12 and beyond.

Both: Until next time!