Chapter 2! This one is quite small so don't expect to much. Right now I'm using this fic to experiment with some ideas that I have. With all that said and out of the way, hope you enjoy!

PURSUIT & LURE

Something was off about Takitsubo Rikou today, Hamazura Shiage was certain of this fact. She said she wanted their 'date' to last as long as possible. He clearly remembered those words. Yet her actions were certainly contradictory of that statement, dragging the boy along with a brisk walk that was one pace short of a light jog. Hamazura had no idea what was going on inside her mind, her stoic expression almost never broke, so he can only assume her thoughts by her actions. And what Hamazura came up with was something not far off from the truth.

Something has Takitsubo riled up. He had found a logical conclusion to his partners actions yet had no idea or understanding of what that 'something' was. Rather than make his own baseless assumption, he continued to quietly observe her as she pulled him through District 7. She pulled the teen along maintaining her fast pace but on occasion she would make a drastic turn. At first Hamazura assumed the girl was lost, as they did not often walk through District 7 however there was a sense of urgency and purpose with each turn they made prolonging their trip.

This is… Hamazura quietly observed the strange route the tracksuit girl had taken and slowly had his own idea of the situation. He casually pushed his body closer to his and matched her pace. "Oi. Takitsubo. Why didn't you tell me we're being followed?" his intimate whisper was anything but romantic. She didn't openly respond or react. However her grip tighend on the boys arm.

The boy knew all too well. Even before he joined ITEM, he had already experienced that darkness that dwelled below Academy City. Though he thought he managed to escape that life by obtaining the Parameter List, leaving the higher up with no option but to leave them be. The boy did find it strange, upon their return to the city, all traces of that darkness that brutally followed him to the frozen warzone of Russia had disappeared, apparently unrelated to his grand adventure. His mind sparked an optimistic thought at the time.

Maybe I didn't need this after all!

He understood how silly it was to have that thought! The tracksuit girl's face said it all.

'This is a life or death situation, Hamazura.'

"Ah. I get that much, Takitsubo." Hamazura decided to disregard the fact she did not inform him, instead solely focused his attention to the primary the opponent head on was not an option yet. "Now. Let's see how many of these bastards there are."

Takitsubo continued to pull the couple, keeping close to the packed streets and flowed through the crowds. At the same time Hamazura solely focused on anything that looked off. Instead of her awkward looping prior, they changed to a zigzag route.

Tch! They got a truck too!

Hamazura found it strange. Despite his history in the cities underside, he found it quite easily to spot their trackers. It wasn't as if his skill to spot those dangers had improved.

...Are these guys amateurs!? Can you not be so obvious and fall into those telltale signs of following! Hamazura struggled to keep a solid face in the wake of their actions.

"I've counted 4. And the truck." He relayed the info for confirmation. The boy would much rather have Takitsubo point out the trackers yet he didn't want to risk alerting them and accelerating them into danger.

"Hm." She nodded in approval, to which he responded with a relieved sigh. "They're unarmed as well."

"Eh?"

"Or lacking firearms at least. They've had plenty of opportunities to eliminate us from a distance."

The confidence of that statement sent a chill up Hamazura's spine. He had no intention of questioning her and continued to listen intently.

"They could still be armed with close range weapons but the biggest issue currently…" The couple turned into another crowded area and spotted the black SUV tracking them from a good distance.

"The truck eh?" Hamazura finished. With the presence of the vehicle, they could not confidently escape. Should they try and fail, that would end their only advantage.

Logically speaking…

"We should take out one of our tails before making a run for it."

That was their best bet. Yet despite that, Takitsubo tugged at his sleeve in resistance. "No."

It wasn't that she did not believe in Hamazura's ability, no. the main reason for her rejection of the plan was something else entirely. "I… Want to protect this. We want to protect this." It wasn't just Takitsubo. Mugino and Kinuhata were truly grateful to the level zero who fought for a life they never thought would be possible for them. If someone like Hamazura who a majority of the world recognized as a loser could be victorious and reach his goal, then it should be an easy task to protect it without his help.

However…

"We're ITEM." He did not pick that unwinnable fight just for himself. "I fought for this so I also want to protect it. Geez. You guys should at least pretend to depend on me. I'm not that incompetent."

Takitsubo almost stopped in her tracks. She wanted to correct the blonde teen about her thoughts and reason for her actions. However the time and place granted her no such leisure.

So she closed off those selfish thoughts clouding her judgement.

The task at hand must be dealt with.

"So, is our pro tracker ready to get rid our third wheelers?"

She nodded. "Two blocks ahead well turn right into an underground parking lot. It's a designated lot so the truck can't easily follow us."

"An open space? Wouldn't that make it easier for them to surround us?"

"If we fought in an alleyway, our escape options would be limited, and the fight would drag out should you fight them one on one. We need to eliminate as many as possible with a single move."

Hamazura understood her thinking, however…

"Takitsubo, I'm a level 0. I don't have any sort of special skill that can do that."

"That's why I chose the underground lot Hamazura."

"!?" the flow of thinking began to click as they made their way. After they entered the lot, only a few short minutes passed before another group entered behind them. The 4 trackers decided it best to enter together to out number Hamazura. The lot was only one floor deep but was quite spacious, with multiple vehicles parked away from each other. They entered expecting to look for their target and yet they were greeted by something else entirely.

"Yo." standing in the middle of the dimly lit lot stood Hamazura Shiage with a confident grin on his face. "As a boyfriend, I can't help but be a little cautious when I notice other guys stalking my girl. So why don't we settle this, man to man?"

He openly challenged the group despite the obvious disadvantage.

God I hope Takitsubo is right about the no firearms thing!

His didn't let those worries leak out and break his bravado. "Care to tell me why you bastards are following us?"

The group remained cautious and slowly approached him, scanning the dark lot for their second target.

"If you're looking for Takitsubo, she's right behind me. If you want her, you go through me first."

"Well, that's not the order we want to do things, Hamazura."

Unexpectedly , one of the goons responded, which took Hamazura by surprise, yet he wasn't reacting to the action itself, rather the sound of the boy's voice.

"Why the shocked face, Hamazura? Don't tell me after all you've done, I'd celebrate this reunion with open arms? No, no! Far from it you traitor." The voice echoed in the lot as he rose it in anger. "You leave after that horrible failure with Misaka Misuzu's assassination, join some level 5's group. Then there were these false rumors spread by Hattori himself that you killed a level 5!? YOU!? A failure in all sense of the word defeated a level 5?" his words were laced with hatred toward the level 0.

With those words, Hamazura knew.

Skill-Out. More specifically, the Skill-Out group he was a part of. Hattori Hanzo had gained control of that group after he stepped down but he recalled Hattori mentioning that no one bared any ill will toward his failings. Perhaps that was a lie to ease his own transition. Or he was speaking of the majority of that Skill-Out group, for the person before him certainly bared ill intentions due to Hamazura's past failings.

Out of all the people out for my head, it's you guys. He couldn't blame them for their disdain for him. Right after his greatest failure he left, joining ITEM as a no name grunt and never took responsibility for it. I'm fact, a part of him thought that anger was justified.

Yet he did not apologize.

"So, you revenge was your big idea?" words such as 'sorry' would not be enough to stop them now. If anything, that would only be lip service for himself to lessen the weight of his sin, one which he choose not to abandon.

The four men slowly grew closer, drawing out their concealed weapons.

Metal pipes. Chains. Brass knuckles. Typical weapons for level 0s.

"Revenge? No. This is judgement. We lost everything when Komaba died and left the reigns to you. Yet here you are. Living the life with your esper friends. You should lose something at least. Don't you think? Those 3 that you hang out with now, what kind of face will you make if they died?"

Words were over. The 4 launched a simultaneous attack on the boy.

"What the!?"

A bright light radiated from behind Hamazura.

"Cars in Academy City are really amazing." The light grew closer at a an alarming pace.

"You can start them without making a sound!"

The wheels grinded against the floor as the vehicle rushed into the blinded group. Two of them were sent flying by the car, with the remaining two barely rolling out of the way. However that number quickly fell to one as Hamazura's knee effectively knocked a thug unconscious.

The sole thug tightly gripped the metal pipe in hand. He charged at Hamazura who sloppily dodged the downward swing and followed up with gut driving tackle, forcing him on the ground.

The victors had been decided.

"Alright you bastard. What's your plan?"

"Ha! You think I'll tell you? A traitor and a failure!? Aren't you a bit full of yourself because got a lucky break!?"

"L-lucky!?" the word struck a nerve with him. But before he could retort, Takitsubo called out to him.

"Hamazura! Hurry!" she opened the driver's side door and slid into the passenger's seat. They hardly had time for any kind of interrogation. Another enemy loomed over them. He swore under his breath and ran into the car. "I've tried contacting Mugino and Kinuhata but I can't reach them." Hamazura wasted no time with the seatbelt and slammed his foot on the gas, breaking the toll gate to the underground lot with a crashing roar.

"Can you give me a general direction of their location? I doubt they're still at the apartment."

"Actually the apartment got blown up. They went after the attackers."

Hamazura continued his speedy getaway despite the lack of a destination. The reason being…

"Shit! They're already catching up to us!" True to his words, the black SUV haphazardly swerved through the light traffic, slowly closing the distance between them. It would only be a matter of seconds before it caught up if this continued.

There was a tinge of surprise in Takisubo's stoic expression which Hamazura noticed.

"Sure the specs on the car completely outclass that heap of garbage, however Academy City has smart cars that limit the actual top speed. Meanwhile, Skill-Out guts cars like that for optimal speed, sacrificing things like computers, radios and safety devices. For something like that, it carries supplies from one place to another rather quickly." his words came out rather bitter. He tried to focus on driving yet the recent conversation lingered in the back of his mind.

Takitsubo noticed his distress. "Hamazura…"

"No. I'm not okay." He answered flatly before she could ask. "Reasons or not, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth fighting people who I once considered a comrade."

After all, it was due to his own failings that drove them to where they are now. Komaba had entrusted that large faction of Skill-Out to him, only to be forced to be Academy City's dogs to prevent the same fate as Komaba.

If Komaba was still alive…

No. That was wrong to think that. He had garnered the attention of those higher ups, disrupting their plans and changing the ugly image of Skill-Out the majority had given them. Ultimately, Komaba Ritoku's death was inevitable. The only thing Hamazura could change was.

If I didn't fail. If I didn't accept their offer…

Where would Hamazura Shiage be? Where would Skill-Out and Hattori Hanzo be? Where would ITEM be? The thoughts piled in the back of his mind as he sped through the highway, the SUV in hot pursuit.

"I'm not alright but we can deal with that later. We gotta shake these guys off before finding Mugino."

"You sound like you have an idea for that."

"You might want to put on your seatbelt Takitsubo. It's going to get rough from here." soon after he said those words, his foot began to ease off the gas, decelerating at good pace.

"Hamazura… What are you doing?" a slow realization came to the tracksuit girl as she tried to slide deeper into her seat.

"You didn't think I picked this car specifically to outspeed them, did ya? That's impossible regardless of what car I picked." The SUV was now only a few cars behind them. "Remember what I said about Skill-Out outfitting and gutting cars for specific jobs? Turns out when you remove so many systems, it shifts the center of gravity."

"Hamazura." there was no point trying to talk him out of it. The SUV was directly to their left. She could only brace for what was to come next. "So all it needs to tumble is a 'small' and precise push."

That small push consisted of 3,800 pounds of metal colliding at near 100mph.

A vicious and violent crashed followed that reverberated throughout District 7.