Author Note:

Mixed reviews for the last chapter so far. Well, two reviews at the time of me writing this, both of whom have expressed some concerns. I'll do my best to address them as I can here. To at least explain my reasoning about some things. Though I note I did edit and re-upload the last chapter with a few additional paragraphs in the last scene to add some in-story weight to my reasoning as well.

Crack Shipping Guy: First off, I did notice in your review of ACIP that you wondered how I could post before Dark did, even though I basically started that chapter earlier that day? Its cause I'm a fucking beast, to be honest, astonishing even myself, when it comes to getting into a groove of writing. I can't do it reliably, but when my fingers are hot, I can pound out 10k words in 8 hours or so, as I did then. Though I guess its not always guaranteed to be my best writing. Mileage may vary.

Regarding your review to ACAL, I don't believe there is such a setting as "too arrogant" for Accelerator. Certainly, he has mellowed out around his friends in ACIP and ACAL, but I feel that arrogance is one of Accel's defense mechanisms. When he feels threatened or bothered, he retreats into sullenness, arrogance and spikiness. And while he himself is not under direct threat in this chapter, his girlfriend is, and his feelings of helplessness to be able to solve her problem are making him exaggerate his arrogance, trying to provide some form of moral support to her, in a flawed sort of way.

Stiyl, in my opinion, wasn't acting like a pussy, he was simply acting like he didn't want to be there. Which he didn't. He was forced to show up by the Archbishop, against his wishes, and he could tell the situation was going to get ugly, probably hearing some stuff through Necessarius's spy network. Why would he want to spend more time and energy on a disaster waiting to happen when he was only there through political favor trading? Also, I don't think we've seen Stiyl interact with Accelerator in the post-Cain fight era in ACIP, so that sort of thing may have changed his opinion of him. Its logical to be a bit afraid of a guy who killed Cain. Or who everyone believes did.

This story takes place in a POSSIBLE future of ACIP. Maybe a year ahead of ACIP current point, give or take. Dark and I are friends and we privately talk about our stories and stuff, but its not true collaboration. Events in ACAL may reference ACIP, but there is no solid cause and effect between them. And you should not take any reference in ACAL regarding ACIP as truth or word of God, even if they do actually match up (Dark takes some inspirations from me as well). They're just fun references for me to acknowledge my source material. Though regarding Kanzaki, I don't think the church would want to call her dead even if she was. Having your Saint killed by Academy City, or someone in it, would be a huge lose of prestige for Necessarius. They would try to cover it up as much as possible, and list her as simply "Missing", not dead, until they had no other choice.

Mr X: You ask what the big deal is in regards to the Blood Oaths and the forgery of same? Consider that Blood Oath's are basically a means of overriding free will in those that sign them, to ensure that they keep to the letter and spirit of an agreement, regardless of their own later will or wishes. They are thus strictly regulated by the government and only the government is allowed to create and use them… because the potential for abuse is so staggeringly high. So, if someone CAN forge one, or a very near replica of one, that could allow them to enslave people, make them puppets, and could cause untold damage within the highest levels of England's legal system by invalidating Blood Oath's as something that is trusted to seal the most important deals and negotiations.

Radiocarbon dating, while accurate in a geological or historical era sense, is not really a process that can narrow down the age of an object to a specific exact year or day. The same applies to the dating of a magical signature. Most people can only detect the difference between one that was made hundreds of years ago compared to one made recently… the margin of error for one made only a couple years ago is simply too small to detect. Only Accel's vector mastery allows him to feel that small change so acutely. As for how perfect the signature is, why would they consider that a found signature that matches exactly their recorded signature is a fake? That's not logical. It's when a signature doesn't match exactly that people get suspicious. But an exact match is an exact match, they would not question that.

I'm sorry that you feel the chapter was pointless, though I assure you it was not. It was the crux of the entire plot of the story. Every event that occurs from now on, aside from the occasional sex scenes, until the climax, is driven by this framejob of Bayloupe. Who did it? Why? What do they want? How will they combat this, in only three days? Also, her disillusionment with the royal family, and the country in general, is important to Bayloupe's character arc, and to the deepening of her and Accelerator's relationship. She's losing some of her longest held moorings in life, and will be looking for new ones to stabilize herself with.


Wednesday morning, Blackpoole County, Bayloupe's house, a couple hours before dawn.

With a roar of furiously constrained wind, which blew leaves off nearby trees and stirred up a few quickly re-directed clouds of dust, Accelerator alighted upon the ground in Bayloupe's backyard. Four tornado-like streamers of controlled air pressure extended from his mid-upper back, acting less like wings and more like VTOL thrusters, regardless of what those with a more poetical mindset might like to think. Bayloupe was held in his arms, in a princess carry, the sight somewhat incongruous since she was bigger than he was, and thus he appeared overbalanced. Of course, with a little manipulation of gravity's vector on her body, she was literally as light as a feather in his arms, and thus no real burden at all.

Despite the fact that his girlfriend was literally in his arms, and had been for the entire twenty or so minutes it had been since he lifted off from Buckingham Palace… with considerably less care than he had exercised when landing! There was none of the good sort of awkwardness he usually felt when riding tandem with Bayloupe on the fucking scooter. That abomination of a vehicle might be embarrassing as all fuck to be seen on, but riding it with Bayloupe always felt like a moment of closeness between them. A private thing even though they were in public. Carrying her in his arms, by rights, should have felt even better, even more intimate. Instead, he had felt little to nothing, just her presence, and a distant and distracted presence at that.

Not how I wanted our first flight together to go. Accelerator reflected sourly within his mind. It was an idea he'd been toying with off and on over the prior few days, ever since conceding to try out this boyfriend and girlfriend thing. It was something that only he could provide, a date in the sky, at least for a brief time. Total freedom to explore the heights most human only dreamed of. Just the two of them together in the vastness of the night sky. Higher than even a dragon could fly. A wild, fanciful dream, especially for a guy like him. One he had been warming up to, especially as he had more intimate encounters with Bayloupe, mostly on her terms and instigation. It would be pleasant to turn the tables on her and initiate something himself.

Setting Bayloupe onto the ground, Accelerator could only watch sullenly as she looked around distractedly, as if finally noticing where they were or how they had got there. This sort of shell shock doesn't suit her. He thought to himself, but he wasn't sure how to shake her out of her funk. His lip curled into an angry snarl, not angry at her, nor even really the situation they were in, but rather angry at himself. For his inability to really help someone he cared for in her time of need. His power was the greatest in the entire world, or close to it, but it was of no use at all in this situation. And his aloofness, his arrogance, was not what Bayloupe needed right now. Emotional pain? He knew no other strategy than to retreat into arrogance and aloofness, taking solace in his own power, even if it meant being alone…

"I'm going inside. Thanks for taking me home." Bayloupe's dull, half lifeless voice stirred him from his inward recriminations, and he looked at her. She had a fragile little smile on her face, like her features were made of stunt glass, just waiting for a mere tap to start showing cracks. Accelerator opened his mouth, to say anything, maybe even something he might later regret, to try and jolt her out of her pathetic state and back into the resilient, wicked and cool girl he was accustomed to. Before he could, Bayloupe had already turned away and moved inside, walking in a partial stagger, uncoordinated and unenergetic.

"Damn it all…" Accelerator cursed softly, once the door to the house closed behind her, leaving him alone in the back-yard. He looked up at the night sky, cloudy and chill, dark and brooding. It was looking like rain again soon. England never seemed to get enough of rain. "Fuck this country." He added after a few moments, his tone low but vehement. Turning off his collar at last, though he'd already wasted most of his current battery with the flight home, Accelerator took up his cane and made his way into the house as well. There had been no real choice in the matter. He wasn't about to let the English government just send them home in a car or helicopter, not after the events during the night. Having to rely on the government that was condemning her, threatening her life and her future, for a false crime, for even something as simple as transportation home… no, fuck that. Fuck. That.

Bayloupe was not in evidence when he stepped into the kitchen, nor visible in the sitting room, so Accelerator surmised that she had gone upstairs, perhaps to change her clothes. Being woken so abruptly in the middle of the night, she had simply thrown on the same uniform she'd worn for work the day before, and he figured that she probably wanted fresher clothes. Girls were fastidious like that. As was he, when he had the option to be. Goddamn it, I don't know what to say to her right now. Accelerator thought grimly, even as he knew that as a boyfriend, hell as a FRIEND, he had to do SOMETHING.

Seeing as he was in the kitchen, and that they were unlikely to go back to sleep with dawn only a few hours away, Accelerator eventually set about making breakfast for them both. Eggs. Bacon. Toast. Just the way she liked it from prior days. It was make-work, but it gave him time to think, even if that time availed him little in the way of solutions or answers. Bayloupe did not come downstairs during the time he was cooking, even though it couldn't possibly take that long to change her clothes. Even when he put the food on plates, and got utensils out, and even two cans of the best coffee, and set it all up on the table, side by side… she still hadn't come back down.

"What the fuck is wrong with me?" Accelerator asked the empty room, staring at the two plates of food, as they slowly started getting cold, untouched. I know what I should be doing… what the Hero would be doing, in this kind of situation. Hell, what any normal guy would do. But… why can't I? I'm the fucking Number 1! The strongest! How can it be that I don't have the strength to… to just go upstairs to her? Why the fuck am I piddling around down here, just waiting for her to fix herself and come down, like nothing's fucking wrong… I can't be this pathetic! He tightened his grip on his cane, almost to the point of pain, before he forced his grip to relax again.

Well, I made fucking breakfast, didn't I? Can't let it go to waste. I hate this so fucking much… He groused to himself, as he gathered up the plates and the cans of coffee, slipping the latter into his pants pockets, as he delicately balanced the plates on his free arm, as he began to stump across the kitchen towards the sitting room, and the staircase beyond. It wasn't easy, as without his powers, his balance was not all that great. Especially with the cans in his pockets and the plates on his free arm. Getting up the stairs without tripping and spilling everything was going to be a bitch.

I could just flip my choker. Still got enough power to get up the fucking stairs, no issue. Accelerator acknowledged, even though he knew that at this point, there was no way that would happen. It wouldn't be challenging, he could lean on the wall, drop the cane and click the choker in a second, and walk upstairs like it was nothing. But for some reason, some reason he could not define even to himself right now, his heart rebelled at the idea. He didn't want to come up the stairs as the Number 1. He'd been the Number 1 most of the night thus far, arrogant and cocky and abrasive and dominating. At times, it had helped a little for Bayloupe to see that. But not right now.

She doesn't need the Number 1. She needs Accelerator. He told himself, as he stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at them. Whoever the fuck that is. He added, with savage self-depreciation. He braced the cane on the first step and lifted his foot, leaning forward to keep his center of balance as his arm began to ache a little under the burden of the two plates and the food. Weakling. He scowled at himself, and ignored the pangs in his arm, and squared his stance off again as he got up the first step. Step by slow step, progressing upwards, while his heart ached and his arm trembled, and his many, many inadequacies, as a man, as a human being, taunted him inside his head.

Murderer… was the accusation his psyche leveled at him as he reached the top of the stairs, his body sweating a bit, his chest aching with the physical strain. Even with his powers off, he wasn't normally this weak or frail. But something was dragging at him, burdening him down, making him want to give up, to turn around and go back downstairs. To simply wait for Bayloupe to fix herself, to recover on her own. The easy path. The path that wouldn't make him have to deal with bullshit emotions and the terrifying perils of intimacy. The one-way path of the Number 1 in the world, with all its sweet, poisonous seductions of independence… and loneliness.

Fuck you! Accelerator cursed whatever part of his psyche was tormenting him and pressed onwards. It could rip and tear at him as much as it wanted, but he'd come too far… not just tonight, with the stairs, but in general, in life, as a person, as a human, to give in to his own flaws and weakness and insecurity now! He used his hip to push open the door to Bayloupe's bedroom. Immediately, the sound of the shower, subliminal though it might normally be, made itself known to him. Setting the plates of food on the side table by the bed and adding the cans of coffee to the crowded surface, Accelerator found himself hesitating again.

You brought the food up, that's good enough. Just wait out here for her to get done showering. You did the good boyfriend thing, now give her space. His thoughts cajoled him, his eyes falling upon the bed, the sheets still disordered from where they had gotten out of them a few hours before. It was a comfortable bed, to lie on or sit on. Let her get her head on straight again. Leave her be. She's a big girl. She'll get over it. You did, all those times in the past when things fucked you up inside. And she's stronger than you, when it comes to bullshit like this. If you could get over it, she'll be fine.

"I said, fuck you!" Accelerator growled to the empty room, and his inner demons, tearing his eyes away from the inviting solitude of the bed. The cold, empty bed. He massaged the bridge of his nose and brow, feeling a sharp, throbbing headache start to come on. It just made him want to sit down and take a breather all the more. He stood like that for almost a minute, hating himself the more his indecision lingered, before he finally couldn't take it any-more. He had no idea if he was doing the right thing. But doing anything was better than doing nothing.

He made his way to the bathroom door. For a moment he thought about knocking but scowled that thought away. Bayloupe had made it clear that he was welcome in her most intimate places already. Knocking was just a cowardly excuse to find a reason not to follow through with his intentions now, to give her a reason to shut him out, to refuse his help, awkward and flawed though it was. He opened the door and found the room to be surprisingly free of steam. The shower was running full tilt, but there was little in the way of heat in the room.

His feet made soft sounds on the floor, which was damp and wet in spots where water had leaked out of the not entirely closed shower door. It wasn't a big shower, though larger than the one in Yomikawa's apartment at least, even if the bathroom itself was overall smaller than the one back in Academy City. He stepped to the frosted glass of the shower door and pushed it open. Bayloupe was within, unsurprisingly. She hadn't even bothered to get undressed, and now she was a soaking wet mess, sitting in one corner of the shower stall, with her knees drawn up to her face, and her arms around her calves as the shower water, lukewarm at best, poured down on her head and back. Her face was completely hidden from him.

Reflected spray from the water hitting the walls and floor of the shower began to dampen Accelerator's pants and shirt, but he paid it no heed. Standing on the threshold of the shower, one final hesitation as he looked at his girlfriend. "I'm fucking pathetic, I know." Bayloupe suddenly spoke, her voice, quavering with raw emotion, barely audible over the pouring water. "We're on the clock to the end of my fucking life, and I'm falling to fucking pieces and bawling my eyes out. It's fucking awful. It's weak-ass bullshit, and its fucking pathetic."

Accelerator did not reply to that, he wasn't sure that anyone could have a reply to that. Not without saying something he didn't mean. He just stood in the doorway, slowly getting more and more soaked. "But what the fuck? I mean… what the actual FUCK!?" Bayloupe shuddered as she went on, holding her legs tighter, her horns rasping against the tiled wall of the bathroom as she shook her head against her knees. "All I ever wanted was to make the UK a better place, for everyone. To make my country stronger, and freer, and just… fucking better! I love my country… this country… this FUCKING country… I love it so fucking much but… it doesn't seem to fucking love me any!"

"I just… I wanted a fucking life where I wouldn't have to worry about some rival magicians fucking us over all the time. Or the church starting up a fucking inquisition to root out "pagan witches". Or where I wouldn't have to suck cocks and drop my fucking pants in back alleys when money got tight, to put food on the table for my sisters to eat. I wanted out… I wanted a real fucking life, for the first fucking time since I was a fucking toddler! That's all I wanted. I wanted to be done, to be normal. One big score to end it all. And if that score helped save the fucking country from decay and decrepitude…? Well, fuck yeah, why not, right?"

Accelerator still did not reply, but he stepped into the shower… having got enough reflected spray that he would be just as wet either way by then. He slowly slid down the wall and sat at Bayloupe's side. Just a bare inch separating them, as the water poured down on top of him, slicking his white hair to his head and face, covering his eyes in a sheeting curtain of white hair and silver water. It wasn't exactly comfortable. But all things considered, the water on his face and head was amongst the least uncomfortable things he was feeling at the moment.

"You know…" Bayloupe cut off with a strangulated sob. "You know…" she continued after a moment. "The part that I really can't come to terms with? The part that REALLY fucks with me? It's that we DIDN'T fuck up the Curtana job. Gods. We've screwed up so many crappy jobs before in the past. Lessar is a fucking artist at screwing things up at the worst time. The girl can't fucking stay out of trouble for love or money! I've spanked her ass red more times than I can count and she just doesn't seem to learn. Floris isn't much better, she just screws up in different ways. Lancis does her best, but she's too soft spoken, too introverted, I can't rely on her for big things, for people work. But the Curtana job… that went like a fucking dream from start to finish. Well, it got a little fucking rough at the end when we encountered you guys… but we DID the job. We fucking DID the FUCKING JOB! Our greatest success ever!"

"And she ordered us killed for it. That bitch. That monstrous, arrogant, cocky, snooty bitch of a Princess… she ordered us fucking killed for doing the best job of our lives! For doing everything right and making her whole fucking plan possible! Just so she could fulfill some fucked up part of her cockamamie fucking plan to do who knows the fuck what with England's future!? I could almost accept getting backstabbed, if it was for some important reason, you know? But to be tossed out, discarded just to make a fucking reputation for her like that? No. No fucking way. That's what you do to fucking trash. I've been fucking trash before. We all have. No fucking way can I take that from anyone, not even the goddamn Royal family!"

"I hate her. I hate her so much. That princess. That Carissa. Gods, I wish I could kill her so much! Heh. Treason just to say that out loud, in some parts of the country, you know? Guess that makes me a triple traitor now." Bayloupe made a sobbing sound again, her shoulders heaving as she clutched at her legs. "It's not like I don't get it. We backed the wrong horse. The coup failed, and that has consequences. Gods, I never thought it could fail… who would have expected the wielder of Curtana Original to fucking fail, right? But it did. It failed. She failed. And that put me and my sisters on the bad guy list. But Carissa… fucking Carissa, what does she get? Some time out in the Tower, and then right back into the swing of things, leading major military ops and getting back on with her life, that's fucking what, like she didn't just plot regicide!"

"And what do we get? All our money confiscated. Our car impounded. Our house repossessed. Our reputation shat on all over. Forced to leave the home we built, the community we'd found. Move halfway across the fucking country in search of a place to settle down and try to rebuild, restart from fucking scratch. Yeah. Yeah, I know… I should be glad I'm not in prison, or buried in a potter's field somewhere, like most traitors to the crown are. But fuck it… I thought we had a chance. A chance to make amends, like Carissa was doing. To prove that while our method was wrong, our hearts were in the right place. That we were, and still are, true patriots!"

"And now this… fucking THIS…" Bayloupe sniffled, her voice becoming raspy with the outpouring of her emotions. "I start to think, maybe life IS looking up. Work isn't glamorous, but it's steady. I'm not selling myself in back alleys to make ends meet. There's this amazing, incredible, fucking hot guy I'm totally into, and he seems to be into me. We go through some tough shit together, and things start looking good. Real good. We even make ourselves official, for the first time in my fucking life, a real fucking boyfriend who isn't fucking renting me! I'm on top of the fucking world. And then… this…" She shook, almost like she was shivering to death in the cold. "This…" Her voice came out caught between a sob and a broken chuckle.

"Forging a fucking Blood Oath." She said softly, as if marveling at the audacity of the idea. "Sure. I thought about it, back in the day. Every artificer does. It's a fucking golden goose. Crack that bitch and you're an instant fucking multi-millionaire. You can name your fucking price. But it's too hard. Way too fucking hard. And they come down on you like a ton of bricks if they even think you're trying that shit. It ain't worth it. Everyone knows that. But that gods be damned fake is so fucking good even I'm starting to feel like I made it. For fuck's sake!" She groan-chuckled again, a wracking, unpleasant noise. "Heh. Guess the least I can say is that whoever wants me fucking dead, is a real fucking pro. Guess that's… some solace."

"Oh gods… I'm so fucking dead." Bayloupe mumbled despairingly. "It's over. No way out of this one. Everything I struggled for, bled for, fucked for… its all for nothing, now."

"No." Accelerator spoke for the first time since joining her. It wasn't much, but it was strongly said. A vehement denial.

"Yes. Yes, I am dead. Dead or as good as. Don't try to sugarcoat this. That bullshit is beneath you. I am totally fucked here. Even if they don't kill me, they're going to send me away, throw me out of the place I love, maybe separate me from my little sisters. For good. I'll never be able to get a job as a Magician again, no matter where I go. Exiled from your home nation for serial treason? That's a rep you don't shake. Nobody wants a person like that doing work for them. Probably won't be able to get any other legitimate job either. Guess it'll be back to spreading my legs in cheap hotels for cheaper men, and back alley suck and fucks for coffee money again." Bayloupe lifted her face just enough to display a death's head grin on her face, her eyes red, bloodshot and almost unblinking.

"No." Accelerator repeated, even more strongly this time, a tinge of irritation entering his tone.

"Oh… yeah. I guess I can come live with you, huh? Another fucking freeloader, hanging around the place, mooching off you and Yomikawa. A live-in babysitter for Last Order and Worst. Pay my rent in your bed." Bayloupe snorted in rejection. "No. That's not me. I'm no one's dependent, you understand me? Not even yours. Especially not even yours. And I'm not mingling my living expenses with our relationship. No fucking way am I doing THAT! You're too good for that. You don't deserve that kind of baggage. You don't deserve the way I'd be holding you back…"

"Shut up." Now Accelerator was legitimately annoyed. He hated self-pitying bullshit, all the more so because he'd indulged in some of it himself in the past. He reached out and grabbed her by the shoulder and gave her a tug. And then again when she failed to meet his eyes. "Look at me. Fucking look at me." He demanded, and slowly, Bayloupe raised her face, looking through her own sodden fringe of hair at him.

"You're better than this. Snap the fuck out of it. Wake up. Bayloupe." Accelerator grimaced as he fought to get out the words he wanted to say. "Shit's bad. But you're not alone. I'm not going to let this happen to you."

"So, I should just wait for you to save me? Wait for my amazing boyfriend to make it all better for me?" Bayloupe retorted bitterly. "Fuck you. I didn't ask to be your damsel in distress. Don't fucking humiliate me like that, please…"

"I'm not a fucking Hero." Accelerator replied with a snort and an exasperated roll of his eyes. "I… can protect people. Some people. Sometimes. But saving people? Really saving them? I can't do that. I've never been able to do that. I'm the one getting saved, all the time. That damn Hero. Last Order. You. Each of you has saved me, in lesser or greater ways." He looked away, his face flushing with heat, and his voice lowering into a growl of annoyance. "I'll protect you. If someone tries to attack you, I'll fucking destroy them. But this problem… I can't destroy a whole fucking country. Well, I can. But it won't help. It won't save you if I do. The only one that can save you, is you. Well, and the fucking Hero, I guess. But I'd prefer not to call him if I can avoid it."

"Afraid I might fall for him too, if he did?" Bayloupe's tone wasn't a patch on her normal teasing one… but it was better than her raw despondency at least.

"Heh. Not fucking likely. You know you can't get enough of me. He'd never measure up." Accelerator smirked with his usual confidence.

"You are my number 1 choice alright." Bayloupe leaned her head on his shoulder, her horn digging into his skin a bit, but like the water, it was a discomfort he could ignore.

"Damn right. This is a one-way road we're on. No turning around allowed." Accelerator shifted his grip from her near shoulder, to her far one and just a little bit, pulled Bayloupe against his side. It felt cheesy to him, and uncomfortable, and awkward. But with his arm around her shoulders, he didn't have to say anything more at least. And that was good. He'd said enough. Hopefully.

It was a long time before they got up to turn the shower off. But at least it wasn't cold for either of them, despite the water's temperature…


A couple hours later, Earl Blackpoole's Estate

"His Lordship will see you now." The manservant, dressed in a heavily starched and sharply pressed butler's uniform, said diffidently. The man stood in the opened door of the antechamber that Loec had been directed to about half an hour before, shortly after he arrived at the estate to update the Earl on the matter regarding the massacre in the dockyards two days prior. Loec looked up from where he had his staff held across his lap, where he'd been stroking the polished black wood and idly making the colors in the focusing crystal shift through his spectrum of powers to pass the time, he nodded and rose.

The manservant was already moving on to other duties, as Loec was a relatively frequent visitor to the estate and had even lived there as a guest of the Earl for a time during his teenage years, after he'd lost his prior living arrangements. He knew his way around, and knew the Earl's habits, so he knew where to go now that he had been granted an audience. Loec made his way down the halls from the antechamber towards the Earl's morning chambers. Normally the Earl would break his fast outside on the veranda, but the weather was inclement, with the sky full of brooding grey clouds, heavy with occasional showers of cold rain, so his patron and boss would be indoors instead. Reaching the doors to the particular sitting room/study that the Earl favored for mornings, Loec opened the door and strode in without knocking, as he had already been invited.

As expected, the Earl was sitting at the desk, his comfortable leather chair half turned towards the wide picture windows that gave a view out across the rolling lawns and gardens and carefully tended forests that took up much of the land of the estate. There was a tray with the remnants of a fine English breakfast on it, as well as a tall mug of strong coffee, on the desk, which was otherwise mostly uncluttered except for knick-knacks and small items of personal memorabilia. This was a leisure space, not a business office, a place to greet friends rather than employees.

Of course, Loec was an employee more than he was a friend… the Earl had taken him in during a time of great personal need, and he was forever in his debt for that, but there was no real closeness to their relationship beyond that of faithful Magister and generous Earl. Loec enjoyed a fair measure of the Earl's trust, but that was solely due to his exemplary record on the job. He sketched a quick bow in the Earl's direction, as his patron turned from his contemplation of the estate to regard him. "Milord." Loec gave the brief courtesy in a neutral tone of voice.

The Earl was a man in his early sixties, neither fat nor thin, not tall nor short, but average in most respects, almost forgettable really, aside from his cold grey eyes and steel grey hair that was meticulously cared for, pulled back in a short ponytail down his upper back. His skin and features were a little worn by time and weather, but there was a vital light still in his eyes. He was dressed in a deep burgundy velvet lounging robe trimmed with black ermine furs, tied at his waist. Rings of gold with settings of sapphire and ruby glittered on his fingers.

"My Magister. What news do you bring me this morning?" The Earl inquired, waving his hand idly to dismiss Loec's show of formality.

"Your county is largely peaceful, my lord. Aside from the usual small troubles, there have been no major incidents since the killings at the dockyard." Loec answered, with a brief, proud smile. As well he might, since as the Magister of Blackpoole, it was his primary duty to ensure that all the various Magic side individuals and Cabals in the county were behaving themselves and keeping their noses clean, both in mundane and magical terms. And Loec was very good at his job, as there had not been a major magical incident in any part of Blackpoole county since he had been invested as the Magister several years ago. Well, aside from the killings at the dockyard. And though tragic, and a bit of a stain on his record, all things considered, Loec would gladly take the loss of reputation for the chance at revenge at long last!

"In regard to those killings, there has been a development." Loec went on, frowning because he was legitimately troubled by it. "I interviewed her, and she was unexpectedly forthcoming. I barely even had to use my Shield of Blue to ease the truth out of her, she was eager to cooperate. Outraged even. She claimed self-defense… and despite myself, I found her argument compelling. My lord. She presented me with a Blood Oath, that was targeting her and her Cabal. Completely authentic, as far as I could tell. I passed it on to the relevant authorities of course. Seeing that murdering bitch get what's coming to her is one thing, but this… this could be a matter of national security! If Mundane criminal groups start creating, or God forbid using, Blood Oaths…"

"Calm yourself, my Magister." The Earl interrupted Loec's train of thought, patting the air with one hand as he took a sip from his mug of coffee. "It is too early for hysterics. This is unexpected, yes, but it is not the setback you fear."

"Milord?" Loec was confused, because as far as he could see, this was disastrous. Ever since he had become aware of New Light, once they had been thrust into the national limelight, such as it was, for their part in the troubles regarding Princess Carissa, he had been almost consumed by his desire for vengeance upon them. The girls… those ungrateful bitches… who had ruined his young life, traumatized him and brutally murdered the man who had been his father in all but blood. He had long thought them gone, disappeared, lost from all hope of retribution for their crimes, but now God was smiling upon him, serving them up to him in a time and a place when he had the means and the authority to finally make them pay for what they had done!

All he had needed was a pretext, a causus belli, something to use to bring to bear the force of his authority, backed by all the might of the entire UK government. He wanted to do this right after all. Not some petty vengeance, not some back-alley payback, as satisfying as that might be. But it wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be Justice. Simply ambushing and killing them in a magical duel would be far too gentle, too quick and painless. Not to mention that would make him the bad guy. It would bring him down to their level.

But annoyingly, that smug twat Bayloupe and her whiny, backstabbing bitch friends, Floris, Lancis and Lessar, had managed to keep their noses more or less clean after relocating to Blackpoole. He had been sure that Lessar at least would do something to land New Light in a tough spot… that little brat had been a born troublemaker, even back when he was learning to change her diapers under Master Blackwood's direction, a different lifetime ago. Lancis was too good natured and introverted to cause problems, and Bayloupe generally too smart and cool-headed. Floris had a tendency towards overconfidence and easily held stupid grudges over the most trivial bullshit, so she had been another possibility for getting into trouble, but had managed to avoid doing so, thus far.

Loec knew them all well. Their personalities, their flaws, their strengths, their little quirks, their secret fears. They had, after all, been basically his younger sisters for a period of time during his early teenage years. When he had gone by a different name, and life had been rosy and wonderful, and he had still been innocent to the unfairness of the world. None of them were true blood family of course, as they were all orphans taken in by Master Blackwood's generosity and loving care, but as his chosen cadre of apprentices and helpers, Loec had always fondly imagined a certain bond between them. How foolish he had been back then.

The incident with Sharkey's gang at the dockyards had thus seemed heaven sent. His agents and paid spies, always watchful over Bayloupe and the other members of New Light whenever they were abroad in Blackpoole city and its nearby environs, had noticed the leader of New Light heading down to the docks for a meeting with some of the city's more well-known disreputable citizens. Loec had intended to sweep in at the end of the meeting and catch Bayloupe making some sort of deal with the Mob. That would have been more than enough to give him the excuse needed to bring her in and start his revenge on the right foot. But while he was still gathering his forces for the raid, he had received reports of a considerable fracas taking place inside the warehouse. By the time he had managed to get everything organized and in place, the fracas was over, and Bayloupe had escaped. However, while she might have slipped his grasp initially, she had left behind a bloody slaughterhouse in her wake, with the entire gang smeared, smashed, eviscerated and even torn limb from limb… a gory spectacle that had turned even his hardened stomach at times to behold!

Of course, he had always known she was a killer, ever since he had watched helplessly as she struck down Master Blackwood from behind during an important ritual spell. Master Blackwood had been entirely helpless to defend himself, caught within the throes of the spell, as had Loec himself, lending his aid to the Master's efforts to commune with a fragment of the Divine, the first time he'd been given so weighty a task. And on the cusp of success, Bayloupe had brought it all down in blood and screams and torn flesh and smashed bones as she stabbed and beat Master Blackwood into a broken mess, right in front of him! Like a wild beast, like a fucking rabid animal!

Her demonic rage had rendered her vulnerable though, and after breaking free from the unspooling tatters of the Spell of Communion, Loec had been about to make her pay for killing their adopted father, throttling her with his bare hands. But then the other three, who SHOULD have been securely locked in their dormitory for the night, had come out of nowhere, wielding mop handles and broomsticks, and had roundly beaten him into semi consciousness before he could muster the heart to strike back at his much-adored little sisters…

"The Blood Oath was a fake, Magister." The Earl's words cut through Loec's recollections like a hot knife through steam, parting the haze of his memories and snapping him back into the present. He felt his jaw drop, as the true impact of what the Earl had said hit home in his brain.

"A… a fake? A fake? FAKE!?" Loec put a hand to his mouth and face to stifle his sudden urge to cackle in furious comprehension. "A fake Blood Oath… now I understand… she was always the best of us at artificing…"

"Indeed. I have it on good authority that it wasn't until the document was personally inspected by a Crown Inquisitor that the falsehood was detected. You should not blame yourself for not catching it, Magister. Only a true expert would have been able to notice the difference." The Earl said reassuringly.

"I should have known better! I was just so shocked to see her produce one like that, especially under the influence of my Shield of Blue. I didn't detect any falsehood at all. The perfect alibi. No Mage tribunal in the land would fault her for killing those criminals if they had tried threatening her with one of those. The ultimate shield against consequences, even for a former traitor against the Crown." Loec sighed heavily, a mingling of relief and begrudging admiration for well-played gambit.

"Your Color magic is strong and flexible, Magister. But it is still a newer theory, not well explored or established and codified, unlike more mainstream spell theories. It is to be expected that there may be some instability and inconstancy with your spell effects until you can get a proper Grimoire on the subject put together." The Earl shrugged the matter away. "Unfortunately, not all is yet well. Despite being caught in the act of falsifying a Blood Oath, the witch has managed to earn herself a temporary stay of punishment."

"WHAT!?" Loec was flabbergasted at that revelation. "How is that possible?! She was caught… caught red handed, falsifying one of the most sacrosanct documents in the UK, trying to use it as justification for murder! They should have sent her to the Tower for interrogation and execution, immediately! She is a murderer, a traitor, and a falsifier of crown certified documents!"

"Calm yourself, Magister. Histrionics and hysterics do not help." The Earl commanded in a colder tone of voice. "The official word is that the Crown needs time to fully verify the Blood Oath. Apparently, there was some small doubt raised as to whether Bayloupe really created it. Some sort of quibble regarding the age of the mana-weave signature… I don't understand it myself. Something very technical and obscure."

"And unofficially?" Loec frowned heavily, as that sounded like a very minor point of contention, to say the least. There had to be something more to it than that.

"Unofficially, I have it on good authority that the Queen granted the stay of punishment as a favor for that Esper boy staying with the witch. Apparently, he is much in her favor for his actions during the troubles with the 2nd Princess a year ago. It was by his word that the authenticity of the mana-signature was called into question in the first place." The Earl shrugged disdainfully at this and took another sip of his coffee.

"What the fuck!? I mean, pardon me, but has her Majesty started to go senile?" Loec winced at the statement, even though he himself had made it… Queen Elizard was a magnificent Queen, and much beloved and trusted by the people. But that just meant an obvious display of favoritism, against all common sense, like this was just the more out of character! "What does an Esper know of mana-signatures? That's a load of bollocks!"

"Likely so, but it is what it is. My ears in the Palace were not privy to the whole context of the discussion between the Queen, her daughters and the witch and her Esper boyfriend. All I managed to glean was the end result, which is a three-day reprieve for the witch, while the Queen makes up her mind on what to do." The Earl fixed Loec with his flat stare. "And unfortunately, I have more bad news on that score. This is unconfirmed but matches with what we have learned so far… it is likely that once the reprieve is over, the Queen will order the witch to be exiled, rather than imprisoned or executed for her crimes. No doubt yet more favor being shown to her foreign boyfriend."

"NO! No, that can't be!" Loec protested, his eyes wide and wild with furious despair. "She's going to get away with it!? Again? AGAIN!? Murder! Betrayal! She's going to walk off, free and clear, allowed to just go on her way and start up again somewhere else, aided and abetted by that Goddamn fucking Esper asshole!? AGAIN!?"

The Earl grimaced in sympathy. "At this point it seems all but certain, I'm afraid. Out of sight and out of mind, she'll cease to be a political problem for the Queen. Depending on where she ends up, we might still be able to exert some local pressures on her… but if she goes to Academy City with the Esper… well, we have no power there. She will be well and truly beyond our reach."

"This is a mockery of justice! This isn't right! This… this is a travesty… a fucking joke!" Loec ranted in outrage, his face flushed and his three focus crystals flaring all together with the reddish light of passion and anger.

"This is political expediency, Magister." The Earl sighed and leaned back tiredly in his chair. "There is of course a lot of pressure, especially from the 1st Princess's faction, to have the witch made an example of. A public statement of the UK's continued strength of justice and intolerance for internal weakness. But at this point, with the Blood Oath at least slightly in question, it is likely that the Queen will allow her sentiment for the Esper to influence her judgement. Exile is a harsh punishment for any loyal Briton, of course. It will be seen as acceptable by enough of the peerage and the magical community to assuage their concerns. There is little that can be done, I'm afraid. With only a single major point of evidence, and that currently in official doubt, there is just not enough leverage to overcome whatever favors the Queen owes the Esper."

"That's… that's so unfair…" Loec's tone was drained of vitality, wooden and dry.

"I know, my boy." The Earl's voice took on a tone of uncommon gentleness and familiarity. "I know you were looking forward to making her pay for what she did to good Master Blackwood…"

"No, Milord!" Loec immediately protested the unspoken insinuation. "I mean, yes, Milord. I did want to see her punished for her crimes. I do want that, so much! But this isn't about personal revenge, Milord. It can't be, if it's to be done right. She is a criminal, Milord. A murderer. A liar. I want her punished, locked away, even killed if the tribunal decides it so… but I want it not just to avenge Master Blackwood, but to keep her from hurting anyone else! She is a bad egg, a rotten soul… when people show her love and care, she takes them for all they're worth, then stabs them in the back when she has a good chance… she did it to Master Blackwood, and again to the Royal Family. And she'll keep doing it, because she keeps getting away with it! That's what angers me! That's what I can't stand!"

"I wish I had some solace for you, Magister, but alas, I am a mere Earl, and not a particularly powerful or well connected one either. The time of Blackpoole's ascendancy as the tourist capital of England is in the past. Just maintaining what I have takes all I've got, I cannot spare any influence to trying to right this wrong for you."

"It is alright, Milord. I thank you for the information and the warning as it is. I… I do not know what I might have done, if I heard about this from another source, or after the fact. I am your Magister, I have a duty to uphold the honor of my position, and your honor as my patron. Besmirching it with rash actions taken for the sake of personal feelings would be an insult to everything you have done for me in the past, Milord." Loec forced control over his emotions, and stood up straight, before giving a much deeper and more formal bow than he had opened the conversation with. "Thank you, Milord. This is… devastating news, but best it come from your lips."

"Then I suppose I shall keep you from your duties no longer, my Magister. Go, with my sympathies. Take the day off if you need it, or not. I trust that you know your tempers well enough to do what is right." The Earl waved off the bow, just as he had the first one. He began to turn his chair back towards the window, to once more contemplate his lands, the audience over with.


For several minutes after Loec left the room, there was nary a sound, save for the barely perceptible breathing of the Earl as he stared out the window and finished off his cooling coffee.

"So, the red shrike is in the wind once more." A new voice intruded upon the silence, sliding into the quietude of the room like a whetted blade between bloodied ribs. A familiar tingle spread across Earl Blackpoole's skin, pins and needles sensation in his toes and fingers, and a sense of breathlessness, of difficulty in catching his breath. The voice was familiar to him, as familiar as a loved one's, but never failed to inflict upon him this mixture of excitement and discomfort all the same.

No door had opened, no window had been cracked, but suddenly there was another presence in the room with him. Earl Blackpoole did not turn his chair about to confront his visitor, but instead kept staring out the window at the overcast and rainy day. In the watery reflection of the glass, he could faintly make out the shape of his guest, behind him in the room. A vague impression of a figure clad in heavy robes, with a heavy cowl pulled down over the face, hiding all within a void of shadow. The robes seemed to blend in and out of the stormclouds outside, as if they weren't fully solid, though that could have just been the way the reflection appeared on the glass.

"Deacon. I am… troubled." The Earl spoke in tones of deepest respect, as his beloved religious mentor appeared to him once more in a time of need.

"And what has unsettled you so, my son?" The Deacon replied, as he glided forward towards the Earl's desk, his robes rustling across the wooden floor without any apparent sound of footsteps. Even as he got closer, there was not a single piece of the Deacon visible, just the humanoid shape of his robes and cowl. The Earl had never seen the Deacon's face, or even his hands or feet, in all the years he had known him, which had been almost the entirety of his life. "We expected Elizard to make some sort of delaying ploy, after all. The Prime Sacrifice will not be allowed to escape. You have seen to that yourself, just now, when you sent our little bird out into the wind once more. She will come to him, and regardless of the outcome, she will be ours once more, afterwards."

"Yes, Deacon." Earl Blackpoole agreed, the shivery sensation in his spine, and the tingling in his digits growing stronger as the Deacon approached him, now standing just behind his chair. Though his appearance in the window glass got if anything, less distinct, the closer he got to the Earl's chair. "It is the Esper that concerns me. He is a random variable, unexpected, unplanned for. He has already interceded upon the Sacrifice's behalf and derailed what I thought was an ironclad gambit to secure her before the Ritual begins. Even Elizard shouldn't have been able to delay with such evidence against her. But somehow this Esper found a flaw in what should have been a perfect setup… and that worries me. And his strength… even Saints speak highly of him!"

"Saints." The Deacon's voice was full of scorn for the word. "Flawed copies of an inherently flawed being, belonging to an entirely flawed God. Do not concern yourself overmuch with such things, my son. When the Ritual is complete, they will be swept aside, along with all others. Reduced to the squealing kine they all truly are."

"Of course, Deacon. But still… I don't understand Espers, and that concerns me."

"Dwell not on his heretical power, my son. Instead, consider that he is a young man, in the grip of love. All the strength in the world matters little, if one has not the freedom or willpower to use it. Or the proper target to use it upon. He won't be a problem. No mortal strength will prevail against the Truth when It arrives." The Deacon pronounced the judgement with complete finality. "However, I see that your heart remains doubtful, my son. Do not fret. To doubt is human. One day, perhaps, you will ascend to a higher state of being and no longer be plagued by it."

"I pray for such favor every day, Deacon." The Earl promised fervently.

"And your prayers are heard, my son, and communicated on, rest assured." The Deacon paused for a moment, his outline now so faint on the glass that really only the void where his face should have been was visible. "Very well. I will attend to the issue of the Esper, my son. He will not be allowed to interfere with our plans."

"Thank you, Deacon!" The Earl closed his eyes with a feeling of relief. And when he opened them again, he was once more alone. Though in a certain sense, anyone who followed the Truth was never really alone…


Just before noon, London-Heathrow International Airport, International Arrivals concourse, Baggage Claim

Well, now I'm Super here, all right. No turning back now… A young girl, though not quite as young as she appeared at first glance, thought to herself as she leaned against a wall while waiting for her bags to come through the baggage claim system. It was a longer wait than she was used to back home… Academy City's fully automated system was much more efficient than the human staffed systems found in the rest of the world. Of course, the real point of no return had been when the red-eye flight she'd boarded in Academy City had taken off from the District 23 airport. But something about actually being on the ground in England made that sense of no-return feel much more immediate.

Kinuhata Saiai, Level 4 Offense Armor and member of ITEM, wasn't normally the sort to go racing across half the world all by herself. Academy City was her whole world and had been since a very young age for her. Like many other Child Errors, with no families outside the City to speak of, the City itself had become like a family to her. Abusive and uncaring, but family all the same. Everything she needed could be found in the City, the heart of Science, the most advanced City in the world. Her personal heaven. Her personal hell.

Well, almost everything I Super need anyway… Saiai thought grumpily, as she stared down at her phone, bringing up the offensive image that had prompted this uncharacteristic trip once more. It had been emailed to her from an unexpected source, someone that was little more than an acquaintance really, but she had no reason to doubt the veracity of the image. It had really only confirmed some of her deepest and longest held fears. Saiai's normally cute and certainly aesthetically refined face… if in ways that some idiots, like Hamazura, couldn't properly appreciate… twisted into an unattractive scowl as she looked at said picture once more, for what Super must have been the thousandth time already.

It showed two people on a couch together, one of them lying spooned within the arms of the other. The one in the rear, the big spoon position, was a sporty looking girl with a full figure, in her late teens, with healthy looking pale skin, straight shortish hair of platinum-silver hue, and bright turquoise eyes. She was wearing a football uniform, T shirt and shorts that left much of her long legs visible, and knee socks. Her most distinctive feature though was the set of cathode-ray tube type devices, two per side of her head, that rose at a rakish angle from just behind and slightly above her ears. Hearing aids, or something… Saiai had never really understood what they were, other than ugly. The girl had a big, smug grin on her face… and no surprise why!

Lying within the arms of this unworthy girl, with a scowl on his strong and attractive face, was Accelerator. Academy City's number 1 Ability User, the Master of Vectors, the Strongest. Also, the guy that Saiai was completely head over heels crushing on and had been for over a year now. And maybe even longer than that, though that got into some sticky issues she didn't like to recall too often. He was dressed in one of his usual outfits, grey slacks and a t shirt with white and black geometric patterns. His crimson eyes were glaring into the camera, and one unfamiliar with him might have thought he was pissed off or unhappy to be in his current position. But Saiai knew better. She knew him pretty well, though not as well as she would have liked to by now. Well enough to know that while he was a little displeased, probably by the photo being taken, he was NOT unhappy to be in the position he was. And that was fucking UNACCEPTABLE to Saiai!

That fucking bitch. I Super knew he wasn't going out of town on business. What business does he even have, outside the City? Saiai groused at herself for not realizing what was going on sooner. And more importantly, not taking action sooner. ITEM was on light duties for the moment, and she had plenty of free time… she shouldn't have let him get out of her sight! Of course, she didn't want to be thought of as clingy or a stalker, even if she had indulged in occasional stalking from time to time, usually at Frenda's instigation. Accelerator was not an approachable, cuddly sort after all. But the sheer disdain he projected, his badass aura, drew her like a moth to a flame all the same.

Bayloupe. Saiai growled to herself, a miasmic aura of grim displeasure spreading out around her and keeping everyone else around her in the airport away from her by instinct. The name of her rival. Her enemy in the arena of love. Not the only one… Saiai knew there were other girls that thought they were worthy of Accelerator's affection. They were delusional, of course, but they existed. But Bayloupe was the chief rival, the one that Saiai considered the biggest threat, and for good reason! Bayloupe's tactics had always been exemplary, getting herself in as first Accelerator's roommate, and even as his so called "girlfriend", for the sake of her cover identity in Academy City! She'd even heard rumors that they'd shared a bed before, but she refused to believe that. Or used to… now though, it was harder to refute such things…

It would be easier if Saiai merely hated Bayloupe for her presumption and her antics. But despite the urge from time to time, Saiai could not muster that emotion for the older girl. Indeed, she found herself respecting and even admiring her. She was smart, cool of temperament, reliable in a fight, skilled within her own areas of expertise but not too proud to listen to others in their own. She was tough and brave, even in the face of overwhelming odds. She was kind and gentle to her teammates, the members of New Light, but also firm in keeping them disciplined and focused on the mission at hand. She commanded loyalty and respect from everyone that worked with her. And not even the slightest hint that she ruled through fear, unlike a certain level 5 boss of Saiai's.

Of course, Mugino was MUCH better nowadays than she had been in the past, much more of a true leader, even almost a big sister type, to the other girls of ITEM, rather than the tyrannical boss she had been originally. All that time hanging out with Kamijou had changed her, and generally for the better, though Saiai would never have said as much to her face. Or even behind her back, even if the other members of ITEM would have doubtless agreed with her.

All the same, Saiai could not help but draw parallels between ITEM and New Light, that made her a little jealous, even as she admired Bayloupe all the more. ITEM was overall much stronger in terms of combat potential, naturally. But New Light was much closer knit, a real family, founded upon love and respect and friendship, rather than thrown together by the higher ups of the City and just learning to make it work, like ITEM had. Saiai wouldn't trade her life now for anything, despite the jagged and pain filled path that had got her there… but all the same, sometimes she wondered what her life would have been like if Bayloupe, or someone with her qualities, had been her boss instead of Mugino.

But admiration or not, Saiai wasn't about to concede Accelerator to Bayloupe. No way. No fucking how. They were fucking CONNECTED, that weird fortune teller lady with the prismatically colored eyes had even said as much, when Saiai had stopped by her stall one day after stumbling over it while stalk… while checking in on Accelerator. And since there was no way that some random fortune teller on the street could know about Dark May, Saiai knew that it wasn't bullshit. There was a connection between them, an intimacy that was unique to just him and her, even if it was one that they had never really discussed. A piece of him that resided permanently within her, a thought that made her belly squirm in a mostly pleasant way when she dwelled on it late at night in bed.

Of course, she hadn't always felt so rosy regarding that subject. In the aftermath of the implantation of Accelerator's thought patterns within her brain, her life had been one of maximum suckage. Jumping up from Level 1 to Level 4 overnight would do that to you. And that wasn't even going into the actual side effects of the procedure, which had damn near killed her. Her life had been full of pain and confusion, as her brain basically had to relearn everything from the ground up. For a long time afterwards, there had been no one in all the City she hated more than Accelerator. The one that had made the experiment possible, that had fucked her up thoroughly from the inside out, and then just discarded her like trash when it was revealed she'd never really get any stronger. That this method of producing a new Level 5 was a bust just like most others.

Over time though, that hatred had faded, along with a lot of other strong emotions, as she had thrown herself into the process of survival once Dark May was deemed a failure, and she and all the other experimental test subjects were turned out on the streets… if they were lucky. She was one of the more successful experiments, so she had been able to make it on her own long enough to get noticed by the City again and put into ITEM. Most weren't so lucky, and they were swallowed by the City as surely as if it had a mouth to do it, never to be seen again. At least not in any recognizably human form. And she'd had more than her fair share of close calls, of situations that could have gone either way, and ended up with her dead, enslaved, or cut up as a science project for some fucking Kihara wannabe somewhere.

When she'd encountered him again during the course of a mission for ITEM regarding some nano-weapon that was poised to assassinate a Director of the City, Saiai had felt an instant sense of connection to him. He had flicked her away from him like a bug, of course. Threatened to kill her if she even dreamed of standing up to him in the slightest way. Truly communicated the massive gulf of power between them, so easily. But that just made her want him. A small piece of that power resided within her after all. Like called out to like. His cold disdain, his arrogant dismissal of her power, her life… the more she experienced such things, the more their link grew, the more she knew that he was the one. Not just the number one, but the One, for her.

Communicating her feelings to him had not been easy. Or particularly successful, for that matter. He allowed the occasional intimacy between them, friendship even, or at least tolerance of her presence in his orbit. He protected her in some fights. She helped a tiny bit in some others of his. She still dreamed of being in his arms, even as a building self-destructed around them and showered them with half a kiloton of rubble. The larger chunks breaking against him like they were made of loose sand, and the smaller chunks bouncing off her Offense Armor the same way. A mirrored existence. But aside from arm twisting efforts that were closer to blackmail than anything date-ish, they had never really gone out, never spent time alone together. Never held each other, or kissed, or spooned on the couch, or anything.

But he was the One, and Saiai wasn't going to concede, no matter how much of a lead Bayloupe seemed to have on her right now. She wasn't entirely sure what she was going to do, now that she had arrived in England. She really only had the faintest idea of where to go, mostly provided by Lessar, and an irritated Lessar at being confronted at Kamijou's place in the dead of night when Saiai was making her preparations for this emergency trip. But she sure as Super fucking hell was going to do SOMETHING, and make Accelerator realize at long last that it was their connection, their unique intimacy, that deserved his affection, not Bayloupe's curves and mainstream beauty and whatever else she was seducing him with!

I'll Super jump his bones, if I have to… Saiai promised herself grimly, even as she could not help but blush furiously at the thought. But this was love… it was war, and that meant no holds barred! The baggage carousel finally clunked into motion, as bags began to be deposited on the moving metal sheaves. First she would get her stuff. Then she'd find a taxi. And she'd play it by ear from there… but Saiai promised herself that tonight, this night, she'd either spend it in Accelerator's arms… or buried six feet under the cold hard ground!