Saturday, September 23rd

Evening

"Man, that was a seriously great concert!" Ruiko stretched her arms above her head contently, leaning back into her chair.

"I didn't know he was going to play his unreleased single!" Kazari said eagerly.

"It's going to be a number one hit at once!" Kasuri exclaimed, and waved at the waitress coming their way.

"It sure was worth the trouble of begging our parents to transfer our allowance a bit earlier." Inu said, slowly stirring her soda with the straw. They were sitting at a table outside a café close to the seventh district main plaza, just having finished witnessing the Hitotsui Hajime concert.

"Too bad Shirai-san and Misaka-san couldn't be here." Kasuri said, eyeing the parfait the waitress put in front of her with voracious glee.

"I was looking forward to get to know them better." Inu added.

"They're a curious couple all right." Ruiko grinned, and winced when a fist was suddenly grinded into her head.

"I don't want to hear the word 'couple' in this context." A non-amused voice said.

"Ah –" Kazari brightened, "Misaka-san, Shirai-san!"

"Talk about the devil." Ruiko laughed, and breathed a sigh of relief when the pressure on her head disappeared.

Kuroko was smirking at her onee-sama, looking much like herself despite the bandages on her arms, cast on her leg and the crutch she was humping along with. Mikoto was also back to having her arms covered in bandages, and plasters over the less serious gashes. They looked like actors playing the part of mummies in an amateur play, and people were obviously throwing them looks.

Compared to this, the few plasters that Kazari and Ruiko sported was nothing.

"Should you guys even be out of hospital?" Ruiko asked as Kuroko plumped down on a chair, and Mikoto sat down with her arms and legs crossed.

"These are just minor inconveniences." Mikoto huffed, but Kuroko looked deadpanned at her.

"Onee-sama should be aware that the doctor will have a fit when he finds our beds vacant…"

"Well, you did the job of teleporting us out, so you'll get the blame. Besides, you didn't want to stay and finish writing your apology letters, did you?"

"Ugh…"

Kazari and Ruiko smiled relieved at this exchange, and Kasuri and Inu looked uncertain as to whether they should laugh or not. Mikoto looked at them, suddenly realizing she'd seen them with Kazari and Ruiko inside the mall yesterday.

"Ah," Ruiko said, remembering her manners, "this is Shimawata Kasuri and Kunita Inu," she gestured to them in order. "They're me and Uiharu's classmates."

"Oh." Mikoto smiled. "I'm Misaka Mikoto. And this is my roommate Shirai Kuroko." Kuroko smiled proudly.

"It's an honor to meet you!" Kasuri cried and bowed her head deeply. Inu hesitated, then did the same. Mikoto scratched her cheek and grinned awkwardly.

Yesterday had been spent for the most part at the hospital. Anti-Skill arrived at the mall half an hour after the ordeal was over, and arrested Shotaro, Sniper and Sahari Musiko (she was threatening to sue them all too). After they had been patched up by the doctors, they gave their explanations to the Anti-Skill officers, and while Ruiko and Kazari were allowed to leave after that, the Tokiwadai duo had to stay because of their serious wounds.

Those wounds didn't seem to bother any of them much while they ate ice cream, drank tea and chatted happily until it was nearing curfew time though, and they decided it was time to split up.

While Kasuri and Inu went one way, Kazari and Ruiko followed the Tokiwadai students on their way back to the hospital.

Walking down the darkening streets, Kazari asked: "How is Otonashi-san doing?"

"Ah, last I heard, she was coming around in her room." Mikoto said. "She's had the bullet removed from her shoulder and looks like Tutankhamun, but she'll be fine."

"Haah. And Sniper?"

Mikoto looked away at this, a sweat drop travelling down her temple.

"He's fine." Kuroko elaborated. "His EEG scans are back to normal and none of his nerves took any lasting damage, even though onee-sama obviously did her best in ending his very life –"

"I did not!" Mikoto exclaimed, but Kuroko elegantly brushed her protest away.

"Onee-sama, there is no such thing as secrets between you and me. Kuroko sees through it all."

Mikoto glared at her, but had to relent. She couldn't really deny the fact that it might have ended up killing him. She had no idea what she was doing in that moment, having never even tried to manipulate the nervous system like that before.

Ruiko put her hands behind her head and said: "But man, I still feel like I understand nothing at all. Was it really that Shotaro guy who was behind it all?"

"That's what it looks like," Kazari said, "and he confessed everything in the interview with Anti-Skill. His last resort move with the mall to rid himself of his pursuers failed miserably – he thought the Sniper would choose a more anonymous approach."

"He really tried to use him like an assassin…"

"Yeah…"

"Still, to do so much just to get a date with that girl... I almost pity him." Ruiko's expression was strained in spite of her words.

"Perhaps, but according to William Mustaf, MIKO was actually in on this to some extent." Kuroko said. "While Shotaro may certainly have convinced Mahashi Kurina to decide to participate, they were indeed involved. Turns out MIKO are currently investigating Sniper's powers, and they were looking for an opportunity to test him versus another level five." Her hand gestured to Mikoto, who felt her face redden. She felt stupid for having fallen for it; even though it was Shotaro's fault, it still felt like she should have realized something at that Anti-Skill interview.

"Apparently, Sahari-san had promised to date Shotaro if he ridiculed Misaka-san," Kazari continued, "and he asked Mustaf for help. Mustaf is a trainee in MIKO, and knew the group was looking for an opportunity to test his abilities, and so, they arranged the attacks to make them clash."

"Wow. And it even worked, somehow. I'm amazed." Ruiko said. "Then, what about the tagging? Was that his doing as well?"

"We think they started that to divert attention, or make even more ruckus in the city," Kazari said, "but it could also be an entirely different reason. That's up to Anti-Skill to find out!" She stretched her arms. "I'm glad we're done with this. It sure was a hassle!"

"That's true, and having to explain ourselves to Anti-Skill – it felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again." Ruiko complained, but grinned.

Mikoto stared at the ground in front of her, feeling the dull throb of her ribs with every step. Her face was solemn, eyes not really seeing what was in front of her. It felt like there was a knot in her chest.

"Onee-sama." Kuroko appeared at her side, and hooked her free arm around hers. "I see a guilty look on your face."

"Wha – no way, you're imagining things, you idiot!" She was about to rip her arm away, but realized Kuroko would fall.

"Ah, you're right." Ruiko said, smirking from her other side, and Mikoto looked at her in surprise, face reddening still. The longhaired girl leaned slightly forward while walking, hand on her chin. "Could it be you're feeling bad for us being involved in this?"

"Ack-" Am I that easy to read!

"Knowing Misaka-san, she's thinking she should have fixed this whole mess by herself without having anyone else involved." Kazari said all-knowingly. "That's just like her!"

"We all know that's ridiculous." Kuroko smirked. "No matter how skilled you are at hacking, you'd never have been able to gain all the information needed without anyone noticing."

Mikoto's face looked like she was the one having burns rather than Kuroko, and she stared straight ahead, not knowing what to say. She'd somehow imagined just barging straight ahead and mow down all the badasses, but when thinking about it, she realized it would have been impossible.

How would she have found Mustaf and Shotaro, in the first place?

"We're your friends you know," Kazari said, "we're supposed to help each other!"

"Even though onee-sama is not part of either Judgment or Anti-Skill, and actually should be the one not involved at all." Kuroko added importantly.

"Besides, there's no reason to think of what could have happened." Ruiko said, surprisingly mature. "What's happened, happened. The best we can do is cope with it."

"Umm…" Mikoto's face was still red, but she saw the logic. They were right, of course. She sighed, then threw her head up. "Stop doing that, it's creepy!" She bellowed. "I'm not thinking any of that – jeez!" The other girls giggled at her give-away protest, and she sighed again, but smiled nonetheless. She was actually happy to hear those words – they lifted a lot of weight off her shoulders.

"All that's missing now for a beautiful, happy ending," Kuroko suddenly said, dreamily leaning into Mikoto, "is a heartfelt kiss!" And she leaned forward, lips pouted.

"Guah – Kuroko!" Mikoto tried to push her away, completely red-faced, while Ruiko and Kazari laughed loudly.

THE END


Ending note:

I decided to post the last chapter as well, as it is more of an epilogue than anything else. An attempt at ending a story that had absolutely no plan at all, and to be honest, I am quite happy with the result. I could have dragged the story on, but I wanted to start on something else instead - something with more of a plan. I hope you've enjoyed the ride, and I hope you liked it enough to want to read more of what I write (which is currently A Certain Destined Introduction).

Thanks to everyone who reviewed, favorited and so on! This is my first finished story in ten years, so I'm quite happy that I managed to stumble through it - I also learned a lot, which I have been sure to bring over into my next story. Again, hope you enjoyed this first-born fan fic, and hope to see lots of Mikoto in Index 2 (which I am quite certain we will ;) ).