And here we return once again!

We're almost at 10 Parts, aren't we? To think we've come this far already, but then again, a lot more is happening here, so I think that is to be expected. I hope the pacing for this arc is a lot better compared to others but for whatever you might want to think, I think its time to move past this and get into the chapter!

We'll start this though with the usual Q & A:

whwsms: I'd like to think tat the reason Faith and MINUS were so prepared for Hamazura and Accelerator was because of how prepared Kamui was to face them – they ARE targets that he has an interest in so it sort of makes sense to me that he would have a plan to face them head on. Hehehe; I think I can guess who you want the development for… But yes, things never calm down for Touma.

ElDragonZangetsu25: Thanks so much! At this stage, I have no plans for a Touhou crossover, but I doo know some people who are quite keen for it, although I think it might be better left in their hands.

WwEpsilonwW: Yeah, that baby does sort of feel like a side quest, doesn't it?!

craytherlay: Oh my God; imagining Orion as a baby has literally got me spooked. You'll have to see this chapter for how Touma survives everything! As for Last Order and Takitsubo, you'll have to see how things go…

Kami: I'm surprised to see that there is only one magical girl in this series and they're a part of the Kamisato Faction. But I hope this chapter covers everything you wanted and makes up for your wait! I also hope you're safe too.

RUiN The Extinct: I think I've got SOMETHING planned for such a reveal, but the focus of the story is not going to be tied to it.

Kamijou Touma: What about this alleyway?!

ArchiveX: Thank you so much for your kind words there. They are really appreciated.

ShadowBloodedge9396: Okaeri! LOL; I didn't think you were talking about P5's Joker because he's the protagonist and Orion is no protagonist. I get the feeling that now we're hitting a lot of characters making an appearance, I want to be more active in using them, rather than just having them sit on the sidelines…but that also means that a lot is going to happen because of all the people appearing. I don't think that the General is meant to be liked for me – he was one of the villains where I really stood my ground and wanted him to be disliked. You'll have to see were this arc ends up heading! I hope that wit bot Harmonia's Cradle and the baby that you can look forward to what is to happen!

The Newbie Guest: Thanks so much for thinking that – I didn't want Faith to overshadow Accelerator, but it seems to not be the case! As for her regenerative abilities, I'm not going to comment but I hope you can look forward to how far she can go! You'll see where things head from here!

Mr. Kino: Hahahahahaa, long time no see and thanks so much! I have to agree with you; Arisa x Touma will always hold aa place in my heart! But I hope you can enjoy seeing Accelerator and Hamazura in action after so long! As for Orion and Touma, I'm glad that the impression you got was that of Shirou and Archer: I really liked the dynamic between the failed hero and the hero to be and I wanted to really show that off here, although Orion is no hero. As for whether Orion is a vampire…I'm not going to say anything on that point but when the reveal is made, I hope you can realise how much it suits his character. It's really hard to say how Touma would react to Vader but I'm on the fence about whether he would be able to win him over with words: after all, Anakin turned into Vader because of those very same words, so I think it might bee possible to win him back! But I can definitely see something interesting as a crossover between Star Wars and Index!

5had0wHand: Touma definitely needs a break! Also, I hope you look forward to the Othinus arc! As for Sasha; let's just say that she's not going to be forgotten! You're not wrong about Endo though; he was a pretty big dick. I'm glad that you picking it up after so long made the ride worth it! I hope that the future arcs you read are also just as exciting.

onilink500: En términos del héroe, no es Misaka, ¡pero tendrás que ver quién es! Pero muchas gracias por gustarle la pelea contra Accelerator; Una de las cosas que me gustan de Index como serie es cómo se explotan los puntos débiles en lugar de ser solo un festival de poder masivo, por lo que tener una "contramedida" para Accelerator es definitivamente algo que quería tener.

TheDarkPublisher: I think that the Tokiwadai students would act as Touma's fan club regardless of whether he had a fiancée or not, if you know what I mean. You're partially right with the interpretation of the scene between Touma and Otohime: while it is also about making sure she doesn't lose anything, it's also about making sure that she doesn't have to forgo anything like Touma has seen many magicians do. Peace and a normal life are a big thing for him so wanting to protect it at all costs is a big driver of his actions.

Darkrai Mier: I hope this chapter serves to meet your monthly fix!

Mathai Resse: I don't think that Regon would fix his brain damage, mainly because it's not meant to be used for the purposes of fixing brain injuries. However, if the drug was especially developed for that, then I would think that it would assist in such injuries.

Guest: Yeah, the repetition is one aspect of this fic that (I think) as improved over time as I can't afford to do it over and over. I have to agree that the intervention of the higher ups could be sooner, but given that they benefit from it in the wider aspect, there's no reason for them too. But thank you for your feedback, it's actually given something to think about!

And the thanks to you, the reader. It means a lot to have you here by my side in this journey and I hope that with each step you take you come to enjoy yourselves and find yourselves surprised and glad you have take the ride you are on this far. Honestly, thank you for having arrived at this stage!

But we have GT 5 next month!? Each cover and synopsis seems to be a bit of bait when it comes to Index, but the synopsis for this volume seems pretty clear cut. Even so, how bad can Touma's luck get when he already has the attention of Alice and picks up Youen?! Does he even need an oppai loli in his circle?! Still, I eagerly await what is to happen and what Kamachi has in store for us! One more month!

But whatever the case, on with the show! I hope you do what you always do whenever you read these chapters:

Enjoy.

Mr Question Mark.


The barrel of the revolver spoke louder than words as it was pointed right at Kamijou Touma's face.

Holding onto the leg of his failure and Bad End, Orion Phoenix, the boy mercenary was gripping onto his tattered and ripped trench coat as it was stuck in between the closed doors of the back of a van which was currently driving through the streets with the two boys trailing behind. The only thing in between them and the road was the material of the trench coat they were riding on.

Wanting to do nothing more than prevent Orion going through with whatever additional business he had and thus whatever smiles he was going to destroy, Kamijou held no intent to let go and let the bastard drive off into the night to continue his reign of destruction of the smiles of others.

This boy had already threatened Kongou Mitsuko, had kidnapped someone dear to Shutaura Sequenzia and now he was willing to do more, even if it betrayed his own feelings? Kamijou could not understand it but he didn't need to, only understanding the one thing he had to do in his mind.

And in order to stop Orion, he could never let go of the leg he was clinging onto right now.

"Last chance, Mr. Kamijou. Let go of my leg."

"Go to hell."

Kamijou did not even hesitate in his vicious retort and neither did the Bad End respond with words, lowering the hammer of the deadly weapon and making the next action he was going to make clear.

As the two of them were dragged along behind the van carrying the other soldiers Kamijou had seen, the obvious response Kamijou was going to have to this threat to his life was one he did not bother to withhold, clenching harder onto the leg he was grabbing onto and doing something he had learned so many times before was incredibly painful.

He wasted no time sending his teeth into the leg of the boy, grabbing what flesh he could of the mercenary through the clothes and the bandages he wore over his open skin.

Orion roared with pain, the revolver discharging in the process but as Kamijou had lowered his head, the bullet sailed right over. But it was enough to know that Orion was open, waiting for the next bullet to enter the chamber and in that split second, Kamijou wasted no time.

He let go of Orion's leg and slammed his elbow into the wound he had caused, Orion gasping for pain and sending a vicious kick towards the face of Kamijou. It connected and Kamijou almost stumbled backwards but grabbed onto the material of the trench coat sprawled out behind the van to prevent himself from sliding off.

Orion had already reacted, moving his revolver once more into the face of Kamijou. He gritted his teeth, choosing his options and assessing what escape route, if any, there was to avoid the bullet to be coming his way.

He didn't have to though as the van, previously turning straight, went into a sharp turn, both boys going wide eyed as the trench coat trailing behind the van followed the turn although wider in its arc.

Tumbling over the road and gripping for dear life, Kamijou heard the guns contained within the trench coat clatter on the ground as that side of the trench coat was facing the ground. He cried out, if only because the wideness of the turn the trench coat was making immediately put him in the way of a nearby streetlight given he was on the very edge of the material dragging behind the van.

He looked up and noticed that Orion had desperately tried to grab onto the trench coat trailing behind the van with both hands, meaning his revolver was not pointed right at Kamijou…and giving him the perfect opportunity.

There was no need to even think.

Kamijou dug his feet into the ground as much as they would manage and leaped through the air, yelling the name of his opponent as he jumped up the length of the trailing trench coat and towards the one person he had deemed his enemy.

"Oriooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon!"

The mercenary turned but given they were still in the wide turn, could not risk letting go of the trench coat, Kamijou's entire body weight slamming onto him as the spiky haired boy punched Orion in the face. He recoiled in surprise, the revolver in his other hand going off in mere surprise at the action. The bullet clanged loudly against the back of the van. It ricocheted, flying over Kamijou's head and it was the raw shock of such an event that caused him to seize up for a single second.

But that was more than enough for the mercenary to make another move.

He slammed his forehead up suddenly against Kamijou's, the boy stumbling but holding his grip on the mercenary as the two of them completed the wide turn and went back to moving straight along the road with the van. The driver though seemed to have understood the threat Kamijou posed, moving the wheel to the left and right, the empty streets of Academy City meaning there was no one around to smash into and use as a way to get Kamijou off.

What resulted was the trench coat constantly swaying from left to right to match the movement of the van and with it, the boys on top of it. The swaying was more than enough to throw off the co-ordination of the boy on top and it was the boy on the bottom, Orion, who used that to his fullest.

He let go of the trench coat, Kamijou's weight forcing him down and he whipped up the revolver within his grasp, placing it such that the butt of it was against Kamijou's shoulder and the barrel right next to his ear. Kamijou could barely even register his surprise at the mercenary choosing to let go both hands but never even got the chance to say anything, Orion pulling the trigger.

Right next to Kamijou's ear.

A physical pain erupted through the spiky haired boy's eardrum, the boy unaware you could feel such a pain resounding through oneself just from sound. Kamijou yelled out in pain but barely heard his own voice, instinctively using both hands to reach up for his ear and letting go of the boy beneath him.

And again, that was all Orion needed.

He slammed his forehead into Kamijou's, the spiky haired boy recoiling and now he was no longer grabbing Orion by the shirt, fell backwards and onto the trench coat, tumbling down the length of the black material and about to fall off. He lashed out a hand, grabbing the material just in time but the ringing in his ears felt like it would never fade. He winced, finding he could barely even hear the tyres on the road barely holding onto the end of the trench coat which swayed from left to right and back again.

He looked up in pain, finding that Orion had already grabbed on to the trench coat once again and was following Kamijou with the revolver, no expression on his face as he readied the shot.

There was no look of victory, no glee or sadism in knowing he was about to kill someone. There was not even boredom or acknowledgement he was going to take a life.

Just…nothing.

Kamijou was unsure what to make of it but barely cared, grabbing for the trench coat desperately and finding something underneath it that made his heart skip with both anticipation and fear. But he knew that hesitating in this situation would really get him killed and because of such, he knew he could not afford to be an idealist and think of everything. He was good to no one dead and there was no way anything he thought would apply when he was nothing but a corpse.

For the simple instinct of survival, there was no hesitation, as he pressed what he was holding up and yelled something into the air, unsure of what it was.

He barely even heard the gunshot.

However, it did not come from the revolver in Orion's hand. The trench coat Orion was always wearing and the one he and Kamijou were riding on now was the mercenary's personal armoury, numerous guns laying hidden with and the guns clattering on the road given they were on the underside.

What Kamijou had grabbed was one of those, grabbing the trigger and pulling it without a single moment's hesitation. Not intending on using it to kill, Kamijou was pushed down as he held the trigger, knowing the barrel would be pointing up when he fired, out of the way of anyone and thus unable to harm or hurt anyone. It was for that reason that he did it without hesitation.

But what it did do was surprise the shit out of the Bad End.

Orion flinched and ducked out of nothing more than instinct, Kamijou using the small moment of time to grab another section of the trench coat and push himself up, racing with everything he had and using every inch of upper body strength to move towards the mercenary.

He only got as far as being able to reach for the boy's foot but it was enough to send alarm bells through Orion's mind, the threat of Kamijou thus far being enough to make him lift his foot and send it slamming down onto the hands of Kamijou. The odd angle it was done in did not serve to lessen the pain any but Kamijou forced down a cry, holding on and trying to move as Orion sent kick after kick towards the boy's hand to push him back.

Kamijou gritted his teeth, trying his best to ensure he did not cry out and give in to the pain, forcing himself to look up at Orion…and grinned. Orion's only visible eye, his right, narrowed in confusion but then realised something Kamijou had but he hadn't, simply because of where he was.

Kamijou was facing him…and thus had a look at the road ahead.

Orion did not.

Which meant he was barely able to get a proper grip on the trench coat as the van turned another corner sharply again, the sudden movement almost throwing the mercenary off.

Even though he had been pounded again and again in the hands by the mercenary, Kamijou did not let go, using the moment to grab onto the foot of Orion and, using him to push himself up, climbed the body of the mercenary and sent his hands towards where he knew he had bitten before. Grabbing that part of the mercenary's leg, there was no hesitation and Kamijou used what strength he had to press down and get his fingers into the wound he had caused.

It was a dirty technique but if there was any chance that Kamijou could save the life and smiles of anyone who was being threatened by Orion, then he would do anything and get anyone involved.

The mercenary cried out in pain, turning and slamming his foot once more against the face of Kamijou as the trench coat continued to make the two boys skid and slide along the road, the clattering of the guns beneath filling their ears. Kamijou was losing the ringing in his ears and could hear the cries of Orion, turning up his gaze and planning to move up the mercenary's body…

Only for the sight of the revolver heading for him making him go wide eyed.

The gun had been thrown, discarded by the mercenary and the surprise at the move stunned Kamijou, only for him to snap out of it as the gun slammed into his face. The sudden pain caused Kamijou to let go of Orion, once more sending him down the length of the trench coat before he grabbed it, the thrown revolver spinning past him and landing roughly on the road.

Where it discharged.

The bullet flew wild, sailing into the air and slamming into the side of a neon sign shining brightly in the darkness. But even though the bullet that had hit it was small, the effects were not.

The neon sign exploded as the bullet hit some vital part of it, sparks flying into the air which fell onto the only target in its path: the van driving through the night. Whether out of surprise or merely because they wanted to avoid the sparks flying down towards them, the van turned once more and send the boys on the trench coat into a massive turn, both going wide eyed as they saw what lay in their way.

Even though the van did not hit it, the trailing trench coat was far enough behind for the two of them to hit the railing on the side of the sidewalk. There was barely any time to brace, both boys being slammed into the metal railing with a sickening clang as their heads collided with the metal. Stars swam in Kamijou's vision and it was all he could do to hold onto the trench coat, Orion faring no better, perhaps worse, as he momentarily lost his grip before his other hand snatched up and grabbed the material.

It was a small movement.

But it was more than enough to place him within Kamijou's clutches.

Kamijou roared and jumped, catching the sword by Orion's side with his left hand and using the right to send a punch into the mercenary's side. There was a gasp when the blow landed, Orion turning and facing the boy once more with irritation in his eye as the two of them held onto each other, Orion unable to flip over because of the grip Kamijou had on the sword by his side.

However, there were no words from either party, Kamijou once more sending another punch to the same spot and Orion twisting to the side as best he could to avoid. The punch landed, although not in the same spot but the grunt from Orion made it clear it was just as effective.

A few more punches and he would be able to make Orion let go. Of that Kamijou was sure and while the other people in the van were a problem, it was the mercenary that Kamijou was most concerned about stopping first. Kamijou rose his fist again to make another blow but only now noticed why Orion had truly twisted to the side.

It put one hand underneath the trench coat.

And just as Kamijou had noted before, the weapons underneath there were more effective than anything else in the world in making sure this fight had a victor.

Orion wasted no time, nor did Kamijou in this movements.

Orion rose the handgun he had grabbed from beneath the trench coat, bringing it up to fire upon Kamijou while Kamijou used the grip he had on Orion to jump upwards, across Orion's body and grab the hand holding the gun with both of his own.

The gun discharged as both boys struggled to either hold onto the new weapon or send it tumbling down the road, Orion choosing to slam his forehead once more into the head of Kamijou. His ears and head already ringing, the blow stunning Kamijou more than he could say. His head exploded with pain but the way Orion lolled his head back at the same time suggested he had not been able to avoid damage from the blow he had sent Kamijou's way.

Even so though, with gritted teeth, Orion slammed his forehead once more into Kamijou's.

Kamijou's head recoiled but he maintained his grip on the gun, lifting himself from where he was over Orion and driving his elbow into the boy's stomach. Orion coughed violently as he was winded, pulling the trigger of the handgun and letting off another shot into Academy City to disorientate Kamijou before sending another headbutt into the boy's skull.

Kamijou roared in defiance, letting loose practically every single chemical in his brain as he grabbed Orion's hand and pulled it towards him, Orion following the movement to hold onto the gun as the two of them flipped over, Kamijou now on the bottom and his Bad End on top. Before landing though, Kamijou rose his knee slightly, the mercenary falling onto the outstretched limb and gagging in pain, but still holding onto the handgun.

Having his plan to make the boy let go of the gun fail, Kamijou gritted his teeth and did the same as Orion, slamming his forehead into the boy's and causing him to recoil in much the same way. The impact split the skin of both their foreheads, blood trailing down them as they continued riding into the night on the back of the trench coat.

Orion was the one to yell out now, pressing down on his hand holding the gun and making Kamijou's lower to the ground, where it scraped against the road painfully. Kamijou felt as though he could hear his bones being carved away by the asphalt but even so, as he cried out in pain, he sent another headbutt into Orion.

It was not enough to knock him out, but it was enough to loosen the force he was applying to the hand holding the gun, Kamijou lifting it up and not even bothering the look at the cut and bleeding knuckles of his right hand.

"Let go, goddammit! I am not…going to let you harm anyone else and their smiles!"

"I don't care, Mr. Kamijou. Do you really think you, an amateur, can win against me?"

Kamijou knew the sentiment was right. Orion was not relying on anything related to the supernatural. He was using nothing more than raw ability which had been refined on battlefields and warzones. Using guns which Imagine Breaker could not negate and having seen for himself the power of a soldier when it came to a fight, there really was no question.

When it came to pure ability, pure strength and outright fighting, even if he was Kamijou's Bad End, Orion, the normal soldier, had the advantage…no, the sure-fire win when it came to fighting against Kamijou, the normal high school boy. There was no way that someone like Kamijou would be enough to defeat this soldier and the result of this battle had already been decided the moment Kamijou had foolishly decided to challenge him.

But…

"Not in a normal situation… But against you, I won't lose. I can't lose! Because I refuse to believe my current self is going to lose against a failed version!"

Kamijou roared, refusing to give in to the voice of someone who was essentially a failed version of himself, a Bad End. If he ever betrayed himself and his own feelings, then Orion was the person he would turn into, a person who did not listen to the desires within his heart and had chosen to throw himself away. Even if they did have their differences, it was the heart of Kamijou, the one that never betrayed himself that refused to lose against the person in front of him, the person who had chosen to throw his own heart away.

He would not give in to someone like that, someone who refused to stay true to himself after everything he had seen when Kamijou had managed to stay true to himself even after everything he had seen and been through.

"So, you better damn well prepare yourself for the fact I'm not going to lose this, you failuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure!"

Kamijou roared, sending his forehead one last time into Orion's forehead. Blood from the split foreheads sprayed into their vision but neither party fell, both mercenaries in their own right given how they would take up 'arms' for anyone. But now Kamijou had given him an attack, it was time for the soldier to respond with his own, pushing himself upwards onto Kamijou and using his additional weight to force the boy's hand back onto the asphalt road.

Skin biting and carving away, Kamijou yelled out in pain but refused to back down, holding onto the hand holding the gun even more forcefully and doing something that Othinus had done to him so many times before and something he knew to be more than effective in dealing out proper pain.

He thrust his forehead towards Orion but not to headbutt him. Instead, he opened his mouth as wide as it would go and sent his teeth right into the boy's ear as hard as he could.

Orion screamed, lifting his hand off Kamijou's to grab at the teeth biting into his ear but Kamijou had already reacted to the sudden lifting of his hand off the road.

And he did so by letting go of the hand of Orion which was holding the gun.

The newfound freedom Orion found was short lived though as Kamijou slammed his right fist, knuckle bloodied, into the boy's face. He fell to the side from the impact, gun still in hand as Kamijou sent another blow into the face of the mercenary. His head jerked to the side, blood spitting from his mouth as Kamijou drew back his hand for another strike before movement filled his vision.

It was so fast Kamijou knew he had never seen speed such as the one Orion used. But then again, when thinking about it, that was no surprise. The only people he had fought were espers and magicians, either to stop them or merely because they picked a fight so he had never once seen someone like this mercenary who used techniques belonging to neither side but had perfected and honed them in the art of war.

But now that he was seeing the movement of a soldier, Kamijou felt as though the moment of victory he thought he had was shattered like the illusion it was.

Even with the boy's face staring down at the ground as he spat out blood, the rapid movement of the gun barrel right to Kamijou's face was so fast that Kamijou had barely been able to react. The movement was not instinctive or a recoil from Kamijou punching Orion; it had been purposeful and deliberate: the movement of a soldier in pointing a gun at the enemy.

Kamijou's entire body froze as he stared at the barrel just inches from his face, seeing the right blue eye of Orion staring at him even though he was spitting out blood and had blood running down his face. Again, in a position of victory, Orion's eye held nothing. No sadistic glee or triumph, just…nothing.

No, there was something there, Kamijou could see it now.

But there was no time for Kamijou to register it.

Orion didn't declare victory.

He did not give a cheesy one liner.

His finger just rested on the trigger and began to slowly press down.

It was like time had stopped.

Kamijou's entire body screamed for him to do something but Orion's trigger finger was surely going to be faster. Even so though, the mere human reaction to want to survive came through him, the boy raising his hand to at least swat the gun out of the hand pointing it –

Only for the entire van to rock suddenly to the side, the trench coat turning underneath it as it did so. Both boys, failure and success, lost their balance, Kamijou falling out of the way of the gun barrel and Orion falling to the trench coat beneath him.

The van was not turning or stopping, the movement was too sudden for it to be either of those things. A bang came through the air and both boys instantly turned their heads towards the source of the sound, going wide eyed as they saw the figure had literally slammed into the side of the van, lifting it on two wheels and had been the source of the rocking and twisting of the trench coat the two boys were on.

Wearing a black coat that seemed perfect for the night, it wrapped around the person's entire body. Nothing of their face was visible, the only thing being a white mask that looked to be of a porcelain material as they stared at the van they had just rammed before slowly turning their gaze towards Kamijou.

Mind blazing with alarm bells at the sudden appearance of someone who was dressed in the way Orion was, Kamijou felt a sweat come from his entire body, realising there was no way he was going to win if this person was on Orion's side given he had almost lost his life milliseconds ago.

The answer of whether this person was ally or enemy was answered not by their actions but by the actions of the people inside the van, the soldiers Kamijou had seen beforehand. Their frantic voices came through the air, filled to the brim with annoyance…but also uncertainty.

"It's him! Holy shit, I thought he was just a legend!"

"Who?!"

"Eiyuu! That son of a bitch that has been going around dealing a fool's justice!"

"Who gives a shit?! Shoot the bastard!"

The character called 'Eiyuu' (something that was rather fitting given how they appeared) only continued to stare at Kamijou before turning his head upon the sound of something even Kamijou knew, the cocking of a gun. Kamijou's eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to say something but never got the chance because of two things.

The first being the sound of gunshots and Eiyuu's body being blasted backwards as numerous bullets sailed into his body.

And the second being a grip on the nape of his neck and his back; two bandaged hands appearing in his vision.

Orion, again, did not declare victory or say something to indicate he had won.

He just acted.

Kamijou turned and tried to wildly send a blow towards the boy behind him but never did, the angle of his footing as the van was on two wheels still and the surprise Orion gave him meaning there was nothing he could do.

Orion threw him off the trench coat and onto the road, Kamijou's hands sailing through empty air to try and find something to grab onto to support himself but finding nothing. He hit the road hard, bringing in his body so that he did not tumble over the road but even then, with each impact, pain coursed through him. Asphalt and blood filled his mouth as he tumbled but came to a short stop, not even wasting time lifting his head and watching the van in the distance.

Now on four wheels and free of its two stowaways, it drove off into the night, Kamijou gritting his teeth in frustration, unable to see easily see the sight of his failure driving off into the night where he was off to go and destroy the smiles of some other person merely because it was his 'job'. In his mind though, even if the sight of Orion getting away was a hard one to witness, Kamijou's mind went to the sudden newcomer, turning his head around in worry of the fate of the boy called 'Eiyuu'.

He spotted him, only a few metres in front of him.

Slowly getting up after taking so many bullets to the chest.

Kamijou's eyes went wide but given the things he had seen, he did not find himself stunned into shock. While that said a lot about him and the things he went through (things Kamijou did not want to think about), he dismissed the thought, racing through the street and heading right for the boy.

"Hey, are you alright!? Hey!"

Kamijou went towards the boy slowly lifting himself up, a boy who stumbled and held out a hand to have something to support himself but finding nothing. Kamijou reached out and grabbed him, noting the touch barely even phased Eiyuu. Had he even taken any damage? Kamijou was unsure and could not smell an overpowering stench of blood to add to his own, suggesting that Eiyuu, despite being shot in the chest, had managed to escape basically unscathed.

"…I'm fine."

Despite being a boy, his voice was surprisingly high even with the mask covering and muffling it, giving an indication to his age. Kamijou's instincts went into overdrive, gripping the arm on the boy (who was shorter than him) even tighter and facing him.

"What do you think you're doing?! Are you insane? Taking that many bullets to the chest and ramming into a moving van? Who the hell are you anyway!? This is no place for someone like you!"

"I could say the same for you…Kamijou Touma."

The boy's words were smooth as he turned to face Kamijou, his mask lifeless but even so, the tone of his voice suggested there was some pride in the name he had given. Kamijou went wide eyed, unsure of what to say but only finding himself uttering uncertain words.

"You…know me?"

"Of course. I doubt I would have ever done this in the first place were it not for you."

Unlike Orion, this boy wore a literal mask over his face so the expression he was making was unknown. But even then, there was a lightness in his tone, as if there was something amusing he found in the partner he had managed to have by his side now. Kamijou wanted to say something to the contrary to at least ask what this boy meant but realised he could not distract himself any longer.

"…There's a bunch I want to ask you. But I don't have the time, so I'll ask this once. I don't know who you are. But taking that many bullets to the chest? Are you sure that none hit you?"

"I'd be ashamed if they did." Again, the high pitched voice was muffled by the mask and indicated the young age of this boy. "I've been doing this for some days now and getting a handle on my abilities is something I've been working painstakingly on. I wouldn't do this otherwise."

(Abilities?)

Kamijou wanted to ask but if this was some hot headed esper who wanted to charge into battle, then that had nothing to do with Kamijou. Even so though, the pitch of the voice suggesting Eiyuu's true age only gave cause for concern for Kamijou; even if this guy had the abilities, given who Kamijou was up against, he did not want someone so young and impressionable on the battlefield.

"I'd tell you to go home, but…"

"There's no chance of that."

"Then I'm more than happy to work with you." Kamijou said with a nod of his head, realising that fighting over it was pointless. This boy had the means and the desire to fight, so Kamijou knew that trying to deny that, especially when time was of the essence, was a pointless exercise. He held out a hand. "Kamijou Touma. …As you already know."

"Eiyuu." The boy responded with the rather narcissistic pseudonym that the soldiers who had shot him had given him but Kamijou doubted it was his real name. With the cheap cloak and the mask, the influence that classic American comic books had on him was obvious, again suggesting how impressionable this boy was. Kamijou felt a wince coming on but withheld it, nodding and looking ahead at where the van had already disappeared.

"Do you think you can – ?"

"Hey!"

A voice from behind Kamijou and Eiyuu made them both turn, the former going wide eyed (Kamijou was unsure if it was the case for the latter) at the person flying down towards them. They touched down effortlessly but it was the mere presence of this person given this late hour that made their name escape him.

"M-Misaka!?"

Misaka Mikoto frowned, turning between Kamijou and Eiyuu, before noting the blood streaming down Kamijou's forehead. Her own eyes went wide for a single moment before she narrowed her eyes, stepping forward herself with a gaze that immediately told Kamijou her intentions…and how pointless it would be to try and stop her.

"…What happened?"

Those were the only words she said, Kamijou reaching up and noting the warmth of the blood running down his forehead. He wiped it aside, smiling slightly and turned to Eiyuu, nodding once at him with the small boy racing off into the night after the van Orion Phoenix was on.

Kamijou was silent for a moment, unable to hide his surprise despite all he had seen as he saw Eiyuu literally jump off the ground and fly into the air, heading in the direction of the van. Given that his ability had allowed him to block, or at least survive, tens of bullets to the chest, was he manipulating air around him to form both a shield and give him the ability to fly?

Knowing two users of the same air related ability, Aero Hand, in Saten Ruiko and Kongou Mitsuko, Kamijou had to question whether such a thing was possible but shook his head. Again, distractions were not what he needed right now. He turned back to Mikoto, finding her expression serious and her posture tense.

"Misaka – "

"Don't start, you idiot. I know what you're going to say and I'm not taking no for an answer. Besides, whoever that was, they're after something that is no longer here. Do you really think you can reach after them on foot? Whatever you're involved in…I am too."

Kamijou smiled to himself, shaking his head slightly and turning back up to face the Level 5.

"I wasn't going to ask you to leave, Misaka." That honest response brought a surprised face to Mikoto. "I can see you aren't going to leave this be. And if that's what you really want, I have no right to stop you. …But this isn't going to be fun and games."

"Is it ever with you?" Mikoto asked with a slight grin. Kamijou winced.

"No, this is just the usual bad luck. Such misfortune." Kamijou sighed, wiping more blood from his forehead, rubbing it in his fingers before turning to face Mikoto once more, his gaze serious and piercing.

"This is nothing but my selfish wish. You don't have to listen to it and you can outright ignore me. But…"

Kamijou Touma took a deep breath.

"Can you please help me, Misaka Mikoto?"

There was only really one answer.

Even disregarding the issue with Shokuhou Misaki that Mikoto was unsure was related to this or not, even putting aside her fears that Kamijou being caught up in something again meant that something like the ending of the incident with Kongou would arise again, even shoving aside the numerous things she felt from just Kamijou saying those words, Misaka Mikoto knew there was only one thing she could say that her heart would even accept.

There literally was no other choice in her mind.

"Of course."

It was not selfish.

There was nothing else Mikoto would rather hear and she knew she would never turn away those words or ignore them.

She did not know what was going on…

But that didn't matter to her.

The only thing she knew was that Kamijou Touma needed help.

And there was nothing she wouldn't do just to make sure she could save him even a tiny bit.


It was a punch to the face that had caused Accelerator to fall unconscious.

So it was only fitting that he was woken up in the same way.

The sudden pain to the face startled the boy. His eyes shot open, clutching the side of his face where he had just been punched, turning and lashing out his own savage fist towards the person who had suddenly attacked him. However, the attack was easy to dodge and such was evident in the way the swung fist was easily caught and gripped tightly.

Accelerator's red eyes sparkled dangerously as he stared at the person who dared to strike him but knew that no intimidation would work on them given their shitty personality.

"Wow. You really aren't a morning person. But then again, Misaka already knew that. I just had the urge to punch you."

Misaka Worst spoke carefree but the scowling of Accelerator would have immediately made Last Order shut up and tremble on the spot given the iciness. The thought of the small girl though was enough to spark the memories of what had just happened, the boy quickly sitting up and turning to face the room. Misaka Worst shook her head, her nasty eyes showing she was more than displeased at what had happened.

"They're already gone. Misaka doesn't know for how long but…they took the brat. And wherever they fled, Misaka has no idea. Yoshikawa is fine but took more damage than expected from Misaka's attack. Which was the timing you were supposed to use to attack the people who attacked us. Are you really the #1?"

"Fuck off." Accelerator spat out, standing up but finding the residual attacks that had come his way were still pounding at his body. Memories of what had happened came through his mind: being attacked and having Last Order stolen away, Misaka Worst using a burst of electricity to take out the signal interference device preventing his choker from working and his (and Misaka Worst's) defeat at the hands of the bitch called Faith who had used Accelerator's partial paralysis from experiencing said attack against him, reaching him before he could use his ability and taking him out.

The raw anger he felt from the knowledge of what she had done and how she had managed to capture Last Order, managed to take something precious to him away made every single cell within Accelerator's body feel as though it was about to burst within anger. He slowly stood up, using the cane by his side for support and Misaka Worst joined his side, the boy taking an awfully long time to make the rise.

"…Did you see which way those bastards went?" Accelerator asked, each word precise and revealing he wanted no nonsense, only the answers to the questions he asked.

"No. Misaka was knocked out, remember? But I don't think they are going to be moving on the streets carrying that brat around. Which means…"

(A car. Or some other vehicle.)

Accelerator managed to stand fully, grabbing his crutch in the process and staring out the broken window of the apartment, seeing the darkness of the night. Even though he had felt he had left it behind, the crawling nature of the poison this City had to offer was, even now, slowly crawling up to him, wrapping its hands around his own neck and the necks of the things he loved and had wanted to hold onto with everything he had.

He had been careless. Even though he had a method to counterattack, the sudden interfering signal against his choker had proved to be more than effective and had reduced the #1 Level 5 of Academy City into a mess of less than consciousness. It was pitiful but the thought that Last Order was the one to suffer for that and not him gave him more anguish to fuel his growing anger at his own failure.

The Darkness had returned, grabbing something and sucking it into its loving embrace when it came to the people who had escaped it.

Which only meant it was time for Accelerator to plunge his hands once more into that filth so he could pull out what did not belong there.

No matter how stained his hands got.

Although, if he honest, he did not particularly care if his hands were stained with the blood of the bastards who had stolen from him.

If the Darkness was more than willing to approach those that had left it so it could use them for whatever means without giving thought to the lives of those it affected…

"What are you going to do?"

"What do you think?"

Misaka Worst grinned maliciously, her eyes burning with intent that matched it as she stared at the boy who had turned to face the windows. His red eyes watched the sight of the City below, scanning for any vehicles that were clearly trying to get away but finding none. But that did not hinder his actions, the boy speaking while at the same time finding the energy to rise his hand towards his choker.

"I'm going to teach those overconfident bastards of the Darkness a lesson in who it is you don't pick a fight with in Academy City."

A beep came from his choker and Accelerator leaped into the air, out of the broken window and into the Academy City night.

He did not fall.

He sailed through the air, the sight of something black erupting from his back as he sailed into the night, the white of his clothes and hair being the only thing that indicated there was anyone there.

Misaka Worst had only glimpsed his expression from the side.

But even then, it was enough to make her pause and think twice about carelessly choosing to fight alongside him; she was just going to slow him down in his enraged state and be a potential victim of his tantrum. With that expression on his face and the tone he had used when speaking, there was only one thing that was clear.

Whoever was going to be taught that lesson…

It was likely the last thing they would ever know.


Hamazura Shiage's groggy eyes slowly opened, the boy unable to properly process where he was right now or what he was doing. He was lying against something hard, he knew that and there was a thin mist in the air, no longer so thick he could not see past it but enough to be visible. It drifted lazily and Hamazura, on the ground, felt his eyes follow it with the same laziness.

(What…What am I doing?)

Hamazura asked that question in his mind, forcing himself up, the mind of the former thug aching as he desperately tried to piece together what had happened and how he had ended up on the floor. He rose his hand, bringing it to the sink to his side and forcing himself up, waving away the mist in front of him and watching it curl around his hand in response.

Where had this mist come from?

No…this was no mist.

It was gas, some kind of aerosol dispersant for the anti-esper weapon LV-Drop.

It all flooded back to Hamazura, the boy basically throwing himself to the floor and covering his mouth as he stared at the gas above him. He felt sleepy as he inhaled more of it but somehow, the effects this time felt less potent than when he had first experienced it. Was he gaining immunity to it after he had been exposed to it again? Hamazura did not know but the only thing he registered in his mind was what had happened and why this gas was floating in his apartment.

Takitsubo Rikou.

She had been kidnapped.

Heart racing, Hamazura wasted no time, rushing to the room where he knew she was supposed to be, if only to ensure this was not a dream. The fragments of information came to him; remembering how he had suddenly been attacked and how Takitsubo had been stolen away by the people who had previously taken Mugino Shizuri away: the remnants of MINUS.

Being led, of course, by Kihara Kamui.

Were they here just so Takitsubo could be stolen for the purposes of trying to make Hamazura break given his own status as a hero? The twisted focus of the twisted mind of Kamui made Hamazura sick to the stomach as he desperately tried to make sure this was not some twisted dream brought on by his fear of the mad scientist coming after him.

It was not.

The emptiness of Takitsubo's room and the clear signs of intruders dragging her from her bed made that clear.

"Shit!"

Hamazura pounded his foot against the doorframe in obvious anger before his mind turned to the other occupants of the apartment. The Level 4 and the Level 5 were basically the greatest weapons Hamazura had at the moment as he raced to the room of the greater weapon, throwing open the door and not caring one bit about the state of dress the person inside might have been in when sleeping.

"Mugino! Takitsubo has bee – "

Trying his best to be brief, he could not hold in the surprise at seeing the unconscious state of the Level 5 draped over her bed. Hamazura did not bother noting how his own heart raced when he saw her defenceless figure (he blocked that out with thoughts of his precious Takitsubo-chan), racing to her side and shaking her, while speaking at the same time.

"Mugino? Mugino!? For fuck's sake, this is no time to be sleeping!"

Hamazura shook her and slapped her once (this decision had been chosen after much trembling) but even so, her head only lolled backwards in her sleep. Basically the dream state to be in if he did not have a girlfriend and was still in Skill-Out, it was hardly the case for Hamazura who stared at the fallen Level 5 helplessly.

(I woke up after a short while after being exposed to the effects again. But Mugino…when she was hit with it the first time, she was out for a while. Even if she has some immunity like me, are the effects too strong for her to shake off completely?)

Hamazura used what information he had and slapped her in the face again, although her head only lolled back and she barely made a sound. Frustrated, the thug threw her onto the bed, making a beeline for the room of Kinuhata Saiai but finding her in the exact same condition, if not worse because this was her first time being exposed to the anaesthetic. The only reason the gas in the air had been lessened so quickly was because of the hole in the wall caused earlier this afternoon. Gritting his teeth though and suddenly finding himself removed of his two greatest weapons, Hamazura wasted no time, realising the choice he had to make and racing out the door with his cell phone in hand.

"Aneri!"

Hamazura called into the phone to his partner, the only one he had in this situation, as Aneri was not human. If the AI responded, it showed no signs of it, Hamazura choosing to take the stairs as he leaped down them two, three or even four at a time.

"Those bastards who took Takitsubo, did any security footage manage to capture the sight of them leaving this building? Or the sight of the getaway vehicles used to grab them?!"

It was only now that Hamazura's phone lit up in response, an image of a live feed from some time ago given the time stamp being revealed on his phone. The speed at which the information was provided surprised the Level 0 but he did not care, only cursing as the footage, while being the one he requested, showed there were two vehicles coming from the parking garage underneath the building of his luxury apartment. In the feed though, both vehicles came out of the garage…and went in two separate directions, one going to the left and another to the right. Any indication of which one Takitsubo was in was unknown but Hamazura spoke rapidly.

"Aneri, follow the one going to the left using the security cameras. But give me the path of the one going to right so I can follow those assholes!" His thinking that the assailants had used vehicles as they wanted to ensure they did not arouse suspicion given their cargo had been proved correct but as they had been given two vehicles, the fact he was only one man stabbed deeply into Hamazura's skin.

It was nothing but a 50/50 chance but one he would have to take if it was for Takitsubo, even if he hated having to rely on such odds when it came to her safety. Even if Aneri was following the other vehicle, it meant nothing if the vehicle went out of sight of the cameras and Takitsubo was in that van, making her impossible to follow and track.

Whatever the case though, the useful AI depicted a path on a map of Academy City's District 7, showing in a red line the path the kidnappers must have taken in their getaway vehicle. Hamazura continued down the stairs, however, moved past the entrance and into the parking garage where the assailants had originally parked.

He needed a vehicle to match the speed of the kidnappers, running on foot basically doing nothing even if he did take shortcuts. The dimly lit space was aggravating as he scoured for the vehicle he wanted, managing to find it and racing over towards it.

Choosing a car right now would be pointless. This was a luxury apartment building he was living in and with residents such as a Level 5, the security on the cars within this building was nothing to laugh at, especially when most people cared more for their cars than actual people. Motorbikes were the same so trying to steal a car or motorbike would be basically useless in this situation. A normal bike, attached to the bike stand, would useless as well.

However, that was where Hamazura ran to, trying to find his target.

He had seen this being used before on the television and on some amusing video sites where people stacked it while performing tricks but had never ridden one before himself. But even then, with the prospect of his girlfriend being in danger, he was not going to bother hesitating in the slightest when it came to what he had to do to save her.

Hero or not, Hamazura Shiage was Takitsubo Rikou's boyfriend.

And he would move heaven and earth to make sure she was safe.

So stealing the bike in front of him was a no brainer.

The acrobike was not a motorbike so the electronically assisted bike did not need a key to activate, crudely locked to the bike stand with an easily breakable lock given good old human stomping. The metal lock broke away and Hamazura hopped on, attaching his phone while Aneri dictated the path in the slot at the front where the person this acrobike belonged to had placed their phone to play music while riding it. Like a GPS, the red line indicating where he had to go was obvious and, placing his feet on the pedals, there was nothing else Hamazura knew he had to do.

With a top speed of around 50kph with electronic assistance and controlled suspension, the acrobike was neither motorbike but a good way to get through the streets of Academy City in a hurry without the need for some built up ride. The gyros at the front and back wheels giving it stability no matter how far it was turned, for the person trying to reach a racing van, was ideal.

Being able to take shortcuts in the acrobike with its small size and manoeuvrability, this was the best thing Hamazura had on hand…and the item he placed the life of his girlfriend on.

(What was it the Boss said? It's fun to ride as long as you aren't doing it with your life on the line. Ironic that that's exactly what I'd be using it for, even if it's not my life on the line!)

Kamijou Touma had once ridden this bike.

But now it was Hamazura Shiage's turn.

He remembered a trick called the R Dash as being one of the most basic; locking the front wheel and pedalling as hard as he could before placing the back wheel on the ground and unlocking the front.

The acrobike zoomed off into the night, leaving the parking garage was an intense speed that Hamazura struggled to control as he made a tight turn, following the line Aneri had indicated.

He wasn't going to let anyone else get away with the girl most precious to him.

And for that alone, the force and the fire burning within Hamazura Shiage was one that deserved to be feared.


"So basically you're chasing after Orion because he's threatening someone else's smile?"

"Yeah, basically!"

"If we break that down, you're chasing after a professional soldier who almost killed you simply because you think he's going to do something when he has the support of a truckload of other armed men. All the while, you are unarmed and have nothing but your right fist and your words?"

"…When you say it like that, it sounds sort of stupid."

"I'm glad we're on the same page, you idiot! B-But what does that make me who decided to go along with you in this!?"

"My personal hero!"

"Wha - !?"

Misaka Mikoto went red in the face at the comment that Kamijou Touma likely meant both as a way of ending the conversation quickly but also in a serious manner. She turned her head but lost her concentration, going wide eyed as she rapidly performed and realigned the calculations in her head while falling through the air.

"Hold on!"

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?!"

Kamijou screamed as he fell through the air, being carried in a rather unfortunate way; over Mikoto's shoulder like a bag of rice. Seeing the buildings and the roads of Academy City grow ever closer as he fell through the air, Mikoto ignored him and merely used her power once more to bring herself closer to the building in front of her.

What she was doing was simple but given what she was doing, the fact she could easily describe it as such revealed the monstrous ability of the Level 5s.

Using magnetism, she was jumping from building to building with Kamijou over her shoulder, all the while being more than ten stories off the ground. A simple miscalculation would send them plummeting as they were now, but Mikoto had already made the adjustment and brought herself closer towards the building in front of her, standing on its side without a care while listening for the target's location in the distance.

The gunshots were to her left slightly and it was by running along the side of the building, horizontal while she did it, that she prepared to jump off once more and used magnetism to move to the next building over to follow the sound of the gunshots.

"We saw the van before it turned that corner so it's a good thing your Eiyuu friend is keeping them busy and giving us their location by firing their bullets! Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I heard about them on the grapevine in Tokiwadai. You sure make a lot of unique friends!" Mikoto called out to her 'package'.

"We're not friends so I don't think that applies. I think it more appropriately applies to you if anything."

"I'm going to drop you!"

"My ass is basically sticking into a girl's face so that would actually be a relief!"

"! T-The only r-reason I'm doing this is because your right hand would interfere with my power, you idiot! I-It has nothing to do with – "

"Misaka-sama, I'm not interested in knowing whether you have an ass fetish or not but we're slippiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!"

"I don't have an ass fetish!"

Was this supposed to be a comedy section or an action section?

Mikoto was not sure but the sudden calling out on the fact her head was basically next to Kamijou's butt made all her calculations go haywire as she lost her grip on the side of the building. Just as Kamijou had said, they started slipping towards the ground and she desperately recalculated, plotting a new course to follow such that she would be able to catch up to the van as it raced away and tried to shake of the Eiyuu character chasing after them.

Choosing to use her magnetism to pull herself up towards the roof of the building, Mikoto had already heard about everything about what was happening from Kamijou. There was nothing much to report but the questions and concerns she had in her mind were not asked or answered. Did this have anything to do with Shokuhou Misaki and what she was up to now?

Mikoto was unsure but the concern for Kamijou next to her was one she felt made her conflicted. Trying not to glance at him (as doing so would mean she got a good look at his butt which she was NOT interested in as she did NOT have an ass fetish), the concern she held for the boy was still the same.

It was Orion Phoenix who had first brought Kamijou into a mess where he had lost his left arm.

And it was Orion Phoenix who Kamijou was chasing right now. The concerns she had were not just in the past. Even today, Orion was suspected of being in a bombing and had escaped Anti-Skill custody so saying he was fully innocent was hardly a proper thought, especially after the damage he had given Kamijou.

The future of Kamijou and what was going to happen when it came to Kamijou's wellbeing, especially given what had happened during Kongou's incident, came through her, but at the same time, she recognised the futility of trying to make him see reason.

He had already determined his target and although he did not know their form, he had already decided on the smiles he wanted to save. That was the only thing he needed and for that alone, Mikoto knew she could not simply deny that part of him when it had once saved her. Simply for the smiles he wanted to save, he would do anything and even if Mikoto tried to stop him, she was sure he would charge into this fight regardless.

The only difference would be whether he did so with Misaka Mikoto or not.

She had to protect and save this boy if it ever came down to it. That was a thought in her mind and with it, Mikoto knew the choice she had to make.

Besides…

There was a lot Orion had to answer for as well.

Mikoto went over the rooftop of the building but did not touch down on it, letting the force of her magnetism pull her over it before she spotted something in the distance: the sight of constant muzzle flashes from a gun and streetlights illuminating the object of her desires. Her target confirmed, she wasted no time using magnetism once more and sailing through the air, trying to match the speed of the racing van as it swerved from side to side.

Kamijou was not facing the same direction she was and because of it, only she could see what was happening in the constant flashes of gunfire and the streetlights.

Orion was still stuck on the same trailing trench coat but had wrapped an arm around the material to provide a more secure hold on the only lifeline he had for the van. The gunfire that came from the van did not only come from him but also from numerous other black clad men in the van, shooting at a figure which was constantly pursuing them.

Eiyuu, a character that even Mikoto had heard the exploits of in the past few days, did not even flinch as the flew towards Orion, constantly trying to grab at him with his hands. They were only pushed back though as Orion constantly spun a rifle in his hands to club the approaching hands away, only to let off another useless bullet towards the face of Eiyuu.

It seemed even if the bullets were useless, it was his weak spot. Even if the boy could survive a bullet to the head, the shattering of his mask would provide disastrous if his identity were to be revealed, especially given the people he had angered in his attacks of personal justice against the crime in Academy City. For this alone, bullets to the mask were to the only thing that pushed Eiyuu back, the boy constantly backing away in frustration as he desperately matched the speed of the van to attack…but always ending up attacking Orion.

Mikoto frowned at that, having already pointed the fact out to Kamijou as they sailed through the air towards their target. Kamijou had speculated that maybe Orion had done something to anger the young boy and Mikoto had to agree. The way Eiyuu constantly reached and targeted the mercenary despite having the choice to ram into the van again was too focused, as if Orion had wronged the young hero in some way.

It didn't matter to Mikoto though, realising it was none of her business and that there was something else that needed her attention: they were coming in close to the van now as she pulled them along with her magnetism and she fell at the same time.

"Are you ready!?"

"Drop me onto the roof if you can manage it!"

"A-Are you insane!?" Mikoto called back to Kamijou's demand, realising they had seconds left before they reached the van. "You'll be knocked off as soon as you hit it!"

"I can catch myself as soon as I land, as long as you time it exactly right and give me an indication when it happens! It's either that or you fight with me over your shoulder and my butt in your face!"

"I said I don't have a butt fetish!" Mikoto called out with an embarrassed face, realising there was little time and, with a heavy heart, knowing that Kamijou over her shoulder was going to be nothing but a hindrance to her own attacks against the van and whoever was inside. And given what she could see of their weapons, a single extra weight could prove to be the difference between life and death.

Gritting her teeth though and with the small time remaining, there was nothing Mikoto could do but hastily make her choice.

"If you get thrown off, I'm not going after you!"

"I'm fine with that! Just stop whatever is happening in this van!" Kamijou called back, Mikoto tensing and dropping even further as they fell towards the van. Eiyuu blocked bullet after bullet heading his way, constantly reaching for Orion but the mercenary seemed the wiser, blocking each and every attack with the rifle he had acquired from his own personal armoury, striking the hands reaching for him before letting the other soldiers in the van fire and push Eiyuu away.

With their focus being either on the hole in the side of the van and on Eiyuu, there was nothing making them focus on the air above them as Mikoto descended, focusing and making sure she was not going to miss this chance.

"You ready!?" she called rhetorically, but had already started moving, shifting her shoulder such that Kamijou was going to be pushed off with a single movement.

"W-Wait, we're already there?!" Kamijou's surprise was evident but there was no time for Mikoto to pull back and make the change, pushing Kamijou off as they descended from above the van.

He cried out as he was pushed, however, Mikoto was hardly going to let the boy go under the bus after all she had done to make him reach this far. Using magnetism to push herself over to the opposite side of the van (the one without the hole), she also grasped Kamijou's belt to pull him along with her. With that right hand of his though, whatever invisible connection she had with him was broken the moment his right hand went into contact with it.

Moving to the right side of the van with her, Kamijou barely was able to suppress the yell of surprise as his feet slammed onto the roof of the van. The sudden noise made everyone look up, the soldiers who had their assault rifles reacting by sending their barrels up towards the roof, barely missing Mikoto who fell over to the right side and grabbed onto the edge of the van, using magnetism to help her stay in place.

Kamijou on the other hand had already lost balance, the speed at which the van was moving meaning his feet came out from underneath him. He fell, tumbling on the roof as bullets tore through it, ripping it apart. Hot objects whizzed past him and he cried out in surprise, holding his arms close to himself as a way to protect himself but even then, he cleared the obstacle quickly.

And he did so by tumbling over the edge of the roof and falling from the back of the van.

The momentary loss of solid ground underneath him made the boy go wide eye but it was short lived as he slammed into something solid trailing from the back of the van. Realising it was not the road, Kamijou remembered the sensation of hitting it all too well, Kamijou went wide eyed as he remembered the only thing it could possibly be.

He barely cared though as he tumbled along with the thing he had hit: the body of Orion Phoenix. The impact dislodged the grip the mercenary had as he tumbled with Kamijou, both rapidly grabbing out to the trailing trench coat and managing to grab onto the very edge of it: their bodies scraping painfully against the road with their legs trailing behind them.

They both cried out, Eiyuu pulling back in surprise at the sudden reappearance of Kamijou making him fall behind. The rifle in Orion's hands did the same, tumbling down the road but even then, both 'mercenaries' went wide eyed as they saw who exactly was next to them as they trailed along the road.

"You don't quit, do you?!" Orion spat out.

"I'm like that itch you can't get rid of!" Kamijou responded in kind, his own expression turning into one of defiance. "So we're going to pick up right where we left off!"

"I hate those kinds of itches!"

Orion's remark was not even listened to as both boys reacted in the same way, sending their heads at each other in headbutts. They recoiled at the pain but used the timing to lift themselves up along the side of the trailing trench coat but they were equally matched in their speed at which they did so.

Which meant the only thing that would make them move faster than the other was the support of those who had come with them.

Mikoto, clinging onto the side of the van, used magnetism as she saw where Kamijou had fallen, pulling him upwards in a sudden movement that made him cry out. The driver did the same thing as he spotted the interference hanging on the right side of the van, shouting out to the soldiers within and making Mikoto realise she could no longer be passive and had to react to the threats to her life.

And yet, Eiyuu, the person who had come with Kamijou was there to support Kamijou as well.

Not by pushing Kamijou forward though.

But rather by pulling Orion back.

And he did so by sending his fist right into the trailing leg of Orion behind the van.

With a vicious crack, the leg of the mercenary snapped like a twig, the boy screaming in pain as the leg bent at an impossible angle and jumped up and down on the road he was dragged along. He refused to let go of the edge of the trench coat though, turning back to Eiyuu with anger and grabbing something underneath the trench coat, the action making Kamijou's eyes go wide.

"Eiyuu! Push b – "

He never got the words out as Orion reached into the bottom of the trench coat, bringing up a shotgun from the inside and letting loose a blast from the gun, the shot going wide and striking Eiyuu in the chest. There was a grunt but it seemed the blast from the more powerful gun at close range, given that Orion and the others had previously used handguns or rifles before, was enough to send Eiyuu flying backwards into the night, Orion screaming into the air.

"Turn! Get out of the sight of Eiyuu!"

His teeth gritted in fierce pain as his broken left leg jumped up and down on the road, it was Kamijou who stared in shock at the sight of the broken limb…but also at the fact that Orion was holding onto the trench coat with only one hand.

It seemed that Orion realised it too, using his upper body strength to leap forward and grab at the trench coat with the only thing not holding a gun: his mouth. He reached it before Kamijou could unleash the attack he had prepared, sending a vicious kick towards the hand holding the edge of the cloth.

Orion was barely able to pull his hand away in time as Kamijou fell backwards from the sudden loss of a target, crying out as he lost some grip on the trench coat and fell down it, Mikoto unable to assist given her own problem.

Now that the driver had seen her, there was nothing she could do to hide her presence, choosing to form an iron sand sword in her hand and slice off the side mirror the driver had spotted her down in the first place. But even then, the threat and Orion's words were enough to make the driver turn sharply to the right, tyres screeching as they turned on the road, mounting the curb and heading for something located in the distance, on the sidewalk rather than the road.

Mikoto went wide eyed as she spotted it, turning and yelling back in the hopes Kamijou would hear her.

"Stairs!"

Kamijou frowned, unsure what to make of them, unable to see the road in front of him but realising that nothing good was going to come. Out of nothing more than an instinctual reaction, he grabbed tighter onto the trench coat, Orion using the opportunity to grab at the trench coat with one hand and push himself up further –

Just as the van cleared the sidewalk and entered flight for a single moment.

Mikoto used the moment, clambering from her place on the side of the van to the roof…

Just as the van smashed violently down on the stairs that led down into the Underground Mall from the street it had just left. The impact almost threw Kamijou off the trench coat, the sides of the van scraping against the thin passageway of the stairs and causing sparks to fly from the contact of metal against stone.

The left mirror was shaved off in the process and the van descended, Orion screaming as his broken left leg pounded against the surface of the stairs again and again before they cleared the stairs, the open space of the Underground Mall making itself known to Kamijou, the boy going wide eyed from the crazy manoeuvre that had just happened.

He barely had time to consider what had happened though, something grabbing his leg and forcing him back, the boy crying out as he realised it was the mercenary who was barely holding on and using Kamijou's leg as support. The fact he was still on despite having his leg broken was amazing and even though his clothes and the bandages beneath had absorbed most of the blood, a red smear was trailing behind them as the van moved further into the underground mall.

Kamijou stared wide eyed at the sheer determination the mercenary had to his job and, while that was admirable, it was not a determination Kamijou was going to have lose to his, for the sake of the 'job' he had chosen himself.

"Your ride's over!" Kamijou yelled and kicked at the face of the mercenary. Blood flew as Kamijou's foot pounded into Orion's nose over and over, but there was little it did as Orion crawled up Kamijou's leg despite his broken leg and sword clattering behind him.

"Shake them off!"

A call from inside the van made Kamijou look up but there was no time to even consider it as the van suddenly swerved, smashing into a popcorn stall set up in the middle of the Mall. Bits and pieces flew everywhere and it was Mikoto that was endangered the most, being on the roof.

She wasted no time, realising that every moment she was exposed was a moment she did not spend attacking. And unlike that accursed #5, the way she attacked was directly: facing her opponent either down the side of an iron sand sword or the barrel of her Railgun. It was the former she chose this time, forming it in her hand and jumping from the roof, swinging her legs into the hole in the side of the van created by Eiyuu, who, Mikoto assumed, had fallen behind after being shot.

Any concern she had for that boy was lost as she swung into the van, focused on her own task. Her feet platted themselves against the head of the nearest soldier, throwing him inside the van but her attack had already started before any of the soldiers could react. The iron sand sword in her grip changed form entirely, becoming like an octopus as 'arms' of iron sand roared from the sword in her grip, slicing the assault rifles of the soldiers before they could fire.

Useless clicking filled the air as the soldiers tried to fire but finding it was useless, the soldiers behind those in front unable to fire without hitting their comrades. The reliance on the guns had been their downfall and the #3 wasted no time with the opportunity presented to her, letting loose a burst of electricity that engulfed her and the soldiers.

Screams as high volts came through the grown men resounded in the air and Mikoto shoved a shoulder against the one in front of her, using him to smash into the group of soldiers behind as a distraction. They all stumbled from the blow but by then, Mikoto had already kicked the nearest assault rifle upwards.

In surprise, bullets were fired and hammered into the roof, another cry reporting to the driver the crisis happening in the space behind him. A throw of the wheel to the right and Mikoto stumbled, almost being thrown out of the hole in the van and barely clutching onto the sides to avoid it. But that was enough time for the recovering soldiers to use that movement to their advantage, pushing themselves towards Mikoto, new weapons in their hands.

Even though their rifles were useless, the hunting knives in their body armour were more than effective.

Mikoto wasted no time, not bothering to hold onto the side of the van anymore and purposefully fell from it, using magnetism at the last minute to keep her suspended in mid-air while parallel to the ground beneath her. Sweat came from her body as she realised Kamijou and Orion were rapidly grappling with each other but could not afford to assist, the soldiers who had tried to stab her appearing from the hole and assuming she had fallen behind.

One look down though and the reality made itself known.

A lightning spear was thrown at the soldier who had tried to stab her, the man falling backwards and convulsing from the attack.

Mikoto rose, using the surprise from the action to throw another lightning spear inside the van, the volts sparking and striking the nearest soldier in a burst of bluish-white sparks. He screamed in pain, the soldiers at the back unable to get a proper shot from the close quarters range and the obstacles in their way.

Having too many numbers at times was disadvantageous. That reality made itself known to the one-woman army as she pressed down a palm against the metal body of the van and grinned.

"Brace yourself, you idiot!"

There was no reply as Mikoto wasted no time, sending power through her palm and into the bodywork of the van, electricity being absorbed by the metal and flowing like energy throughout the van.

Energy which attracted itself to the metal objects located on the bodies of the soldiers.

Like moths to a flame, the electricity coursing through the air arced, striking the bodies of the soldiers holding either the steel of their knives or the metal of their guns. The soldiers convulsed and the same was said for the guns in Orion's trailing trench coat, but the reason Mikoto had told Kamijou to brace was not because of that.

But rather because she knew the driver and his passenger would not be safe from the effects of what was to happen either.

The van suddenly lurched as the driver spasmed, trying his best to stay focused but the volts pumping into his body made that practically impossible.

Mikoto cried out as the van turned to the left, skidding its tyres along the Mall's path and smashing into another stall in the middle of the path. Food and metal flew in all directions from the impact before the van continued and smashed its way through a shop on the corner of an intersection in the Underground Mall.

The glass windows of the store didn't even stand a chance at the speed the van was going.

They shattered as soon as the van plunged through them and although Mikoto was safe in the protective body of the van, the boys trailing behind the van were not such. Flying glass cut at them as they scuffled, blood coming from the cuts as they continued to tumble, pounding against each other in desperation; success against failure to get the other off the van, focusing entirely on either hitting each other with their fists (Kamijou) or resorting to using constant headbutts to avoid letting go of the trench coat (Orion).

The van spun to the left as soon as it hit the side of the glass window, clothes from the interior of the store flying in all directions, as the van levelled itself out and continued straight. Whether the turn was deliberate or not, the levelling of the van into a straight path was, meaning the driver had managed to regain what form of control he had over his body.

The same was naturally going to be said for the other soldiers, Mikoto turning and letting loose a ruthless kick to the helmet of one of them. He tumbled to the side, barely able to keep his consciousness in form from the constant electrical attacks but a shout from one of the other soldiers inside resounded in the small space.

"Get topside! We're sitting ducks in here!"

The sentiment was clearly shared as the van suddenly spun to the side, a drift that threw everyone off balance again. One of the other soldiers tried the same trick as before, to use the momentum of the van to run Mikoto through, but she was the wiser, leaping from the hole in the van and using magnetism to try and get onto the roof.

It seemed the soldiers were wising up to her act as well, bullets shooting through the roof before Mikoto could get onto it.

Paling, Mikoto fell back to the only safe place she knew.

The back of the van.

She pulled back her magnetism, falling from the side of the van and fell into a roll onto the trailing trench coat, the uneven surface from the many guns underneath causing her to unevenly roll. She managed to pull herself onto it using her power once again, but the only thing that resulted in was fierce pain to echo through her skull as she took a kick to the nose.

She fell backwards once more, clutching her nose in pain and looking through teary eyes to see Orion and Kamijou still grappling with each other, blood covering both their faces but seeing the mercenary had adjusted to the new target, much to Mikoto's annoyance.

Annoyance that was clear in the bluish-white sparks that came from her body.

"You little – "

She never got another word out as the van suddenly changed orientation, going from flat against the ground to tilted as it hit the stairs leading up to Academy City above. The sudden change threw her flat against the trench coat, doing the same to the broken leg of Orion as he once more screamed out in pain, only for that to be silenced as Kamijou sent another punch into his face.

He recoiled, falling backwards onto Mikoto who responded by grabbing Orion's neck and pulling him close to her, using her weight to force the boy into unconsciousness by cutting off his airway. His weakened state meant he was barely able to put up a fight, clawing using one hand at Mikoto's face but she only reacted in the only way she knew how and using a much more effective method of making someone go unconscious.

Volts coursed through her from her hold on the mercenary's neck, the boy's body arcing in pain as the current shot through him viciously and yelling out in pain. Mikoto winced at the scream so close to her, performing the calculations to add a bit more to the volts to knock him unconscious –

Just as the van cleared the stairs of the Underground Mall.

It flew through the air for an instant, the momentary loss of footing meaning that Mikoto's grip was not as strong as it once was. It was nothing more than a simple losing of grip but for the professional mercenary, even as he was being electrocuted, it was more than enough.

Orion reached underneath the flapping trench coat and brought out another small pistol, pointing it such that the side of the barrel pressed flush against Mikoto's ear.

And he fired.

Like a physical blow, the gunshot from close range made Mikoto cry out, losing her grip entirely as Orion kicked once more at Kamijou. He struck him in the face but as the van flew, it became clear to the soldiers inside where the threat of the #3 was, something they knew they had to deal with.

And they did that by opening the back of the van.

With what was holding the trench coat in place now gone, the three people on it fell away, hitting the ground roughly and tumbling along it in pain. Orion screamed as his broken leg viciously hit the ground but did not tumble as far away as Mikoto and Kamijou holding onto the trench coat.

The two espers were not as lucky, tumbling head over heels on the rough road before stopping but amidst their staggering thoughts and their pain, there was only one thought within their head: the soldiers and the weapons they carried now they were moving away and into the distance.

And the distance they were at and the guns in their hands, the two espers would be sitting ducks.

Kamijou didn't waste time, coming out of his roll frantically and grabbing Mikoto, who held her ear in pain, throwing them to the side in a desperate effort to avoid the bullets heading their way. The gunshots echoed through the air as the bullets struck the ground where they had once been, but the extra second of life they had now was barely worth it.

Following them with their muzzles would be easier than breathing and Kamijou knew it. Doing the only thing he knew would save someone at least, he wasted no time, bringing in Mikoto close and holding her protectively, if only to ensure he could protect her from the incoming death by acting as a shield.

But it did not.

What came instead was a different sort of death.

A scream from above.

Kamijou flinched but realised, in the back of his mind, that he knew that scream. He turned his head and looked up in the sky, but he could hardly see anything in the darkness of the night above. However, he didn't have to focus his eyes, watching as the small point of white in the sky descended…heading right for the van.

There were shouts within the van, the guns being pointed right up, but there was no time to even react to the form approaching the group now.

It didn't waste time, heading for and smashing right into the front of the van where the driver and his passenger were. Glass flew everywhere, metal was crushed and the sight of red painting the road made Kamijou's eyes go wide.

The sudden impact made the van flip like it was hanging on an edge, causing the entire thing to flip into the air, spin a few times before landing with sickening crash upside down, the remains of what had not been smashed now doing so. Glass splintered everywhere, the crushing of metal filling the air as something from within the van smashed through it, screaming out one name.

"Last Ordeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

The scream echoed in the Academy City night, Kamijou realising his recognition was correct.

But even so, Kamijou could barely register his shock at seeing how Accelerator had surely killed the driver of the van and his passenger. The lives that had been lost, the lives that Kamijou was certain did not have to be taken being lost in front of him made something complicated rise within the boy; feelings of horror but also relief that Accelerator was still alive.

But even then, with the complications of his own heart struggling to reach a conclusion, Kamijou still yelled out the name of the boy.

"Accele – "

He never finished.

Whether it be because metal scraped against metal, because the engine had suffered too much damage or because a grenade from one of the soldiers had been dislodged as the van had fallen upside down were unknown but the effects were literally explosive.

The van turned into nothing short of a ball of flame, the entire thing exploding and turning it into a flaming mess. Kamijou felt something choke within him, feeling the warmth of the shockwave come over him as he choked back the words he had to say but finding the concern within him rising like never before.

"ACCELERATOR!"

Kamijou called out, rising and moving forward in pure panic, racing towards the sight of the burning van but knowing that even if he reached it, nothing would change. He could not negate the flames of this explosion and even if he could, it would do nothing to reverse the deaths of those who had been caught inside of it, the mere thought of it crushing and stabbing at the heart of Kamijou.

But even so, he raced towards it, hoping for some miracle within his heart.

And his wish was answered.

No, that was not it.

That was the thought Kamijou Touma had as he saw the back of the van kicked open ruthlessly and a single figure, red eyes burning hotter than the flames behind him and white hair fluttering about demonically in the wind, appeared from the interior of the van, hatred resounding off him like a wave.

It was not a miracle that Accelerator was alive.

It would take a miracle for something like that to kill him.

Kamijou felt something choke within him once again, unsure whether the relief he was feeling for his friend being alive was reversed because of the deaths he had caused but, once again, never got the words out of his mouth.

His confused heart never got the chance to properly process the deaths he had just seen.

Something whizzed past him, something small and hot and impacted Accelerator before it flew right past Kamijou's head once again. A cry of pain echoed into the air and Kamijou turned, seeing Orion managing to stand with his trench coat on, using his sword as a cane despite his broken leg and screaming as the gun in his hand clattered to the ground, a few fingers falling along with it.

Kamijou's eyes went wide, realising what had happened…and how Orion had paid for it. Having shot Accelerator, the bullet had been reflected, going right back where it had come from and blowing off the hand which had held the gun. The foolishness of the action was clear but Kamijou felt a single feeling resound through him now he realised that Orion had placed himself directly in the targeting line for the #1 Level 5 of Academy City…and the monster that stood there.

Accelerator had screamed out Last Order's name. Given how he had attacked the van, did he think the girl was contained inside? Kamijou had seen nothing but those soldiers within it, but was the 'other business' Orion had to attend to related to taking the smile away from Last Order in some fashion?

He did not know, but the dots in his mind were connecting, much like Accelerator's would.

The soldiers who had just died had had something to do with Last Order and whatever had happened to her. And Orion Phoenix, in his idiocy, had just demonstrated he was allied with the people Accelerator had just killed.

What happened next would not even be a fight.

Fright and more importantly, the desire to ensure there was no more death, rose within Kamijou and he rapidly turned to face Accelerator, to try and reason with the boy standing in front of the burning van to spare Orion in some respect and let him live, if only for the chance to get something out of him.

But even then, Kamijou was not sure whether the #1 had the sense of mind in his rage to think straight.

And for that alone, with the power he held, Kamijou Touma truly feared him.

"Wai – "

He never got the words out as Accelerator took a single step.

But that was all it took.

He moved so fast past Kamijou that even trying to grab him would have torn an arm off. It didn't matter though as Kamijou did not react in time, seeing the #1 Level 5 race towards the figure of the wounded Orion and act in one way after forcing himself to a stop in front of the mercenary.

He grabbed both of Orion's arms, placing a foot against his chest.

And gave a single kick.

There was a ripping and a popping sound as Orion was forced back, while his arms were being held by Accelerator. While that would have forced him back towards the #1, there was no such happening here as both of his arms were ripped from their sockets.

Blood flew, the now amputated arms of the mercenary with the bandages covering them hanging limply by the side of Accelerator who held them. Orion flew backwards, striking the opening to the Underground Mall with so much force that the concrete caved in, blood spurting from the impact like a bug's guts on a windshield. There was a sickening crack as Orion hung there, suspended for a single moment before gravity took hold, causing the boy to fall forwards and tumble down the stairs into the Underground Mall he had come from, blood trailing in his wake.

Kamijou stared in horror at the terrifying power of the #1, trembling as he stood there in silence, noting something skidding to a stop right next to him. It sounded like tyres against the road before footsteps came beside Kamijou and stopped. Trembling and wanting something to occupy his mind, Kamijou turned and went wide eyed, saying the name of the boy next to him in a daze as if he were still trying to sort out the violence he had just witnessed.

"Hama…zura?"

Hamazura Shiage said nothing, turning to face Kamijou before turning back to look at Accelerator, not even looking at the #3 on the ground, slowly getting up with a hand next to her ear. Accelerator had his back to both Level 0s before acting, throwing away both of Orion's arms and walking down the stairs of the Underground Mall that, even from here, Kamijou could see were stained with blood.

Hamazura followed him, picking up Orion's pistol on the ground and putting his finger on the trigger, the action sending almost every single warning signal going off within Kamijou's mind. What was he doing!? This was no time to be standing around!

Kamijou raced towards Mikoto, helping her up, but she pushed Kamijou away. No words were said but the silent message within them was clear, the boy making sure she was on her feet before racing back down the stairs of the Underground Mall to chase after the two heroes, giving the amputated arms a sorrowful look. The stench of blood filled the air and even in the dim lighting, the sight of red dripping down the stairs could have only come from one source; the mercenary at the base of the stairs who was surrounded by Accelerator and Hamazura.

"…Was there anyone in that van?" The words of Hamazura was blunt and cold but the response that came from Accelerator was as much the same.

"Not unless you count pieces of shit who deserved to die. Much like this guy here…if he wasn't the only one left with the information we need, judging from what you just said."

The words of Accelerator made Hamazura turn towards the fallen boy on the floor. Accelerator lowered himself and grabbed Orion by the front of the shirt, the sight of blood and spit still flowing from the mercenary's mouth making it clear he was still alive despite having who-knew-how-many bones broken and his arms torn off. The tenacity he was showing felt more like his life was hanging by a single thread.

Blood dripped down his form onto the ground, but Accelerator only coldly pressed his face against the mercenary's, Hamazura holding the pistol and pointing it right at Orion's head so that even with his hazy mind, he could understand the message the two of them had to say.

"Tell us what you know. Where did you son of bitches take Last Order?"

"Wait!"

Kamijou reached the bottom of the stairs, both Accelerator and Hamazura turning back towards him with expressions so fierce that even Kamijou knew that interrupting them here was foolish. Even so though, despite the things Kamijou wanted to say and wanted to tell them, there was only the immediate crisis on hand to deal with and focus on.

"Accelerator… I don't know what's going on, but we don't have to resort to one way of doing things. The cost for what has happened…is already too great." Kamijou tried to keep his voice level but it was Hamazura who spoke up to interrupt Kamijou.

"The cost? I don't know what the #1 lost to this asshole, but my girlfriend was kidnapped. By MINUS. And you know what that means? Kihara Kamui is the one behind that as well. And the fact she was the one who was taken means that this 'cost' is the one I intend to pay back. With interest. If Kamui thinks I am going to be some toy in his game, he has another thing coming. Which means I need the information in this bastard's head. A bastard who I'm not going to bother weighing up against Takitsubo because his life means shit to me."

"MI…!?" Kamijou's breath caught in his throat, the mere mention of the group that had associated itself with Kihara Kamui and acted under his orders making his heart stop. Accelerator seemed genuinely surprised by Hamazura's words as well, suggesting it was only now that he came to realise the nature of the incident surrounding them, if indeed the kidnappings of Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou were connected.

But that in itself only fuelled the growing anger within the #1's mind.

"Kihara Kamui, huh? And here I thought you motherfuckers wouldn't dare touch me or take from me. You have a set of balls of you, don't you?!" Accelerator spat out, reaching his hand out and grabbing the spot where Orion's arm had once been. Even with his trench coat and his sleeve over the wound, blood spilled out as Accelerator grabbed at the wound he had created and the expression of pain on Orion's barely conscious face was clear. "Which means that if you think you can take from me, then I have the right to do the absolute same to you."

Accelerator plunged his hand deeper into Orion's wound, yelling as he did so.

"WHERE IS SHE!? WHERE HAVE YOU TAKEN LAST ORDER!?"

The pressing of the gun against Orion's head even harder was enough for Hamazura to add his own comment, although the quiet voice he said it in made it even more frightening.

"…And Takitsubo. One way or another, you're going to tell us. And when you tell us we will determine how many pieces of a piece of shit like you are left. So you better talk about where you took them. And fast."

The flood of information coming to Kamijou now made him pale.

Was this what was going on?

Were the smiles Orion was going to destroy or had planed to the ones belonging to Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou, and thus, Accelerator and Hamazura Shiage respectively?! Was his client Kihara Kamui? The things happening tonight in this City felt so involved and were happening so fast that Kamijou struggled to process it all.

But even in the fright, the nervousness and the desire to save those who had been harmed, that desire did not just limit itself to the people Kamijou had to save.

It also applied to the people he had to face.

Orion had something to answer for, that was true.

But…in this way? Both Accelerator and Hamazura, for the things they loved had crossed a line. Was this cruelty something that had always been within them or was this something that Orion had managed to bring to the surface simply through his actions?

Even if he was the failure of Kamijou Touma, the line Accelerator and Hamazura had crossed was not one so easily returned from. So, for the purposes of not only saving the failure Orion, but also the #1 and Hamazura, Kamijou knew he could not afford to let this scene continue.

"W-Wait just a minute! You can't seriously be thinking that – "

Kamijou froze as the gun pressed against Orion's temple was pointed right at him. Something within the eyes of Hamazura told him he was deadly serious in the way he was holding that gun and resting his finger on the trigger.

"…I know this is just you speaking, Boss. But the things I have had taken from me tonight are not things I can compromise on. This asshole has the answers. And I'm going to get them from him, one way or another. And you don't want to be the one saying I should value this guy's life over that of my girlfriend's. In a heartbeat, I would kill him for her. And, if push comes to shove, I might have to do that. I can't afford to be idealistic because I have had something precious taken from me. And given where you stand and how you are unscathed…I wouldn't expect you to understand."

The words were spat out and Kamijou felt them get under his skin. If the person Orion had kidnapped was Index or Othinus, would this be how he reacted? Would he resort to torture and going so far to get the information he wanted? Kamijou was unsure where exactly he would draw the line for the sake of those he wanted to protect above all else…and the silence that came with it made Hamazura turn the gun and press it back against the temple of Orion.

Even so though, something within Kamijou spoke to him. Accelerator and Hamazura…they were better than this. They had saved and they had managed to put smiles on other's faces meaning they didn't have to choose this path to get what they wanted. There was a way, another way! Kamijou refused to see the two of them give in like this…and give in to the way Orion Phoenix did things.

They were falling. Even though what they were doing in their minds was justifiable, and perhaps rightly so, they were falling to the level of that mercenary who had failed himself and was nothing more than a failed Kamijou Touma.

Kamijou refused to see that. He refused to see the goodness within them defeated by this bastard.

"E-Even so - !"

"This relates to the Sisters. Why did you fight for them, you fucking Hero, if you aren't going to follow through when one of them has been kidnapped? Because if you aren't a bystander and you aren't helping, then you're an enemy."

Accelerator turned his head, something within that gaze of his making Kamijou pause.

"And I assure you, that is not a place you want to be."

Kamijou felt the words within his mouth freeze, slowly clenching his right fist. Even if the two of them were going down a dangerous path, could they be stopped? There was no way Orion was going to be able to move or shoot his way out of this; Accelerator had torn his arms off, so he wasn't going anywhere.

But was time their enemy? Were Last Order and Takitsubo Rikou going to die in the future if they did nothing? The uncertainties Kamijou was feeling and how he wanted to deal with this differently made him feel sick; this was the lives of two people Accelerator and Hamazura cared about deeply and yet, he was trying to figure out a way to do this differently?

He did not blame them for what they were doing. Kamijou was certain that if he was in the same position, he might have done the same thing.

But that didn't make it something Kamijou Touma could accept.

Which only made the feeling of wanting to stop them more bitter.

Was the only way out of this to fight them to protect the bastard Orion and figure out some way to make him talk without any of them falling down to his level?

There was something brewing in the air, but a single voice cut through it all.

"The Sisters…? One of them has been kidnapped?"

A cold voice from behind Kamijou made his heart sink and he turned, seeing the form of Misaka Mikoto in the stairway. With the light from outside streaming in, he could barely see her, but he didn't have to as to feel the chill within her voice. He felt himself trembling as he stared at the #3, tightening his fist even harder at the tone of voice she was using.

"Misaka…? N-Not you too. There is a way we can do this without having to resort to this and make all of you go down a path you don't want to go down!"

"…"

"Yes, Orion needed to be stopped. But going this far? If we do this, what makes us better than the others who went too far by stealing away our peace? L-Lives have already been lost today so – "

"What makes us better than them…"

Mikoto spoke, Kamijou feeling something within him rise. Something was coming, something he needed to be prepared for and he slowly rose his right fist, unsure if this was what he wanted or even if this was what he had to do. But if it stopped these people from going down a path they could not so easily turn back from, then he knew he had to stop them.

He had no plan for how to get the information he needed out of Orion but the sudden turn of the situation had thrown out everything in the mind of Kamijou. The only thing he was focused on was making sure these three did not take an unforgiveable path. The situation and how he was against it simply because he wanted to make sure these people did not fall made him feel as though his selfishness was the worst part about him.

Too much had happened today and too much had been lost to the extent that it was a weight on his soul.

The lives of those soldiers.

Last Order.

Takitsubo Rikou.

Crow 1 and what happened to Shutaura Sequenzia.

Wait… Shutaura?

Kamijou's eyes went wide as he realised something he berated himself for not noticing before; his mind was just that muddled and shocked.

There was a way to make sure these people did not go down this path, go down to the level of Orion by torturing him for information, a way that meant they could possibly figure out where Last Order and Takitsubo were being taken.

Orion had said, when he had returned Crow 1 that he had 'other business', likely referring to what was happening with Last Order and Takitsubo. Meaning it was just as likely that where Crow 1 had been stationed was where those two had been taken. And Shokuhou Misaki, right now, was in the process of determining that.

They already had the location they needed.

Meaning there was a way these people did not have to cast themselves into the abyss for the sake of what they had to protect. There was a way to get what they wanted without resorting to torture, an action that would cast them down a path they could not take back.

"Wait!"

"…Is that we're doing what we need to to protect the smiles of those we care about instead of ripping them from others. Isn't that exactly what you should be doing as well, you idiot!?"

"Listen to me!"

"No. You listen to yourself! Are you seriously going to place this bastard's life above that of the Sisters!?"

"I said w - !"

Kamijou was about to respond but something else interrupted him.

Blinding pain.

It echoed inside the back of his head and threw him to the floor, Kamijou barely catching himself and groggily turning his head, desperately trying to say the words he needed to as to avoid this trio from doing something they would not be able to take back.

But it meant nothing and he was too beaten.

The only thing that he saw before the darkness took him was the butt of Orion's pistol being swung at him by Hamazura Shiage.

They were by no means bad people.

They were just doing what they felt they had to to protect what they loved and cared for.

They had been pushed that far and their humanity and desire to protect had taken over, even if it had done so in a cruel form.

And Kamijou had stood in the face of that.

It was only natural that they would want to stop him, who was stopping them from doing what they needed to to protect those they loved.

But just as the success of Kamijou Touma saw and brought out the goodness and kindness of people, the failure of Orion Phoenix did the opposite; bringing out the darkness within them.

Accelerator, Hamazura Shiage and Misaka Mikoto were by no means bad people.

But that was why what they were about to do only showed how much they loved what they had had taken them.


"…He's not answering. Again."

"Then we move out."

"W-What about my condition!? The one that said Kamijou Touma would come along?!"

"Oh, you mean that condition reliant upon you giving us the information we now have? You have nothing to bargain with anymore, Shokuhou Misaki. And because of that, we need to make sure we attack the people who took Crow 1. We have waited for too long. So it is time for us to strike back."

Shutaura Sequenzia's words were logical and more than correct. But even so, they made Shokuhou Misaki, the #5 Level 5 of Academy City grit her teeth as she stared at her phone.

Finding the residual memories lying within Crow 1 and his bodysuit of where he had been taken had been easy. Amazingly so and many of the Black Crows had truly been unable to hide their amazement of the work of the #5. Simply deciding an attack strategy on the location Shokuhou had identified as being the base of MINUS where Crow 1 had been taken had been the course of action taken in the aftermath. After all, MINUS would hardly expect them to be coming.

So, while the soldiers had been preparing to make their advance, Shokuhou had done the one thing she knew she had to do: call Kamijou Touma and tell him where to head as to ensure that him 'going with the flow' of things and him not knowing anything would not result in him being wounded again. But over the past few minutes, no matter how much she called, he just did not answer.

Her concern, as well as the concern of Index and the doll in her arms (how was it changing its facial expressions like that?) grew and grew but now that it was time to leave, the others only found themselves looking at each other with nervousness.

"Wh-What do we do?" Shokuhou asked nervously towards the nun who looked the same as she did. The moving and the commanding Shutaura was doing suggested she had healed from her injuries, but the occasional wince made it clear it was not fully healed just yet. How she had managed to recover so fast was a miracle in itself but it mattered not to the others, Index raising her voice.

"U-Umm, Shutaura?"

Shutaura flinched at the name being called and who said it, but she turned around and faced the nun. Complicated feelings of relief and anticipation of talking with her came within Shutaura, but also annoyance. However, she answered the nun.

"Yes?"

"What are you going to do about the others who have not arrived?"

"Kamijou Touma decided to run off on his o – "

"I'm not talking about Touma. What about the others in our group who have not arrived, not to mention yours? I can see that around seven different Crows from your 'unit' have yet to arrive, one of them being the one escorting Otohime to where we were originally supposed to go. Now that our location has changed, what are you going to do about them?"

"Simple," Shutaura said, although the way Index spoke so clearly and carefully indicated she was no stranger to battle plans or strategy and the need to relay information quickly and precisely. "We communicate the plan through our devices. Our plan relies on us working as a team. If there is a need for individual action and one of the Black Crows can take advantage of an opportunity in front of them, I suggest they take it. If the plan needs to be changed, then it is. The speed at which each Black Crow not here arrives at the attack point depends on them but I expect each and every participant who can fight to do so, unless they have some pressing reason."

"So, as long as they are with us, then even if they arrive late and follow the plan, everything is good?"

Index's question was loaded and Shutaura knew it. Instead of responding with words, she nodded simply and Index turned back to the Level 5, speaking briefly but also precisely.

"There you have it, Long Hair. All those things apply to Touma perfectly: he is not here and if he follows the plan already devised, then he can participate all he wants. And knowing him, trying to get him to not participate is going to be harder."

"But he doesn't know the plan! If he just charges into it right now without any understanding of what is going on, then it will just be a repeat of…!"

"Text him, you absolute idiot, and tell him the location of where to go and the plan. Did your breasts absorb your intelligence, you simple minded woman?"

The poisonous words were spat out by the doll in Index's arms, although Shokuhou was too shocked by them to merely do as she was told, looking at Index and the doll with the same shock.

"But if he does that without a proper guide then - !"

"That's why we're going with everyone else." Index said, before turning to the pale faced Shutaura. "Right?"

"No, absolutely not." Shutaura said before thrusting a finger towards Shokuhou. "Your agreement is already over. You gave us the information and we have no further obligation to see you, civilians, through this. Go home. Be safe. That is an order."

"Then, as civilians, we respectfully decline." Index's words were surprisingly harsh, everyone else staring at her in surprise before she turned back to Shokuhou. "Long Hair, do you think you can do your thingy on the whatsitcalled? No, I can do that too on mine for Otohime although…"

"You idiot nun. Give that to me before you hurt yourself."

"Hey!"

Index cried out as the phone she brought out from her habit sleeve was snatched up by the doll, Shokuhou coming out of her funk before slowly moving her phone as well and pressing in the details of the text to Kamijou as well, while Othinus did the same for Tatsugami Otohime. Shutaura stared, still stuck in surprise, before she grabbed Index's arm.

"Are you listening to me!? This is not going to be fun and games. I was shot. And I very much doubt that either of you are equipped to deal with the type of firepower MINUS has. Going into this, without being prepared, is the same as signing your death warrant. I will not let some hot shot civilians charge into this for the sake of their own whims! I refuse!" Shutaura yelled, all eyes having stopped and staring at her as she grabbed Index's arm. The girl looked at it for a moment, before doing something no one expected.

She smiled and placed her hand on Shutaura's gripping her arm.

"…You really are kind. Caring for us in this way and worrying for us, even though we are no longer your responsibility. Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for thinking so deeply of us and the danger we are heading into."

But slowly, she pulled off the fingers clutching onto her arm.

"But as much as this terrifies me, as much as I don't want to charge into this and as much as I know the dangers of doing this…Touma is doing the exact same and has done so so many times before. And he will do it again, merely because this issue is one pointed out to him. So, turning away from this isn't just forsaking you to whatever fate you have in store. Nor is it forsaking those who could possibly be hurt in the future because of this. It also forsaking Touma to make him fall to whatever fate this incident is going to have in store for him. If…If there is even the chance I could have done something to lessen whatever wounds he had but didn't because I wasn't there, I've never be able to live that down. And I've felt that so many times before. But no more. I can do something here and even if I can't, I will have no regrets because I am here. We're coming with you. Because Touma is going to be too, even if he is not here right now. The only difference is whether you take us along or not."

Shutaura felt the fingers of the girl on her arm. They were soft and warm but at the same time, radiated a strength that seemed to make any weapon pointed at her pale.

It was the power of faith.

Faith in her belief of a single boy and what she would do for him.

It seemed fitting that she was a nun with the faith she was showing and Shutaura knew that trying to get her to concede was hopeless. Not only that, but if they tried to make her stop and hide, Shokuhou Misaki had been given her remotes once again. There was only one way this was going to go, the only thing to be determined whether it was voluntarily or involuntarily.

"Jesus Christ…" Shutaura groaned while running a hand through her hair.

Index and the doll in her arms scowled at those words.

"You might not be religious while living in Academy City, but using the Lord's name in vain…"

"Not to mention there is a mightier god right here you should be worshipping."

Shutaura Sequenzia said nothing, groaning and rubbing the bridge of her nose. Just talking with this nun was a handful and the conflicting emotions of irritation, but also happiness at having held a conversation with her made her wonder what exactly the strength between this girl and Meigo Arisa was.

The location of where MINUS was hiding was known.

The people going to be participating in this attack were the Black Crows and the stowaways of Index, Shokuhou Misaki, Tatsugami Otohime, a calico cat, a doll that was oddly human and Kamijou Touma. Kamijou had been told of the plan and where to go via text, Otohime the same.

With the forces at hand, Shutaura truly felt as though this was going to be a long night.

It would be a miracle if they pulled this off, if at all.

"…We're moving out! Spread out and you," Shutaura turned and pointed at the stowaways. "Follow those who led you here to the location where MINUS is hiding. Even if Crow 1 was taken in the ambulance already, I don't want anyone else being in one. Got it!?"

Hurried nods were the only response she got before the girls got back to their texting, Shutaura Sequenzia turning and grumbling underneath her breath, but still finding a rise of challenge within her.

A miracle?

There was a part of her that was extremely good at that.

So it was time to see if it still worked.


No action has no meaning.

Anything anyone does, no matter who they are and no matter what constitutes their person, does something for a reason. Not only applying to people in the current world but throughout history, that very thought exists.

The only thing that can be hard to determine is what that reasoning is.

But for the girl who did not know herself as being a Saint, the feeling rising within her was one that she could only attribute to as being a miracle.

A feeling within her, a hunch or instinct, Batya Sitara of Harmonia's Cradle did not know how to explain it. The only thing she knew was that her hunches had never been wrong before…and she doubted they would be wrong now.

"Louis. I've found it."

"Y-You have, Sis!?" The small boy next to her cried out before wincing, clutching his chest painfully as the girl next to him reached over and grabbed him before he could fall. He supported himself on her before lifting off and trying to appear brave, but the look of pain on her face made it clear he was barely hanging in there. "I-I'm OK."

"You don't have to come."

"I do. …But not because Father told me. It's my job to protect you, Sis. That girl with the spear, if she comes again…"

"…Let's hope it doesn't come to that."

Batya said soothingly and took the small boy's hand in hers, taking them both into the night of Academy City.

And with their movement came one horrible reality.

That sometimes miracles were not what they were made out to be.

Especially when it meant you were the one who was going to suffer because of it.


And there we have it!

So, what did you think?!

Although this was a fight scene chapter, at the same time, I used and introduced a lot of new characters into this arc who are important in the future. But remember that this is Shutaura's arc, so that is still going to hold, even if the chaos has suddenly gone tenfold and the introduction of the new characters.

Of them, I think Eiyuu was perhaps the most important, if only for the role I have planned for them. What did you think of it!? Throughout this series, there have been many 'heroes' who come in different forms and have their ideals placed in various different ways but at the same time, we've never had an over-the-top type of hero we know as wearing the mask and cape. Even if Sogiita Gunha sort of meets this criteria, I wanted to use it in its own way and hence, created Eiyuu. It might seem as though the character of Eiyuu was 'taken out' rather quickly but if not for them, I doubt Mikoto and Touma would have managed to find the van they were chasing so easily. Although not much was used with the character right now, I hope their small moments you can see as being the set up for something bigger for where their character was being taken.

But if there was any theme I felt was important, I felt it was what is going to happen next chapter, using the key word of 'opposites'. Using Orion as the character to create this type of situation really breaks the mould for me in that I can use him to direct characters to do things that would otherwise challenge their moral compass. Although it might not seem like it for the case with Accelerator, for Hamazura and Mikoto, it definitely is the case for that and I think what they do next chapter while having that inner darkness brought out of them is going to form a rather interesting thing for them in the future.

I've really brought to mind the question "How far would you go for the people you love?" in this chapter and going to bring it into the next. I'm not going to say much but next chapter is something I look forward to, if only for what I have planned and what is to happen. Any questions and objections of "XYZ character wouldn't do that!" (which I imagine are prevalent already) are hopefully answered in the next chapter with what is going to happen, but with Touma now out of the way and hence, the voice of reason no longer speaking, the chances for the inner darkness of the characters to be revealed is coming upon us…or will that voice of reason prove to be too powerful for the members of the Kamijou Faction?

Keep in mind though that this is still SHUTAURA'S arc and hence, her part at the end is just as important as the chapter given. Somehow, even though I gave a car chase scene, there was little 'development' for the characters apart from the events of the story so I'll leave whatever thoughts I have on the matter right here. The only thing I hope you enjoyed was the no-holds-barred type of fighting introduced this chapter. I've never really had a soldier go head to head with Touma before using conventional weapons when the story has been about using esper powers and magic, so it was a nice change of scene, even if they were trailing behind a van throughout most of the chapter!

I'll leave things there though; not much to talk about this chapter, and hope that the next one surprises you as well.

And as always,
Review if you please.

And I'll see you when I see you and I won't if I don't.

The bad guys in this series get more punishment than Touma does, so I'm not sure if I'm a Touma sadist anymore… I mean, just one of them had his arms ripped off, numerous bones broken and a shattered leg so I guess I'm thankful I restrain myself when it comes to Touma, even if it might not feel like it to many.