"Miyuki."

I gasped, letting out the breath that I'd been holding so long. The rush of air must have made me feel giddy, because when I noticed that Ani had placed a hand on my shoulder I felt strangely lightheaded.

Seeing that I was once again taking in oxygen, Ani released me and turned back to our quarreling classmates. I followed his gaze.

That obnoxious boy from my class and Ani's male friend were facing off against each other with only a couple of meters between them. While this was out of striking range, it almost seemed to me that physical attacks would be faster at that distance than magic.

"So," sneered the boy from my class. "You really want me to show you the difference between us, eh? Fine! Pay close attention!"

With that, he swept back his uniform and drew out a pistol-shaped CAD from a holster on his hip faster than some of the crowd's eyes could follow. By the time he pointed it at Ani's friend, the Activation sequence was almost complete.

I was surprised. He was faster than I thought. In no time the magic construction had been completed and had locked on to the target. But this small feeling was nothing compared to the shock I felt when Ani stretched his hand forward in the direction of the fight. Was he going to interfere?! I couldn't believe it. Would he reveal his one and only trump card, Gram Demolition, just to stop a schoolyard brawl?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ani's friend rushing forward desperately, trying to knock the CAD out of his opponent's hands and end the cast. But it seemed to be just beyond his reach, and it looked like he wouldn't make it -

*thwack*

Everyone turned to watch as the pistol CAD went spinning off into space. Then they turned around to stare at the person who had sent it flying.

Her bright red hair fluttering in the wind, Erika smiled. "It would seem that physical attacks are faster at this range," she said in a deceptively casual voice. "You should watch out," she continued, waving an extendable baton in front of the arrogant boy's face as one might wag a finger in reproof.

"So should you," came an irritable voice behind her. "You almost hit me with that thing!" Ani's friend jabbed a finger his finger angrily Erika's baton.

"Did I? Oh, I hadn't even noticed you were there. My mistake ~"

"Why are you saying that while grinning like the Cheshire Cat?!"

And so it seemed that the confrontation had ended in a misfire. While that arrogant boy hurried off in search of his lost CAD, Erika and the other boy argued over whether or not he should be grateful for her other 1-A students didn't seem to know what to make of this, and were milling about in confusion after having lost their leader and their momentum in one fell blow.

Still, this moment of calm was more like a cease-fire than true peace, and so was destined not to last. Suddenly, psion light surged and formed into the unmistakeable patterns of spell-casting as one of the members of 1-A came to their senses.

"Honoka...?" I was dumbstruck. Honoka was trying to attack Ani's friends? But...why?

"This is all wrong...I just...with her...I just wanted to be..." Honoka seemed to be muttering. But before she could finish her cast (and attack?), a psion bullet came streaking through the air and crashed violently into her spell. The concentric rings spiraled out of control and and then broke apart, scattering their glowing components everywhere.

"You there! Stop that!" The voice came from the direction the bullet had been fired from. Striding forward purposefully, Student President Mayumi Saegusa entered the scene.

"You heard her!" came another voice. A female upperclassman with a short, tomboyish bob of hair strode forward. "I am Mari Watanabe, chief of the Public Morals Committee! If you continue using magic, I will stop you with force!" She placed her hand on her bracelet-shaped CAD and stared them down challengingly.

Faced with these new arrivals, all of the present first-year students backed down. Chief Watanabe strode forward and addressed Honoka. "The Student Council and Public Morals Committee would be very interested in hearing why you were using magic against your peers. Please follow me back to the Student Council Room."

I was rather shocked. How could Honoka use magic against the Course 2 students? No matter what her reasons, I couldn't agree with her actions. And I thought...that we could actually be friends...

"Excuse me."

Unnoticed by any of us, Ani had walked up to stand behind chief Watanabe. She turned to face him, leaving a shaking Honoka in the arms of Shizuku. "What is it?"

"That girl was not going to use attack magic. She was simply using a light spell to illuminate our surroundings. We wanted to make sure that everyone could see Morisaki's trick." He gestured to the rude member of my entourage, who by this time had returned with his CAD. "He was showing us his families' famous quickdraw technique. That's not something one can witness every day."

"Oh?" Chief Watanabe wasn't convinced. "And how do you know they weren't planning to do something more...aggressive?"

"Because I can read the activation sequence."

There was a stunned silence. This was understandable. What Ani claimed to do was impossible, after all. I hadn't believed him at first either, but he had since demonstrated this ability in my presence enough times for me to be totally convinced. However, the chief of the Public Morals Committee had never actually seen him do this, so I did not expect her to believe him.

"Interesting..." she murmured. Smiling, she added, "You'll have to show me that sometime." She turned to everyone else. "Alright, you can go. Just remember to be more careful in the future." Turing back to Ani, she said in a much quieter tone, "You intrigue me. What's your name?"

"Tatsuya Shiba."

"...I'll see you later then. Come on Mayumi, let's go."

"Okay." The president winked at Ani as she turned to leave, and said something to him I couldn't hear.

As the first-year students watched the pair depart, Morisaki walked up to Ani. "Well, I don't know why you covered for me, but don't think I owe you one."

"I didn't think that."

Morisaki scowled. "I don't acknowledge you, Tatsuya Shiba. Your sister will be brought down by hanging out with weeds. She should hang out with us. Come on, guys." And he walked off, with the rest of the troublemakers from 1-A following.

Well, perhaps not. Honoka and Shizuku approached Ani, one with a half-determined, half-terrified look on her face, and the other with an unreadable expression. Honoka met Ani's gaze briefly before quickly looking down. Nevertheless, she stammered out, "Err, th-thank you for covering for me. If not for that I...would have been in very big trouble."

"Yes," Shizuku added solemnly. "Thank you."

Was it my imagination, or did Ani actually look uncomfortable? "There's no need to thank me; I just didn't want to be involved in an incident on my first day of school."

"Oh, well, um..." Honoka stammered. Shizuku not-so-subtly elbowed her. "Ow! I mean, uh, can we maybe, um, walk to the station with you guys...?"

She was clearly asking permission not just from Ani, but everyone else in the group as well. They seemed surprised, but after a moment's hesitation everyone turned to look at Ani - which was surprising and a little awkward for me, since I was the one accustomed to being the de-facto leader in a group. But Ani looked to me as if to gauge my thoughts on the matter, and after giving him a slight nod, he turned to Honoka and said, "Certainly you can accompany us." He accompanied this with a slight smile, and I was rather disconcerted to see Honoka blush in response. I immediately turned my back on everyone, so that they could not see the expression that had come over my face at this exchange.

—❊❅❄❅❊—

"Miyuki, why don't you come walk over here with us?" Honoka called.

Refusing to turn around, I replied, "No, I'm fine over here. Please continue with your conversation." Was my voice a little strained when I said that? I didn't think so, but...

"Are you still mad at me for what happened earlier?" Honoka said fearfully. "I told you I was just trying to set off a flash that would blind and distract everyone-"

"I know! That person said so, didn't he? And he can read activation sequences, so it must be true." Of course it must. Ani is never wrong. But I was still angry with Honoka for making a scene in front of everyone, and for flirting with Ani-

No, no, no! They were not flirting. And even if they were I would have absolutely no problems with that. And anyway, that wasn't what I was upset about. I was just angry that I had been implicated in an almost-fight in front of the student council president.

Storming ahead of everyone else (but in a ladylike fashion), I could still overhear what the others were talking about. Something about activation sequences and specialized CADs, but I wasn't really paying attention. I didn't care. So what if Ani was the center of attention right now? And he was making friends with everyone while I was walking ahead alone? It was my choice, to separate myself from the others. It was my choice, to be alone.

I don't understand that person.

I don't dislike that person.

I don't like that person either, though.

But who would have ever thought...that Ani would be better at making friends than me?


Have you guys seen the anime? Well, have you noticed what's in the first ten/fifteen seconds of the ending credits? FALLING SNOW :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

*ahem*

Anyway, I was struggling with this chapter for a while which is why it's so late. (And even now, it seems kinda short…) Still, it seemed like a good idea to end it here because it gives Miyuki something to chew over.

And on a related note, who would've ever guessed that I would write such a tsundere character? Honestly…not me. I usually don't like that type of character. But, I guess there's a first time for everything?

Also, last thing. My pace for this story is going to (hopefully) be getting faster from now on. I'm going to be skipping over some bits now that I've firmly established what Miyuki and Tatsuya's relationship is like in this continuity. This is mostly because I'll end up writing whole volumes if I don't, and I don't think the story will EVER be finished if I do that. (I would probably just abandon it in despair…) Don't worry though, I plan to cover everything interesting/important, while leaving out things that are unnecessary, such as the ludicrous amounts of technobabble used to explain the mechanics of spells. I'll also probably be leaving out scenes that Miyuki didn't witness, since she's my narrator after all.

Just giving you guys a heads up. And as always, thanks for reading, and review if you've got time.