Chapter 19:



Here again.

Right back to those familiar starting positions. The Going-Home Club on one side of the dojo mat, the lackadaisical gym instructor on the other. With the gang all here, it’s time for training to begin.

Ragyou leans forward with her hands behind her back, grinning at their returned teammate. “Now that we have Di back, we’re gonna win for sure, right?”

Coiling one of her honey blonde locks around her finger, Diana huffs. “Why even ask that?” On the back of that, she levels a sharp glare across the dojo at Ortiz, not that the teacher is fazed at all. “Of course we are.”

Kelly stands off to the side with her hand raised, a timer shown across her Link’s holo-display in front of her. Then, with a sharp, downward motion, she declares “Begin!”

Ragyou steps up and stretches, a pair of translucent rabbit ears sprouting from the top of her head. “Micchin.” Before taking off, she turns back and flashes a peace sign at her littlest teammate. “We’re gonna do our best, right?”

Mio clutches at her scarf as Kuro forms on her shoulder with his pointy little grin.

“Right, Boke?”

The girl goes back to the last battle. Trust in Kuro. That’s all she has to do, for now. Just like then. Right. She nods, following close behind as Ragyou races in. “Mm.”

Diana watches them both off, keeping a particularly close eye on the Extra.


Charlotte glances to her opposite number without a word. Then, with an annoyed huff, Diana looks over her shoulder. “I’m gonna win now, ‘kay?”

With the wings of her Familiar beating against the air sharply enough to mimic the noise of a propeller engine, Diana explodes forward. In her wake, Charlotte observes with folded arms, flipping her hair.

“Just be careful, idiot…”

Ragyou and Mio get to work, moving around Ortiz in seemingly erratic fashion. Seemingly. What may look like chaos to some, however, Ortiz sees the pattern in, all too well.

“So that’s what you’re doing…”

“Where do you think you’re looking?”


Diana crashes into the heart of the developing brawl, streaking right through Ragyou and Mio’s perimeter and hurling a fist at the inhuman instructor, only for it to be blocked. “Don’t take your eyes off’a me, ‘teach.’ I wanna see your proud face when you lose.”

Just as unflinching as ever, this woman.

Still, that remark puts a smile on her otherwise dim face. “Ho? Then I guess you better make me look your way, huh?”

The fight carries on for minutes more. Not once does Ortiz appear to even remotely lose an inch of ground. The strength of this woman simply isn’t natural. Not to mention her speed. Diana bounces from the mat but lands back on her feet before charging at their teacher again. With her palms open, she primes a pair of Stinger Missiles.

Tenacious thing. However…

Charlotte balks. “Diana! Wait!”

Diana stops just shy of the spot where Kuro ricochets from the floor, a result of Ortiz deflecting him after a Kuroi Dangan. All that does, though, is leave Diana right in Ragyou’s path.

“Look out!”


Across the mat, Ortiz brings a hand to her mouth and yawns. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Kelly watches the clock tick away. It takes a moment for the two girls to untangle themselves, but when they finally do, Diana stands with a sneer.

Ragyou rubs the back of her head. “S-sooorry, Di! Ahaha, I kinda didn’t think you’d stop, right there.”

Diana doesn’t hear a word of it. She’s far too caught up in her own head. This again… It’s just like during the battle with Teddy. These movements. The way Ragyou and Mio dart around. It seems so… so random. She knows better, though. This is practiced. Something they no doubt worked on during training.

How am I supposed to…?

Would this really work? Coming into things like this? Ragyou’s being nice, but like this, all she’s doing is… getting in the way… A suffocating heat takes over her whole body, along with a humming tension. “Screw it.”

Next, a droning buzz floods the room. Diana fires herself at Ortiz like a dart.

“Screw it!”

On the opposite end of the mat, Charlotte sighs.

Diana throws fist after fist at Ortiz, each one pushes to the side with relative ease. But she doesn’t let up. Not at first. Then she leaps back, revealing her actual plan. Stinger Missiles. A series of them, floating just overhead. Once she’s clear, they all descend on the gym instructor.

The result is… not to Diana’s liking as she tries to catch her breath.

Not one detonation. Worse yet, Ortiz doesn’t have a scratch on her. On the contrary, she holds onto every single stinger. One in each hand, one under each arm, and even one held between her teeth like a dog, proudly displaying a caught bone.

“Wh… what?”

Ortiz spits the one stinger out. “You can have these back.”

With no effort at all, she flings the oversized stingers right back at Diana, one after the other. They zip through the air like arrows, faster than the girl could ever dream of getting out of the way. Then…

“Kuroi Dangan!”


She appears in front of Diana with her back turned, that orange scarf waving behind her as the little black bullet fires from the tips of her fingers. The little bullet with a face obliterates the first stinger on impact. Then it bounces. From one to the other, doing the same to each one.


The Extra saves her… again.

Seriously? Am I seriously the…?

A string of silk catches Diana by the back of her jacket and drags her across the dojo to Charlotte’s feet. “Have you proven us wrong yet?”

“What else am I supposed to do? All I end up doing is…”

“Dragging us down?”

There it is. That spear straight through Diana’s gut.

Cold. As to be expected from the Ice Queen.

Diana sighs and sits herself up, watching as Mio and Ragyou continue their strange dance around a defensive Ortiz. The way Mio flows from one movement to the next… It’s just like back then. The way she’d saved Diana before, the way she’d won that fight… it all reminds Diana of what Charlotte had said before.

“That girl… really has no intention of being the one dragging this alliance down.”

Yeah. Me neither. I’m not…

She watches the pair. Closely. That’s right. These two have been training for days, now. This is something they’ve worked on. So there has to be a pattern. A purpose. Disorientation? No. After this long, if it hasn’t already worked, it’s not going to.


That’s it, then.

Diana throws herself to her feet and takes a step back towards the main fight, leaving Charlotte to raise an eyebrow. “Are you planning to make a fool of yourself again?”

“Charlotte… what you said before about needing me. You meant that, right?”

Far be it for the frigid one to crack a smile. No. That would never happen.

Charlotte shrugs. “Who knows?”

The pair don’t exchange any further words. Back at the center of the fight, Ragyou goes for a kick, only to be forced back when Ortiz rolls the girl’s heel off the back of her hand. To follow that, Mio fires a black bullet, right at the woman’s back. It doesn’t matter. That speed rears its head again. An inhuman reaction that allows her to swat Kuro right into the girl’s path.

Mio just barely avoids having Kuro crash into her face, only to slip. She stumbles forward, losing all of her concentration and getting dangerously close to Ortiz. Just when it appears Ortiz may actually finish her off, though… nothing.

When Mio looks up, there stands Diana, blocking the woman’s chop with her arm. “Oi, Extra.” The belligerent queen looks down at the girl through the corner of her eye. “We’re even now. I’m not… Like hell am I gonna let myself be the weak link either!”

Ortiz knocks Diana back and the girl lands on her feet between Ragyou and Mio. “Cracks, right? That’s what you two were doing. Searching for openings?”

“Totally! But she’s way strong, though! We couldn’t find a single spot for a good attack!”

Diana opens both her hands, producing a pair of Stinger Missiles. “If you can’t find any openings, then let me make you some.”

“Heh? You sure, Di?”

“Why even ask that? Of course I am.”

She plants a single foot, then bursts forward, throwing both Stinger Missiles at once. Ortiz deflects them both, but it’s just a distraction, forcing her to respond to Diana with nothing less than a full guard.

Meanwhile, Ragyou and Mio jump back into it, circling the fight until that opening Diana promised emerges.

Ortiz attempts to knock Diana away, but the girl will have none of it. With her powers, she roots herself to the floor.

“Nooope. I’m not done with you yet.”

Fists fly, leaving Ortiz to deflect each one that comes her way. Eventually, she and Diana land themselves in a stalemate, locking hands. Ragyou sees her chance and breaks from their formation to launch herself into a kick. Ortiz catches the sudden shift.

With little more than a battle shout, the woman forces one of her hands free and holds Diana back by the skull, giving her a chance to grab Ragyou by the ankle and toss her away. Still, that isn’t the end of it. Defiant to the end, Diana grabs the arm that has her by the cranium and clutches it in an iron grip. “I told you, ‘teach.’ You better not take your eyes off’a me.”

Ortiz turns her head and… oh.


A swarm envelopes the two powerhouses, totally eclipsing all view of either. It doesn’t last. Ortiz swats the entire thing away with a single backhanded swipe. But when it’s gone…

“Kuroi Dangan!”


Ortiz jolts, releasing Diana more out of surprise than anything as Mio stands behind the woman with her hands still aimed and primed for another shot. There, in the back of her tracksuit… a hole, singed right through to her back and smoking.


For the first time yet, Ms. Ortiz… had taken damage.