"Would you like some more tea, Kuniko, dear?" "Yes, please. Thank you, Aunt Hikari," a girl wearing a badge identifying herself as a ZIP student reporter nodded politely at the Sakura Arts principal. Kuniko looked down at a list of interview questions on one side of her notebook and, having found that they were all answered to the paper's standards, she closed it with a snap. Now that her official work was settled, she could proceed with other, family related matters that would remain firmly off the record. This was both out of simple family courtesy and a desire not to be torn limb from limb by a certain relative whose family name she shared. "So, how did things go for your anniversary celebration? I kind of had to cook it all the day before because I had a big project coming up, and even though yin-yang cookies taste better after they have time to settle, I thought the other stuff might have suffered..." "And because you were so concerned about it, you waited this long to ask?" As Kuniko's face turned crimson with embarrassment, her aunt chuckled and reassured her, "I am very pleased to say that you have not inherited your father's, ah, talents in culinary preparation. The bloodberry sorbet was truly a nice touch. He even smiled at that one, though I'm sure he'd never admit it to you. You really should open up a restaurant of your own after you graduate." "That probably won't happen. Because of all the extra credit I keep getting from turning the tables on whoever tries to trick me, I'm supposedly a clear candidate to take over as principal. Knowing Dad, he probably wants to retire anyway so he can raise havoc from a lawn chair on the beach instead of a desk. That means he'll set me up so it looks like I'm tricking him when the real trick is being played upon everyone else. Then, I'd have to accept the position, because no one seems to believe that Dad's really that devious, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary..." Kuniko sighed heavily and took a sip of tea. Clearing her throat softly, Principal Hikari changed the subject, "I really appreciate your oversight of my students' summer projects. My staff means well, but they can't seem to resist reporting things in only the most favorable of lights. If any of the girls remain uncertain in their understanding of what their powers are for, they shouldn't be passed on to the next grade and given even more abilities than they are ready to handle. No right-thinking person would want a repeat of last school year's events." "No, they wouldn't," Kuniko drained the rest of her teacup's contents and set it aside, standing, "Well, I'll be doing an interview over at uncle's tomorrow morning. Is there any message you'd like me to pass on?" "Tell him that I wish him the best of luck with his latest candidate," her aunt said with a smile. Sure, Kuniko thought. Even though she knew her uncle wouldn't really die if his physical body were killed, thus confirming a successor per his school's regulations and tradition, the thought of wishing him luck with that gave her stomach a turn. Good, evil, or somewhere in between, she didn't like seeing any members of her dysfunctional, mostly secret from the public, family in pain, even if pain was primarily their stock in trade. "I'll tell him," she promised. And, on that note, Kuniko Amakusa left her aunt's house for a path through the electric lit streets that would get her home as soon as possible, or so that would have been the case if it weren't for a certain robbery in progress. ******** Dark Heart High Netherworlds Educational Institution for the Universal Propagation of Evil Started by Mads This Chapter by: Samara Secor Chapter Sixty-Five: Reporting! ******** As Yuri removed each successive ward, the pressure that blocked Amy's other sight of the room lessened. With that lessening pressure, she began to see exactly why the black shield was so powerful and so closely warded. The shield was no mere physical remnant of a fallen demon; it had a spiritual remnant, as well. This was definitely a thing to drive ordinary mortals mad. But then, even your average Evil Tech student was better than that. Driving those thoughts out of her head, Amy bent down to pick up the shield as Yuri removed the last of the wards. It took a considerable effort of willpower not to drop it, because, as soon as she closed her fingers around it, the sleeping remnant seemed to wake up, and it was definitely not happy. It vibrated with anger as if trying to shake itself out of her hands, but she merely tightened her grip on it. "I... don't think this thing likes me very much," Amy said, her voice vibrating in pitch along with the shield. "Here, let me see..." As soon as Yuri laid hands on it, it stopped vibrating, and Amy could have almost sworn she heard a sullen grumbling as though the demon's spirit was retreating in acceptance of defeat. "There. It should be fine now," Yuri assured. "Maybe," Amy's eyes unfocused slightly as she focused a lot of power on seeing the life outside the building before her eyes sharpened and she said quickly, "We've got to get out of here. The cops are starting to gather." There's something else out there, too, Amy thought, but there was no use worrying Yuri about it. Whoever it was didn't seem to be hostile, merely a bit annoyed by the delay and little, no, make that very, curious. It reminded her a of the Zeros Academy students she had run into at various school meets, but it also kind of reminded her of... No. Now, that was really letting her imagination run wild when she really needed to focus on getting out of here in one piece. Yuri climbed out of the crawlspace first, taking hold of the shield again long enough for Amy to climb out as well. Then, they both sprinted for the stairs. Just a quick jump off the roof, and they would be out of there. * * * Bala stared at Lily, flicking his gaze toward the hole beyond before returning to her. "S... sorry. Old habits are hard to break, you know? I guess you must be here because of schoolwork, so... Just try not to hurt anyone too badly, okay?" Lily laughed a little nervously and took to the air, hovering outside the hole. Bala's eyes blinked in noncommittal acknowledgment of Lily's words, and he leapt out into the street, ready to show the boys in blue just how quick and easy it was to travel Bala Air. * * * "Look, I really need to get through here. I had a late enough night as it is visiting with a relative, and if I don't get home soon, my Mom's going to kill me." The policeman Kuniko was talking to waited patiently through her explanation, but he still wasn't budging. "Look, miss, there's a dangerous person in there, and we're still trying to contain him. If we let you go down that road, your life may be at risk. If I let you down that road, I'll lose my badge. I'm sorry, but you'll just have to stay put for now... or go back to your relative's place." "That is something I cannot do," Kuniko said softly, though not because she was being kind. She was trying to hold in her temper. "I'll wait." The waiting wasn't boring for long. Out of the hole in the side of the building jumped a boy wrapped so thickly in bandages that it was almost impossible to see anything of the person underneath. It took only a second for Kuniko to identify this person as a Dark Heart High student. Unfortunately for the police, they came a different conclusion. "A kid? What does he think this is, Halloween? He's a bit too early for that. And what's he doing wearing a girly thing like cat ch... Yeaaargh!" The speaker was abruptly cut off from his insulting tirade as the boy spun, delivering a kick that sent the officer flying. Kuniko resisted the temptation to clap and cheer. The police still hadn't grasped on the idea of charging the boy en masse, so Kuniko started looking around... and up. She grinned. Two girls, one of them carrying something, were in the process of making their getaway via the rooftops. She'd be willing to bet serious cash that this was their proof of being worthy to continue their education at Dark Heart. The school year wasn't quite upon them yet, so she had to give them credit for not procrastinating. Still, she wished that they would have chosen some other night to... Wait. She could turn this to both their advantages. But first, she had to follow them back to wherever their base of operations was. Luckily, the direction they were taking was in the opposite direction of the barricade of police cars. Kuniko edged back into the shadows and ran after them on ground level, keeping up reasonably well. Normally, she wouldn't have had even that much trouble, but Dark Heart's students weren't the only ones who sometimes did something worthy of earning a seal. If only she hadn't verified her summer project as soon as it was done and waited until the new year... Kuniko skidded to a halt in one of the narrow alleys, her nose inches from a leveled gun. Okay, now this was not the most auspicious way to open negotiations. * * * "I don't know what I was thinking! I should have told you the moment I sensed her back in the building, Yuri," the gun-toting girl was apologizing. "The last thing we needed was for some overly curious person to start following us." Kuniko moved a hand towards her pocket and froze as the girl's hand tightened ever so slightly on the trigger. Slowly, Kuniko explained, "Before you resort to shooting me, would you mind taking a look at my press badge?" The girl with the gun looked poised to deny her that chance, frowning at Kuniko as though she sensed something about her that she didn't quite understand or like. However, the other girl, Yuri, intervened on her behalf, "Sure. We'll take a look at it. I can't promise anything though, okay?" Kuniko nodded. This was as good as she was going to get for now. If things still looked like they would turn against her, she could probably split via teleportation. Sure, she'd need to get a new press badge and be out cold for a couple of days for trying something that drastic so soon after a new warding, but that was a lot better than trying to explain how she'd gotten shot, along with the inevitable re- warding that would take place once her body rematerialized enough for there to be something to attach wards to. Kuniko's hand finished the journey towards her pocket, bringing out the plastic-coated rectangle that was her ID. She extended her arm out beyond the gun being pointed at her so that Yuri could take it. Then, she waited for a response. So far, there was nothing but silence. What did that mean? * * * Kuniko Amakusa, the badge read, ZIP (Zeros Informational Paper) student reporter. A person would have to be an absolute lunatic to pretend to a name like that. True, that did describe quite a few of the Zeros Academy students, but this girl didn't look the least bit out of her mind. How was Yuri supposed to handle this one? "Uh..." No, that wasn't going to come out right. She had to be firm and ask the question directly so that she could be sure of getting a straight answer. Then, Amy would be able to tell Yuri if Kuniko was lying. "Are you our pri..., that is, the Dark Heart High principal's daughter?" Yuri asked. Now, it was Yuri's turn to listen to the silence. Amy's jaw was working soundlessly, and Kuniko was holding a hand up to her mouth, trying hard not to laugh. Finally, Kuniko got control of herself and said, "Close, but not quite. I'm his brother's daughter. Even if my uncle were one to talk about things like that, which he isn't, I'm sure you've noticed, Dad and my uncle don't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. One of the few things they agree upon is staying out of each other's respective ways." Yuri looked at Amy, who nodded slightly. Kuniko wasn't lying. "Okay, so... What exactly did you want with us?" "An interview. You know, I report as many details as you will allow for use in a ZIP article, thus providing an independent source to confirm that your deed was indeed performed by you," Kuniko explained. Amy lowered the gun so it was no longer pointing directly at Kuniko's face and asked, "And what exactly do you get out of it?" "If what you've done is as important as I think it might be, a scoop this big will give me an automatic passing grade in my journalism class. You wouldn't believe how boring it was last year, and odds are that it's only going to get worse," Kuniko grumbled. Now, it was Yuri's turn to giggle. "What? You don't believe me? Coming from someone I don't even know, that almost hurts," Kuniko said, with an exaggerated pout. "No, I believe you. He, he... It just that it seems so... normal. Not the kind of complaint I would have expected coming out from a student at your school." "Even boredom itself can be used to produce chaos," Kuniko solemnly intoned. "I think it's a good idea," Yuri said, handing Kuniko back her badge. "Sure, we'll do an interview." ------------------------ As I'm running into the end of the extension right now, I can't go back and list the exact chapter, but Liza did deliver a note from Principal Hikari to Principal Amakusa asking if he remembered their anniversary. No one ever expanded on that, so I decided to write that one in. Kuniko herself can subside into the background after the interview for the most part until someone else finds a use for her. After all, any prospective principal would do well to have a listening ear in the press, right? All other events pretty much build on the previous chapter, so there isn't really anything additional to say there. I've written some fiction before, but this is my first Impro part, so I hope you all enjoyed it... even though I wish it could have gone on a little longer. Later, folks. -Samara Secor (2/11/05) ------------------------ It had taken what seemed like an eternity to come up with a workable plan, but Craig had finally done it. After comparing the note cards several times, picking and choosing bits from different ones, he pieced together something that would use all their talents quite effectively. Even so, he checked it three times to make sure that it was really as brilliant as it seemed and that he wasn't forgetting some vital detail. It looked airtight. Yasuko's seduction skills would put the guards off alert, giving Ryuji a chance to infiltrate the building. Meanwhile, Craig would be outside in the van, which he'd do a much better job of disguising this time. Who would suspect an ice cream truck? Once Ryuji was in, Craig would feed him the information he needed to crack the target's computers, allowing Ryuji's skill in accounting to do the rest, which involved transferring certain funds from account A to account B, then leaving a false trail of 'footprints' to make it look like account B's owner had been steadily embezzling money. In the abstract, it didn't sound that evil, but account A was a fund set aside for providing Sakura Arts students and their respective kamen with all the magical equipment needed to do their work, including the training of animal companions. Account B's owner was a high level member of Knight School's faculty that reported directly to Knight School's principal. This was going to be great.