THE MIRACLES

OVA: Destroy the Prophet!!

(Author's comment): This is basically a bonus chapter for the original story, so yeah, it's not a serious chapter. It's just for fun like a real OVA for an anime. Enjoy!

***********

It seemed like every morning that those loud birds chirped their little heads off right outside my window, as the bright sunshine shone into my room, gold and warm. Did every morning have to be pristine and uniform? Couldn't there be cloudy or rainy one? It seemed like ever since I was hailed as the prophet who slew the false messiah, every day was a beautiful as they got. Maybe it was because it was late summer and fall was just around the corner or something, and the weather wanted to get as many beautiful days as it could manage before cold autumn rains marched in. Whatever. I just turned away from the bright light in my bed, folding some of my pillow to shield my face from it.

"Hachirooooo! It's morning!" an enthusiastic voice squealed right in my face, as I felt a great warm mass climb onto me. I gave a groan, not needing to see the vivid green eyes or sky-blue hair to know what was going on. Every one of these mornings saw Aiko leap onto my bed like an excited cat and get worked up right when I was finishing my sleep. This did not bother me nearly as much as it used to, though I still tried to shut out the distraction. Sleep was paramount! Sure, I had learned to adopt an active life, discarding the lazy and apathetic ways I had picked up because of the depression over my father's death two years ago. But still, I was like a battery: I had to charge up.

"I know, I know," I told her. I was certain that she was already dressed; Aiko got up sooner than me, but was more than happy to follow me around during my morning routine. We shared the same room, after all, so it was part of the deal. "Just give me a minute. I'll be up soon... really soon..." contrary to my words, I fell back into sleep, snoring loudly. I could almost hear Aiko cock her head in contemplation.

"The coffee's burning," she tried. "Your mom left it there and it'll set the apartment on fire!"

I woke again, but kept my eyes closed. "No, it's not. I don't smell anything. Plus, my mom left for work early today. Remember her telling us last night?"

"Oh yeah," Aiko said, recalling it now. A few more seconds of silence, then... "Rei is really hungry and I can't find the cat food. She's clawing the furniture until she gets fed! The couch looks a mess. Hurry!"

"Rei's de-clawed," I pointed out, covering my head with the covers. Aiko had not moved an inch: she knelt right next to me. "And you know where the cat food is; second cupboard from the right. Come on..."

"Oh, yeah," Aiko said, recalling now. Another few seconds of silence...

"Your girl magazines have been confiscated."

"They what?!" I cried, bolting at once, rapidly searching the room all over, looking for my lost treasures. I held a hand over my eyes as a shield from the sunlight and to aid my sight. "Where?!"

I leaped out of my bed, Aiko falling over harmlessly. I scrambled all over the rooms, searching for the magazines, flailing like crazy.

"I'm only joking!" Aiko said, amused, as I flailed back into our room, going crazy. She laughed. "They're in the closet, where they always are."

"Oh. I should have checked there first," I commented to myself, making a disappointed face. I slid back the glass cover and found them in their usual neat pile, with Rei the cat sitting right on top of them, her furry tail swishing all about.

I really ought to get rid of these anyway, I thought, stroking Rei's long, brown and white fur. It doesn't really seem right, since I have the girl I love living with me and all...

"So, what are we going to do today?" Aiko asked brightly, watching from the other side of the kitchen table as I poured myself cereal. Her hands were folded on the table. "Something fun? The zoo yesterday was great. The only bad part was when they didn't let me feed the bears. I really wanted to!"

"No one is allowed to feed the animals," I said, as I ate a spoonful. "It's not your fault or anything. Um, today, I was just going to go on a few small errands around town. Nothing big."

"Oh! Like what?" Aiko chirped. Nothing ever bored her.

"Pick up a few groceries we forgot last time, get new blinds for my room, verify some report at the UJA headquarters..."

"Are they reporting on all the windfarm and solar panel stuff you've proposed on TV?"

"Yeah, stuff like that. Just progress reports," I said. "It's a lot of work for everyone, but we're coming along great. Progress is made every day."

Indeed, the people of not only Japan but the world had thoroughly learned their lesson on the merits of hard, honest work and striving toward their goals. Some people were calling this time the beginning of the Golden Age, or a new renaissance of reason and human spirit. Meanwhile, they false messiah slowly withered away, with everyone shifting from Miracle to the new energy sources. Miracle was being used less every week, mainly powering the machines that constructed the wind turbines, geothermal plants, and solar panel arrays. It was gratifying to see a dream coming to life. That of my father and me both.

"Hooray! Windmills turning in the breeze, making the electricity for us to live in!" Aiko cheered, getting up and waving her arms. "I feel like a windmill myself, just going with the flow of life and... um... what else does a wind farm do?"

"Just generate our power," I said, working faster on my cereal. Once I was ready to depart the apartment for the day's activities, Aiko and I stepped out into the fresh morning city, making me feel even more invigorated. First, however, I put on the large jacket I had gotten out of my closet and put it on, making sure the hood concealed my face, and I put on sunglasses for good measure.

"All right. Let's get going," I declared, then we made our way down the somewhat busy street towards the closest grocery store. Chattering people of all types walked past, all going about their own business. None of them paid me any mind, which is what I wanted; ever since I destroyed the Central Complex, caused the surrender of the Insurgency, and started the Free Energy acts, I had become a world-renown hero, like a super-celebrity. People had an annoying habit of crowding and hounding after me, wanting all kinds of things from me. They had even dubbed me "Prophet," a rather bothersome thing: I was just Hachiro Tanaka again, just another kid down the road. It was the tireless work of others that helped make my and my dad's vision a reality; I wasn't being modest, just keeping perspective on things.

"So, I was wondering..." Aiko piped up from my right, a finger on her chin; the indication that she was thinking or wondering something.

"What is it?" I asked, my eyes on the grocer's up ahead, with its stands of fresh fruits and vegetables set out. I had taken to eating healthier, for my body and mind, and Aiko loved to make the most exquisite banquets with my mom in the kitchen. She often said that it inspired her. Her thoughts now must be along those lines.

"What did we set out to do again?"

I felt like I deflated like a balloon, slumping to the sidewalk in exasperation. People stared in wonder as they passed, and a mecha told me in its cold mechanical voice as it lurched past, "Make all efforts to avoid sudden deflation, citizen."

"Oh, shut up, rust bucket," I grumbled, getting back up. Mechas always seemed to warn me against stuff that wasn't my fault. To Aiko, I said, "We're going on errands today. The grocery store, the hardware store for new blinds, and the UJA headquarters to verify some paperwork." I dusted off my pants.

"Sounds like fun," Aiko cheered, spinning once on the spot like a ballerina, her hands held behind her back. Then, she pointed. "Look. Some people are coming. I think they want something."

"Like what..." I started, before I saw the stampede of high school girls raging towards me, their combined voices deafening. With a thrill of horror, I realized that because of my fall, my sunglasses and hood had fallen off, my identity revealed. I had no time to finish my sentence; the girls were upon me in seconds, crowding me and forcing many objects of affection toward me, many date requests made, even marriage proposals! I had heard of this kind of thing happening to other famous people, so I guess that it was now my turn! I hurriedly tried to dispel them, needing the better part of a minute to get them away, except for one.

She had long black hair in a ponytail, and a shy but determined expression, and also held a heart-shaped box in her slightly trembling hands.

"Um... may I help you?" I asked, seeing that she was not one of my rabid fans. I knew that Aiko's eyes were watching, so I made sure this would be brief and impersonal.

"I... I know it's not Valentine's Day or anything, but... I got this for you, Hachiro. I... hope you like it!"

She blushed furiously and thrust the box into my hands, then dashed off, her hands held to her cheeks. I stood there, agape, holding the box in the middle of the street, even as people passed by and muttered "Prophet" out of respect. That girl was Mantis, one of my former Insurgent enemies! I could clearly remember her deadly grace in battle, her twin scythes carving vicious paths through the air as they sought flesh. And now...

I opened the box as Aiko joined me, and I beheld the many chocolates within, and a note, too. As Aiko took a chocolate and ate it, I read the note: "Hachiro, I may have been your enemy before, but your bright visions have inspired Ryuken and the others, and me, to think differently. You inspire us all, Prophet, but you've inspired me further. Do you see the vision of love? I think you helped me see it for myself. Yours, Hikari Kobayashi."

"What's that?" Aiko asked, taking the note out of my hands and reading it, then brightening. "Wow, you're so popular! Everyone likes you so much! I feel like the wife of the king of the world!" she did a pirouette.

Wait... what? I thought, my shock shattered. Aiko gave back the note and I pocketed it, thinking, Sorry, but I'm taken. Thank you, though.

"You're not mad that another girl gave me something?" I asked, as we both made our way to the grocer's again.

"Oh, no, I understand it. She likes you, but you're just her prophet. You're more than that to me."

I gave a small laugh, my hand on the back of my head in bash. "Thanks, Aiko. I love only you, after all." I kissed her cheek. "Even though chocolate isn't half bad..."

"We can have it for dessert tonight!" Aiko declared, taking the box and rifling through its contents as she walked. "Let's see, the orange chocolates would go well with spicy eggplant with wild mushroom sauce and wasabi..."

"Hold on, with what?" I cried, hearing one of the many outrageous recipes Aiko invented out of nowhere. She and I humorously argued the merits of her planned dinner tonight all the way to the grocer's, not to mention reminding her who the chocolate box came from when she forgot. Her memory was a little slippery.

***

Unknown to me, a trio of men in light brown coats slid as a group from behind a park bench, kneeling in their cover as they watched me go about my business, talking with Aiko and batting away some of my more enthusiastic fans. You could almost hear the suspenseful spy music about them as they watched my progress, their eyes not leaving me.

"Is he the one?" one asked.

"No doubt about it," a second said. "Right profile. The people calling him Prophet, the route he walks, the blue-haired girl he's with... that's Hachiro Tanaka, all right."

"Oh, how we hate him!" the third, a chunky one with comically fat lips and beady eyes declared, pumping a fist on top of the others' heads.

"Shut up. Don't risk exposing us by saying obvious things!" the seconds snapped. "Yes, we are all against this Prophet who supposedly saved us from Miracle and its 'false promises.' But we know better than that. Losing our jobs by that whelp's hand and asked to build windfarms and solar panels and other nonsense? Unforgivable! What's our motto?"

"Destroy the Prophet!!"

"Slay the Prophet!!"

"Eat the Prophet!!"

"No, imbeciles!" the second one, the leader, hissed. "It's 'destroy.' Destroy! We agreed on that yesterday after four hours of debate! And you, stop thinking of everything in terms of eating. It irks me."

"But I'm kind of hungry," the large one whined quietly, a finger on his fat lips not unlike Aiko. "Come on, boss, can't we stop by a diner or..."

"Later!" the leader snapped, watching me recede into the distance. The billboards high above advertised jobs related to building and managing the new alternate fuel facilities, and helping de-commission Miracle ones. He motioned with a hand. "We're getting in closer to destroy the Prophet once and for all. We're getting our Miracle jobs back no matter what! It's our way of living, and no punk may take it from us! Is the equipment ready?"

"Indeed," the first said gleefully, showing the leader the smoke bombs, grenades, and other tools. "I just need your command."

"Excellent," the leader crooned, not aware of the bird that was skittering about on his head, pecking at his hat. He stood suddenly, rubbing his hands together in anticipation, sending the bird flying with a squawk. "Our plans come to fruition this hour, this day! Ha ha ha!"

"Maintain orderly conduct, citizen," a mecha grated from behind, its single red eye unblinking as it stared accusingly at the offender.

"Wah!" the leader cried, waving his arms and falling over in shock. "Curse you, Prophet. We'll get you! We will...!"

"Can you show me the way to a restaurant?" the fat one asked the mecha, and it accessed its map in its brain, then pointed the way. The fat one started off, until the leader caught him.

"Business first! Eating second!" he scolded, as the fat one had gushes of tears pouring from his eyes in response.

***

"Look! It's the Prophet!"

"Hey! Prophet! Will you sign my shirt? Please?"

"Such an honor this is, Prophet! Truly!"

"Where are you going, Prophet? Can I come too? Can I?"

"Prophet! Prophet!"

There was a gaggle of people all around me, all squealing and exclaiming that name, not leaving me alone. Finally, I took a deep breath and bellowed, with sharp teeth, "I would like to be left alone now!"

The people reluctantly dissipated, scattering like seeds from a dandelion. I sighed deeply; that was the third group that I had to ward off in under five minutes. Aiko only found it funny.

"Pardon me... Prophet?"

"Not again!" I cried, waving my arms, then stopped when I saw the speaker; an elderly woman poised to cross the street, her walker laden with shopping items. I snapped to her side and saluted. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Could you please help me across the street, Prophet?" she asked nicely. "My walker is rather heavy with my shopping items and the traffic's awfully fast this morning. You're such a strong lad, after all."

"Well, all right," I agreed, then complied to help her navigate the street until she was safely on the other side. She then thanked me and slowly made her way into the crowds.

Aiko smiled. "You're so nice, Hachiro."

"Yeah. She wasn't like those others, screaming at me to date them or give me stuff," I said with humor, scratching the back of my head. "Well, that's that. We've still got to get to the grocer's."

"Oh! That's right!" Aiko chirped, then tugged at my arm. "Let's go!"

"I thought I was leading us there," I grumbled to myself. I was not really bothered.

***

"That's really the target?" one of the three men asked, watching me as I went about my antics.

"Of course," the spy leader said. "You heard what everyone was calling him."

"He's just some kid helping old ladies cross the street," the fat spy said. "I don't know if we're going after the right guy or not!"

"You moron, even she called him 'Prophet'!" the leader snapped. "Come on, we make our move now. He's headed toward the grocer's. We'll get there first. Ready?"

The other two nodded.

***

"One of those, a dozen of those, one of those..." I said as I pointed out items to the fat grocer, who had rather thick lips and beady eyes. Even so, he wore the apron uniform and had a name tag, so I paid no mind. He dutifully added the items to a basket. I could hear Aiko making her own orders to another grocer: "A hundred of those, fifty of those, half of that..."

"Hey! My money doesn't grow on trees!" I cried, waving my arms. Aiko merely giggled and told me, "I'm only joking Hachiro." to the grocer: "I'm joking about all that." The grocer scowled and emptied all the contents back to their places, then accepted her real requests.

"Hey, um, kid," the fat grocer piped up. I turned. "We, uh, have a new shipment of cantaloupe here! Wanna buy one, too?"

"I thought a new shipment came yesterday," I said, frowning. I was unaware of the two men in brown suits watching from behind a mailbox, catching many funny looks.

"Well, eh, another showed up and we're trying to sell off the extras," the fat grocer said, looking a little nervous. "Would you like one?" he reached toward the crate of them.

"Well, all right," I said. Can't hurt. I did not see the lit fuse that stuck out of the cantaloupe the fat man was about to hand me, but I might as well have. At that very moment, Aiko gave a cry as a thief snatched her purse and attempted to flee in my direction.

The cantaloupe, which was in my hands, went flying into the fat grocer's face and caused him to fall with it into the shop's interior. Meanwhile, I leaped into action, my honed reflexes downing the purse thief with a single kick to the side, sending him sprawling. In seconds, a mecha had stomped to the scene and captured the thief in its mechanical grip, and I recovered Aiko's purse and handed it to her, as she embraced me in thanks. She started to say something, but was interrupted by a loud bang from just inside the grocery shop, and a massive gray smoke cloud spread.

"What was that?" I coughed. The smoke irritated my eyes and lungs. Aiko and I, along with other people, backed away from the scene, afraid.

"Remain calm. Situation is well under control," a new mecha declared, stomping into the scene. "Go about your business but avoid the area of interest. A UJA investigation will be carried out shortly."

After our items were paid for, Aiko and I quickly departed the scene, anxious to get back to the fresh air.

***

"You imbecile!" the lead spy seethed, thumping his fist on top of the fat man's sooty head. "You just had to mess up and lose our chance, huh?!"

"I'm sorry, boss!" the fat man apologized, bowing rapidly. "It wasn't my fault!"

"That smoke grenade would have made a good cover for taking him out," the boss mused. "Good call to hide it in a cantaloupe like that... but a bad call for messing it up!"

"What are we going to do now?" the last spy asked.

"Don't worry," the boss said gleefully, rubbing his hands together. "I have another plan. I will need your skills, #2."

"For what?"

"You're good at programming, aren't you?"

***

The second spy silently advanced upon a stationary mecha as Aiko and I entered the hardware store, then made his move. Having intimate knowledge of the machines, he was able to pry open its manual service panel and begin to re-wire its programming with a coding spike he carried. Watching me, knowing that I was unaware, the man entered a new line of code for its primary function. However, his fingers slipped; the input was Primary function, execute immediately: Destroy Hachito. The man tried to fix his mistake, but was too late; the mecha lurched forward, intent on its new mission.

***

"Can you show me where the window blinds are?" I asked one of the hardware store employees. The man nodded and pointed the way, then Aiko and I made our way there.

"Finally, I can go about with some peace," I said, enjoying the solitude here; there was almost no one else around, with business slow for this store today. "No mobs around me."

"Yeah, it's so nice," Aiko agreed, her hands behind her back again; it was her standard relaxation pose. "But they can be fun, too. They say such funny things."

"No kidding," I said, remembering some of the crazier people who had found me before. Then, I saw an unexpected acquaintance contemplating a variety of wood boards: Ryuken!

"Oh. Hey, Ryuken," I greeted him, raising a hand in greeting. He turned and returned the gesture, then went back to his pondering. That made two former Terrible Four members in one day. During other parts of my summer, I had ran into Cyclops and Swift, too, and they were no more hostile than Ryuken or Mantis were now. Easy enough to say, they were no longer my enemies, only common people now, with their war crimes forgiven. I doubted that I would ever have any more serious foes in these times, in fact.

I could hear a mecha stomping around, from my left behind a tall aisle of Hachito-brand ceiling ban blades. It distracted me from my thoughts, so I focused on something new. "Hey, look at that. Almost the same name as me." I said, pointing a the boxes' company labels.

"Maybe they named it after you!" Aiko said excitedly, taking a box and looking at it. "You're world-renowned, after all. Hey, that fan in the picture wouldn't look bad in your room."

"Hachito was founded before I was born, in 2124. I was born in 2131," I pointed out, hands in my pockets. "Though yeah, that would look good. I'd have to ask my mom, though. She makes all the money, you know... ha ha..."

"I wonder what that mecha's doing, though," Aiko said, finger on lip, hearing it storm closer to us from behind the aisle of Hachito blades. "Is someone on the other side trying to shoplift?"

"Maybe it..." I started, standing right next to the aisle, before the mecha burst into the scene. It broke through the metal aisle rack, grating, "Destroy Hachito! Destroy Hachito! Primary execution!" it began tearing at the boxes, ripping at their contents.

This burst of motion put Aiko and I in danger, and I was quick to react, tumbling to move Aiko and I to a safe distance, my laser gun cybernetics fully manifested. My eye cybernetics came into place, too, and I could read the mecha's coding. Its primary function read Primary function: Destroy Hachito.

"Watch out!" I cried, seizing Aiko and tugging her out of harm's way: the mecha, with its immediate Hachito products destroyed, made a mad dash for the one Aiko held, and swept it up in one of its metal hands, nearly wrenching her out of my grip. She gave a shriek of fear, and I knew that the mechanical beast had to be stopped: I took aim, and two close-range cannon shots downed the crazed mecha, two charred holes in its torso. It gave one garbled rendition of "Destroy... Hachito..." before ceasing function, its red eye fading.

As I was helping Aiko to her feet and comforting her, store employees rushed to the scene, taking in what happened.

"Are you both all right?" they asked us, and I nodded. The store manager himself saw the wrecked Hachito fan blade boxes and the smoking mecha, and sighed. "Who's the lout responsible for this?" he demanded.

"Here!" someone called, and a man in a brown suit was dragged to us. He held a computer spike.

"It wasn't me, I swear!" the man protested, trying to sway us.

"Then what is that?" the manager asked in a growl, pointing at the spike he held. The man looked at it.

"Um... a toy?"

"Take him away! Tampering with mecha programming is a federal offense!" the manager barked, and the man was dragged off. To me, he adopted a kinder tone, "Listen, Prophet, I'm sorry for this mess. It must look bad to you..."

"It's okay, everyone's safe," I assured him, motioning with my hands. Aiko made the same gesture for emphasis. "Really."

The manager looked relieved. "Oh, thank you, good Prophet. Look, whatever you came in here for, why don't we give it to you for free? As our humble apology."

The manager bowed, and I felt both grateful and exasperated. He treats me like a divine being on Earth. Well, can't be helped. "Thanks," I said.

***

"Imbecile!" the boss spy raged (his favorite word), watching his comrade being lugged to a UJA police hovercar. He had had a listening device on the second spy, and knew what had happened. "How could he make such a juvenile mistake with such a crucial mission? Argh!"

"Boss, maybe we could talk about our next move over a cup of tea," the fat spy suggested, trying to calm his boss down. "There's a diner not far from here..."

"Shut up about your damn food!" the boss spy raged. "This is no time for that. You failed too. Don't expect any kind of reward for this."

"Then what are we going to do?" the fat one asked, befuddled.

"I'll get in there myself," the boss gloated, producing a large, silver knife. "They say how 'The Prophet drove his enlightened blade into the False Messiah's heart and saved us all.' Well, how about round two, huh? How ironic for him!" the boss spy watched as his blade caught the morning light, a sparkle of it at the tip.

"Go for it!" the fat one cheered, and the boss gave a wicked smile.

"Just watch," he said.

***

"A lot of stuff is going on around us," Aiko commented, as I carried the blinds box under my arm and Aiko carried our grocery bag. "Wonder what's going on?"

"Transition times are challenging," I said, knowing that treachery was more likely. Who would want to bother me, anyway? It was too late to change what was set in motion. There was only the glorious future before us.

The UJA minor branch building was right ahead; the sprawling headquarters building was elsewhere, and had heavy business; it would be faster to review the reports in the minor branch. We climbed the wide, shallow steps to the front entrance, and went inside, grateful for the air conditioning. I found the desk for my business, only dimly aware of the tall man in a brown suit skirting the perimeter. Would the trouble ever end?

"Thank you for verifying your identity, Hachiro Tanaka," the woman behind the desk said, also giving Aiko a visitor's badge, reading MIGUMI, AIKO. "You may proceed to... watch out!"

Her eyes widened upon seeing something behind me, and once again, I sprang into action, years of UJA combat training taking hold. The man in the brown suit was close behind me and made a lunge with a large knife in his hand; with two blows, I knocked the weapon out of his hand and sent him sprawling to the floor. The knife clattered to the floor a few feet away, and I towered over the man, suddenly reminding myself of my victory over Ryuken in the Central Complex. Don't tell me...

"Okay, you win!" the man cried, making a funny face of submission as gushes of tears wavered down his cheeks. "Don't hurt me!"

"But you tried to hurt me," I pointed out. "What's going on?"

Again, people came rushing to the scene; human security guards and mechas alike came, beholding the confrontation. They knew better than to interfere, however. The planet's savior was at work.

"I... all right. You got me," the man confessed. "The others, too. We were trying to take you down."

"I can... tell," I commented, looking at the knife, which was being collected. "You and who else?"

"These individuals," a mecha said, bringing in two other men by their suit collars; one was the fat grocer from earlier, the other, the mecha hacker. "All three are charged with various crimes, the earliest being business fraud and theft."

My eyebrows went up, and the downed man confessed, "Okay, okay. My partners and I made our millions being shady business dealers, you see? We worked with Miracle being exported to other countries. We'd capture shipments, claim they were destroyed and lost, then secretly sell them to new buyers and pocket the earnings. It was... so easy. To get rich!"

I sighed, shaking my head. "Billions worldwide have opened their eyes to the truth," I told him, and the other two business men listened in. "Don't you get it? You can't get ahead or stay ahead in life forever by cheating or taking shortcuts. You give honest, hard work, and life rewards you. The transition from the corruptible Miracle to alternate energy to solve the world's fuel needs is a major example. I guess you're another product of the false messiah, then. Why not listen to the true one?"

"But... but... but...!" the man stuttered. "It's... too hard to make good money doing things the honest way! We're bad at getting ahead with regular business. Our shady ways were much easier. How else am I going to pay for the yachts and private jets and resort homes I own?"

I felt humorous dismay. "Look, you don't need all that stuff! Just ease up a little bit and take it slowly. Do you really need your yachts and resort homes to be happy? Let me guess, you're single and bored with your life, right?"

"How... how did you know?" the man swallowed.

"I can tell," I said, not unkindly. "Listen, now. Re-think your life from this point on. Consider what it really means to be happy and fulfilled. Do you remember the 1920's period, the 'Roaring Twenties'? Don't let yourself get caught in that trap. There's a lot for you to learn. If you do, perhaps your crimes will be forgiven, and you can be given good work to do. There's always more room."

"R...Really?" the man said, hardly believing it, then scrambled forward, hugging my legs. "Thank you, good sir! You're a prophet after all!"

"This goes for all three," I announced, and they were escorted away, looking relieved and happy. It took a little time to get business back on track after that.

"Wow, you convinced three more people today!" Aiko congratulated, as the sky was evening orange and birds cawed in the sky. We were close to our apartment now. "That you're the good guy!"

"Yeah, I have a habit of doing that," I joked, hands held behind my back for comfort. Aiko and I had decided to spend the rest of the day out of the house, since we hadn't done so for some time. "Nothing to it."

We had also eaten some more of Mantis's, or rather, Hikari's, chocolates to prevent them from melting and given away the rest. I intended to find her at some point and thank her for the gift and note – I felt compelled. I opened the door to our apartment, announcing our return to my mom, who was there.

"Oh, welcome back, Hachiro, Aiko," my mom said brightly. "Did you have a good time out today?"

"We did," I said, as Aiko and I removed our shoes, then started toward my room. Once inside, I lay down on my bed, then as Aiko settled down next to me, I noticed a note taped to the inside of my door. A curious Aiko watched me as I got up again and inspected it. It read: It has come to our attention, Hachiro Tanaka, that you were in the possession of adult-only printed material. Wishing to avoid potential damage to our image and considering your status as a UJA Defender as savior of the world, we went to the liberty of collecting all of the said material. We hope you find a more suitable source of entertainment on your spare time. Best wishes, UJA management.

I stared silently at the note for a few seconds, then exploded. "What is this!" I raged, my eyes wide, my mouth large and working furiously. "They... they didn't...!"

I frantically scoured my room, all my secret hiding places, everywhere, and did not find my magazines! Nowhere!

"They're really gone," I wept, kneeling on the floor, my head tilted in defeat and tears pouring down my cheeks. Though I was going to do it anyway...

Aiko giggled. "Now your girl magazines really were confiscated!"

"I guess I have to learn to get along without dependencies, too," I complained. How ironic that was!