"Miki. I knew you'd be okay, with that monster on your side."
Miki did a double-take.
"E-Eterno-kun! You're okay…" She stopped, and tilted her head to the side. "Monster?"
She had just dropped out of the ceiling, back into the hallway, to see Eterno standing in front of her with his arms crossed.
"Yes, I'm okay. Thanks for worrying," he said, "and yes, a monster. Aria. A monster fighting for the sake of her family."
Miki blinked twice, and then tilted her head back to the other side. "I don't know what you…"
"Zero and I got in touch. We put the pieces together." He laughed, almost bitterly. "We were all pawns. You, Miki, and I, and my club, and your group, Selena and Nex – all of us."
He spun on his heel, starting down the hallway opposite the way she had gone in, with Clear.
"I'll explain later. In the meantime…" He looked over his shoulder at her with soft eyes, and she realized then that until then, he had been looking down on her as a new person, a person in a lesser group – when he looked at her then, it was with eyes of an equal. "You're tired, aren't you? We've been through a lot."
She was almost too stunned by the sight to respond. "Yeah…" The words slipped out by themselves. "Yeah, I'm tired…"
"Zero, Fai, Mira, and Red have all gone ahead. We're going to meet in the Zone History clubroom. We'll explain everything there."
A minute later, Selena and Tsuki slipped out from the gap in the ceiling, too, Selena stumbling and breathing hard like she had just run a marathon.
"Selena!" Miki ran towards her friend and took her by the arm. "Are you okay? You look…"
Selena swallowed, and then nodded. "Tsuki said I used my Talent beyond my limit… I'll be fine. I just need a while…"
"Your Talent?" Miki blinked. "Oh… what is your-"
"I don't know… I came up rare on the test and didn't take a higher-level test. The others know, though… Aria, and Tsuki."
Miki sighed. "Jeez, the boys are hiding everything from us… oh well. If you're tired, I'll help you walk!"
Selena gave her a warm smile, and started to walk beside her. "Thank you, Miki… thank you."
Aria and Elizabeth were staying behind for the time being, Tsuki had said, and they had started after Eterno. Few words were exchanged as he led them to one of many secret staircases, up to the archive hall filled with harmless guardian drones, and then out the now-open blast door and back towards the surface, back towards open air.
Questions filled every mind there, but not one was voiced. Wait until we arrive, would have been the answer to every one.
More importantly to Miki and Selena, though, were the unvoiced feelings between them as they walked side-by-side, Miki's hand on Selena's wrist. Selena stumbling, Miki's step still bouncy even while exhausted. They said almost nothing, but the feelings moved without sound – trust, and friendship.
There was still time for their friendship to grow. They had only known one another for a day and a half, but both of them knew that there would never be a need for pretenses or fakeness with one another, for as long as their friendship grew.
The monorail was quiet and calm, something rare in the Innex sector. The four of them boarded, and it wasn't long before Central Academy – New Central, as they were thinking by then – came into view.
A familiar harsh and deafening voice greeted Miki once they entered the clubroom, and her face lit up.
"Ah," Mira said, setting down her tea, "it should be 'Mira! Red!' I should come first. I'm the leader."
"Screw you, Mari!" Red laughed and hurled herself across the room, delivering a high-speed high-five to Miki.
"How do you all have so much damn energy… I am so dead right now… I think I'm on Felsa…" Fai had his head in his hands watching them.
"You're normally the one who has too much energy, Fai." Eterno sighed.
The clubroom was warm and inviting in the cold night. Fai said he'd turned the heat up high – half-demons didn't like the cold – and the floor, sheer metal tiles, glowed with a warm orange light. Eterno said it was a kind of metal called luminite that could glow different colors under certain conditions.
It was a two-story room, a large first floor and a second floor that was half the size, which looked like a balcony over the first floor. It was underneath that balcony second floor, at the thick and dark table, where the other four were waiting with tea.
Sitting exhausted at that table with Red yelling about nothing on her left, Selena sitting close on her right, quietly and timidly, Eterno and Zero across from her, and a warm drink in front of her, Miki felt satisfied.
"And I punched his lights out!" Red finished a story Miki had only been half-listening to, with her arms up.
"Half of your stories end that way." Mira sighed.
"Hell yeah they do! And that's awesome!"
"Miki…" Selena's voice was so quiet Miki almost missed it. She beamed at her.
"You're tired, right?" Selena nodded, and she laughed. "Me too, me too! I'm glad I have a warm apartment to go back to with my friend after this, though."
Without a word, Selena smiled, and Miki thought it was the sweetest sight.
"Well," Eterno raised his voice to silence the hubbub and call attention to him. He leaned forwards onto the table, casting his eyes from person to person. "We've put together all the pieces. We're going to have a three-stage review."
"We're going to talk about what exactly happened first," Tsuki said, "the whole truth."
"Then," Fai crossed his arms, "we're expecting professor Dizo's return."
And finally, Zero set a golden cylinder down on the table. "Lastly, we'll talk about this."
A/N: Our characters reunite! The arc draws towards its conclusion, and the ultimate revelation creeps closer!
Look forward to what's next~! In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the chapter... until next week, Kisho, out~! /salute