Chapter 1: Prologue
Ah! Another dream?
"Wendy, haven't I warned you?" a middle-aged man huffed. "Stuffing the boys' head with a lot of silly stories."
A girl and two smaller boys were busy cleaning up their extravagant game of pretending. They seemed unphased by their father's tantrum but worried nonetheless.
The Wendy-girl gasped at her father's words, "Oh but they aren't!"
"I say they are! Young lady, this is your last night in the nursery."
The dream started to fade as everyone began to protest.
To be punished just for being a kid. That doesn't seem very fair!
"Yuu! Yuu, wake up! The Great Grim demands it!" the shrill voice of a certain companion swept the last bits of the dream away.
"Grim please, I'm still recovering from the Un-Birthday Party yesterday. Go back to sleep," the groggy voice of the magicless human Yuu whined. They pulled the covers over their head.
"But those card punks are waiting downstairs. That tyrant Riddle says he got news for you," Grim pulled the covers back. "They won't leave without you."
"Fine! Yeesh," Yuu rolled out of bed. They mumbled incoherently as they put on their uniform and went to the living room of the hazard called Ramshackle. Waiting for them were all the guys from Hearslabyul. Riddle sat in one of the few decent chairs with his usually stern face. Ace and Deuce stood on the one side of him with bewildered looks while Trey and Cater had confused looks mixed with worry on the other side.
Yuu sighed as Grim stood next to them, "I expect this from Ace and Deuce, but what brings all of you here so early?"
"The Headmaster has called for all the dorm leaders. I was told to get you since you are technically the leader of Ramshackle dorm," Riddle informed. "Sorry for the intrusion."
"What about the others?" Grim questioned.
"We just had to see Dorm-Leader Yuu's reaction after we found out what the meeting was about!" Ace cut in.
"After you and Deuce eavesdropped that is," Trey laughed.
"Well let's hear it. What does Crowley want from Yuu?" Grim groaned.
"Apparently there was an incident with the doors," Cater chimed in.
"Where we entered during the entrance ceremony," Deuce explained.
Yuu nodded, "The coffin room. Got it."
"Get to the point already!" Grim yelled. Even the three ghosts of Ramshackle popped in to listen at this point.
Riddle cleared his throat and all the attention went back to him. "Someone came through a door, and they appear to be from the same world as you, Yuu."
"Whaaaat?!" Grim screamed. Yuu's jaw dropped. Their eyes glazed over.
Did someone come through from my world? Really?! But, why now? Why not at the same time as me? Would they have a better memory of what happened?
"Yuu!" Deuce and Ace were waving their hands in front of their pal's face.
"We need to go," Yuu mumbled. They were still reeling from shock, "Like now." They picked up Grim and ran out of the room to the front door.
"Prefect Yuu slow down!" Riddle called after them. He stood up from his seat and was hot on Yuu's trail. Ace and Deuce ran off next. Trey and Cater just sighed and lagged behind.
Soon they made it to the mirror chamber. They stood outside the room catching their breath. Riddle smoothed his blazer and addressed his vice dorm leader, "Trey, take the others back to the dorm. This is a matter for dorm leaders only. Those are the rules."
"Ehh, but we want to know too!" Ace crossed his arms.
"We'll fill you in afterward. Just wait a while please," Yuu assured.
"What about me? Do I have to go with these knuckleheads?" Grim complained.
"Who are you calling a knucklehead you damn Racoon-cat?" Ace groaned.
"Technically we are one student, so it shouldn't hurt. Just be on your best behavior," Yuu warned.
"Yahoo!" Grim pumped his paw into the air.
"Now come on you two," Riddle sighed. He opened the door and they joined the other dorm leaders and Crowley.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
A scene I knew all too well played before my eyes in my dreams.
A girl with russet brown hair in a light blue nightgown and a blue bow holding her ringlet hair in a ponytail solemnly put away her sewing supplies. A boy around her age with messy red hair and pointed ears danced in his green tunic and with a red feather. He admired his own shadow.
"Tonight's my last night in the nursery," the girl said to the boy.
"But, that means no more stories," he surmised. The girl simply hummed a yes. Tears threatened to fall from her eyes. The boy scrunched his nose and stomped his foot. "No! I won't have it! Come on!"
He grabbed the girl by her wrist. He was flying in the air as he dragged her across the room towards a large bay window. She didn't resist but was confused. "W-where are we going?"
In a cheery tone, the boy answered, "To Neverland!"
Ah, Neverland. I wish I could find a charming guy to whisk me away to a magical world. Heck! Just whisk me away to a magical world for all I care! Just to get me away from the people here. A cute boy would be a nice perk though.
The scene began to fade, to my dismay.
No, not yet. I don't want to wake up yet! Dang-it!
The sensations of reality returned to my body. Instead of the softness of my bed, I felt wood. I tried to stretch my limbs but they hit a wall.
"Ack! What the hell?" I muttered. I opened my eyes, but still, there was only darkness. "Okay, what the crap is up?"
I put my hands in front of me and felt more wood. "Am I in an effing box?!"
Great. Absolutely fabulous. I know I can be a deep sleeper, but not to notice getting kidnapped?! That is a new record, Viv. Give yourself a pat on the back.
I tried to pat my back but the cramped space didn't allow it. Panic started to rise in me. I was never one to get claustrophobic, but the thought of being with kidnappers sent my imagination racing.
I knocked on the wooden box, "Hello?! Anyone!?" I banged louder. "Uh, I would very much appreciate being let out of the box! I don't think it has air holes and I kind of need air to-you know- live! Hello!"
I stopped my pounding. I could hear footsteps. They were getting louder.
Okay, so either I am surrounded by a bunch of bad guys or the rescue party has arrived. If the former, I'm dead meat. If the latter, then hallelujah!
I kicked the box and rocked back-and-forth. I was about to yell when another voice entered with a loud bang.
"WHO IS IN HERE?!" an opulent-sounding voice screamed. I froze. The voice didn't sound too intimidating, but the sudden force of it scared the bejeebers out of me. "Now, if you just come out I will consider being light on your punishment. I am a kind headmaster," the new voice said. It was much calmer now.
I knocked on the box, "Uh, yes, hello? I would love to come out but it seems I am trapped in a box!"
"What do you mean trapped in a box? No one can open the doors except with one of my keys. I grow tired of your foolishness, so come out now!"
"Again, I am locked in a BOX! I woke up in this thing!" I yelled. I was running out of breath. "If you really are the kind headmaster as you say, please let me out of here! I'm starting to get dizzy."
"Hmm. Okay," the voice sounded like it was right in front of me. "Never in my years have we had to use the door key outside of the entrance ceremony. What is going on?"
As he mumbled those words I heard a delicate click. The darkness that surrounded me melted away. I fell out and onto the floor. I took a deep breath in. I hadn't realized how much energy I had lost during my thrashing. Adrenaline really is something. My hair hung in box-braids over my face. "Sweet baby Jesus I am out!"
"You are not one of my students. Who are you?"
I looked up to finally see the owner of the voice. I did a double-take at what I saw or didn't see rather. Before me was a man wearing a raven-esque mask that covered half of his face. Glowing gold orbs looked down at me. He had skin as pale as porcelain. Pointed ears poked through short, wavy black hair. He wore a sparkling suit and a great coat that sported raven feathers at the collar over his shoulders. On his head was a top hat that had a blue sash with a mirror ornament with key and wing decor.
"I'm Vivienne Abiba," I meekly said. I was still seated on my hands and knees.
"Well, Vivienne Abiba, my name is Dire Crowley. I am the Headmaster here at Night Raven College. Can I ask how you got on school grounds, let alone this off-limits room?" he asked. He wore a smile but his tone was more aggressive.
"I would like that too sir. I went to bed in my family's home and then woke up in this..." I turned my head to address the container he released me from and felt a bit of color drain from my face, "...coffin?!"
"Hmm, he cupped his chin, "this is a predicament. An all too familiar predicament."
I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was locked in a coffin to notice the ramblings of the strange Headmaster. When it seemed like I was on the verge of panicking, his gloved hand with golden talon-shaped rings was outstretched to me.
"Come child, you shouldn't be on the floor," he warmly said before helping me up. When I got to my feet his height hit me. He was almost a foot taller than me. A confused expression slowly crept onto his face. Mr. Crowley asked, "Are you a lady?"
I was taken aback by his question. My gender identity had never been so bluntly questioned before. I gave a nervous chuckle before answering, "Yes I am Mr. Crowley."
"Oh, this could be a problem," Crowley muttered.
"Problem? Why is that a problem?"
"Well, Miss Abiba, this is an all-boys boarding academy."
"Ah," was my only response. What else could I do?
Maybe there'll be some cute guys? Wait no! Not the time to be daydreaming about living some cheesy high school rom-com.
"Miss Abiba," I snapped back into reality(?) when the masked Headmaster called my name. "It is still very early, but I must call the dormitory leaders. I am going to take you to the Dark Mirror in the meantime."
"Yes. It will tell us if you have any magic."
"MAGIC!? THERE IS MAGIC?!" I excitedly looked up at him.
"Yes. This is actually an academy for aspiring magicians," Crowley explained.
I wondered if my eyes were expressing the total wonder I was feeling.
Magic. Oh my goodness gracious I'm in a world of magic! That actually explains the pointed ears...
I followed behind the tall Headmaster. My mind was filled with a multitude of emotions.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
I stood quietly in the room Headmaster Crowley called the "Mirror Chamber". The name made sense. There was a large ornate mirror in the center of the room. Crowley had gone out to gather the dormitory leaders, so I was left with my thoughts.
Magic. Is this some strange version of Harry Potter? Would I even have magic? Like, am I going to be some Hermoine Granger muggle-born mage? Does that happen here? If I do not have magic, what will happen to me?
I gripped my hand tighter at that. The worst that can happen is they just send me home. Right? I began to pace around. I mumbled nonsense as I moved. I heard the door open and I froze. I stood with perfect posture as Crowley entered the room. There were a few people behind him as well. There was a boy with white hair and brilliant ruby-red eyes. He had tan skin slightly lighter than mine. Beside him was a boy whose hair had a more silver hue. Glasses framed his steel-blue eyes. The tan boy gave off an aura like sunshine while the one with glasses was more mysterious, and not in a good way. Bringing up the rear was a guy that seemed to jump right out of a fairytale with his lilac-tipped blonde hair and sophisticated aura.
"Sorry to leave you here on your own," Crowley apologized.
"It is alright sir," I smiled nervously. I nodded my greetings to the others.
"We will do a proper greeting when the rest arrive," Crowley declared. As if on cue, another person entered the room. He was tall with dark brown hair that looked orange in some areas. He had the same dark complexion as I with bright green eyes. The thing that caught my attention the most was the fact he had animal ears on the top of his head with a tail behind him too!
What the crap! Pointed elf ears I can handle, but is he supposed to be a neko or something?! They look like lion ears almost. Are they actually real?! Just assume yes. That will be the easiest for my brain right now...
I was so transfixed on the animal boy that I barely noticed the floating blue tablet next to him.
"This better be good. I was enjoying my rest," he growled. I sucked in some air and averted my gaze.
Looks like I interrupted someone's beauty sleep...
I could feel all their eyes on me. It was awkward. It felt like forever waiting in near silence for whoever was left. The door opened again and I prayed that the ones to enter were the last. A short redhead with grey eyes opened the door and entered with a rather plain-looking person compared to everyone else. I welcomed the normality. Walking on two legs amongst their feet was something that made me speak up without thinking.
"Walking fire cat," I gasped. I quickly covered my mouth. I hoped I was quiet enough that no one heard, but I saw the normal kid give a light chuckle.
"I think that is everyone!" Crowley cheerfully proclaimed.
"What about Diasomnia?" the ruby-eyed boy asked.
Crowley facepalmed, or masked-palmed, as he asked, "Did anyone inform Mr. Draconia?" There was a collective no from the others with a few muttered excuses. Crowley sighed. "We have already delayed this long enough. I will simply have to inform him later."
I looked over all the others to see what they were thinking. Most of them looked indifferent. The boy who asked about the missing person seemed overly happy to be here. The plain one was obviously staring at me. It was like they just found their long-lost family member or something.
"So, most of you must have noticed by now the reason why I called this emergency meeting so early," Crowley began. He made his way to stand behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders. "This young, uh, lad just came through one of the doors."
"WHAT?!" the crowd said in near-perfect unison.
"That is right, they came through a door," Crowley flatly confirmed. "Go on. Introduce yourself."
Everyone's focus was on me now. I clicked my tongue and took a deep breath. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Vivienne Abiba."
"So what is their deal?" the grumpy cat-boy asked.
"Their arrival is very similar to Prefect Yuu's. I suspect that they are not from Twisted Wonderland," Crowley explained.
"Seeing as how I have never heard of this 'Twisted Wonderland' place, I can confirm that I am not from here," I chimed in.
"Does that mean there is another magicless human here?" the mysterious silver-haired guy piped up.
Wow, just slip some more sass in there why don't you. And why are you talking like you aren't a human too?!
"That is what we are about to find out. The fact that there are multiple people brought to our world is a major issue whether they have magic or not. We should all do our best to figure out what is behind this," Crowley spoke. The others all got a look as though this behavior of his was old news. "I called all of you to get your opinion on what to do if they in fact do not have magic."
"You do realize we are just students right?" the redhead about my size pointed out.
"Yes, and I value the opinion of the student body. Who better to represent the student body than the dorm leaders! This will affect you all. We are already well into the school year and if they get sorted into one of the dorms then you should have the chance to help them adjust as soon as possible. I worry because I am so kind you see."
Just by watching this, I could get a good handle on how the dynamic of this school went. I had an awkward closed-mouth smile on my face as a few more back and forth comments happened. Finally, Crowley led me to stand in front of the mirror.
"Just stand here Abiba," he instructed.
"Yes sir," I nodded. I stared into the darkness of the mirror. My own features stared back at me. My dark complexion that had always been compared to milk chocolate stood out against the inky blackness. My large, brown eyes scanned the attire I was in. They were not my usual PJs, that was for certain. Instead, it was a black turtleneck suit with gold embroidery. A thin, silky robe with a hood had purple and gold embellishments. I put the hood down to show my box braids that dangled in front of my face. Some of the braids were my natural black color while others had gold or seafoam extensions braided in. I bit my upper lip, my little snaggle-tooth poking out from the bottom as I did so.
A green fire ignited inside the glass. I jumped back a bit as a mask that was wearing a lace mask around the eye sockets faced me.
Kind of redundant...
In a deep voice, it instructed me, "Resight your name."
"The shape of your soul has the intensity of something new, but the tameness of one that has gone through many trials and tribulations. It is not like ones from Twisted Wonderland," it described.
Crowley raised his voice, "Does that mean sh-they have magic or not?"
"Barely. It is faint. Easily overlooked. Hence, the dorm best fitting for them is Ramshackle."
"Hooray! We aren't the only ones anymore!" a high voice came from the fire cat.
"Grim, quiet!" the dorm leader that it had entered with hushed the creature.
The fire-cat talked! Wait, before that, I have magic!
"Well, I guess if the mirror has sorted them into a dorm they are a student. It is still a predicament though," Crowley muttered to himself.
"Can we go now?" a drowsy question was asked from the gathering.
"Oh, yes. Yuu and Grim stay behind though." Crowley waved off the group, but the cat and plain person stayed behind.
"Now Abiba, this is your dormitory leader Yuu and the creature next to them is Grim. Due to circumstances, they are considered one student," Crowley introduced us.
"Great to meet you! You said your name was Vivienne right?" the person named Yuu bowed their head.
"Yes, but you can just call me Viv. It is great to meet you too Dorm Leader Yuu," I held out my hand. Before the human could grab it, the cat jumped up and grabbed my hand, shaking it rapidly.
"I'm the Great Grim! I am going to be the greatest magician this place has ever seen!" Grim beamed. His flaming ears gave off no heat and I noticed his tail was in the shape of a pitchfork. A dazzling lavender jewel pendant hung from his tattered black and white striped bow around his neck. It settled on a fluffy white patch of fur on his chest while the rest of him was grey.
"I cannot believe I am able to meet a future legend, let alone be dormmates with them," I chuckled. I played along with his contagious enthusiasm.
"Aha! Someone finally sees my amazing talent!"
"Yuu here also came from another world, although they do not have magic. That is why they were allowed to pair with Grim and given their own dorm," Crowley filled me in.
"More of a safety hazard than a dorm," Grim whispered.
I stifled my laughter. Headmaster Crowley scowled a bit, but Yuu cut in.
"Since there are two of us now that mysteriously arrived from another world, will that push the efforts of finding a way to get us back?" they asked. I could taste a hint of passive-aggressiveness in their tone.
"Of course, what sort Headmaster would I be if I didn't do my best?" Crowley almost sang. Yuu's face was just painted with exasperation. "Abiba, is there anything you remember before arriving?"
"Uh," I scratched the top of my head, "I went to bed after a stressful day and when I woke up I was in a coffin."
"Hmm, I see," Crowley murmured. "And for my sake, are you two from the same world?"
I looked over at Yuu who looked just as curious, maybe even hopeful. "I am from a country called The United States of America on the planet Earth."
"I don't remember much, but 'Earth' is very familiar to me," Yuu said. Their face almost lit up a bit at the mention of a possible shared home.
"Great!" Crowley clapped. "At least I just have to locate one alternate world." he mumbled the last part, but we could all clearly hear it.
"Uh, Headmaster Crowley, sir?" I held up my hand to get his attention. "Shouldn't we tell them about the other thing?"
"Oh yes, it would be beneficial if Prefect Yuu knew."
"Knew what?" Yuu looked suspicious.
"Vivienne Abiba is a lady," Crowley filled Yuu in.
"Huh? But isn't this an all-boys college?" Grim yelled. Yuu just blinked their eyes a few times.
"Yeah, it confused me too," I chuckled.
"The fewer people know the better, understand?" Crowley firmly stated. Yuu and I nodded our heads. "Good. Now Yuu, you can take Miss Abiba back to the Ramshackle dorm and help her settle in."
"Okay. Follow me Viv," Yuu motioned with their hand to follow. Grim climbed onto Yuu's shoulder and perched there as we all exited the room.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
"So, this place is called Night Raven College. It is a very prestigious school for magic. There are seven dormitories; eight if you include us," I repeated back the information Yuu told me. "Students use magic pens as wands, and there are things called 'unique magic' that is special to each individual."
"Yes," Yuu nodded.
We were sitting in the dusty lounge room of Ramshackle. Headmaster Crowley had given Yuu and Grim the day off of classes to help me get caught up to speed. I was still in the ceremonial robes while I waited for my uniform.
"And then if you go crazy you go into 'Berserk Final Boss mode' and turn into a big, inky monster!" Grim tagged on.
I blinked my eyes wide open. I leaned forward in my seat, "Excuse me, what?"
"He means Overblot. I don't really get it either, but you won't have to worry too much about that," Yuu assured me.
"We actually fought one! The tyrant dorm leader of Heartslabyul,"Grim got a cocky smirk on his face. "Of course, I saved the day."
"Along with Ace and Deuce," Yuu rolled their eyes with a smile. "But seriously, it was a freak accident. Don't worry too much about it."
"Okay..." I nervously leaned back. "By the way, who are Ace and Deuce?"
"They are some of our friends. They are first-years in the Heartslabyul dorm," Yuu informed me.
"The whole reason why we had to fight that monster," Grim grumbled.
As soon as they said that, there was a knock at the door. Yuu got up and went to see who it was. Grim also scampered to the door. I was left alone in the lounge with my thoughts.
Okay, so this place isn't so bad. At least I came after the rampaging monster bit. I have a lot to catch up on with classes though. Especially since I have no idea how to use magic.
"Come on Prefect Yuu, just let us say hi," a loud male voice travelled down the hall.
"I think that it would be best if they settled in more," Yuu's calm voice followed.
"Come on! You said you would fill us in afterwards, but you never showed up to class. We want to know."
A new voice spoke up, "Ace, this was probably a jarring change to them. We should listen to Yuu."
"Don't try to play the good kid Deuce. You wanted to come over here to find out what was going on too!"
"W-Well I changed my mind now! We shouldn't force ourselves onto a person!"
As the the arguing continued, curiosity got the better of me. I got up from my seat and crept towards the archway leading to the main hall. I poked my head around the corner to peak at the scene. I saw and exasperated Yuu in front of two boys and Grim. One of the boys had messy auborn hair that flared out. Over his left eye was a red heart. The other boy had neat black hair with a navy blue shine. Over his right eye was a black spade. They both wore the same uniform as Yuu, but they had a bright cherry red undervest while Yuu had none.
If those markings over their eyes are makeup, that is some dedication in the morning.
As I was analyzing the two new characters before me, an eery voice spoke in my ear, "What'cha looking at?" I froze. I slowly turned my head to see a pudgy specter looking into my eyes.
"aaAhhAHH!!" I let out a scream and sped out of the room towards the group of living people. "YUU! GRIM! GHOST!" I ran up to Yuu and tapped their shoulder rapidly as I let out a slew of word, "Th-there was a g-g-ghost! In the lounge! It had a top hat and pudgy cheeks and it came up and whispered in my ear and and-"
"Calm down it's okay. It is just one of the three ghosts that live her in the dorm with us," Yuu tried to calm me down.
"Three!" There are TWO MORE!?" I rubbed my temples, "Oh goodness me..."
"Ahem," a clearing of a throat brought my attention back to the two guests, "I think some introductions are needed.
Yuu sighed, "Viv, this is Ace Trappila and Deuce Spade. Guys, this is Vivienne Abiba." Yuu motioned to each of us respectively.
I held out my hand, "Nice to meet you! I'm Vivienne, but you can call me Viv. Yuu and Grim have told me about you two!"
"Oh really? What did they say?" Ace got a mischievous grin as he shook my hand.
"Something about getting them involved in a magic monster final battle?"
"Ah..." he looked kind of embarrassed.
"Ace has a tendency to drag people into his problems," Deuce said as he also shook my hand.
"Says Mr. 'Drops-a-cauldron-on-people'," Ace snickered.
"It was the first thing that came to mind! I said I was sorry."
"When did you say that?"
I chuckled at the comedy duo.
"What are you two doing?" a new voice joined the fray. We turned to see the short redhead that I saw earlier that day. Beside him was the Headmaster.
"Prefect! Headmaster!" the two boy said in unison.
"I asked you two a question," the boy might have been small, but he sure was intimidating.
"We just wanted to meet Prefect Yuu's new dormmate," Deuce answered.
Ace scratched the back of his head, "You must be here to do the same thing right?"
"Actually, Mr. Trappola, Prefect Rosehearts is here at my request," Crowely answered. "I wanted him to tutor Abiba to catch them up to the curriculum."
I looked between Crowley and my new tutor. "Oh! Thank you sir. That is very kind of you."
"Isn't it? I really am such a nice Headmaster. Now, Abiba, this is Riddle Rosehearts. He is the dorm leader of Heartslaybyul."
So he must be the one that turned into the monster boss thing. He looks totally fine now though.
"A pleasure to meet you Prefect Riddle," I nodded my head in his direction. "I look forward to our first session."
"As do I," was his short reply.
"I also have your uniform and your magic pen. I can explain everything now if you would like," Crowley showed the folded pile of clothes and an ornate fountain pen on top.
I shrugged, "It isn't like I have anything else planned. Please come in sir."
"You guys should go now," Yuu instructed. They were practically pushing Deuce and Ace out the door.
"Okay, okay! We're leaving!" Ace complained.
"See you guys tomorrow!" Deuce waved a good-bye. The three members of Heartslabyul made there way away from our safety hazard of a dorm as we went inside to hear from Crowley.
"Does that all make sense?" Crowley asked as he wrapped up his explanation.
"Yes sir. I think I got the gist of it," I nodded as I examined my pen. The jewel was the same color as Grim's.
"Oh, and the staff members have been informed that you are a female. You will not be required to participate in gym to avoid any unsavory instances and the infirmary will be supplying you with any...personal hygiene items you may need."
"Thank you for that," I let out a sigh of relief.
"The public outside of NRC must not know that there is a female student. The fewer students that know the better as well. This is an all-boy's school after all."
"I understand," I was beginning to run out of things to say in conformation. He just kept going on. It was honestly getting boring.
"One final thing," Crowley finally said, "you will begin classes tomorrow. I have your class schedule here."
Crowley handed me a piece of paper with my class assignment and whatnot. "Isn't it a bit early for me to start classes already?"
"You have already missed quite a lot of material. We at Night Raven like move at a fast pace, so it is better to get you up to where everyone else is as soon as possible," Crowley crossed his arms.
"That makes sense I suppose," I mumbled.
Great. Got to jump right into the middle of a curriculum I don't even have the basics of. Being a transfer student sucks!
"I will take my leave now. Get plenty of rest and be on time to your classes," Crowley advised as he made his way to the exit.
"I will. Thank you Headmaaster Crowley!" I showed him off. When he left the porch of the building I closed the door and let out a long sigh. "Oh he is a pain."
"You get used to it after a while," Yuu's voice came from behind me.
"Oh how wonderful," I clasped my hands together. Sarcasm was heavily laced in my voice.
"Haha! I got to say though, you are handling this very well," Yuu lead me up the stairs to where I would be staying.
"Well what other choice do I have? Freaking out will just waste everyone's time and energy. It is best to just adapt as quickly as possible," I shrugged. "Can't throw tantrums like a child all the time."
"Yeah, I guess your transition went smoother than mine anyhow."
"Really? What happened when you got here?"
"Ah, its a long story. Woke up to a talking racoon dog setting the place on fire, being told I had no magic and no way to get home, went from maid, to errand boy, to fighting a monster in an abandoned mine, the finally enrolled as half of a student," Yuu recounted in a nonchalant tone. It was as if that was their average Tuesday!
"Hold on there bud, back that up a bit. How does one go from being a maid to fighting a monster in a mine?"
"Heh, I was confused myself."
"We got plenty of time before it would be considered past a reasonable time to go to sleep. Spill all the details," I grabbed their arm and pulled them along faster.
"Okay, okay. Slow down. The floor might give out if we aren't careful."
"I hate that I can totally see that being the case," I flatly groaned. We both laughed as Yuu started to tell me about their time here in Twisted Wonderland so far.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
I straightened out my uniform as I stood in front of a full-length mirror covered in muck and dust. I had on a white blouse with a brown vest in top with gold trim and buttons. Around my collar was my best attempt at tying a bow from the black and white striped fabric given to me. My blouse was tucked into black slacks that had a gold line running down the outer lengths. The slacks matched my blazer that I had on but not buttoned. On my left arm I had a lavender and brown striped ribbon tied to the upper portion.
“Viv, are you ready?” Yuu’s voice traveled in echoes through the empty mansion.
“Yeah! I’ll be down in a second!” I yelled back. I grabbed the jeweled pen and tucked it behind my right ear. My gloved hand tucked some of my braids behind my ears as well. With one final check in the mirror, I nodded my approval. I ran down the staircase, careful to avoid some of the obvious weak spots of the structure and met Yuu and Grim at the front entrance.
“How’s the uniform working for you?” Yuu asked as I drew closer.
“It’s fine. The blouse sleeves are a little long, but I like the cuffs over my hands. Gives me something to fiddle with, you know?” I responded as I played with the dangling fabric. I smiled at them and said, “I’m all set for the day!”
Grim pumped his paw in the air, “Alright! Then let’s get going to school so we can become great magicians!”
We exited our dorm and headed to the main building on campus. It turned out I was put in the same class as Yuu, Grim, and the two guys I met yesterday. That was fortunate because I would have gotten lost trying to find the classrooms on my own otherwise. During the morning, I would catch some students starring at me. It was easy enough to ignore since none of them tried talking to me. Before I knew it the lunch period was upon us.
Grim complained about the last class we had as we all walked to the cafeteria. “I think the only magic Professor Trein did was making all the students fall asleep.”
“Headmaster Crowley was right. Classes do go really fast,” I heaved with sagging shoulders.
“I kept falling asleep no matter how hard I tried to stay awake,” Grim continued his whines.
“You didn’t try at all. You fell asleep five minutes into class starting,” Deuce reprimanded.
Ace was joyously singing the same lines as we neared the cafeteria doors, “It’s lunch time~! Can’t wait to eat~!”
When Ace opened the doors to our destination a swarm of students was before us. I blinked a few times and asked a loud, “Is it always this crowded?”
“No, there are a lot more people than usual today.” Ace’s sing-song voice stopped.
A ghost manifested beside us. I flinched at the sight and hid behind Deuce. His eyes went wide when he saw me slip away from the specter. “Uh, are you okay Viv?”
“Oh, yeah uh…I’m just not used to the, uh, supernatural.” I stammered. I rubbed my hands together as though I was trying to warm myself and peered around Deuce ever so slightly.
“Today is a special day! The famous bakery at the mountain’s base is catering lunch today,” it explained to Ace and Yuu. “We often sell out, so you better hurry if you want something good!”
The calls of student orders and of even more ghosts updating the availability of products made the volume in the room astronomical.
“Ooo, it all looks so good! I don’t know what to get,” Ace had a huge grin on his face.
“It sure does look popular,” Deuce commented. He turned to look at Yuu, “What are you and Grim going to get? Oh, and Viv too.”
“I~…think I’m good,” I gave them a thumbs up and a very fake smile. “I’ll just hang back.”
“Ah, I see. Well, Prefect Yuu what about- hm?” Deuce stopped mid-sentence to look around us.
“Oh no…Grim’s not here,” Yuu worriedly remarked. “Where did that little glutton run off to?”
“Out of my way! The deluxe minced cutlet sandwich is mine!” the loud declaration came from the front of the line in Grim’s voice as if on cue.
“Hey! Get to the back of the line freshman!” the disgruntled objections of upperclassmen followed.
Deuce and Ace wore bewildered expressions. Deuce said, “Our existence is nothing compared to food for Grim.” Ace could only sigh his agreement.
“We have to go stop him!” Yuu frantically concluded. We pushed our way through to see Grim wrestle out a very tasty looking sandwich for himself.
“Yaha! Its mine! Also, this one and this one!” Grim picked up two more packaged bread rolls.
“Grim, stop that!” Deuce scolded the magical beast. He turned to the upperclassmen and bowed his head. “I am terribly sorry for his behavior.”
“Excuse me, may I have the grilled roast beef sandwich with extra lettuce?” Ace calmly ordered.
“Don’t you start ordering food!” Deuce snapped at his dormmate.
I watched Yuu apologetically hand the ghost some money in a currency I was infamiliar with as the rest went on. I chuckled to myself.
What a lively group I’ve found myself in. At least I know I won’t get bored while I’m here.
“Aw man. Looks like I’m late to the food fight,” a tired sigh came up behind me. I turned to see a boy with shaggy, dirty blonde hair next to me. His uniform looked to be about a size too big on him and his vest was a yellowed orange along with the bejeweled pen in his blazer pocket. The ribbon on his arm had a lion shaped ornament on it. What held my attention the most was the fact he had big, round and fluffy animal ears on the top of his head and a wiry tail.
There are more people with animal features!? So it wasn’t just that dude from before!
He had been mumbling something to himself as he walked over to a very happy looking Grim.
“Wow, you’re pretty amazing~!” he complimented the grey cat-beast. “I’m surprised you managed to get a hold of that deluxe minced cutlet sandwich!”
“Who are you?” Grim questioned. I had made my way back to Yuu’s side. I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd just yet.
“So, here’s the thing. I really need that sandwich, but they’re sold out today. So, I have a proposal for you,” the new face began. “How about you trade me your deluxe minced cutlet sandwich for this mini red bean bun I got?”
The guy had a cheeky grin on his face while Grim looked at him with confusion. “What?! No way am I doing that!”
“Now don’t be that way. Here you are,” the boy reached out his hand with the bun. A little sparkle flew off him, almost like pixie dust.
Huh, I wonder what that was. Maybe that’s what magic looks like in this world?
I tilted my head to the side as Yuu and I watched what was going on.
“Ah?! What’s this? Why are my limbs moving on their own?!” Grim’s bewildered statements spewed from his mouth as he walked over to the other student. Grom handed over the sandwich he had coveted and received the lack luster ones in return.
“Oh, this is not going to end well,” I could hear Yuu mutter under their breath.
“Trade complete! Shishishi~,” the boy’s laugh reminded me of a hyena mew. “Thanks for trading with me! You’re gonna love those mini red bean buns! They are a bit small though. See ya around! Bye-bye!” He left as quickly as he had appeared. All that was left was a devastated Grim.
“AHHH! MY DELUXE MINCED CUTLET SANDWICH!” Grim wailed. Yuu held Grim in their arms like a darling housecat and removed him from the area. I closely followed behind.
We found a table to sit at and settled down. Grim ate his food sadly.
“Worst. Day. Ever,” he pouted with his mouth full. “I can’t believe my sandwich got stolen.”
“You just ate three buns,” Ace pointed out.
“If you wanted to keep the sandwich earlier you shouldn’t have traded it to him,” Deuce added.
“No, you got all wrong! I can’t explain it! When he waved his hand, my arms moved too!” Grim tried explaining again. “Before I knew it, he had my bread!”
“Ah, I get it. You went with the flow. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us,” Ace reassured.
“But that’s not what I’m saying! Agh! I can’t explain it any better!” Grim grumbled.
It must have something to do with magic. That’s the only logical explanation to it…Wow, I can’t believe I just thought that. Actually, why isn’t anyone else considering it an option? Oh well, nothing to be done about it now.
I was lost in thought as I watched Grim try to steal Deuce’s food. Yuu was next to me laughing at the antics.
“That reminds me. The Headmaster told us to come to his office after school,” Ace brought up. “I wonder what he wants to talk about.”
“It’s probably about the incident with Prefect Rosehearts that happened the other day,” Deuce guessed.
“Ah yeah, the villain berserk mode. That could be it,” Ace agreed.
“Maybe he is giving me the tuna he owes me for saving the day!” Grim perked up.
“Doubt it,” Ace smirked.
“Uh, should I just go back to the dorm since I wasn’t involved?” I asked Yuu.
They pondered for a moment before giving me a shrug. “If you want to. I don’t think it will hurt if you do.”
Hmm, join in on a meeting I know nothing about or go to the haunted manion?
“I’ll tag along. It’ll get me used to the campus, heh,” I decided.
“Okidoki! But I can’t shake my curiosity about the guy form earlier,” Yuu rubbed their chin. “It is almost like I’ve seen him before…”
“Don’t worry about it too much. I’m sure it’s just because you go to the same school. You might have seen him pass I the hall,” I waved my hand in dismissal.
“Yeah, probably,” Yuu smiled. “So many things happen its hard to keep track of it all.” We both laughed and enjoyed the rest of our lunch break.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
We entered Headmaster Crowley’s office. I took in the images of the floating portraits. They were of some of the most notorious Disney villains. I got confused and made a mental note to ask Yuu about it later. Crowley sat behind his desk with a rather serious face.
“I asked you all here because of the incident that happened at the Heartslabyul dorm the other day,” Crowley wasted no time. “I believe I should explain it to you all properly.”
“Sir, is my being her alright since I was not yet present during this event?” I cautiously asked.
“Yes. As magicians, you all need to know the details and consequences from what happened to Mr. Rosehearts.” Crowley then went on to explain what this “Overblot” was. He went on about this thing called “blot”, the unwanted material leftover from magic use. The terrible effect it has on the body and the mind of the magic was also discussed. The biggest bit was that there still wasn’t a lot known on how this “Overblot” state occurs.
“So basically, the more magic used the more harm it can cause to the body?” Grim summarized.
“No…That isn’t entirely right,” Crowley responded. He put a clawed finger up to his chin. “Hmm…I think it would be easier to understand if I simply show you. Come on out ghosts, I have a job for you!”
“Oh no, not more ghosts,” I softly whined. At the Headmaster’s call, ghost appeared around us. I stepped back with Yuu. They also looked nervous.
“Wha-wait. What’s going on?” Ace stuttered as he looked at all the ghosts.
Crowley leaned back in his chair as he gave a simple command, “Please teach these kids a lesson.” A small smile was visible under his mask. “Please ready your magic pens everyone. The Headmaster’s special lesson has only just begun.”
“Dude, I don’t even know any spells yet!” I let out without thinking.
“Just stay by me for now Viv. Ace, Deuce, and Grim can handle it,” Yuu put their arm in front of me in a protective manner. They gave me a comforting smile from the side.
Soon, the ghosts were upon the two boys and Grim. Ace and Deuce would flick their pens like wands. Each time I could see a stream of different colored mists and sparkles aimed at the ghosts. It was an amazing sight to see. The ghosts also seemed to be using magic to retaliate.
Wow! Will I be able to perform magic like that? ‘Cause if so, that will be awesome!
Soon enough the ghosts left, and the boys were catching their breaths.
“Headmaster!” Grim complained. “Training with the ghost didn’t help me understand Blot at all!”
“Take a look at your magic jewel!” Crowley pointed to Grim’s collar. When Grim looked down, his eyes bulged out of his head.
“Wha! There’s dirt on my magic jewel!” Grim began to wipe at it with his paws. “It won’t come off!”
“It is Black Ink that has tainted the jewel. That is the ‘blot’ I was telling you about.”
“Mine has it too!” Deuce exclaimed. He held the pen close to his face as he examined the jewel.
“Is it permanent?” Yuu asked.
“No,” came Crowley’s short answer.
“Phew! What a relief,” Grim relaxed.
Headmaster Crowley then went on about having a good rest undoes the blot. He also explained that those with stronger magic capabilities can accumulate blot faster. “With your magic abilities, I don’t think you need to worry about Blot just yet,” Crowley did not fail to get that little jab in. “What a relief!”
Ouch man! I expected that much, but you didn’t need to go and say it to our faces…
The explanation continued. There was the part about how negative emotions speed up the Overblot process. Then, there was the portion discussing past research of the phenomenon. I honestly tuned out when he was lecturing us about the specifics. That was until Headmaster Crowley abruptly let out a blood curdling scream. I jumped in place slightly and refocused on what was going on. He concluded his “oh so special lesson” and gave us permission to leave. Yuu piped up before we could leave.
“By the way, have you found a way for Viv and me to get back home?”
“Eh? Ahh…a way back home?” Crowley floundered with his words for a bit. “Of course, I have been doing my research – your good ole Headmaster didn’t forget. It is just, you see, I have been busy recently…”
Grim crossed his arms, “You’re avoiding eye contact.”
Crowley became defensive, “I’m not lying. I have been very busy preparing for the intra-dorm Magical Shift tournament coming up. There is a meeting with the dorm leaders participating after this that I must attend...”
“Magical Shift Tournament?” Yuu and I both questioned in unison.
“You guys don’t know what Magift is?” Ace gasped.
“From another world, remember?” I retorted.
Deuce went on to explain, “It’s a world-famous sport. They have a whole professional league and international competitions.”
“I never heard about it either,” Grim had a curious face on him.
“Sounds kind of cool,” Yuu commented.
Ace went over the basic rules, “There are basically two teams, each with seven players. You try and take a disk from your opponent and try to shoot it in the goal on the opposing team’s territory. The team with the most points wins.”
“Is it like American football?” Yuu tilted their head to the side at their question.
“Yo, I was thinking it sounded like that too!” I excitedly said. “With a bit of Ultimate Frisbee thrown in!”
“I remember hearing about Ultimate Frisbee! I never played, is it fun?” Yuu and I excitedly compared this new game to the ones we were familiar with. It was almost like I was back to making friends in elementary school, finding one thing that we both could bond over. We didn’t notice the confused stares of the others.
“American Football?” Deuce asked. “Is that a sport from where you are from?”
“Yeah! It is from my country!” I gleefully say. “We just call it football there, but there is another game with the same name in other countries, so they differentiate by calling it American football.
“This is a strange word…I might serve as a clue when I do more research,” Crowley pondered.
“Hmm…I think Prefect Yuu would have a difficult time participating in the tournament,” Ace commented.
“Why?” Grim asked.
“Yeah, what do you mean?” Yuu sounded a bit dejected.
“Magical Shift requires magic to play,” Deuce pointed out. “That is how you carry the disk and make offensive and defensive plays.”
“Oh…” Yuu hung their head.
That’s right, they don’t have any magic.
“Part of the fun is seeing all the flashy moves from the players,” Ace went on. It seemed none of them noticed Yuu’s dismay. I carefully gave them some pats on the back in hopes to comfort them.
“That is exactly why we here at Night Raven College are renowned Magical Shift champions!” Crowley proudly boasted. “Professional teams will be observing our school’s Magift tournament. Many famous magicians from around the world come watch. It is a very important and exciting even to be televised worldwide.”
“Televised!” Yuu gasped.
Dang, this is some Division 1college football level importance.
“People will be watching from around the world?” Grim’s interests seemed to be piqued. “Well then if I win the tournament, everyone around the world will know my name!”
“That sounds amazing Grim!” I cheered.
“Of course! Players who perform exceptional and win the tournaments get scouted to join their professional teams,” Crowley smiled.
“In Grim’s case, people will be surprised to see a monster playing,” Deuce speculated.
“Alright! I’m going to start training right away and aim for victory!” Grim cheered.
“Me too! Sounds like a good way to get more coordinated with spellcasting!” I offered my help. I was caught up in the excitement of the fire-cat.
Our hopes were dashed by Crowley’s blunt remark, “Ah, Grim and Abiba can’t be participants in the tournament.”
“Eh?” we both remarked.
“I’ve said earlier that it is an intra-dorm competition. Your dorm does not have seven people, therefore you two cannot be in the tournament.”
“Ehh!! No way…” Grim sulked.
“You can do many other things you can do during the tournament. You can hand out refreshments, or prep the field for example,” Crowley suggested.
“Noo! I don’t wanna!” Grim began throwing a tantrum like a toddler. It pulled on my heart strings. “I want people watching to chant, ‘Kya~ Grim is so cool!’ or ‘Did you see that amazing play?!’ That is what I want to hear!”
“Aww, Grim,” I cooed.
“That is some imagination,” Ace sighed.
“You can only hope to get more people into the Ramshackle dorm for next year. For now, just let it go,” Deuce advised.
“Yeah, Grim. You can show them next year,” Yuu smiled.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me!” Crowley got up from his seat. He walked to the door to the office and added before leaving, “Since you will not be participating in the tournament, you do not need to attend the dorm leader meeting Prefect Yuu.”
We all left the office. Yuu and I tried to cheer up a disappointed Grim as we went.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
“Grim, come on~. I need your help practicing this spell,” I groaned. I was trying to pull the downhearted monster from the cushion he was on. “Prefect Riddle told me I need to be able to do cast this before our next session!”
“Ahh…I don’t have any motivation…” he groaned back. Yuu sat in the lounge completing their homework as I continued to struggle. “I don’t get to be in the Magift tournament.”
“Still not giving up on that?” Yuu asked when they looked up for the time being.
“What’s the matter Grim?” a short ghost asked. It phased through the floorboards next to the chair Grim was holding onto for dear life. “You don’t seem as lively as usual.”
I held my tongue. All the haunting folktales my grandmother would tell me flashed through my head. I had asked if there was any way to get rid of them, but Yuu told me that there was no point. Even after exorcising them, they just come back withing the next few games. I quaked in my shoes.
I just have to tolerate the one that live here…
Another ghost popped in behind the chair. I felt my face losing color. “It’s because he can’t participate in the Magical Shift tournament. Hehehe~” It teased.
The final ghost showed itself right next to me. I lost my grip on Grim and quietly backed away from the ghostly gathering to where Yuu sat.
“If you want to play so badly, we can play against you,” the skinny ghost offered. “I was one of the top players when I played 90 years ago!”
Grim sat up, but he was still pouting, “Don’t we need seven to play?”
The short ghost that first spoke waved a hand, “It doesn’t matter unless it’s a real match. Now the, let’s get started!”
The ghosts hovered the grumpy kitty as they went outside. Yuu and I shared a look before sighing. Yuu closed their notebook and we both went outside to see what was going on. In an open field beside the rundown mansion Grim was hovering a frisbee in his magic. It looked as though the frisbee was burning in glittering blue flames. Yuu took a seat in the field and pat the ground besides them for me to join. I sat and watched Grim play with the ghosts. His creepy, yet charming grin returning. The sight was actually very cute.
“You should join too,” Yuu said. They didn’t turn to look at me. “It would be a fun way to practice magic.”
“Hmm? I wouldn’t want to leave you out though,” I responded.
“Don’t worry about me. Just go have fun,” Yuu tried to shoo me away towards the group.
“Hmph,” I grabbed their wrist. “If I play, then you’ll play. It isn’t a real match, so you should be fine to play without magic! We will also be even. Three vs three!”
“Why are you being so adamant about this?”
“Well…for the time being we are like basically family! And family makes sure no one gets left out!” I gave them a big old smile, showing off my bottom snaggle tooth. “So, I won’t let you out of it. Got it?”
Yuu laughed, “Haha! Got it.”
We joined in on the fun. The ghosts even helped me learn how to levitate the disk! I was terrified when they surrounded me, but as I watched the disk glow with a peaches-and-cream color the fear slipped away and was replaced by excitement. I held my pen in front of me towards the frisbee. I sparkled faintly like it was emanating glitter. The moment was short. The magic sputtered out and the disk fell to the grass. It was long enough to warrant me jumping for joy with Yuu in a circle.
We continued to play Magical Shift. Sometimes we were serious, other times we goofed off. Since we didn’t know all the rules, we made up some as we went. It was entertainment as pure as if we were small children. We ran in the field until an all too familiar voice travelled down the hilly courtyard to stop our fun.
“Oh? Are you all playing Magical Shift?” asked the Headmaster.
“Geh, the bringer of bad news is here…” Grim’s turned sour instantaneously.
Crowley had a smile on his face as he got closer, “It appears as though you are all getting along with the ghosts in your dorm quite well. How wonderful~!”
Grim denied and deflected. “Not really! Anyway, what are you doing here?”
“I have something to ask of you. Come, let us go inside,” Crowley ushered us back to the dorm.
As we entered the lounge room, Grim cut straight to the point, “What do you want from us? We aren’t your servants you know.”
“Oh? Did I forget to mention that there is no guarantee you all can permanently live here?” he mentioned. We all went bug-eyed.
“Excuse me, wha-,” I was stopped by Yuu who covered my mouth.
“Hard labor is a wonderful thing,” Crowley chirped.
That’s right. Yuu said how Mr. Crowley made them do tasks in return for allowing them to stay here while he searched for a way to send Yuu back. I guess I’m lumped into the same boat now. That sly fox! Or, should I say bird?
“We have no coice…” Yuu’s defeated sigh left their lips. I crossed my arms and legs. Yuu took their hand away slowly.
I’ll just keep my mouth shut. Yuu is the dorm leader anyway, so I’ll just listen to them.
“Let me start over,” Crowley cleared his throat. “Acually, there have been many injuries due to some suspicious incidents at school. I would like you to please investigate this matter.”
“So, you want us to be stinking detectives,” I concluded. I already went against what I told myself.
Crowley explained the situation. There were students hurt in various “accidents” around campus. If it weren’t for the fact that the tournament was fast approaching, and the sheer number of victims already, there wouldn’t have been so much doubt about how accidental it all was. All ten victims were top candidates for the event as well.
“Why should I care? This has nothing to do with me!” Grim grumbled. “I don’t get to participate in the tournament either way. So I don’t care what happens involving the tournament!”
“Is that so? After I came all this way to offer you a special reward…”
“Heh! I’m not falling for that ever again! I’m not cooperating unless you give me at least 100 cans of tuna.”
Yuu whispered into my ear, “Crowley still owes Grim tuna from the last ‘favor’ he sent us on.”
I mouthed an “oh” while nodding my head. I watched the negotiation continue.
“Then how about I allow you to participate in the Magical Shift Tournament?” Crowley offered.
“Huh?” We all dropped our jaws at the turn of events.
“If you manage to solve this case, I will grant your dorm special permission to participate in this year’s tournament,” Crowley elaborated. “Well? How about it? Aren’t I so kind?”
Oh yeah, so kind. Kind enough to make us do your JOB!
“Oh, but you already said you do not wish to cooperate. What a shame. Forget I said anything.”
“WAIT A MINUTE! I’LL DO IT!” Grim yelled. “I’LL DO IT!”
Man, this guy is the master at manipulation. Is this how he got the job as Headmaster? I can’t believe it was because he was a good teacher or something. And Grim is too easily swayed. Just dangle something in front of his ego and I bet he’d steal a national treasure.
“Let’s get that culprit so we can enter the tournament!” Yuu proclaimed.
“Whaaat?! You’re really accepting this Prefect?!” I exclaimed. I was shocked. “Even if we catch the guy and enter the tournament we are short players!”
“Since I’m the Headmaster, I will supply the four other players you need,” Crowley remedied.
“Yes! It’s a promise!” Grim cheered. He ran around the room in excitement. “Let’s hurry and interview some victims!”
“I’m counting on you!” Crowley bade us farewell.
Why do I have a bad feeing about this?
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
We were in the infirmary of the school the next day.
“We’re coming in!” Grim loudly announced our arrival.
“Grim, you shouldn’t yell here. People are trying to recover,” I scolded. The more time I spent with him, the more if felt like watching a child.
Props to Yuu for dealing with him on their own for the first month or so.
“Who are these guys?” a boy in a cast asked from his cot.
His friend next to him a relieved smile, “Oh, those two are from the Ramshackle dorm. Remember? They attended the Un-Birthday Party. Although, I don’t recognize the third one.”
“I just transferred her. I’m in the Ramshackle dorm too,” I explained.
“Look at us! We’re famous!” Grim purred.
“That’s what happens when you fight a crazed student,” I giggled.
“Sorry to bother you, but we were asked to investigate the accidents happening around the school,” Yuu sounded so professional as they brought out a notepad. “Could you please tell us what happened?”
The boys started to explain what happened. They went back and forth speaking. The injured one said, “It was like my body just moved on its own…I can’t explain it.”
Huh, that sounds familiar.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” I gave them a smile after they finished their story.
“Oh! Uh, you’re welcome,” they stuttered.
“Let’s talk to the next person,” Yuu said while getting up from their seat.
As we headed to the door, the nurse stopped me. “You are Vivienne Abiba correct?”
“Uh, yes. What do you need?” I was slightly confused.
“I need to discuss some things with you. It shouldn’t take long.”
I looked back at Yuu, “Go ahead to the next person. I’ll meet you guys back at the dorm.”
“Alright. Be careful on your way back!” Yuu left the room with Grim.
“What did you need to talk to me about?” I asked the nurse.
They ushered me to follow me, “This way Abiba. I can’t discuss this in front of the other students.” The nurse went through another door. The room we entered looked like their office. “I have been made aware of your situation by Headmaster Crowley. I am sure you know what I am talking about.”
“Good. So first let me give you this,” the nurse handed me a picnic basket with a lid. When I opened it up, I saw an assortment of women’s sanitary products, some painkillers, a heating pad, and some sort of potion bottle. It was like the ultimate period care package. “Please tell me if you need anything more specific.”
“This is more than I could have expected. Thank you,” I rummaged through the basket more.
“Of course. I will also give you a copy of the key to the bathroom in the infirmary. It should be more comfortable for you there.” The nurse handed me a small key on a keychain. I placed it into the basket as well. “The potion in there will help mask the smell to the non-human students with keen senses. I left a note on when to take it in the basket. Please come for refills when it starts getting low.”
“Okay, is there anything else I need to know?” I picked up the basket and stood by the doorway.
“One last thing. I gave the physical education instructor a note saying that you are exempt from his class, but he is currently trying to find an alternative way to get you to participate. Until he comes to an agreement with Headmaster Crowley, you can just come here during your scheduled P.E. classes.”
“Okay, thank you!” I waved to the nurse.
“See you again soon, but hopefully not for an injury,” the nurse joked.
I laughed a bit as I exited the infirmary, waving once again to the injured Magical Shift player. I walked down the halls of Night Raven College. I was later than I expected. The sun hovered in the sky with an afternoon glow. I travelled down the maze of halls and stairs and got turned around multiple times. I sighed after passing what looked like the same classroom for the third time. As I went around the corner, I collided with another person. I dropped the basket with the impact with a loud crack.
“Oh! I’m so sorry Viv! I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention!” Deuce profusely apologized. “Let me pick up your things.”
My eyes snapped wide when he bent down, “No, no! That’s fine! I got it!” I quickly dropped to my knees and scooped up some of the packaging that bounced out of the picnic basket.
“Huh? Oh, uh, are you sure?”
“YES!” I responded with a touch more emphasis than I intended. Deuce blinked a few times while he stood back up. I scrunched up my nose at my old blunder. “Sorry, didn’t mean to sound so aggressive there.”
“You’re alright. I’ve done the same thing,” Deuce put his hand to his chin.
“So,” I awkwardly tried to change the subject, “where are you heading in such a hurry?”
“I have to get Ace, but he went to see Prefect Yuu and Grim at Ramshackle,” he seemed aggravated.
“That’s where I’m heading too. Well, I’ve been trying anyway. I’m totally lost as of now,” I laughed as I sat back on my knees. I picked up the basket and got to my feet. “I thought I remembered the way Yuu took to show me where the infirmary was, but I guess not.”
“They weren’t able to guide you back?”
“No, they had to do some tasks from Headmaster Crowley and the nurse wanted to discuss some things with me. We decided it would be best to split up.”
“Well, don’t worry! I know where to go!” Deuce held his fist to his heart.
I laughed a bit, “Well then, lead the way.”
“This way,” Deuce smiled at me. He glanced at the floor and stopped. “Oh, it looks like you forgot something.” He bent down to pick up a small box that I failed to locate.
“Ah!” I reached out to stop him, but he already held it in his hand. He looked down at the label and I saw him raise his eyebrows.
“Viv, isn’t this-,”
I snatched the box from his hand as fast as lightning. I shoved it into the basket and gave him a closed eyed smile, “You were in a hurry, right? We should really get going.” I speed walked down the hallway.
“Ah, Viv wait up! That isn’t the right way!” Deuce called after me as he picked up the pace.
We took the steps on the front porch to the front door of Ramshackle dorm. The walk over was filled with tense silence on my part.
He saw the box. Please, oh please, let Deuce be one of those dense guys that doesn’t know what a box of pads looks like.
I sighed for the fifth time during our walk when I opened the door. Deuce rushed inside, in search for Ace. I trudged in behind, placing the picnic basket onto a dusty table in the foyer.
I’ll put that stuff in the bathroom once we fix it…
“Why are you freaking out?!” I heard Ace’s voice from the living room. I shuffled over to the archway and stood to watch the conversation.
“Clover fell down the stairs! He’s injured!” Deuce relayed the information in a stressed tone. Everyone sat up.
“No way!” Grim choked. “Even Four-Eyes Treu got injured?!”
“I don’t think Trey would be that clumsy,” Yuu let out a worried statement.
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound like him at all,” Ace agreed.
I searched my memories for this “Trey” character but came up empty. I waved hand and inquired, “Uh, who are we talking about?”
“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t met him yet,” Yuu answered. “Trey Clover is an upperclassman and vice-dorm leader of Heartslabyul. He helped us with the whole ‘Overblot Riddle’ ordeal.”
“Let’s go ask him what happened!” Grim ran out the door. Yuu scrambled up and ran after him. Ace and Deuce followed suit and I brought up the rear, still confused.
We walked through the rose garden that led to the Heartslabyul dorm. Ace and Deuce led the way while Yuu entertained my gushing over the magic mirror. “That was something out of a fantasy movie! Oh my goodness, that was so cool!”
“I know! It still amazes me each time,” Yuu smiled.
“It isn’t that impressive,” Ace scoffed.
“Excuse me?” I turned my head to Ace with some attitude. “Listen here, we came from a world where the most magical thing is someone pulling a rabbit from their hat. A mirror that can teleport you is freaking amazing!”
He seemed caught off guard at my response, but it he quickly got a mischievous grin on his face. “You have the same childlike naivety Yuu had when they first arrived.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, “Good. We always need more child-like wonder in the world.”
As we were talking, we had entered the dorm building and were walking down twisted hallways. Ace and Deuce led us into a slightly spacious room. “Pardon us,” Ace politely announced.
“Clover, are you okay?” Deuce worriedly asked.
“Oh Glasses! We came to check on you!” Grim announced.
Two people I didn’t recognize were in the room. There was a boy with ginger hair in a half-up half-down look and green eyes. Under his right eye was a small red diamond. In the bed was a boy with short, spikey green hair and yellow eyes. He wore glasses and had a small club symbol under his left eye.
The ginger greeted us with a friendly wave. “Oh? It’s an A-Deuce Combo! You guys brought the other two as well! And there seems to be a new face among them too.”
“Oh, my name is Vivienne Abiba! I’m the new member of Ramshackle Dorm,” I quickly introduced myself.
“Well, nice to meet you too, little Vivi! I’m Cater Diamond and the patient over here is Trey Clover,” Cater introduced.
“Nice to meet you Vivienne,” Trey waved.
“What happened?” Ace asked.
“Ah, I just missed a step on the stairs,” Trey explained. So far, he gave off the most maturity of the people I have met at this school. “I was trying to b careful during the fall, but my right leg ended up getting injured the most.”
“That sounds really bad!” Deuce remarked.
“It looks like I can’t compete in the Magift tournament this year,” Trey concluded.
“Hmm,” I tapped Yuu on the shoulder. “Is it just me, or is this really suspicious?”
“It is definitely suspicious,” they agreed.
Grim climbed on the edge of Trey’s bed. “I would have let it go if it was a small injury, but,” Grim pulled out a can from who knows where, “here, have some canned tuna. Get better soon, okay Four-eyes?”
Trey accepted the gift with an amused smile, “Hah, thank you.”
“Geez, give me a break,” Cater sighed as he played with his hair. “Not only did we lose our top player, but now the player selection has to be redone.”
“Player Selection?!” Ace and Deuce said in unison. They had a twinkle in their eyes. It made me nervous.
Before anything else was said, a knock on the door garnered our attention. In came Riddle with his usual stern face. “Why are all of you gathered in an injured person’s room?” he asked.
“Ah! It’s the irritable Riddle!” Grim exclaimed. I brought my hand to my mouth to stifle my laughter.
“Irritable, you say? As long as you follow the rules, I won’t get mad,” Riddle said. “And Abiba, I hope you are not forgetting you have a tutoring session this evening.”
“Do not worry, I remember,” I responded with a hand over my heart.
“Good. Trey, how is your condition fairing? Do you want anything to eat or drink?” Riddle turned his attention to the injured student. His demeanor softened.
“I told you already, I’m fine. You all don’t need to worry so much,” Trey repeated himself.
“But…you were hurt because of me,” Riddle pouted. It was the first time I saw him pout.
“What do you mean?” Ace questioned.
Riddle began to recount his tale of how he was walking back to class when he started to fall. Trey was the one to break his fall. The way he described it was eerily similar to the student’s story in the infirmary.
Yuu muttered under their breath, “Suspicious.”
I felt bad for the guy. In an instant he is unable to help his dorm in this large event. I wished I could have just taken his pain away. It wasn’t like I had to compete, so I could deal with the pain for him. When I saw everyone worry about him, I could tell he was a good guy. One with a lot of friends who cared about him.
Cater ushered us out of the room to a small seating area. The atmosphere changed when Riddle spoke, “So Cater, there was something you couldn’t say in front of Trey?”
Cater smirked, “Just as I suspected. You’re quite observant Riddle. You might know something about how Trey got hurt, right Yuu?”
We all turned to Yuu. They scratched their head, “Actually…”
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
After Yuu had told them what we already knew, the others agreed to help us find the perpetrator. We devised a plan to catch the culprit. If we could figure out who they planned on going after next, we could try and act like bodyguards and stop the perp in the act.
“A student as the culprit? Who are you thinking?” Yuu asked.
“You are quick to start,” Cater teased. “Actually, we have some ideas on who might be the next targets. I’ll share the info to the group chat.”
“Y’all have a group chat? I don’t think I even have my phone,” I muttered.
“I don’t either. It is just between the Heartslabyul guys,” Yuu reassured me.
“Diamond, this is really helpful,” Deuce thanked his senior.
“It’s nothing really!” Cater brushed it off while striking a pose. “Shall we go check on soe of the potential targets?”
“Let’s go!” Grim cheered.
The first place we checked was the Pomefiore dorm, but that didn’t lead us anywhere. The possible target didn’t seem likely to be the next on the hit list. We moved on. We walked in the school’s courtyard while Cater filled us in one who we were looking for next.
“Next two are from the Octavinelle dorm. We have to investigate second year brothers Jade and Floyd Leech,” Cater read out. “Word on the street is these two are very strong. Especially when playing together.”
“The ultimate double team,” I commented.
“Ah! There they are! Duck down!” Cater told us. We all ducked behind a line of shrubbery. I was between Riddle and Grim in the marching order. Cater was in the lead. Yuu, Ace, and Deuce were behind Grim in that order.
“Who are we hiding from?” I asked in a whisper yell.
“Those two by the well,” Cater pointed out.
“Woah!” Grim gasped as he saw the targets. “They have the same exact face!”
I peered over the bush. I raised an eyebrow when I saw them.
I wouldn’t say the exact same face, but they sure are close.
They both had pale skin like a sandy beach and their jawlines were the same. The brothers had short, turquoise blue hair with a long navy streak. On one of the brothers, the streak fell along the left side of his face. His hair looked neatly brushed and framed the scaled earring the hung from his left ear. He wore his uniform properly tucked and buttoned and an unreadable smile adorned his face.
The other brother was far more unkept. The navy streak fell on the right side of his face. The rest appeared like he had a minor case of bedhead. A scaled earring that matched his brother’s accessory hung from his right ear. His uniform was wrinkled and all over the place. His dress shirt was untucked with a few of the top buttons undone. His greyed lavender vest was not buttoned and his blazer looked like he threw it on last minute.
Ace inhaled sharply as he whispered his comment, “Also, um, these two are so tall they can make anyone look small just by standing next to them.”
“Great, more people to just tower above me,” I huffed.
“They look slender, but their tall stature makes them seem pretty strong,” Grim added on. While the others talked, I kept staring at the wild looking brother.
I admit, he is slightly attractive. Wait, wouldn’t that mean his brother is attractive too since they look alike? Nevermind that, we need to make sure they’re okay. Once we do that, it will just be a hop, jump, and skip away to solving this matter.
Deuce’s voice brought me out of my thoughts, “Do you want us to check up these two?”
Riddle mulled over the question. “Hmm. If I was the culprit, I would aim for these two last,” he voiced. “Those two – but especially Floyd – I don’t want to get too close to.”
I was about to ask why, but a shadow loomed over us and stopped my voice.
“Ah~ it’s the little Goldfish!” came the most adorable cry of excitement I ever heard come from a teenager. Despite how cute it was, the face that looked down at us from the other side of the shrubbery was eerily shocking. I jumped where I sat. My body and head pushed into the shrub behind me.
“Uh! He saw me…” Riddle jumped.
“Little Goldfish, what are you doing here? Playing hide-and-seek? Looks like funn~!” the disheveled twin went on. It was like watching a kid meeting up with a friend on the playground. My shoulders dropped slowly.
“F-Floyd, how many times must I tell you to stop calling me by weird nicknames?” Riddle tried regaining his composure.
“But aren’t you small and red like a goldfish?” Floyd asked.
I bit my lip. He ain’t wrong, but that doesn’t make the nickname any less demeaning…
“What a weird guy…” Grim grumbled.
“Aaaaahh~! A talking cat! How funny~,” he gave a wide smile. I could see all his sharp, razor teeth. He moved his face closer. “Hey hey, can I squeeze you?”
“Squ-Squeeze me?! Knock it off!” Grim frantically swatted away his hands.
“Oh my. Everyone from Heartslabyul is here together,” the brother made an appearance. His voice was much calmer. “Are we inspecting our enemies before the Magical Shift tournament?”
His voice made my skin shiver. Even with the business smile, there was something off putting about him.
“Well, heheh, we have a, uh, a lot of reasons for this…” Cater tried to explain.
“Well, we cannot just simply overlook this act of espionage go now, can we?” his words and expression were at a disconnect. “Can you explain to us in more detail about why you were watching us?”
“Oh, we are so dead…” I slipped out.
I must not have been the only one to get that feeling. Cater popped up from his spot and announced, “Sorry for disturbing you~!”
The others followed suit and scattered. Floyd tried to grab Grim, but Yuu was faster. They held the cat monster and made a run for it. Whether it was from fear of the twins or of Grim making the situation worse, I had no clue. Jade went after Cater, who jumped over landscaping.
I tried doing the same, but I was pulled back down into the bush. “What the-,” when I tried to get up again, I realized my braids were tangled in the branches. “Oh, you got to be kidding me right now!”
I squirmed to free myself. I heard the branches snap, but my hair did not give. “Come on, just how tangled up are you?!”
“Oh look! One of the little fishies stayed behind!” the sing-song voice of one the wild brother made me halt.
“Nope! No little fishy here! Just a talking shrub!” I nervously blurted out.
“Heh heh~. This one’s funny!” He squatted to my height.
He leaned closer, with a smile. I saw his eyes and went slack jawed. I never thought I’d see someone in person with heterochromia. His right eye was a bright gold while his left was olive-green. I forced a swallow and feigned surprise. “Oh no, you got me!” I put my hands on the side of my face like in that one famous painting. I took my magic pen that was tucked behind my ear and pointed it at him. “Levitate!”
My arms dropped and I gritted my teeth. Gosh darn magic! When I actually needed you, you don’t work!
“Hahaha! All roar, no bite!” Floyd chuckled, but it didn’t last long. In a slimy voice he purred, “You’re fun, Leafy Sea Dragon.”
Shivers went up my back. I wanted out of that situation. He reached out a hand and I flinched back. Two sets of arms pulled me up and over the shrubs before he grabbed a hold of me. The rest of the branches holding my hair broke and came with me. I didn’t pay attention to the sting on my scalp. When I looked, Ace and Deuce were dragging me away from the scary upperclassmen.
“Uwah! They’re chasing us!” Deuce yelled.
“Hey! Wait~!” Floyd whined. “I want to play with the Leafy Sea Dragon more~.”
“Who would wait after all that?! Retreat!” Riddle ordered. Ace and Deuce placed me on the ground. I ran between them. I frantically pulled the remaining branches from my hair, all while ignoring the heat growing on my face.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
We collected ourselves after escaping from the twins. Riddle went back to the Heartslabyul dorm to make sure no one was breaking any rules. The rest of us went to the Savanaclaw dormitory to check on our last possible target of the day. I was thoroughly on edge at this point. I threw the last twig and leaves from my hair as we passed through the mirror.
I just want to go back to Ramshackle. The only things I have to worry about there are if my foot is going to break through the floor and if the ghosts are peeping at me.
I found myself out in the middle of the savanna. I guess the naming of the dorm was very literal. I took in my surroundings along with the rest of the group.
“So, this is the Savanaclaw dormitory,” Deuce whistled.
“The dorm building looks like rocks!” Grim pointed out. He walked up to the skull of some large bovine animal. “Where did these bones come from?”
“I think it’s better that we don’t know,” Yuu said. They pulled him back to the group.
“So, this Jack Howl guy? What kind of person is he?” Ace asked Cater.
“He is tan with silver hair. His unique ears and fluffy tail are his trademarks,” Cater described him.
As he said this, I saw a white fluff ball moving in the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see someone that matched his description. “You said fluffy tail, right? Is that the guy? The one jogging in the tall grass?”
“Bingo! Good job Vivi!” Cater praised.
Ace could not hide the astonishment in his voice, “First those tall twins and now this guy?!” Ace’s reaction was valid. This Jack fellow was also tall, but he had the muscles to go with it. His gold eyes scowled at his surroundings. This guy looked like he could easily snap a person in half if he felt like it.
His ears and tail are very cute. They mostly make up for how scary he looks. Reminds me of a puppy!
“He looks a little scary…” Yuu voiced beside me.
“It is okay! Everything will be fine, relax~!” Cater waved his hands in front of him in a dismissive manner. With a wink he promised, “I’ll protect you if he tries to bite us!”
“If he tries to bite us, I’m jumping right through that mirror and going to sleep in Ramshackle!” I told him.
As we were talking, Grim had taken it up on himself to approach our fellow freshman. “Hey you! Spikey head!”
Yuu and I simultaneously facepalmed.
“Hah?” Jack looked down at Grim. His face curled up in a confused snarl.
“You might be targeted by some bad guys. Not to worry, I’m gonna protect you!”
Grim, your confidence comes at the most inopportune times…He could easily throw you out of orbit.
To prove my point, the Jack guy visibly got ticked off. “Who the hell are you? Get out of my way.”
Cater and Ace swooped in to salvage the situation. “Wait Grim! That isn’t how you talk to people!” Cater scolded as Ace restrained the lively monster. “Sorry about that, but please listen to what we have to say.”
“Who the hell are you guys suddenly? Saying that you’re gonna protect me?” he growled.
“He looks like he is going to kill us,” I whispered to Yuu. The others tried to explain out arrival.
“Yeah…Almost everyone looks like that at this school,” they whispered back.
“I refuse,” I heard Jack reject Cater. “I can protect myself. I don’t need you to do that.”
“But being alone can be dangerous,” I spoke up. He turned his cold glare at me. I automatically hid behind Yuu.
They gave me a pat on the head before taking over from me, “Just in case anything happens, it is better to have more people around.”
“I said I don’t need it,” Jack snarled. Yuu and I took a step back. He flinched at our movement. Jack avoided his gaze and mumbled, “Plus, I might not even be targeted…See ya.”
As he jogged away, I plopped my butt in the sandy dirt. “Oh, this is not good for my heart!”
Grim grumbled in Ace’s hands, “This whole thing is just awkward and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Anyone would get annoyed by the way you talk to them,” Ace stated.
“Humans are so annoying!” Grim complained. “They get bothered so easily!”
“Hey! What are you guys doing over there?” a low, gruff voice cut in. Three large mem, all with animal features, came over.
“We should probably get out of here,” Yuu suggested.
“You think you can just go back to your dorm after stepping into our territory?”
Hng! This pattern…” Deuce pointed out.
“You got to be kidding me!” I groaned. I slapped my hands to the ground. The three were provoking us, obviously. My nerves were already spent. I was having a hard time not throwing some verbal blows back at them.
“Knock it off,” the grumpy cat from the mirror chamber walked on the scene. Next to him was the dirty blonde from lunch the other day.
“Prefect Leona!” the aggressors excitedly greeted. “These runts are trespassing in our territory.”
I got to my feet defiantly, “Slow your roll bud! Can we not visit other dorms?”
“Oh, aren’t you the ones I met at the cafeteria?” the shorter one recalled.
Grim pointed an accusatory paw, “Ah! You! Deluxe minced cutlet sandwich!”
“My name isn’t a meal! It’s manly!” the boy corrected. “I’m Ruggie! Ruggie Bucchi!”
“Now that I got a better look at you, aren’t you the herbivore that stepped on my tail in the garden?” Leona glared at Yuu.
“You did what?!” I exclaimed.
“It was an accident!” Yuu retorted. “I apologized when it happened!”
“Leona! Ruggie! We should beat them up!” the others suggested.
“Stop your hollering, idiots,” Leona ordered. “We’ll be disqualified from the tournament if we engage in violence.”
Oh, maybe he isn’t so bad. If he is a dorm leader then he must be sensible and fair. Right?
“Let’s treat them to a game of Magift,” his lips curled into an evil grin.
“Shishishi! Leona, you’re so mean,” Ruggie chuckled. “These weaklings won’t stand a chance!”
“Excuse you! That comment was entirely unneeded!” I crossed my arms. “We have no reason to-,”
“You’re on, Deluxe minced cutlet thief!” Grim fell for the taunt and accepted the challenge. The other members of Heartslabyul begrudgingly joined as well. I rubbed my temples, as they herded us to football like field.
“Prefect Yuu, Vivi. Make sure you guys watch from somewhere safe,” Cater instructed. “If you see any funny business, be sure to let me know.”
We both nodded and made our way to the sideline. “Why don’t you play too Viv?” Yuu asked me as we sat on a bench.
“My magic is, well uh, finicky. I wouldn’t be reliable enough,” I chuckled. I covered my mouth from the players on the field and whispered to them, “Plus, I’m worried that if it really is like American football, I’ll get tackled. If that happened my cover might be blown do to a certain squishy factor.”
“I didn’t think about that. That is a valid reason,” Yuu clicked their tongue. “Keeping that secret is going to be tough.”
“Eh, I’m not really worried. The nurse gave me some stuff to help,” I waved off Yuu’s concerns. “And so far, everyone at this school seems a little dense.”
“You aren’t wrong.”
We both laughed as the game amongst the boys started.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
“We were totally goofing off when we played with the ghosts,” I rambled as I watched the massacre that was the Magift match. I was painful to see the Heartslabyul guys get decimated.
Yuu winced as the Savanaclaw members scored another point. “This seems much more stressful.”
The members from Heartslabyul slumped onto the ground. Yuu and I jumped from our seats. I could see the mocking smiles on the Savanaclaw faces. It was like they were toying with us. I jogged on the field with Yuu catching up behind me. “Guys, are you okay?!”
I knelt beside Cater. Fly-aways clung to his forehead with sweat. “We can’t win against them like this,” he heaved.
“It will be fine, just take a breather there,” I assured. My hands awkwardly hovered in the air.
“What’s the matter? Giving up already?” Leona’s cocky question made my blood boil. I glared at him while Yuu checked on the others.
“Shishishi! What happened to all that big talk?” Ruggie mocked.
“Hey herbivores, get up. Let’s play one more game,” Leona demanded.
“Listen here you…you…big old brutes!” I got up and marched closer to the two. “You’ve clearly won so let us leave!” I looked up at him with a crinkle in my nose and my snaggle tooth on display. I took a lot of effort on my part to not cuff him behind his ear.
Leona looked down at me with a roll of his eyes. “Out of the way runt,” he scoffed. He pushed me aside and strutted towards Cater.
My feet tangled with each other when Leona pushed my shoulder. Considering the height difference, it was no surprise that that small amount of force was enough to topple me over. “Woah!” I gasped when I put my arms out to regain my balance to no avail. I let out a grunt when my back hit the compact earth.
“Vivienne!” Yuu yelled. They ran to my side to sit me up, “You alright?”
“Huh? Are they new or something?” Ruggie muttered.
“Oh,” Leona looked back at me on the ground, “you’re that human who just showed up.”
Oh, so now you recognize me. I thought while I winced. A stinging sensation shot through my butt as I tried to stand.
“Just stop this already!” Yuu pleaded as they helped me up.
“Just what are you all doing?” the angry growl of Jack joined in. He looked pissed off.
“We’re just playing with the herbivores who trespassed on our territory,” was Leona’s nonchalant answer.
“What’s so fun about bullying innocent people?” Jack snarled.
I brushed the dust from my pants. At least this one has some morals.
“What’s this? Jack is trying to play the hero?” Ruggie teased.
“I can’t stand by watching any longer!”
I bit my tongue. I wanted to snap as to why he didn’t step in sooner. I could tell this was a dorm matter, so my involvement would just make things worse. Still, I hated the feeling of being some prey that was played with. I wanted to be done with them. The tension left the group when Leona grew bored of the argument and decided to let us go. The original three aggressors and Ruggie left with Leona. Jack stayed behind with us.
Yuu bowed their head to Jack, “Thank you…”
“Jack, was it?” Deuce followed suit and bowed in gratitude. “Thanks for saving us.”
I nodded my head. I didn’t trust my mouth to not say something stupid if I opened it. I stood to the side. Yuu stepped to the side with me. They placed a hand on my shoulder, which I gave a long sigh as a response.
“It was nothing,” Jack averted his eyes. “I didn’t come here just to save you guys.”
“Alright then Jack. We are heading out now. Make sure to take care,” Cater said farewell for us.
“I told you I don’t need your concern. Hurry and go!”
It was the middle of the night. I was too agitated to fall asleep. With all the hijinks that happened today I felt like I had aged 20 years. I kicked one of the old trees that stood tall in the Ramshackle courtyard.
“Stupid Headmaster giving us this task. Crazy people trying to fight everything!” I grumbled with each blow to the trunk.
“Vivienne? Are you alright?” Yuu’s gentle voice came from behind me. “Why are you beating up a tree in the dead of night?”
I turned around to face them. I sheepishly shuffled my braids. “I couldn’t sleep. I’m too wound-up,” I told them. “What about you?”
Yuu shrugged, “Grim’s a loud sleep talker.” I chuckled when they said that. “Plus, I was being bugged by some intrusive thoughts…”
From there we started to walk and talk. The topics varied. We went from classwork to the current mystery and then to the integrity of the dorm. As we walked down the path surrounding Ramshackle, the wind grew chilly. The soft whistle in the leaves took up the silence we let grow.
“Do you think we’ll be able to go back home?” Yuu asked. They weren’t looking at me. Their hair hung just over their eyes, but I could make out a faint gloss in their eyes.
I took a deep breath and exhaled into the stary sky. “I like to think that we will. Otherwise, I’ll just get buries in all the ‘what-ifs’ that pop-up.”
“You at least have magic. You could find something to do after your time here. Me? I’m just a normal human. The only reason I’m able to take classes is because Grim is with me,” Yuu vented.
“What about you is normal? You have managed to survive two monster fights and made friends along the way. I’ve just inserted myself into your friend group. And even without magic, you’ve gained the respect of a whole other dorm!” I nudged their shoulder. “Perk up a bit!”
“Heehee, you sure have a way of putting people at ease,” Yuu nudged me back.
“Not to sure about that, but thanks anyway.”
We walked in silence a bit longer. The cool air of the night got rid of the remaining anger I had. Exhaustion took its place. The music of the night was the perfect lullaby.
I yawned, “I’m going to head back in. You coming?”
“Nah, I’m going to stay out a bit more,” Yuu looked up at the sky with a dreamy air.
“Okay. Don’t stay out too late. You might catch a cold.”
“Yes moom,” Yuu jested.
“Oh shut up,” I giggled and punched their shoulder. “Nighty night.”
I walked back to the haunted mansion. A peaceful feeling engulfed me.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
The next morning was with drama early on. Yuu apparently met a strange guy with horns after I left them, and there was news of a fresh victim to interrogate.
We were in the cafeteria for breakfast looking for the dude. We found the student named Jamil Viper sitting with the white-haired ball of sunshine from when I arrived. Jamil was tan with long dark hair and eyes. He had cornrows on the side of his head that went back into a ponytail with the rest his loose hair. He wore a burgundy hoodie under his blazer. His magic jewel was also a burgundy color.
The person across from him had an untucked dress-shirt with a burgundy vest partially buttoned. He had a cream colored cardigan instead of the black blazer.
These guys dress comfy! Maybe I should try and get a hoodie for my uniform too. It would be easier to hide my figure with that.
Grim took the lead with his brash way of talking, “Yo, you’re the one who got injured in the kitchen last night, right? Let’s talk for a bit.”
“Ah! That’s the racoon who set my butt on fire during the entrance ceremony!” the cardigan wearing boy flipped out. Jamil looked annoyed. That could just be his face too. I looked at Yuu who just nodded in confirmation.
“I’m not a racoon! I’m the Great Grim! And this is Yuu and Viv!” Grim corrected.
“Oh, I see! I am the Scarabia dorm leader, Kalim, and this is the vice dorm leader, Jamil. Nice to meet you!” Kalim enthusiastically introduced. He was a welcomed ray of sunshine from what has been happening.
“…So? Why do you want to know about my injury?” Jamil cut in.
Yuu explained, with Cater and Riddle adding bits along the way. Jamil accepted the circumstance and recalled his tale. Every now and then, Kalim would try to go off topic but Jamil quickly steered him back on course. It was like it was second nature to him. He did mention one thing that was different from what any of the other victims said.
“While I was cooking, I felt like I lost consciousness for a moment,” Jamil described.
“Was it dizziness?” Yuu prodded.
“Most would think so, but I remember feeling that sensation before,” Jamil informed us. “It could be someone’s unique magic.”
That’s right! I forgot people here had that! Yuu mentioned it before.
After a little kerfuffle between Jamil and Kalim, Jamil guessed, “Anyway, I believe the culprit used their magic to control the actions of the victim.”
“That explains why nothing seemed off except to the person being controlled,” Cater connected the points.
“And in the moment, the victim isn’t able to tell if they are just being careless or controlled,” Riddle added.
“Can’t people usually see magic?” I asked. I thought back to my first day of classes.
“If the spell has a visible aspect, then yes. Not all spells have one though,” Riddle explained. “It is rare that someone can see the magic. It is more common for magicians to be able to feel it when they are in direct contact, like casting or receiving.”
“If it really is someone’s unique magic, then it’d be impossible to find the culprit. What should we do?” Cater fretted.
“I think I have an idea of who it might be,” I raised my hand. Everyone looked at me. “Grim, do you remember when you got that deluxe sandwich?”
“Yeah! If I had that kind of magic, I could steal all the bread I want!” He schemed. I pinched my nose.
“What if someone already got that idea?” I prompted. Yuu and Grim looked at me with confused eyes.
“Ah?!!” Grim screamed. Everyone jumped. “Do you mean him?!”
I nodded. “The culprit is Ruggie Bucchi.”
“How’d you guess that?” Yuu asked me.
“Back when Grim ‘traded’ his sandwich, I saw a stream of sparkling dust extend from Ruggie to Grim. I didn’t mention anything back then because I didn’t understand how magic worked,” I explained. “I still don’t really get it, but I have gotten better…I think.”
“By Ruggie…do you mean the one from Savanaclaw?” Cater was shocked.
“We must find him and interrogate him,” Riddle said.
We thanked Kalim and Jamil for their help. Cater led us out of the cafeteria to the classroom Ruggie was in. Grim burst through the door, “We’re coming in! Where is Ruggie Buchi!”
“Grim! That isn’t how you ask for someone!” Yuu reprimanded.
“Yeah?” Ruggie got up and lazily got up and walked over. When he saw us, his expression turned sour, “Ugh, you guys again?”
“I’m not particularly fond of seeing your mug either,” I crossed my arms. Yuu pulled me to the back of the group to let the others deal with it.
“No matter how many times you ask, I’m not repaying you for that deluxe minced cutlet sandwich,” Ruggie smirked.
“This boy…” I growled.
Riddle sternly said, “Ruggie Bucchi, we would like to speak with you about the consecutive injury cases regarding certain students.”
Ruggie dropped the class clown act. “Well, this doesn’t sound like a nice topic…”
“Would you mind coming with us for a bit?” Cater asked politely. His tone was bone chilling.
“I got it, don’t worry,” Ruggie quickly caved in. “Just don’t hurt me or anything.”
“If you don’t do anything worthy of a butt whooping, you won’t get one,” I bluntly told him. Yuu shot me a surprised look. I just shrugged. “What? It’s true. My Gran and my parents would always tell that.”
I repositioned my magic pen behind my ear. Riddle and Cater led Ruggie out of the room. I brought up the rear with Yuu. We left the classroom with the other students whispering to each other.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
We walked down the hall. Grim, Riddle, and Cater led the way and Yuu and I sandwiched Riddle in the middle. I glared at the back of Ruggie’s head as we kept walking down the corridors.
“Ease up a bit on the eyes Viv,” Yuu whispered to me.
“No,” was my short reply.
“Man, I smell something burning,” Ruggie turned around to look me in the eyes. “Oh wait, it’s just the back of my head. Shishishi!”
“If only I could cast fireball. I’d show you burning,” I grumbled.
“For a human, you sure are feisty. I still can’t believe Leona didn’t mention that someone else came through the doors from another world. Of course, I do remember he wasn’t happy to be called by the Headmaster so early in the morning,” Ruggie rambled.
He slowed his pace, “I’m just saying that it is amazing that another magicless human made their way into this school.”
I raised me eyebrow, “Excuse you? I have magic.”
“Oh? Well good for you,” Ruggie reached out a hand like he was going to pat my head. I swatted him away and took a few steps back.
We stopped at an intersection of hallways. We surrounded Ruggie. It looked like a mugging to anyone on the outside. There was a moment of silence as each side pondered their next move.
“With my ‘Off-With-Your-Head’…” Riddle’s mumbling broke the silence first.
“Oh yeah~? Are you sure it’s safe to do that without your magic pen Riddle?” Ruggie teased.
“Eh?!” Riddle paused and checked his person. “I don’t have my magic pen!”
“Hey Cater, my pen is gone too!” Grim looked to see his jewel pendant gone.
“No way!” Cater searched for his too. “Seriously?!”
“Shishishi! You’re all a bunch of rich kids huh?” Ruggie held up his trophies. Two magic pens and one magic collar nestled between his fingers. “You were all wide open!”
“You little thief!” I yelled. My hand shot up to my ear with the expectation for my pen to be missing, but I found it among my braids. “Huh?”
“You weren’t so open, runt,” Ruggie started, “but you can’t even use it, so I have nothing to worry about!”
“Oh, I’m gonna throttle him,” I rolled up my sleeves. Yuu grabbed my arm to hold me back.
“Fyna?!” Grim made a cat-like interjection. “When did he use magic to steal our magic pens?!”
“Didn’t need to~. No magic needed to steal from you guys,” Ruggie gloated. “The runt already made it clear that I’m going to get attacked if I stay here, so I’ll be off~! Bye-bye!” Ruggie ran off.
“Ah! Wait!!!” Grim called out.
“If you don’t stop this instant it’s off with your head!” Riddle threatened. Ruggie kept running regardless. “OFF WITH-,”
“Wait a sec Riddle! You’re still recovering from Blot so don’t over do it!” Cater stopped him.
I ran after the bandit with Yuu and Grim. As we ran, Ace and Deuce came around the corner.
“Ah! Ace! Deuce! Perfect timing!” Cater called as he ran up.
Ace looked at us with a scrunched brow. “Eh? What’s going on? Why such the rush?”
“The culprit behind the injury cases and the one who stole our magic pens ran away!” Riddle’s face was the same shade as his hair. Veins popped out of his forehead. “You all go and capture Ruggie Bucchi right now! You know what will happen if you don’t, UNDERSTAND?!”
I now know why they were terrified of him.
“But this got nothing to do with us!” Ace protested.
“You two got this! I believe in you!” Yuu cheered.
“I’ll help you guys! I still have my magic pen. Plus, I want to stick it to that punk!” I bared my gloved fist for emphasis.
“But, your magic level is…” Deuce grimaced.
“Huh?” I snarled. “Do you think I haven’t been practicing?!”
“Just shut it and start running!” Ace pulled Deuce’s collar. The three of us ran through the halls after Ruggie. Yuu and the others followed a length behind.
I imitated how Ace and Deuce flicked their pens to send a blast of magic aimed at Ruggie. Theirs made bright blasts on Ruggie’s perimeters. On my fourth try, I managed to send a similar arrow of light at Ruggie’s back. It crackled and popped like a small firecracker right over his left shoulder. Ruggie turned around with a jolt. Wide eyes looked back at us, but they went back to being a cheeky glare. We kept running without gaining an inch.
He’s a speedy bugger, I’ll give him that. I huffed in my head. We ran through a corridor with an open balcony to the outside. Ruggie cut to the right towards the railing. He leapt over the rails from the second story to the path below.
“What? How?!” Deuce yelled when he ran up to the railing.
“There’s a stairwell around the corner, but at this pace we’re going to lose him!” Ace clicked his tongue.
I peered over the rails at a patch of bushes below. “I’m gonna jump.”
“Ehhh?!” Ace reacted. “Are you CRAZY?!”
“You take the stairs then! While you’re at it, you can explain to Riddle how you let him get away with their magic pens!” I yelled at him as I backed away. I ran at the railings and hurdled over them. I flailed my arms and legs a bit as I fell.
“VIV!” Deuce called down. He and Ace ran from the balcony to the stairs around the corner. I landed in the middle of the shrubs when Ruggie made a quick turn down a path in the opposite direction. I scrambled to get off the bush and followed. Leaves decorated my head and shoulders.
Well, that was a rush. Never doing it again though.
I rolled my head around as I ran after Ruggie. I heard footsteps get louder behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see that Ace and Deuce were gaining again. I sighed. I looked ahead of me again and my face slammed into something firm, yet soft. I stumbled backwards and quickly yelled my apologies, “I’m sorry! In a hurry! Emergency! So sorry!”
“It’s Leafy Sea Dragon~!” a familiar chirpy voice cooed.
I craned my neck up and took a step back. The wild Octavinelle twin towered over me with a sharp tooth grin. Time seemed to stop as we stared at each other.
“Dang he’s tall,” I clapped both my hands over my mouth the instant I said it.
Did I just say that out loud?! Noo! That was supposed to be a thought blurb!! Ahh, I’m going to die! If not by him, from my embarrassment! Tell my mother I lover her! Agh!
He brought a hand towards me. I squeezed my eyes shut and braced for the worst. “Heehee~,” he giggled. I peaked with one eye and saw him pull a leaf from my head. “I’m tall like a tree~.”
My head went blank. “Huh…”
“Viv! Come on!” Ace yelled as he and Deuce ran past.
“Ah! I’m coming!” I ran around the upperclassman and yelled over my shoulder, “Sorry again for running into you!”
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
We had Ruggie cornered in the courtyard. Ace, Deuce and I panted heavily. Ruggie looked as relaxed as can be. Yuu and Grim came up shortly.
“Shishishi, this is nothing compared to the slums I grew up in,” Ruggie put his hands behind his head. “Even if you catch me you have no way in proving that I did it, you know?”
Deuce looked pissed off, “…What did you say?”
“There’s no proof I hurt anyone right? Did anyone see me using magic? Do you have any photographic evidence? You have nothing then, huh?” his face grew smugger.
I mean, he isn’t wrong. That just makes it worse though.
“You coward!” Yuu yelled to his face. It was odd seeing them get worked up.
“A coward? Well that’s a choice of words,” Ruggie’s mood went down for a moment. It went back in an instant. “Shishishi, next time you try and come after me, please make sure you come back with some proof. Well, if you can even catch me next time.”
“Ungh! This is so infuriating!” Grim whined.
“You’re just a little weasel!” I spat.
“I’m a hyena! Not a weasel!” He corrected me.
That’s what ticked him off? Really?!
“Well, that’s all for our little chase today~. I’ll go ahead a leave your magic pens here. Bye-bye~!” Ruggie put down the pens and scampered off.
“Dammit! This is pissing me off!” Ace ruffled his hair roughly.
I walked to where he placed the pens. An apple tree stoon strong next to it. I kicked it with all my might, an apple fell on the other side. I exhaled some of my anger, but I wasn’t completely calm yet.
“Dorm leader Rosehearts will have our heads for sure,” Deuce withered.
“I wonder what else he’s planning…” Yuu breathed out in a worried tone.
“You guys,” a gruff voice joined, “are you still cluelessly searching for the criminal?”
We all turned to find the owner of the voice. I groaned to myself when I saw. It’s the scary guy again…Jack, was it?
I sighed again and walked to Deuce. It was too early for all of this.
“You should be helping us instead of just watching.” Ace grumbled. “Your upperclassman isn’t a good guy.”
“Why are you so desperate in trying to help others?” Jack asked. He totally ignored Ace’s comments.
“For others?” Deuce titled his head.
“I get you’re trying to help your injured friends, but-,” Jack started on a lecture.
“Hah?” Ace interrupted. “What are you talking about? Who said we were doing this to help others?” It was Jack’s turn to look confused.
“We just want to prove ourselves by catching the criminal to solve this case,” Deuce stated like it was the obvious reason.
“That’s right. We want to be players in the Magift tournament so we can show our skills to the world,” Ace backed up his dormmate.
“I’m gonna catch the criminal so I get to be on TV!” Grim confidently proclaimed.
“I don’t want to get evicted,” Yuu shrugged.
“I’m on the same boat as them,” I pointed to Yuu with my thumb.
“Hmph, I thought I wouldn’t trust people who try too hard just to help others but…” Jack got a smug grin on his face, “you guys are worse than I thought.”
So he didn’t want to help because he thought we were goodie-two-shoes? What type of punk thinking is that?!
“Really? You’re worse than us. You probably knew about it the whole time, huh?” Ace scowled. He didn’t have a fragment of a filter in his head.
A lightbulb turned on above Grim’s head, “Ah? I see now. You’re from the same dorm so you knew you wouldn’t be targeted, huh?”
“…Spar with me,” Jack abruptly requested. It sounded more like an order than a request. I blinked rapidly in shock. My mouth opened and closed to try to find the words to say.
Ace beat me to it, “Ha?! Why all of a sudden?”
“I’ll tell you everything I know, but you have to fight me first,” Jack explained. “If you can show me you are more than just talk, then I’ll tell you anything.”
“What type of backwards logic is that?” I spouted.
“Nah, I really don’t like sweating and stuff,” Ace bailed out. Yuu shook their head and backed off as well.
“I don’t mind at all,” Deuce cracked his knuckles. He had a tough look that I hadn’t seen on him thus far. “Isn’t this an easier way to understand?”
“What?!” I looked at him in surprise.
“Fnyaa! Deuce’s delinquent switch is on!” Grim looked nervous.
“His what switch?” I looked at Yuu for answers.
“Deuce used to be a delinquent in middle school,” Yuu filled me in while they led me away from the boys. “He’s been trying to be a good kid now, but every now and then he reverts back.”
“Is there an enrollment requirement that states you have to be crazy?” I heaved. Deuce and Jack squared up to one another.
“Why does it always end up like this?” Yuu wailed. They rubbed their temples like they had a migraine. I patted them on the back. The scene reminded me of a parent watching their child do a stupid stunt they specifically told them not to do.
The fight was quick, but passionate. Deuce and Jack exchanged punches full of vigor. It was a scene straight out of a “best-of-bros” movie. The cheesiness of the encounter bounced off of me like pellets. In the end, the two boys were battered and bruised.
“You put up a pretty good fight,” Jack praised.
“Ugh…you too…” Deuce winced and clutched his side. “Not too bad yourself.”
Grim, Yuu, Ace and I were lined up to watch it all. Grim was mesmerized, “Your punches sent shocks through my heart.” He was invested in the film-esque friendship.
Ace did not feel the same sentiment. He sighed heavily, “You guys are getting out of control…I don’t care about being a player anymore. This is exhausting.”
Yuu looked over to Ace, “Let’s just run into the sunset and leave these two with their newfound bromance.” Yuu got a tired chuckle out.
“Are you guys okay?” I stepped forward. “You really beat each other up.”
I was ignored. Jack continued on with business. “Alright, now that that’s been settled, I’ll tell you everything I know.”
“What was settled with this?” I muttered. Jack looked sharply at me. I flinched.
“What’s been making my heart race. I’ll be betraying my own dorm after all,” he answered.
I felt a sweat drop roll down my forehead. He changed from tough guy to philosopher on a dime.
“I can’t take it anymore!” Jack yelled. I jumped in place at the sudden raise in volume. I stepped back as he kept going. “No matter how strong your opponent is, it is only a true challenge if you challenge yourself! It makes me want to puke when people use cowardly ways to win. That’s not a true victory. I wanted to use my own power to win and get to the top!”
Ace stated in a hushed tone, “Ah, this guy is kind of annoying…”
“He’s doing this for himself too…” I responded.
“Fraud in a competition is unforgivable!” Yuu joined in.
“Oh bother,” I hung my head in my hands.
“I understand!” Deuce clutched the area over his heart. “I completely understand that feeling!”
“Aaand here’s another annoying guy…” Grim pointed out.
Jack explained what he knew. He told us how Ruggie’s unique magic worked and how he was able to go about unnoticed with the help of other dorm members. It was an elaborate and well thought out plan. If they had put in this much effort in creating strategic plays for the game they wouldn’t have to worry about the other teams.
“Why go so far?” Deuce questioned.
“Well, success in the Magical Shift tournament has a huge impact on a student’s future, right?” Ace deduced. “So, I kind of understand why they’re doing this in a way…”
Jack interrupted Ace with a long, rough growl. It sounded like a wild animal. Jack barred his fangs. The hair on his tail and neck raised. He looked like a wolf ready to attack. I grabbed Grim from Yuu’s shoulder and hugged him. His surprisingly soft fur calmed my nerves a bit.
“I was kidding!” Ace raised his hands to shield himself.
Jack continued with his speech. He ranted about Leona Kingscholar, the dorm leader. Jack growled that Leona was so strong, yet his laziness cuts him short. Although Jack complained, it came off as more of a disappointed fan. When he went back to the topic at hand, he told us of Savanaclaw’s goal; revenge on Malleus Draconia and his dorm, Diasomnia. They had shut them out in the first round for the past two years. The humiliation alone would be enough to break someone’s spirit, but it also crushed dreams. This was all to restore the honor of the upperclassmen.
“So, you think they’re planning to do something to Diasomnia on the day of the tournament?” Ace summarized.
“That’s right,” Jack confirmed. “That’s why I want to crush their plan!”
This guy…His morals are good, but his methods are brash.
“I think I have heard enough,” Riddle interjected. He and Cater walked up to us.
“Prefect Rosehearts? Diamond?” Deuce was surprised.
“To think they were going to try and ruin an important traditional event,” Riddle said. “Unforgivable.”
“What should we do Riddle?” Cater asked.
“Well right now we can’t prosecute Ruggie since we don’t have any proof. We are dealing with devious Leona. He will not go down so easily.”
“So we have to catch them red handed,” I surmised.
“I have an idea, but first-,”
“Wait,” Jack interrupted Riddle. “I only said I’d tell you what I know. I have no intentions in joining you guys.”
“Boy, you already betrayed them,” I muttered. Grim was the only one to hear me. He coughed at my choice of words.
“Eh? You came this far, and you still say that?” Cater whined.
“I’ll deal with my dorm issues myself,” Jack declared. “See ya.”
He turned to walk away, but Yuu blocked his way. “Do you think you can do this on your own?” they crossed their arms. They had a defiant gleam in their eyes.
“Huh?” Jack growled. He towered over Yuu.
“Ah! You’re still harsh with your words, huh?” Grim winced.
I guess Yuu has more fight in them than they let on. I grinned.
“The chance of winning one versus a whole dorm is pretty low,” Deuce logically said.
“A wise wolf hunts in a pack,” Yuu mentioned. “If you really want to stop them, join us.”
“Okay then, I’ll hear you out,” Jack backed down. “BUT! If I hear anything I don’t like, I’m out.”
“That sounds like a deal to me!” Yuu put their hands on their hips in triumph.
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
“So, now that you’ve heard Riddle’s plan, what do you think Jack? Will you join us?” Cater asked the wolf boy.
Jack was reluctant to reply. “…It doesn’t sound like a lame plan…I’ll join you guys, but only this time.”
“Hopefully, it will only be this time,” I prayed out loud.
“Well then, let’s go back to our dorms now,” Ace suggested with a yawn, “I’m beat.”
“And I’m hungry,” Grim whined.
“You’re always hungry,” I pointed out.
“Oh, that is right. You first years,” Riddle got our attention, “I will overlook your violation of the rule ‘fighting for your own personal gain’ this time because it did allow us to gather important information. Next time, it will be off with your heads. Understand?”
A collective chill went down our spine. In unison we said, “Yes, we are sorry.”
“Very well. Now then, let’s head back,” Riddle went back to being calm. “Viv, come to Heartslabyul for your next tutoring session.”
“Yes sir,” I stood up straight.
Ugh, after all of that I still have work to do? I can’t seem to catch a break.
“Let’s get ready for the tournament!” Yuu cheerfully clapped their hands. “We’ll see you later tonight at Ramshackle Viv! Don’t push my only other dorm member too hard Riddle!”
“Why do I get the feeling they’re happy to push me off to someone else?” I sighed.
“At least the extra lessons are working,” Ace teased. “You’re now at the same magic level of an elementary student.”
I smirked. “Just watch, I’ll pass you in no time.” I walked with the Heartslabyul members to the Hall of Mirrors.
“That was a crazy stunt you did though. What were you thinking jumping off a balcony?” Deuce scolded.
“I was thinking my tiny legs wouldn’t be able to catch up if I went the long way,” I sarcastically answered.
“What if you got hurt though?”
“Says the dude who I just watched get punched in the gut to earn someone’s trust,” I retorted. I lightly punched Deuce on the upper arm. He winced and rubbed the section I hit. “You came out bruised while I just have a salad stuck on my head.”
“Aww, poor Deucey~” Ace mocked. “You have a boo-boo?”
“Shut up Ace!” Deuce snapped.
“While I appreciate the concern, I’m sturdier than I look,” I got on my tip toes and gave Deuce a pat on the head. “So, you don’t have to worry about me so much.”
“Haha!” Ace laughed. “Back when we started the chase you looked like you were gonna rip Deuce’s head off. Now, you’re patting his head like he’s a small child!”
I pinched Ace’s cheek with my other hand. “That is because y’all act like children.”
“Ow ow, ouch! Let go!” Ace cried. I unhanded him with a smile. He messaged his cheek and grumbled something under his breath.
“We are here. Viv, Cater, come to my office. Ace and Deuce go to your dorm,” Riddle instructed once we got to the dorm hall. I waved goodbye to Ae and Deuce and followed behind Cater and Riddle.
“So, what do you have in store for me today Prefect Riddle,” I asked from behind. “Are you going to teach me the shield spell that you mentioned last time?”
“Later. First, I wanted to test something that you mentioned earlier,” Riddle told me while still looking forward.
“And what did you need me for Riddle?” Cater asked.
“You are going to help with the test, Cater,” Riddle opened the door to a large room with a desk in the center. There was a large space in the center with a few chairs off to the side. “Vivienne Abiba, you said that you were able to see the magic used by Ruggie Bucchi, right?”
“Oh, uh, yes. It was sparkly and had a white gold shimmer to it. It was very flashy, and kind of hurt my eyes,” I described as I nervously shuffled into the office. It wasn’t my first time in the room, but I still got anxious whenever I entered.
“Hmm,” Riddle nodded. “I wanted to see the extant to what you can decern is magic and what is not magic. That is where Cater comes in.”
Cater looked surprised. “Heh, how am I going to help?”
“I told you during the plan about Cater’s unique magic. What did I say Viv?” Riddle questioned me.
I pressed my lips together while I concentrated. “You said~…that Cater can make clones of himself?”
“Correct. You will be picking out which one is the real Cater,” Riddle explained.
“Uh, do I have a say in this?” Cater raised his hand.
“No,” Riddle flatly answered. “You will not be here for long.”
“Hah~,” Cater sighed.
“Viv, if you could go sit in the chair and close your eyes. Cater, go stand over there,” Riddle ushered us to our places.
I sat in one of the single chairs in the office and closed my eyes. I heard the shuffling of Riddle and Cater around the room. More footsteps joined in the shuffle and Cater’s voice multiplied.
“Alright Vivienne, open your eyes,” Riddle told me.
I opened my eyes and squinted against the sparkles that shone in front of me. When my eyes adjusted, I saw three versions of Cater smiling at me. It was hard to look directly at them. The one on the left and the one in the middle had this pink shimmer around them with large white sparkles floating around them. It reminded me of how my sibling described having astigmatism to me. The one on the far right had no form of sparkle. He was clear and crisp.
“Whenever you are ready, tell us your guess,” Riddle said.
“The one on the right is the real Cater Diamond,” I pointed to my answer.
“What do the other two look like?” Riddle asked.
“Pink, fuzzy, with a few sparkles sprinkled about,” I described to them.
“Huh, yeah that makes sense,” The Cater on the right nodded. “Either way, you got it right.”
“Oh, okay,” I smiled.
“We will do a few more rounds, so please close your eyes again,” Riddle spoke up.
“Yes Prefect,” I listened to his instructions. We did the drill three more times, each time the number of clones increased. Each time, the clones had the fuzzy pink haze around them while the real Cater was clear. Riddle wrote notes on a sheet of paper as we went along. When we finished the drill, Cater was allowed to leave. It was only Riddle and I left.
“Next we will practice your aura control as always. Concentrate on your breathing,” Riddle instructed me. We did this at the beginning of every session. He had said that all great magicians must be able to control how much magic they put into a spell. To do that, knowing how to control the mana inside yourself is the foundation to any spell, no matter the difficulty.
“Okay, that is enough. Moving on, I want to see your progress on the levitation and offensive spell I taught you,” Riddle set up plastic cups on a side table a few feet away from me. I nodded my head and brandished my magic pen for another training session.
The review of levitation and offensive spells went by smoothly for once. No way ward plates flew through the room and no blasts of magic ricocheted against the walls. Riddle and I were pleased with the progress. We moved on to learning a shield spell. Riddle brought out two hedgehogs.
“Oh my goodness gracious! Who are those adorable babies?!” I excitedly gushed.
Riddle seemed taken aback at my reaction. “Uh, these are the dorm’s pet hedgehogs. The Queen of Hearts had hedgehogs and trained them to be crocket balls. These hedgehogs are also trained to be the ball in crocket. I care for them when we are not playing.”
I ran up to them, “Oh I absolutely love hedgehogs. Ferrets too. I own two ferrets back home. I would own hedgehogs too, but they can’t be owned as pets where I live.” I looked to see Riddle’s surprised face blinking at me. I backed up. “Oh, heh. Sorry about that. Got carried away. I’m focused now.”
“That is alright. I’m glad to see someone else likes hedgehogs too,” Riddle gave a small smile. “You will be tasked with creating a protective dome around them. I will help you, since this will be your first time.”
“Thank you very much Prefect Riddle,” I bounced in placed.
He set the two hedgehogs on the table and stood next to me. He guided me through the entire process. Riddle stopped and corrected my form or my pronunciation of the spell at each turn. When he deemed me ready to cast the spell, I created a small, peach colored dome around the pink hedgehog that peacefully sat on the table. It only lasted for 20 seconds, but it was enough to have me jumping for joy.
“Good job Vivienne,” Riddle praised. “You have improved a lot during this time. I still wouldn’t suggest using that shield spell to block against any attacks. It would crack with just a simple finger flick.”
“Hopefully, I won’t have to,” I laughed.
“That is all I have to go over with you right now,” Riddle wrapped up, “but I have a few comments before giving you things to work on.” He ushered for me to sit across from him.
The sun had set by the time I left my tutoring session. I walked out of the Hall of Mirrors to my way to Ramshackle while ruminating over what Riddle had said. I kicked a pebble as I followed the path with my hands buried in my pockets.
What does he mean I probably won’t manifest a unique magic? How does he know?
I grumbled, “Sasafrassing contradictory magic rules. I could have unique magic spell…if I understood how the heck to get it.”
I kicked my pebble a little too hard. It shot forward and skipped off the path under a bush. “Tch,” I clicked my tongue. There goes my entertainment. I sighed. I continued to walk the path, but a voice from the shrubbery stopped me.
“Tsk, what~? Where did this pebble come from?” a dark drawl broke the twilight silence. The wild Octavinelle twin sat up where my pebble had disappeared. The grass and bushes had obscured his prone body. He looked around and his heterochromatic gaze met mine.
“Oh bother,” I breathed. I raised my one hand in an apologetic manner. “Sorry senior! Pebble gone astray.” I walked closer. He was in the direction I had to take to the dorm.
He looked at me with an annoyed glare. His hair stood in weird places and his uniform was wrinkled more than the last time I saw him.
Was he sleeping? Outside? Why doesn’t he just go back to his dorm room?
He scrunched his eyebrows together. His face then lit up, as if he only just recognized me. “Ah! Leafy Sea Dragon~!” He got up and bounded over to me. “Heehee~! You’re leaf free this time.”
“Oh, um, yes,” I mumbled.
That’s right, every time I’ve seen this guy I’ve had twigs and crap stuck in my hair.
“I am sorry again for the pebble. And for running into you earlier.”
“Oh yeah, you did that,” his lazy coo changed back to that dark drawl from before. “I should really squeeze you for that~.”
I froze up. I got a bad feeling from this “squeeze” thing. I made a singular finger gun with both my hands and pointed it at him. “Or! And this is just a suggestion – you could not do that.”
He pouted his lips, but his eyes were a deadly glare, “But I wanna squeeze you~.”
“How about you flick a pebble into my face? Then, we’ll be even,” I suggested.
“Nah uh,” he crossed his arms.
It was my turn to get the sour look. The stars and moon shined down on us and all I wanted was to get back to Yuu in Ramshackle. I crossed my arms. “You never even introduced yourself properly, nor do you seem to know my name,” I huffed. “My parents told me to never let a stranger get a hold of me. Therefore, you can’t squeeze me.”
He looked at me funny. I didn’t know if I pissed him off more or confused him. He put a hand on his shoulder and laughed. It was a jovial laugh that had a twinge of being deranged. My face felt flush, but I held my defiant posture. I was glad for my dark complexion plus the minimal light for not giving me away. His one gold eye seemed to glow down at me. “Ieehehehehee~! Floyd! Floyd Leech is my name!” He bent at the waist to get on my eye level. “Now quick, tell me your name so I can squeeze you~.”
I gulped. Some braids fell in front of my face, but I didn’t go to move them. They obscured my vision enough to not make eye contact with Floyd. “Viv,” I squeaked out.
“Viv the Leafy Sea Dragon~,” Floyd chirped. When he said my name, my chest tightened. “Now I get to squeeze you~!”
I backed up, but Floyd took steps towards me. I prepared to meet my maker, but a certain voice called from a distance, “Floyd! Time to come back to the Lounge!” The other Leech twin came from the direction of the Hall of Mirrors.
“Eh? I don’t feel like going back,” Floyd put his hands on his hip. “All that is waiting for me is another scolding from Azul.”
The brothers occupied each other’s attention. I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I took the opportunity. I casually backed away slowly from the Octavinelle upperclassmen. When I was far enough away, I broke into a run. I ran all the way back to the Ramshackle dorm.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
I was up early the next morning. With the tournament and my run-in with Floyd Leech, my night was restless. It was the crack of dawn. I sat in the main living area reading my textbooks.
“So, if I do this…then…” I mumbled to myself. I was still in my pajamas, a pair of shorts with an oversized t-shirt. I wiggled my magic pen between my upper lip and my nose. I was so engrossed I didn’t hear the door open.
“Hey,” a gruff voice sprung me from my concentration. “Is your dorm leader awake?”
Jack stood in the archway to the main hall. He was sweaty in his gym uniform.
“What are you doing in our dorm?!” I closed my textbook and sprung to my feet. Crap! I don’t have my makeshift binder on! Oh, please let this shirt hide anything and everything.
“I was jogging and wanted to make sure you didn’t oversleep. So, are they up?” Jack asked again. It was like he thought this was totally normal!
“No! It’s barely dawn!” I buried my face in my hands.
“Hmm, their room is upstairs, right?” Jack went to the main staircase.
“Wha-Wait! Hold up there! You don’t just storm into someone’s home and wake them up!” I followed him. I ran up the steps to keep up with his large strides. When I caught up, I grabbed his arm and dug my heels into the floorboards. “Where. Are. Your. Manners?!” He pulled me along like a sled dog.
He opened room after room before he found Yuu’s. When he opened the door, both Yuu and Grim were fast asleep. Yuu’s face was contorted as though they were having a nightmare. Grim was out cold. Jack threw the door open wider. It almost fell off the hinges with a large bang. Yuu and Grim stirred with a jolt.
“Hey, wake up,” Jack unceremoniously said.
“What a sad dream,” Yuu groggily mumbled as they sat up.
“Huh?” Grim rubbed his eyes. “What are you doing in our dorm?”
“He barged in,” I groaned.
“I was on a run this morning. Today is the day of the tournament and I didn’t want to oversleep,” he gave the explanation.
“Oh yeah, it is!” Grim jumped. “We’re going to catch that criminal and then we’re gonna be rewarded by being in the tournament!”
“Let’s do our best!” Yuu yawned out.
“Hmph, then I’ll see you at the arena.” Jack said his departing words. “Don’t go back to sleep.”
“I’ll make sure they don’t. Later!” I started pushing him out of the dorm.
When the alarm clock was gone, we all got ready for the upcoming event. The plan was underway.
“Viv don’t forget to wear the new dorm uniform. Crowley dropped them off when you were at your lessons,” Yuu reminded me as I brushed my teeth.
“Mhmm!” I gave them a thumbs up. I finished brushing my teeth and wrapped my chest. It was tighter than I usually did it, but it wasn’t completely flat. The new uniform was on my bed. It was a dark, sea-foam green and I navy-hunter green striped blouse. The capris pants were also a deep shade of the navy- hunter green. A lavender striped waist section with four purple buttons and lace on the edges matched the lilac lace hair accessory. The shoes looked like heeled penny-loafers and the socks were a thin lace as well. A set of dark gloves were on my end table and a lengthy brown overcoat with purple buttons hung behind my door. The outfit had an old Victorian style to it. I tied up my braids in a high ponytail with the lace hair accessory to finish getting dressed. I gave my stamp of approval in the mirror.
I look like some sort of detective. Fitting, since we are gonna wrap up the case of the Magift Tournament.
I made my way to the foyer. Yuu and Grim were already waiting for me at the door. Yuu’s uniform had a few differences to mine. Their pants were longer and they did not have the green striped dress shirt or the purple waist band. Instead, they had a white dress shirt with a vest that had the lavender striped pattern of my waist band. Their blazer was a dark navy-green hue on the outside. From the long coat tails, I could see the striped pattern on my blouse. The gloves were the same as mine along with the overcoat they were trying to button. On their head was a dark brown top hat with a lilac lace sash. Grim’s collar now had a small bat on it and the lilac lace trim.
“Ready to head out?” I asked.
“Let’s go!” Yuu opened the front door. “Time to get this over with.” We walked out of the dorm and towards the stadium.
The street to the arena was lined in stalls. It reminded me of the county fairs back home. Grim jumped for joy at all the food stands. We had met up with Ace and Deuce along the way.
“Woah! Look! This place is filled with food stalls!” Grim said in awe. “Churros, fried cakes, and smoked chicken!”
“Ooh! They have churros in this world?! Score!” I had a mini celebration of my own. Ace and Deuce weren’t nearly as pumped. They were wearing their dorm uniforms as well. With all the different patterns and embellishments, it looked like a cross between a harlequin and a knight.
“In the end, I didn’t make the team,” Ace lamented.
“Same here…” Deuce sighed.
“There is always next year guys,” Yuu comforted. “For now, let’s go support our seniors!”
“But we can’t let our guard down. We have an important mission to do today,” Deuce lifted his spirits.
“That’s right. We just need to do our best,” Ace grinned. He looked over to see Grim watching a stall owner cooking.
“What is ‘takoyaki’?” Grim salivated. “I want to eat it! I wanna eat it!”
“Later!” Ace grabbed Grim by the collar and dragged the poor monster away. “We have to go.” We all broke away to our designated spots.
“To everyone attending this year’s Night Raven College Dormitory Magical Shift Tournament, we have kept you waiting long enough!” the announcer’s voice echoed in the streets. I stood in one of the vacant alleys created by the stalls. The crowds were ahead of me. People lined up to enjoy the parade of players. “Now, it is time for the players to make their entrance!”
“Amazing, I can’t even spot a disguised speaker projecting the voice,” I spoke to myself. Everyone else were in their places. I was alone. Stationed where no one should pay attention to me. The cheers of the crowd drowned out my thoughts and my movement. As the announcer introduced the Diasomnia dorm, I spotted a pair of dusty brown hyena ears in the crowd. “Got him.” I kept him in my sights as the haze clouded members of Diasomnia marched by. Ruggie pulled out a bottle and downed the contents. Whatever was in it, it must have tasted terrible because he gagged.
“I hope it tastes like skunk spray you bum,” I muttered. “It would be the start for repenting for all this crap.” I winced as a blinding light of a sunset hue with sparkling dust obscured my view of him. It only lasted for a second before he ran off.
One by one, members of the crowd started to run too. The ones that werethe closest to him were the first to go. I expected to start running too, but I remained in control of my body. “So, he needs to be able to see them to control them…”
I went wide-eyed as the stampede of people grew. It was dangerous, maybe even deadly. That was when I saw a small child caught in the fray. They were small and looked around frantically.
Ruggie’s magic didn’t affect them! I was overcome with worry. The child was getting pushed around. I need to help! I ran out of my hiding place into the crowd. The commotion and screams of everyone hummed in my ear. My focus was still on the kid. I saw them get kicked down by the leg of a large fellow. I dove down with him to cover the kid.
“Mama?! Where’s Mama?!” the child cried in my ear. I felt feet on my sides and back as I held them.
“It, it’s okay little one. Your mommy is going to be safe, just like you,” I soothed. I fumbled around in my overcoat for my magic pen. I know Riddle said not to but… I casted a dome around myself and the child. It shattered the instant someone kicked it. I casted it again, and it stayed intact a little longer, but shattered at the impact of the stampede.
This won’t last long. I need to get this kid out of here! My mind was racing. It was exhausting to keep recasting the shield, but if I didn’t the kid would get hurt. The young child was shaking in my arms. I frantically looked around as another dome shattered. I saw an alley between the stalls clear of any people. I just need to make a run for it. Like in all those cool action movies. Just concentrate Vivienne. You need to stay calm to keep the child calm.
I grabbed a hold of the kid’s hands, “You need to hold on tight to me. Okay?” The child nodded. I scooped them up into my chest. At the shattering of the last dome I made, I sprinted across the current of people.
“Viv! Viv, over here!”
I faintly heard my name. I saw Ace wave me down from the alley. I shoved past more people. My feet got trampled and I was bounced around like I was in a pinball machine, but I managed to make it to a break in the crowd. Ace grabbed my shoulders and pulled me the rest of the way.
“Are you crazy!” he shook me a bit.
“Don’t shake me! I have precious cargo!” I yelled at him. He held me at arm’s length to see the kid that clung to me.
Ace scratched his neck, “Ah geez Viv. This isn’t what Riddle meant when he put you on crowd surveillance.”
“I know what he meant, and I’d rather get trampled on the spot then see a kid get hurt,” I clapped his shoulder. “Or those I consider children.”
“Yeesh, the members of Ramshackle sure like to stick their nose in things. Come on, we’ll find the brat’s mom when we finish the plan.”
Chapter 17: Chapter 16
“Leona, I did it!” Ruggie heaved as he ran to Leona’s side. “Did you see it on the broadcast?”
“Yeah, well done Ruggie,” Leona praised. “Farewell Malleus. This year, the throne is mine.”
“Hehe, long live the king! Shishishi!” Ruggie cheered. The rest of Savanaclaw joined in the celebration.
“I think I’ve heard enough,” Riddle interrupted the festivities. We all faced off against the wild dorm. The looked shocked at our arrival. I crossed my arms with a challenged smirk.
“Oh look, it’s all the kids from Heartslabyul. You even got our little freshman with you,” it didn’t take long for Leona to come back to his senses. “Did you transfer to Heartslabyul?”
“I just don’t want to stand by your side right now!” Jack scowled.
“You traitor!” Leona spat.
“You’re the one that should be ashamed of yourself!” I hissed at him.
“You have some guts to talk, runt,” Leona glared at me.
“The act of corrupting a traditional event,” Riddle brought the attention back to himself. “As the dorm leader of Heartslabyul, whose motto is ‘discipline’, I cannot overlook this.”
“Hey, little prince? Can you go play your little game of heroes somewhere else?” Leona rubbed his forehead in annoyance.
Ruggie mocked us, “Going through all that trouble when you are clearly outnumbered. You all must be drunk or something.”
“I can assure you that I’m sober enough to kick your butt all the way to the moon,” I countered. Ruggie brought his ears back on his head and he knitted his brow. I held my head high and fought the urge to stick my tongue out at him.
One of the many large Savanaclaw students asked, “Do you want us to handle this?”
“Don’t play too rough with them,” Leona smirked.
“I’ll handle this,” Riddle stepped forward to face them. The battle was quick. The spells and melee attacks were easily deflected by the red head. Then it was over with four simple words, “OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!” Red and black yolks locked themselves around the necks of the Savanaclaw students.
“Dang, he is strong,” I looked at Yuu. “And you fought him and won?!”
“Shocking things happen when put under intense life or death situations,” they said. “Are you glad Crowley made him your tutor?”
“I’m terrified of skipping a lesson now…”
“Ace and Deuce, do you mind continuing?” Riddle dusted his hands off.
“Not at all,” Ace gave a devilish grin.
“Of course!” Deuce brought his fist to his chest like a knight.
“Tch,” Leona didn’t even look worried for his friends. “I knew it was impossible for these guys to fight against Riddle.”
Ruggie laughed, “But even if they did, it is already too late for Diasomnia!”
“Hoho~. What an interesting story,” a petite man with magenta eyes and pointed ears mused.
“Who is too late?” a tall man with pale green hair stood to one side of the first.
“As you can see, all of us Diasomnia players are unharmed. Thanks to them,” a silver haired man went on the petite one’s other side.
“Eh?! What?!” Ruggie’s ears were flush to his head. “You were all suppose to be crushed by the crowd!”
“Too bad,” Cater waved as he strode up. “Those were all my clones from my unique magic ‘Split Card’ that I had disguised as them~”
“Honestly,” I smiled with my chin resting on my finger, “I’m surprised you couldn’t tell the difference.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Leona asked in an agitated tone.
“I heard your whole plan from Riddle,” the petite Diasomnia player filled in. “So, we decided on one of our own.”
“Th-then…Malleus is…” Ruggie looked like a frightened kitten.
“He is safe, of course,” the tall student with green hair shared the news. “Everyone in the crowd earlier was safely guided out of the Coliseum with magic. You should be grateful!”
I growled, “There is a child that almost got trampled thanks to you. Once we are done here, I’m dragging your tush to the mom so you can beg for her forgiveness.”
Ruggie back away. He still held some defiance in him when he shouted, “How- how is that even possible!”
Leona just sighed, “…Ah…I give up.”
“Eh?!” Ruggie looked disheartened.
“Stop. I’m done.”
“Wonderful,” Yuu breathed under their breath.
“Wai- Leona? What do you mean?” Ruggie looked at his dorm leader with clouded eyes. He seemed confused. A pang of sympathy shot through my chest.
Leona scoffed, “You idiot. If Malleus and the others are unharmed, we don’t have a chance of winning. There is no point in playing anymore. I’m out.”
“No, no way…Aside from Malleus, I did everything you said and hurt all those players. But now you aren’t going to play? We probably won’t even place third. What’s going to happen to all of our dreams?” Ruggie pleaded. I looked over at Yuu and saw them clutching their heart. I clenched my fists as I listened.
“No matter how much of the world watches, it’s all just a student’s game in the end,” Leona’s words were pessimistic. “All you guys do is gush about your sparkly, shiny dreams. All I did was play along.”
“That’s called manipulation,” I grumbled.
“I don’t really care what you call it because it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done,” Leona sighed.
“Why?” Ruggie asked in a broken voice. “Weren’t we all going to turn the world upside down together?”
“Fine then, I’ll tell you the truth,” Leona spoke harshly. “You are a hyena that grew up in the dumpsters and I am the hated second prince who will bever be king. No matter what we do, we will never overturn our lives!”
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe someone would say such things to someone that trusted them so much.
Ruggie looked on the verge of tears. “…Don’t mess with me!” He screamed. “What the hell is this! After all this, you just want to give up?!” The other members of their dorm voiced their disgruntlement. Everyone poured their anger out on the lion.
Leona grimaced, “Shut up you low lives!” A flash of magic came off of him. It was so bright I had to cover my eyes. A strong gust of wind blew past us all.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
“Geah! Ack!” I coughed as though my lungs were going to come out. My eyes stung and my nose burned. I tried to look at my surroundings, but dust blanketed to air. “What the heck is going on?”
“Everything Leona is touching is turning to sand!” Jack yelled back.
Leona stood in the middle of the field. He had Ruggie’s arm pulled behind his back. The hyena boy looked to be in extreme pain. “This is my unique magic: King’s Roar,” Leona showcased. “Ironic, huh? The prince of the savannah, who hates droughts, is born with such power. This magic dries everything up and turns it into sand!” His voice sounded confident and proud, but his eyes looked pained.
“Le-ona…I…c-can’t,” Ruggie barely choked out. The arm that Leona held was crumbling. Flakes snowed off him.
“Ruggie’s arm is cracking!” Deuce yelled in shock.
It even works on living people?!
“Leona, stop this at once! Off with your head!” Riddle cast the spell. The trail of magic aimed for Leona’s throat bounced off of the lion.
“I don’t care how talented you are, but don’t underestimate your seniors,” Leona growled. “I have good magic defense.”
“This guy was this strong all this time!” I gasped.
Leona dangled Ruggie in the air, “Hahaha! How is it Ruggie? It hurts, huh? Your mouth is so dry you can’t use that sharp tongue of yours, huh?” Ruggie gagged as he tried to take a breath.
“This is bad! Ruggie won’t be able to last much longer like that!” Jack tensed up.
“He can hurt us, but we have to stop him!” Yuu agreed.
“You don’t have to tell me twice!” I yelled. I didn’t know what I could do to help though.
Leona’s faster and stronger than me. Even if I could get in close, I wouldn’t be able to wrestle Ruggie free.
I watched as Riddle and Cater tried to fight Leona. Leona was only using one hand and was keeping them at bay! I stood and analyzed everything. I tried to think of a way that could help everyone. Yuu had Grim and his fire magic to help them in battle. I only had myself.
“If you have this much power, why are you doing all this?” Riddle demanded an answer.
“Why?” Leona smirked. “How would knowing that change anything? Are you going to scold me, then console me?” His attitude changed. He looked at Riddle with bitterness. Leona spoke as if he was reciting a line he had heard repeatedly. “In this world, talent and effort don’t make a difference.”
The statement hit me like a truck.
All this time, I’ve been saying to myself that things will be fine. As long as I do my best to push forward, I will be able to make it home. I’ll see my friends and family again soon. I even told Yuu to be more optimistic when they’ve been waiting longer. What if all that we’ve been doing has been for nothing? What if, by trying to adapt to this world, I’m ruining my chances to go home?
I felt tears well up in my eyes. It only caused them to sting more. Then, I heard a voice. It was a sweet voice that carried the tinkling of bells or chimes.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it,” the voice spoke. “You have the ability to become stronger. To help those who need it.”
Before I could think more of it, I heard Jack howl, “STOP, THAT’S ENOUGH! UNLEASH BEAST!” A silver cloud of magic like snow enveloped Jack. When it blew away, a giant silver wolf with piercing yellow eyes growled at Leona.
My eyes sparkled. “Doge…” I whispered.
“He transformed?!” Yuu gasped.
“What is that?! Gah!” Leona was bulldozed by the humongous wolf version of Jack. He lost his grip on Ruggie, who fell on the ground.
“Go to him,” another voice, this one more of a motherly nature with no bells to accompany it, whispered in my head. I ran forward without a single thought. I heard Yuu and Grim yell, but I couldn’t care less.
“Off with your head!” Riddle cast. The yolk locked around Leona’s neck and the cloud of sand dissipated.
I slid onto my knees at Ruggie’s side. He was coughing like crazy. The skin on his arm was cracked like a dessert. Sand piled at his joints. I winced at the sight. “It is okay Ruggie. Everything is going to be alright; I promise.”
“Viv! Hurry and bring Ruggie over here!” Deuce yelled at me.
I slung Ruggie’s good arm over my shoulder and lifted him up. He was taller than me, which made him awkward to carry. I felt him squirm at my touch and try to cough something out. I shushed him, “Hush now, don’t worry. You’re safe now. You’ll be fine. I got you. Don’t panic.” I kept repeating that mantra. Mostly for him, but also for me. When I got back to the others, members of Diasomnia took Ruggie from me.
“Viv? What’s that around you?” Yuu asked in a worried tone. I looked myself over in a rush. I thought I would see blood or something equally as bad on my uniform, but I couldn’t see anything besides dirt. “Huh? It’s gone now…” Yuu muttered.
“Dammit!” Leona hissed. “I’m a lion, with a collar! Jack Where did you get that transformation potion?”
Jack was back in his regular form. He growled and explanation, “‘Unleash Beast’ is my unique magic. It lets me transform into a wolf.”
“Werewolf. Awesome,” I whispered.
“This may not be the place to say this,” the conversation Riddle was having with Leona tore me away from my thoughts, “but I can’t even stand to look at you right now. Go back to you room and cool off a bit.”
I could barely hear Leona’s voice, “…What do you even know? Lecturing me like you’re my brother…”
“My father used to tell me a story about a lion,” I spoke up. Everyone looked at me, but I only looked at Leona’s emerald eyes. “In the story, the mighty lion got so wrapped up in getting revenge and bringing back some honor he didn’t even lose, that he was easily tricked by a monkey and made a fool of himself. The monkey called the lion an ‘overgrown pussy-cat’.”
“Well, this isn’t some bedtime story for little kids, and I am not some house cat!” Leona growled.
“Hmph,” the petite man put in his two cents. “A collar suits men like you more than a crown. Hearing a lion prince of the savannah talk like this is disgraceful.”
“You mourn over the fact you will never become king because of your talent and birth order, but you live in agony because you don’t get rewarded. When things don’t go your way, you act inferior and blame everyone else around you. To become king with such a vessel…It makes me want to laugh thinking that you would be an opponent against our lord Malleus.”
I put a hand over my mouth. Dang! This boy ain’t holding back! My comparison to a folktale is nothing compared to him. Call it as it is brother!
The Diasomnia member’s ending was the cherry on top, “Even if you defeat Malleus, as long as you have that rotten heart, you will never become a true king!”
“Hahaha…You’re right. You are completely right. It is exactly what you said. Haahahahaa!” Leona brokenly wailed. “No matter how hard I try, I will never become king!”
The earth begam to shake. An oppressive aura hit me like a ton of bricks.
“What is going on?! All my fur is standing up!” Grim clung to Yuu’s arm. Yuu backed away from where Leona stood.
“Leona’s magic is getting stronger…” Riddle grunted. He squinted in concentration. “My seal can’t hold his magic anymore.”
“Oh no…” Yuu sounded scared.
“‘Oh no’? What do you mean ‘Oh no”?” I panicked.
“No. This isn’t magic at all. This is some sort of negative evil energy…” the small man corrected. Panic plastered his face in an instant. “It can’t be!”
“Can’t be what?!” I yelled.
“It’s happening again!” Yuu grabbed my wrist and pulled me back.
“What is happening again?! Can someone please fill me in!!” I screamed.
“Everyone, get back!” Cater warned. Yuu and I sheltered each other when a large pop sounded off. I covered my ears. They ached so much. The air around me felt so pressurized. When I managed to open my eyes, I saw a blackened sky and sand swirling around us. Cater was slacked jawed and muttered, “He sent Riddle’s magic collar seal flying!”
Over the sound of sand buzzing around us, I heard Leona say, “I have been shunned since I was born. I had no place to go. No future. It will never change, no matter how hard I try.”
A black and orange miasma started to lick at his feet. It gave off a similar feeling when I would see magic, but it was…wrong. It felt polluted. Corrupted. Then I remembered the meeting with Headmaster Crowley.
“The pain, the despair…” Leona roared, “how can any of you understand?!”
“LEONA NO!” was Yuu’s futile plea. The miasma overtook him. I saw Yuu’s eyes haze over. It was like the miasma was in their eyes too.
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” I screamed.
Leona’s skin was now an ashy, desaturated version of his normal earthy glow. His hair was a wild mane, and his outfit was dark and stained with ink. Black fur and dull gold jewelry accessories decorated his black leather corset and raggedy skirt. Ink dripped from his arms and feet. His nails were long, sharp claws. The only brightness was in his lush green eyes. A flare of his fiery colored magic aura untainted by the blot billowed from his left eye. Rocks and sand mixed with the dark miasma and swirled around the field in a storm.
Jack was just as confused as I was. “A…a dark shadow took over Leona’s body!” he gasped. At least I wasn’t the only one to see it.
“Overblot,” Yuu answered in hushed voice.
“That’s an…overblot incarnation!” Deuce gasped.
Grim quivered between Yuu and I. He whimpered, “He just went ‘evil berserk mode’, just like Riddle!”
“THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO RIDDLE?! OH MY LORD!” I hollered. Leona roared loudly. Every time he did, the earth would crumble even more.
Riddle started delegating those who were around, “Everyone retreat if you can! Ace, Deuce, help get the injured people out of here! Lilia! Please go get the teachers for help!” Everyone went off to do their part. I shielded my eyes from the flying debris.
Jack was firm in his choice to stay, “I don’t understand what’s going on, but all I knew is that we gotta get Leona back!”
“I-I’m helping too…keghk!” Ruggie stood beside his underclassman.
“Ruggie, you’re hurt! Go with the others!” I yelled.
“I’m not just gonna let him get away with everything he said!” Ruggie steadied himself.
A distorted voice from Leona laughed, “Is the little hyena trying to go against me!? Hahaha! What a joke. None of you will get to see the morning un of tomorrow!”
“Viv, go!” Yuu ordered.
“What?! No! If all of you are staying, I am too!” I defiantly remarked. “I’ll be able to handle myself! Trust me!” Yuu looked skeptical, but that only made me want to stay more.
“Let’s do it! For the Magical Shift Tournament!” Grim exclaimed. Yuu and I smirked at it.
“Let’s go everyone!” Yuu proclaimed. Everyone charged into battle.
Riddle was the most well equipped for battle. It was like he had a counter for everything. Cater was supporting him from farther away. Jack and Ruggie worked together to push forward and close the gap between them and their rampaging dorm leader. Yuu was the furthest from the fray. They gave moves to Grim, and he moved across the battle with precision to send long ranged attacks at Leona. I weaved around the battlefield and sent the best of my offensive magic spells. They either fell short or flew off in another direction.
“Viv, watch out on your left!” I caught Yuu’s warning in the nick of time. I casted a magic shield to block the boulder that flew in my direction. The magic shattered and sent my flying with force. I bounced before I skidded to a stop.
“Vivi!” Cater called. He helped me up by my armpits. There was a ringing in my ears. I clutched my ribs as a throbbing pain shot through chest. “Vivi, you should go to Ace and Deuce-,”
“I’m good. Just need to walk it off,” I smiled at him. Before he could say anything else I ran back into the fray. I ducked underneath a giant rock that was launched. “If I could just get closer-KYAH!” The ground beneath me cracked open. I fell in as the crevasse grew wider. I dug my nails into the dirt on the edge for dear life.
Holy crap! Holy crap! I have to get up! Get up!
I pulled myself up from the chasm. I clawed at the pebbles and sand. My feet pushed on the few holds they could find. When I thought I was almost out, my foot slipped. I fell down deeper. My fingers were right on the edge. I tried to find a new foothold, but before I could I felt a large hand grab my collar. Jack pulled me out and away from the crack in the ground. As I caught my breath, Jack nodded his head to me and went back to fighting.
Dang it! I’m just making them all worry. I should have just ran when I had the chance…
I felt tears sting my eyes.
“You want to help them, right?” the tinkling voice returned even stronger. I blinked the tears away as a hazy image of a girl in a blue night gown with a bright, yellow-green light flying around her stood in front of me.
“I do, but my spells don’t even reach,” I confessed. I hung my head, “They’d be better off without me. I’m just a-a kid they have to watch at this rate.”
“Someone very dear to me once told me that one girl was of more use than twenty boys,” the girl with a soothing voice came closer. She lifted my head to look me in the eye. “If you repeat these words, then you will have the ability you seek…”
She whispered in my ear, and I repeated every word, “The angel’s whisper in the night, the helping hand that delivers might, envelop the heart that aches for adventure: DARLING MOTHER!”
The image of the girl disappeared. I felt a force push away the overbearing miasma from me. The pain from when I got hit was gone. I felt energized. I looked at my hands to see a peach-colored glow emitted from me.
“You don’t have much time. Hurry,” the girl’s voice urged. I got to my feet and ran towards Leona. I was light on my feet. I sent an offensive spell at Overblot Leona, and it hit him. He growled and turned his attention to me. I clicked my tongue. It didn’t look like it hurt him, but at least I drew his attention from the others. He directed his attacks at me. I dodged them faster than before. I danced around him. I toyed with him and garnered his attacks while the others dealt the damaging blows. It wasn’t long until I felt the pain from the earlier wounds. The pressure from the miasma pushed down on my shoulders.
I felt dizzy. I ran to the outskirts of the fight, all the way to Yuu. I tripped up along the way but got there with no major injuries. They stopped me with a confused knitted brow. “Vivienne, that stuff around you is back!” They pointed at me. The peachy glow was faint and flickered out. I sighed, and a wave of exhaustion and the miasma crushed me. I collapsed to me knees. “Viv!”
“I’m okay! Just tired…” I got back on my feet. I leaned on Yuu’s shoulder. When I looked towards Leona, Ruggie punched Leona off the edge of a cliff created in the storm. Leona didn’t move. Yuu’s knees buckled under us. I caught them and guided us to the ground. “Hehe, are you tired too? …Yuu?”
I turned their head so I could get a good look at them. Their eyes had a thick, inky haze over them like the miasma. It was like they were in a trance. The miasma around us cleared and the terrain returned to normal.
“He’s passed out!” Grim cried. The others went to Leona’s side as I tended to Yuu.
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
“Hooray! You’re awake!” Grim yelled in Leona’s face. The grumpy lion clutched the side of his head. “We didn’t know what we should do if you didn’t wake up! Now hurry up and confess to all your crimes!” What started as a truly relieved moment ended with the true motives being revealed.
As Leona woke up, Yuu’s eyes cleared from the haze. “You good now?” I asked them. I patted their back.
“Oh course, why do you ask?” Yuu seemed unaware that anything was strange. It left me confused.
Headmaster Crowley knelt down beside the bewildered lion prince, “Kingscholar, you went into Overblot after all your negative thoughts and feelings consumed you. Do you not remember everything?”
“I went berserk? Overblot? There’s no way…” Leona’s eyes were wide as he processed what he was told.
“For all the trouble he caused us, I still feel a bit of sympathy,” Yuu looked at Leona with pity.
I took a deep breath in. I couldn’t say I felt sympathy, but I wasn’t as angry anymore. On the exhale I said, “So that was an Overblot.”
“Enough of this! The tournament is about to start!” Grim was flustered. “If you don’t confess right now, I won’t be able to be in the tournament!”
“Huh?” Leona looked at the jumping monster.
“You’re still on about that?” I groaned.
Jack filled Leona and Ruggie in, “These guys were trying to find the culprit because the headmaster promised them a spot in the tournament.”
“All of this, just for that?!” Ruggie gasped.
“Trust me, it was not worth the trouble,” I deadpanned.
“What do you mean? It isn’t that simple!” Grim whined. “You were going around injuring people to cheat in the tournament!”
Ruggie pouted, “Th-that’s…true but…”
“So, it is safe to say you are the ones behind all the injuries?” Crowley stood up.
Leona sighed, “Yeah.”
Crowley crossed his arms. “Understood. Savanaclaw is disqualified from the tournament. You must also apologize to all the injured victims. Do I make myself clear?” The Savanaclasw members gave their acknowledgement to the punishment.
“Headmaster, please wait,” Riddle stepped up. Behind him were Trey, Jamil, and the other victims.
“Headmaster,” Trey stepped forward, “as victims of the incidents, we have a request. Can you please allow Savanaclaw to compete in the tournament?”
“Are you saying you will forgive them?” Crowley asked in surprise.
“No, we are not forgiving them,” Jamil corrected with a scowl.
“How are we supposed to get revenge if you don’t let them compete?” Trey gave a wicked smirk. “Magical Shift is a competitive sport is it not? I guess you can say, it’s a sport where you are supposed to go against your opponent using magic on the field.” The other victims voiced their wants to beat the members of Savanaclaw on the field.
“They are brutal,” Yuu chuckled.
“I’d have to say I wouldn’t be as tame if I were in their shoes,” I admitted.
“I understand all of your concerns. However, I do not know if the Savanaclaw students are in any shape to play now,” Crowley stated. “Especially Kingscholar. He is having a hard time even standing up.”
“Hahaha! Don’t underestimate me Crowley,” Leona gave a hearty chuckle as he got to his feet. “I can destroy all these herbivores in my sleep.”
“We’ll see about that,” Jamil smiled.
“I don’t plan on apologizing to anyone. The only way you are going to get me to apologize is to defeat me.”
“The students here don’t like solving problems with words, do they,” I remarked. “It always has to be a fight.”
“They have to get the pent-up energy out somehow, right?” Yuu joked.
“Oh bother…” I groaned.
“Very well then. Savanaclaw is allowed to compete in the tournament,” Crowley announced. He muttered something to himself very quickly that I couldn’t catch. From Yuu’s expression, they did catch what was said.
“These are adult problems…” Yuu sighed. They dusted off their hat tiredly.
“Now then, the audience is waiting for the players’ entrance. Let’s hurry and get ready,” Crowley moved on.
“Alright, let’s do this,” Leona tried to stretch an arm but clutched his ribs. “Ah! It hurts…”
“You can help. Use the power…” the bell like voice returned.
Why am I listening to this voice? Despite what I thought, I walked over to Leona. I could feel everyone’s stares. Ruggie watched me warily from Leona’s side.
“What do you want, runt?” Leona asked.
“I can help ease the pain…I think,” I shrugged.
“Listen, just let me try this out. Otherwise, I’m going to just jab the bruise. Okay?” I gave a sassy snap back. He looked down at me with our near foot height difference with a raised eyebrow.
He sighed, “Fine.”
“Wonderful!” I smiled up at him. I took a deep breath and recited, “The angel’s whisper in the night, the helping hand that delivers might, envelop the heart that aches for adventure: Darling Mother.” The peach aura pulsated from me.
“Eh? What is this?” Ruggie’s eyes dilated, and his muscles relaxed. “Why do I feel so calm?”
I cautiously held out my hand and hovered it over where Leona was nursing his wound. I want the pin to go away. Please take the pain away. I concentrated on the area. The aura around me condensed over where my hand was and seeped into Leona. I was getting dizzy. The world started to spin around me. The aura flickered out and I stumbled back.
“The pain…it’s gone?” Leona looked at me as I clutched the side of my head. “What did you do?”
“You know, I’m not sure,” I felt my knees go weak. “I do know that I need to sit down.” I plopped onto the ground where I stood. I felt a pair of hands on my back. I looked over my shoulder to see Yuu. They gave me a warm smile which I returned.
Leona examined his side when Ruggie spoke, “You know, it’s not like I forgive you already or anything…”
“Oh? Is that so?” Leona seemed unamused.
“But I don’t know why,” Ruggie continued, “I just don’t want to see you make that sad face ever again.”
Ruggie’s ears perked up as he had Leona’s attention. “That cocky attitude and cheeky smirk suit you much more!” I squinted at the magic coming from Ruggie. “Take this! Laugh with Me!” The magic rushed over to Leona and wrapped itself around his body.
“Ouch! Hey! Ruggie!!” Leona’s face got the same big grin that showed his fangs as Ruggie. His posture mimicked Ruggie’s as well.
Oop. Looks like Leona didn’t block his unique magic in time! I placed a hand over my mouth to cover my laugh.
“Shishishi! I’ve always wanted to use this on you!” Ruggie laughed.
“Stop. It!” Leona tried to resist.
Jack waltzed up to the commotion we were causing. In a tired sigh he said, “What are you guys doing?” A small smile flashed on his face.
“You smiled~,” Yuu cooed with an ear-to-ear grin.
“Ah-No I didn’t, really…” Jack sputtered.
“You’re caught,” I giggled.
When he regained his composure, Jack stood proud and said, “You all helped me out. Thank you. I can fight my own battles now.”
“As of right now, we are enemies on the field, so we won’t go easy on you,” Riddle playfully warned.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Hey hey, Headmaster! We can compete in the tournament like you promised, right?” Grim bounced in front of Headmaster Crowley excitedly.
“Eh? Aaaah~ah~,” Crowley practically sang as he tapped his chin. “Did I promise that?”
“Oh, you got to be kidding me,” I leaned back on my hands.
Crowley went on, “I already announced that the tournament was going to start soon because I didn’t think it would be possible to solve the case…What to do…”
“What?!” Yuu gasped.
“You expected us to fail?!” I yelled.
“How cruel! This is a scam!” Grim proclaimed. “You liar! I’m going to set your butt on fire!” Gim growled. His hair stood up on his neck.
“Oh no no, please refrain from doing that. I am trying to think of a solution, hmm,” Crowley quickly hummed. “I got it! How about I add a special participant slot in the exhibition match? It won’t be an issue to let you play in the pre-liminary rounds. You’ll stand out for sure~”
“I will?” Grim’s anger was quickly snuffed.
“Yes, that’s right~”
“I’ll take anything as long as I get to be the center of attention!” Grim smirked. “Yay! Everyone is gonna see me on TV!”
“I swear to God, Grim would sell us out for a potato chip,” I grumbled.
“I thought we needed seven players to participate,” Yuu pointed out.
“More players…Hmm, that is right. You don’t have anyone to go against you either…” Crowley mumbled.
“Didn’t you say you’d handle that aspect?” I crossed my arms.
“We can take care of that,” Ace stepped up.
“We’ll play with you on your team,” Deuce cracked his knuckles.
“What are you saying? You are Heartslabyul students,” Riddle pointed out.
“There is no rule saying we can’t join another team for the tournament,” Ace was on top of things. “It’s boring to just sit and watch our seniors play. If we get the chance, we want to join the match!”
“I’m not like this guy!” Deuce stuttered. “I just want to be there and help my friends.”
“We’ll play against you if you don’t have any other opponents,” Jack stood with his fellow dormmates.
“You will?” Grim and I said together.
“Would you guys rather go against the teacher’s team instead?” Jack deadpanned.
“You are actually a pretty nice guy aren’t ya?” Ace teased
Jack awkwardly tried to defend himself. “Don’t get the wrong idea! I’m just repaying them. It’s fine, right senior?”
Ruggie heaved a sigh, “I’m already so tired, and he is just giving us more to do. How evil of you Jack.”
“You’re so annoying,” Leona groaned. “Just get ready herbivores! Just because this is an exhibition match, doesn’t mean I’m gonna go easy on you. Be prepared.”
I got to my feet at this point. I brushed the dirt off my uniform, then pointed my finger at Jack. “Jack Howl! I have a wager for you!”
“If I’m able to get a point, I want to pet your wolf form!” I challenged.
“Eh~?!” the others were all shocked.
“Viv! Why on earth would you ask that?” Yuu shook my shoulders.
“I have been stressed out since I woke up here! I used to pet my dog when I’m stressed, and Jack’s wolf form looks like him!” I explained my reasoning. “Having a goal like that will give me a reason to try really hard! So do you accept the wager or not?”
“Shishishi! Looks like you impressed someone Jack,” Ruggie teased.
“I-fine. If it will get you to play to your full potential,” Jack huffed.
“Yes!” I pumped my fist in the air.
“Your team now has five players. If you can find at least 2 more, I will let you play in the tournament,” Crowley updated us.
“Hey, isn’t this enough? We already got people from other dorms to join our team,” Grim whined.
“Yeah, you were the one to slack on your end of the deal,” I placed my hand on my hip.
“Why do we only have three people in the dorm!” Grim pouted.
“Speaking of the dorm, there is…” Yuu piped up.
“Oh, I see!” Grim caught on. “So, anyone who lives in the dorm counts, right?”
“Well, yeah I guess so,” Ace answered.
“Then Ramshackle dorm has other people too!” Grim exclaimed.
It took me a bit, but it finally hit me what they were insinuating. My face went pale, “Oh goodness, we do…”
“The ghosts!” Yuu revealed. “They used to play 90 years ago!”
“Eh? You want the ghosts to be a part of your team?” Crowley asked in shock.
“One of the ghosts said he was a start player back in the day. He’ll help a lot!” Grim bragged. “I’ll go get them! Yahoo! I’ll be on TV!” Grim scampered off to Ramshackle.
“Geez, I guess it’ll work,” Jack ruffled his hair. “Will the ghosts be able to put up a good fight?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s fine, right?” Ace chuckled. “Yuu is a player who can’t even use magic anyway.”
“But don’t think they aren’t a worthy opponent! Otherwise, you’ll get a surprise butt whooping!” I mocked.
“I’m getting nervous now that I know we’ll be on live TV,” Deuce sighed.
“Don’t worry Deuce. Once you get in the game, you’ll forget about all of that,” I gave both Ace and Deuce a pat on the head.
“Well then, let’s head to the Coliseum,” Crowley smiled at us. “But, before that, does anyone happen to see a black jewel on the ground?”
“A black jewel?” Ace repeated.
“Did you drop it, Headmaster?” Deuce asked.
“No, it doesn’t matter now. Come along, let’s go to the Coliseum,” Crowley brushed it off.
“Is the black jewel important?” I whispered to Yuu. They looked worried with a hint of annoyance. “Yuu?”
“Ah, it is fine. If Headmaster Crowley says not to worry about it, we should listen,” Yuu slung an arm over my shoulder and raised their other fist in the air. “Let’s go do our best at the Magical Shift Tournament!”
Chapter 21: Chapter 20
“Yuu~!” I wailed as I hugged my dorm leader. They sat in an infirmary cot with an ice pack on their head. “I’m so glad you’re okay!”
Yuu gave me a pat on the head as they looked around the room, “What…happened? Where am I?”
“Right after the second half of the game, Grim threw a disk and it hit you in the head. You fainted.” Ace filled them in. “Don’t you remember? Viv was freaking out.”
“Grim hit me in the face?!” Yuu yelled.
“I thought my long super shot would have made it,” Grim simply smiled.
“Beginners shouldn’t attempt that shot,” Jack scolded.
“Grim, I’m putting you on dusting duty!” I pinched his cheek.
“In any case, I’m glad you’re awake,” Deuce smiled. “I was getting worried that we’d be in trouble again if you didn’t wake up.”
“Were you able to score a goal Viv?” Yuu asked me as I sat back on the stool next to them.
I pouted, “No. I was this close but then I dropped the disk…”
“So, no wolf pets for you then?” Yuu laughed. I punched their arm.
Ace interrupted us to continue filling in the tournament details, “The tournament ended while you were knocked out. They’re cleaning the Coliseum now.”
“Aw man, I missed it,” Yuu whined. “Which dorm ended up winning?”
“Diasomnia won,” Leona groaned from the bed next to us.
“Ah~,” Ruggie sighed in another bed, “we couldn’t even touch them. All the dorms were obliterated. This year’s tournament was a disaster.”
“Tch, I thought I’d only use the nurse’s bed for naps,” Leona complained.
“It’s annoying there isn’t anyone from Diasomnia here at all,” Ruggie joined in.
“I’ve heard rumors that Diasomnia’s dorm leader is no one to mess with,” Ace grimaced.
“Yes, he is amazing,” Deuce reminisced. “You would have been in awe if you saw him.”
“I wish I had,” Yuu said.
“I totally get why everybody thinks they can’t win against him,” Ace slumped over.
“If you think you are going to lose before you try, you will never win,” Jack dropped some wise words.
“What did you think of the tournament Viv?” Yuu asked me.
“Oh! Uh, I didn’t really stay for long. After our game I stayed for Octavinelle versus Heartslabyul, then I came to stay with you in the infirmary,” I played with the hem of my uniform.
“Oh, how was their game? Did you see Riddle?” Yuu asked.
“Uh, well…” I averted my gaze.
“Viv was too busy hiding behind their chair,” Ace mocked. “Every time one of the twins from Octavinelle would look in our direction they’d duck.”
“It’s because the one threatened me the last time!” I tried to explain myself. “Anyway! Jack! What do you plan to do in next year’s tournament?”
“I’ll prove that I can win against Diasomnia without cheating!” he confidently declared
“Cheating does have its advantages, you know?” Leona added.
“You haven’t learned your lesson?” Yuu groaned and looked over at him.
“Why?” Leona smirked. “Is there a need for that? I gave it my all at this year’s tournament. Next year, I’m going to do the same.”
“Aren’t you putting your effort in the wrong basket?” I pointed out.
Ruggie chuckled, “Shishishi! As expected from Leona. He is back to normal.”
“Oh man, just thinking about next year…” Jack trailed off.
“We’re going to be in the tournament next year for sure!” Grim proclaimed.
Deuce joined in the exclamations, “We have to do our best so we can make the team then.”
“Especially since I don’t want to embarrass myself again like this year,” Ace agreed.
As they were all talking happily about the next school year, Yuu and I shared a look. We couldn’t join in the excitement.
If we plan for the next school year, I feel like I’m giving up on going home…I can’t get too attached to this place.
“Uncle! I finally found you!” a child ran into the room. He had a mop of fiery hair and light brown skin. He had lion ears and a tail like Leona.
“What is this? A kid?” Grim looked at the newcomer quizzically.
“Aww! He is so cute!” I cooed. I squished my cheeks. The kid ran up to Leona and clung to his arm.
“Uncle Leona~,” he looked at the grumpy lion with such admiration in his big, brown eyes.
“Ah…damnit…The annoying kid is here,” Leona grumbled.
“Uncle Leona?” Jack repeated.
“This kid is Cheka, my brother’s son,” Leona introduced. “He’s my…nephew.” Leona squirmed with his nephew hugging all over him.
“NEPHEW?!” the whole room exclaimed.
“That means…the one who is next in line for the throne is…” Ruggie started putting the pieces together.
Little Cheka bounced next to Leona’s cot. He gushed over his uncle, “Your match was so cool Uncle! Can you teach me how to play Magical Shift?”
“Okay, I get it. Don’t shout in my ear!” Leona gritted his teeth. “Where are your bodyguards? They’re probably looking for you.”
“I wanted to see you, so I left them! Hehehe~” Cheka innocently giggled. My heart was hit out of the ballpark. This kid was too cute!
Jack was put on edge, “Um, so…the core of the evil Leona is…”
“This little angel!” Yuu and I said in unison.
“He’s really attached to you, huh?” Grim was frozen in shock.
“Leona looks so much more docile with a kid,” I stated. I was clasped my hands over my face as I stared, googly-eyed at them.
“Shut up! ...Hmph!” Leona scrunched his nose up. “Stop staring at me!”
Cheka bombarded Leona with questions, “Hey, hey Uncle. When are you coming back home? Next week? The week after that? Ah! Did you read my letters?”
“Yeah, I told you already, I will be coming back home during the holidays-,” Cheka jumped onto Leona’s lap, “-OW! Don’t sit on my stomach!”
Jack was amazed by the small child. “The kid is just sitting on Leona’s stomach like it’s nothing.”
Ruggie couldn’t hold back his laughter, “Hahaha! This is amazing! So, this why Leona never wants to go home.”
Cheka just took notice of us. He looked around the room at each of us, “Are you all uncle’s friends?”
“Of course!” I swooned. “We make sure that your fabulous Uncle Leona is never lonely while he’s away from you~!”
Ace could barely talk, he was laughing so much, “Hahahahaa! Yeah, we’re his friends alright. Isn’t that right, Uncle Leona~?” Ace didn’t even try to hide the mockery in his voice.
“Uncle…Hahaha ow ow ow…” Ruggie clutched his stomach, “it hurts to laugh.”
“Stop laughing at me! You all better remember this!” Leona warned.
“Oh, how could we ever forget? I giggled.
Chapter 22: Chapter 21
“So, this is the equation I should use when trying to calculate the ratio of elderberry to mistletoe in the potion,” I reiterated.
Riddle nodded. He pointed to another equation, “And the derivative of this one will tell you at what temperature the cauldron should be kept at when you know the material it is made from. Most cauldrons will have this on their packaging.”
“I made sure to record some of the standard temperatures in my notes.” I showed him.
“Good, but these two are wrong. Just switch them.”
“Oh, thank you,” I erased the numbers and scribbled the correction in my notes.
Riddle sat back in his chair, “Do you have any other questions about alchemy, Viv?”
“Not at the moment, Prefect Riddle,” I flipped through my notebook.
“Then is there anything you wish to talk about? We went fairly quickly in today’s session,” Riddle offered. “I could ask Trey to bring us some tea.”
“That isn’t necessary,” I declined the offer. “But I did want to talk about what happened at the tournament.”
Riddle tilted his head, “What about it?”
“Well, um, I might have seen a, uh, girl? In a magical fog?” I had my hands on my lap. Riddle’s eyes went wide, but he didn’t say anything. I tried to explain it more. “She told me to say a few words, and then I got all this energy to do all those crazy moves. I was also able to heal Leona?”
“Hmm, can you do it now?” Riddle requested.
I nodded. I steadied my breathing and repeated the incantation. “Darling Mother.” I felt the magic surround me as I sat there. Energy surged in my muscles. I bounced a leg as I remained in my seat.
“So that glow around you was no trick of the light,” Riddle commented. “You said that this mist gave you a boost of energy and the ability to heal?”
I started to feel lightheaded. “Uh, yeah. Can I stop now?”
“Yes. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I just get a bit dizzy if I keep this up for too long,” I let go of my concentration and the glow disappeared. “Is this normal for magicians?”
“Yes and no,” Riddle seemed perplexed. “The way to get it differs, along with the ability gained, from each magician to the next. Honestly, I’m surprised you were able to manifest it at all.”
“Manifest what?” I leaned forward.
“Your unique magic.”
It was my turn to look surprised. “Unique magic? I thought you said I didn’t have enough magic to manifest one.”
“I thought so too, but I guess I was wrong,” Riddle scratched his temple. “Hmm. We have a practical magic tutoring session tomorrow morning. I will prepare some drills to test this. Unless you want to stay and work on it now.”
“I can’t today. Prefect Yuu is waiting for me back at Ramshackle to help with renovations,” I told him. I gathered my supplies together to leave.
“Alright. Do tell them I said hi.” Riddle got up from his chair to see me off.
“I will! Tell the hedgehogs I said hi, as well!” I happily exited his office. I practically skipped down the halls of Heartslabyul and into the garden. The news that I obtained a unique magic lifted my mood.
“Hey, Viv!” I turned to see Deuce waving me over. “Do you have a second?”
“Yeah, what do you need?” I stopped by a rose bush still wet with paint. I smiled at him, but he looked worried. “Is something wrong?”
“Uh, well um, let’s go to the maze really quick, alright?” Deuce nervously pointed to the wall of shrubbery.
“Okay,” I shrugged and followed Deuce into the maze. We didn’t go in far, but we couldn’t hear the commotion of the dorm anymore when we came to a stop. “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Viv, your full name is Vivienne, right?” Deuce started.
I raised an eyebrow. “Uh, yeah.”
“Okay. Okay, and is that a, um…” Deuce hesitated before he sped through the rest of the sentence, “a boy’s name in your world? Or is it like a unisex name that can be used regardless? I’m so sorry if this makes you uncomfortable!”
It clicked in my head what was happening at that moment. My mood dropped. “Oh…uh...um, why do you ask?” I softly asked. I hoped it wasn’t going where I thought it was.
Deuce didn’t look me in the eyes. He played with his gloves and could barely talk without tripping over his words. “The, uh, the, the day Clover got hurt, we ran into each other. You had a, um, basket and it sp-spilt everywhere. You had picked everything up, but there was one…box that you missed. I-I picked it up, and…and it was a woman’s sanitary product.”
Yep. That was the sound of my sanity shattering.
“Vivienne, are you a girl?” Deuce finally asked. “Of course, if you are that it totally fine with me! And if you were born one but don’t identify as one that is a-okay too! I know Prefect Yuu is pretty fluid on the whole matter and-,”
I put a hand up to stop his rambling. “It’s okay Deuce. Honestly, I was hoping for you not to have noticed that bit or forgot.”
“Yes, I’m a girl. I was born a girl and identify as one,” I answered. I fiddled with the cuffs of my blouse. I explained, “Headmaster Crowley told me that I have to keep it a secret since this is an all-boys academy. Yuu and Grim are the only other ones that know. Plus, the Ramshackle ghosts I guess.”
“Oh, so the headmaster requires you to hide it,” Deuce seemed to calm down as he let the information sink in.
I clasped my hands together and pleaded, “Please Deuce, you can’t tell anyone that I’m a girl! Not even Ace! Please, if people find out I might not be able to stay at NRC.”
Deuce was quiet. He let out a sigh, “Viv, I swear that I will not tell a soul! You can be sure that your secret is safe with me!” He held his hand over his heart. “I just hope that I have not been offensive to you in any way up to this point because of my ignorance.”
I felt at ease. I chuckled, “Thank you Deuce. That means a lot. And don’t worry, you have been very polite. Just keep treating me like you have been.”
Deuce nodded, “I will. Thank you for clearing things up with me, and sorry again.”
“I have to go now, see you at dinner,” I waved goodbye and exited the rose maze. I made my way back to Ramshackle.
I walked up the steps of the wrap-around porch of the formerly abandoned mansion with a smile on my face. When I opened the door, Yuu was dragging a few bags of trash down the main hall.
“Ah! Viv, perfect! Grim went M.I.A about an hour ago. He said he had an important meeting, but I doubt it, “Yuu rolled their eyes. “Could you get the sheets from the clothesline?”
“Sure thing, I’ll just put my stuff in my room!” I ran up the main stairs. “Oh, and Deuce found out I’m a girl.”
“EXCUSE ME?!” Yuu’s cry echoed down the hall. I threw my books onto my bed and ran back downstairs. Yuu stopped me from running outside, “Wait a second, how did Deuce find out you’re a girl? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine! He saw I had pads the one day and pieced things together. He promised not to tell anyone, and I trust him to keep his word,” I assured Yuu.
Yuu backed off. “Yeah, but he still worries me. At least it was him and not Ace.”
“Why? What would Ace do?”
“Ace doesn’t know when to shut up, and Deuce can be a little scatterbrained sometimes. Honestly, I thought Grim was going to out you first.”
“Ah, I think he forgot actually,” I laughed as I went to the door.
I walked out to the clothesline at the back of the dorm. The linens swayed in the breeze. I hummed to myself as I took each item off the line. I folded them and placed them into the basket Yuu left outside. The breeze comforted me as I completed the simple chore. It was the simple tasks like this that had me forgetting I was trapped in a magical world. I picked up the basket of clean laundry and went back to the main building.
Yuu and I worked for hours. We painted, dusted, and rearranged furniture until it was time for dinner. As we walked to the cafeteria, we ran into the three stooges.
“And where were you, oh Great Grim?” I crossed my arms as I saw the cat-like beast.
“Geh,” he stopped. “I was…doing some errands…” Grim floundered.
“Yeah, sure,” Yuu told him. “You can clean the dorm by yourself tomorrow then while Viv and I go do some ‘errands’.”
“No way…” Grim slumped. Ace and Deuce chuckled at Grim’s predicament.
“So, Viv, how does it feel to have a unique magic?” Ace asked.
Yuu perked up, “You have a unique magic? Congratulations!”
“Oh, you must have heard from Riddle,” I shyly tucked some braids behind my ear. “I have to say, it is really exciting, but I still feel the same. Riddle sure seemed surprised when I brought it up.”
“Just what are you able to do?” Yuu asked. We grabbed some of the prepared food for the students and found an empty table.
“Uh, I don’t know exactly. I get a lot of energy and if I concentrate, I can heal wounds.” I poked my food with my fork. I smiled, “I get really dizzy and feel faint if I hold it for too long though.”
“You shouldn’t sound so cheerful when talking about fainting,” Ace said in a monotone.
“Sh-th-they just need to practice,” Deuce pointed out. He smiled at me, and I gave him a shaky thumbs up.
Yuu pointedly said to them, “Just because you know a healer now doesn’t mean you can go getting in trouble on a regular basis!”
“Yes, Dorm Leader Yuu~,” they all said. I let out a soft giggle as we went about our dinner.
Chapter 23: Chapter 22
I stretched my arms as I walked out of the Heartslabyul mirror. Yuu had gone to the library to study while I had gone to my morning tutoring session. Yuu kept their word on leaving Grim in the dorm to clean. I had no need to go back to Ramshackle just yet, so I decided to go on a walk around campus.
Been here for a while now, but I still only know where a few buildings are. Hall of Mirrors, Ramshackle, Main Building, the infirmary…
I recited the places I frequented in my head as I wondered about. I passed different buildings that I had no clue what their purpose was. I turned a corner and found myself on the main path. Seven statues lined the way back to the main building. I strolled down the walkway and stared at them all. They looked like the villains from the classic Disney movies. I stopped at the one labeled “Sea Witch”.
“She really looks like Ursula…” I mumbled to myself. I scratched my head. But she’s just a fictional character…right?
“Leafy Sea Dragon, I found you~!” a soft coo came from behind me.
I jumped. I spun around to see Floyd standing behind me all too close. I backed into the stature. “Floyd Leech…”
“You remembered my name,” Floyd looked at me with a devilish smile. “Do you also remember you owe me a squeeze?”
“Oh, shitake mushrooms,” I said under my breath.
“Pheh! Why do you have to bring up nasty mushrooms?” Floyd gagged. He put his hands in his pockets. “I should make you eat Jade’s mushroom dishes next time he tries to make me test it.”
“I’d rather get squeezed than forced fed mushrooms,” I crinkled my nose.
“Then why’d you mention them?”
“It’s an expression where I’m from!”
“Hehehe, what a silly expression,” he chuckled. I was getting whiplash at this dude’s mood swings. “Now it is time for a squeeze~!”
Crap! Crap! Crap!
I tried to evade his arms but was unsuccessful. He scooped me up. My feet dangled and my arms were pinned in front of my chest. I kicked back and wiggled in his grip, but his grip wouldn’t budge.
“You’re so light Leafy! I wonder if I could snap you in half,” his breath was right on my ear. He tightened his grip around me. I could feel the air being pushed from my lungs.
“Gah! Down! Please!” I gasped. It was like an extreme bear hug. I felt a pop go up my spine, “IiAah!” I yelped like a chihuahua. At the sound of my cry, Floyd dropped me. I grabbed the statue to steady myself. I felt like a limp noodle. My back was loose, but it didn’t feel broken. I nervously started laughing.
“Huh, people don’t really laugh after I squeeze them,” Floyd looked disappointed. “And you snapped, but not in half.”
“Hahaha, I’m sturdier than I look…ha~,” I stood up straight while I gritted my teeth.
“Say what now?” I shot him a side eye.
“Oh, no no no,” I shuffled away from Floyd, wagging my fingers, “no more squeeze. Me go bye-bye now.”
“But it’s fun hanging out with you~” he smiled. “You are so interesting!”
“Thank you kindly, but the last squeeze left my back feeling like jelly. I don’t want it turning to mush after the next go around,” I turned around and started walking away. “Have fun on your own good sir!”
With his long legs he easily caught up with me, “Don’t feel like it.”
I let out a long sigh as I kept walking. “You aren’t going to leave me alone, huh?”
I looked at the upperclassman, who just had a lazy smile on his face. I stopped walking and faced him. “Alright, I’ll hang with you for a bit. I don’t have anything to do today anyway.”
“Great!” he grabbed my wrist and dragged me in the opposite direction I was going.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked. I tried to keep up with his pace, but one of his steps were three of mine.
“You’ll see~,” he chirped. I just hoped I didn’t make a terrible choice.
(My version of Yuu that I imagine while writing)
Chapter 24: Chapter 23
“The gym?” I stood in the center of the basketball court.
“I felt like playing, so we’re gonna play,” Floyd got out a basketball and started to mindlessly dribble.
“One v one you?! You got to be kidding,” I put a hand on my hip. “I might not even know how to play, for all you know.”
Floyd passed the ball to me. I caught it. The blow nearly knocked the wind out of me.
I don’t have a choice in the matter…
I sighed. I could feel my binding rub against my armpit. This was going to hurt. I dribbled forward. I cut to my left to try and get around him. In an instant, he was in front of me. Floyd stole the ball and sprinted to the other side of the court. I ran after him, but he made a basket before I got there.
“Dang it,” I hissed. The competitiveness in me rose.
“It was so predictable Leafy Sea Dragon,” Floyd spun the ball on his finger.
“Oh, was it now?” I scoffed. I took my blazer off and unbuttoned my vest. I threw my blazer to the side. “I guess I’ll have to step up my game then.”
“Eh, hehehe~” Floyd passed me the ball once more. This time I managed to get past him at least. I attempted a basket at the foul shot line. Floyd didn’t even have to jump to block it.
“Oh, you little-!” I grumbled as I went after the ball.
The game went on like that for a bit. Floyd got point after point, while I tried to keep up. It felt more like a game of “keep-away” than basketball. I was given the ball again. The braids around my neck felt heavy. I faked him out and rolled past him. He pivoted to go after me but fell over. I took a jump-shot and got my first set of points.
“Ah ha! Finally!” I jumped in joy. I turned to see Floyd still on the ground. He poked at his ankle. He tried to get up but winced and went back down. “Floyd? Are you okay?”
I went up and knelt at his side. He had a dark look in his eyes as he wore a bored expression. “Stupid feet. What good are they if they get injured so easily?”
“Yeah, feet can do that to you. Sometimes, I think they have a mind of their own with how much they trip me up,” I chuckled at my own joke.
“My fins wouldn’t have had a problem with a turn like that in the sea,” he muttered.
“But fins can’t get you far on land,” I pointed out, going along with his metaphor. “Let me take a look.”
I rolled up the hem of his pant leg and pulled down his blue sock to see his swollen ankle. It was already turning purple. I lightly touched it, earning a small hiss from the pouting upperclassman.
“Stop touching it!” he snapped.
I ignored his outburst and continued my analysis, “You probably sprained your ankle. You’ll have to go to the nurse to get it wrapped.”
“Ah~. Azul is going to scold me~,” Floyd whined. “I’ll just walk it off.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I warned. He tried to get up and walk but couldn’t put any pressure on his foot. I pinched the bridge of my nose. “What did I just say? You’re not going anywhere with your ankle like that. If you sit down, I can at least ease the pain enough for you to walk.”
Floyd plopped back on the ground in front of me. He tilted his head and his earing jingled at the motion. “How?”
“Duh, magic silly,” I lightly bonked him on the head. “Just hold still, alright?”
“Hmm, fine. But if you do anything weird, I’ll squeeze you.”
“Alright with me. I’ll just run away, since you can’t chase me,” I smirked. I placed my hand over his ankle. “Darling Mother!”
The peachy aura surrounded me. It pulsated with the beating of my heart. I controlled my breathing and concentrated on Floyd’s ankle. The peach color wrapped around the area and seeped into the skin. My vision began to go black and the magic around me popped. The aura was gone, and I had a splitting headache. I rested my head in my hand as I slowly regained my vision. I leaned back on my other arm.
“So, how does it feel now?” I asked in a breathy tone.
Floyd touched his ankle and moved it ever so slowly. The swelling was still bad, but the bruising was gone. “Much better! What was that Leafy Sea Dragon? It was awesome! They don’t teach spells like that in the first-year courses!”
“Oh, uh, it’s my unique magic. I call it ‘Darling Mother’. I’m still getting used to it,” I looked away. It felt awkward getting a compliment from him.
“Well, we can keep going now!”
“Oh no you don’t. Just because it doesn’t hurt anymore doesn’t mean it is fully healed!”
Floyd stood up and clicked his tongue, “Tch, I can still play.”
“I am not going to force you to go to the nurse,” I stood up as well. I buttoned my vest as I went to pick up my blazer, “But I’m not going to keep playing with you either. I don’t have the stamina for it.”
“Leafy Sea Drag-Ah!” Floyd tried to come after me but winced when he put his full weight on his bad ankle.
“See what I said? Take care of yourself,” I waved at him. I slung my blazer over my shoulder and gave him a wide smile. “I had fun!” I left before I could hear him say anything else. When I looked at the time, it was early evening.
I wonder if Yuu is still in the library. I should see if I can join them.
I looked down the hallways and chose a direction, hoping that at some point it would take me to the library.
Chapter 25: Chapter 24
“Ah~ it’s finally over!” Ace let out in relief. Two weeks passed since my game with Floyd. We were all gathered in the classroom after finishing our mid-term written exam.
“When you think about being transported to a magical world, stressing over exams doesn’t come up,” I groaned.
“I did my best. Now all we need to do is wait for our results,” Deuce said in a relaxed manner.
“Hehe! That test was way too easy for me!” Grim boasted. Yuu just smiled at us all.
“Huh? You all seem confident. Usually, you guys look defeated after a test,” Ace pointed out.
Grim held a power pose on the desks, “Hehe! I’m different from how I was back then! Now, people are gonna come at me like- ‘Grim you’re such a genius! Help me study please!’”
“Dormmates better have priority ‘Genius Grim’,” I poked his side as he daydreamed as usual.
Deuce also held his head up high, “Actually, I’m very confident this time around. I will take this as a victory for me.”
“Coming from the guy who cries his eyes out when he barely passes an exam,” Ace teased. “Well, I feel confident too, so I won’t fail.”
Yuu looked at the three stooges with pride, “You guys studied hard, huh?”
“Kind of,” Ace rubbed his neck sheepishly, “this exam was easy.”
“I’ll be happy with anything above a 70. Just so Riddle can stop with the extreme tutoring sessions,” I slumped over the desk. “I think I can sleep for the rest of the day.”
“Well, since class is over, I’m going to head out to the track and field club,” Deuce shared.
Ace stretched his arms, “It’s been a while since I played basketball. Well, that’s it for the day. See you all later!”
“I’m going to go home too,” Grim yawned. “I’m so tired. I was studying all night long.”
“We’ll see you tomorrow guys,” Yuu waved good-bye. They pulled on my sleeve. “Come on Viv, don’t fall asleep yet.”
“I’m coming. I’m coming!” I protested as I was pulled away. “Bye guys!”
Wendy gasped in awe, “Just imagine real life mermaids!” She leaned down to look at the lagoon below. A group of beautiful mermaids sat on various rocks and swam in the water. They styled their hair.
The scene transitioned to Wendy on one of the rocks in the lagoon. The mermaids surrounded her. They pulled on her nightgown. “How about you join us for a swim?” One with red hair gave a tug on the hem of Wendy’s dress.
“Please! Stop!” Wendy pleaded. As one mermaid pulled, another pushed. They did not let up their attack. “PETER!!”
The boy in the green tunic floated in the air. He was laughing his head off. The mermaids used their tails to splash water in Wendy’s face. The kept going, soaking her. Wendy found a shell on the rock beside her and picked it up. She wielded it above her head and warned, “If you dare come near me-,”
Peter rushed to her side. He threw the shell away, and through a breathy laugh he tried to calm Wendy down, “Wendy, Wendy! Hey, they were just having a little fun. Weren’t you girls?”
All the mermaids played innocent as they resumed lounging on the rocks. One with blonde hair sighed, “Oh, we were just trying to drown her.”
Wendy furiously huffed as the scene faded away.
I sat up with a start. The dream had me in a cold sweat. I sat in my bed in Ramshackle trying to catch my breath. It was still dark outside my window. A haunted voice floated into the room, “Are you okay, Little Lady?” The skinny ghost of Ramshackle floated at the end of my bed.
I tiredly nodded my head. “Yeah, just had a bad dream…”
“Well, I’m pretty sure there is some milk in the fridge below. Go get yourself a mug before going back to bed,” it advised.
I silently nodded and watched it float up through the ceiling.
Morning came and a week had passed since the exams finished. Yuu and I were walking and talking down the hall to our next class.
“I’m serious! Headmaster Crowley looks like a cross between Michael Jackson and Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!” I laughed as I yelled light heartedly at them.
“And I’m telling you, I don’t know who those people are!” Yuu yelled back at me. They were full of giggles.
An all too familiar voice echoed through the hall, “Stop right there Grim! Today is the day I’m gonna make you pay!”
“Hehe! You should have written your name on it!” Grim bounded around the corner with Ace hot on his tail.
Yuu face palmed as the two came to a halt in front of us, “What happened this time?”
Deuce walked up slowly from the same direction the two came from. “Geez, I’m getting tired of these guys…”
“You and me both,” I sighed.
“Hey, Yuu! You’re the dorm leader!” Ace pointed at Grim. “Control your student better!”
“What did he even do?” Yuu looked at Grim’s smug face.
“This guy stole and ate the sweet bread I just bought,” Ace complained.
Grim feigned surprise, “How rude that you think I stole it! I just saw it on the desk, so I took it and ate it.”
“Just because it’s on the desk doesn’t mean it’s free for someone to take it!”
I twirled one of my braids around my finger, “They really act like siblings, don’t they?”
“I wished they’d act like the siblings that get along,” Yuu groaned. “Knock it off you two, be- huh?”
Ace and Grim were calm suddenly. They awkwardly smiled at each other. No more screaming.
“It’s unusual for them to stop fighting on their own,” Deuce remarked. He stroked his chin. “Usually, a teacher or the headmaster has to come and break them up.”
“What has gotten into you two?” I asked.
“Nothing really. I just think there’s no point in chasing a racoon over some bread,” Ace shrugged.
“Sounds like bull to me,” Yuu muttered under their breath.
“What?!” Grim looked at Ace with newfound anger. “You are being so mean, you know that?”
“Okay! That’s enough! We’re going to be late for class at this rate. Do you want to make Professor Crewel mad?” Yuu tapped their foot impatiently.
Ace and Grim both looked terrified. We all went to class at a quickened pace. When class started, we were given our test scores back. Everyone was buzzing with anticipation.
Ace held his test triumphantly, “I did it! I got a 92!”
“An 88!?” Deuce screamed. “I never thought the day would come where I would get over 80!”
“Lookie, lookie! I got an 85!” Grim shoved his paper in Yuu’s face.
“You all did amazing!” Yuu clapped their hands for the three of them.
“What did you get Yuu?” I asked leaning over.
“Huh? Oh, a 90. What about you?”
“I got an 81. Not bad for being months behind,” I smiled. “I’ll have to properly thank Riddle.”
“Now I don’t have to worry about repeating a year!” Deuce was on the verge of tears.
“You all studied very hard this time. Compared to the last quiz that it…” Professor Crewel praised us. His face turned down. “No. It’s a little suspicious, but the class average is drastically higher than usual…”
“Suspicious? What do you mean professor?” Ace looked up at him from his seat.
Professor Crewel explained to us, “Every single student in your year all scored an average of 90 points in Magical Alchemy. I heard from Professor Trein that all your Magical History scores were a lot higher as well.”
“The entire year?!” I quietly gasped. Deuce and Grim also gasped.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ace sighed.
“Am I missing something?” Yuu raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t this a good thing?”
“Unless they think we all cheated and make us retake the exams,” I groaned.
“The names of the top 50 scores will be posted in the hallway. Look forward to it,” Professor Crewel announced. “Now then, let’s begin class. Open your textbooks.”
Chapter 26: Chapter 25
This chapter heavily mentions past trauma through episodes of Aquaphobia: the irrational fear of large amounts of water or submerging one's face in water. Viewer discretion is advised.
When the bell rang, the three stooges flew out if the room into the hallway. Yuu and I shared a look before going out after them. They were crowded around a bulletin board along with a ton of other students.
“Rank 10, 20…no. Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty…no!” Gri cried. “My name isn’t on here!!”
Deuce also stepped back in defeat, “My name isn’t here either.”
Ace looked at the board carefully, “H-hold on a sec. This is the list of the top scorers and next to their name is the overall score from all subjects combined so…” He gasped at what he read. “More than 30 students on this list got perfect scores of 500!?”
“Dang!” I exclaimed. “They don’t call this a prestigious school for nothing.”
“Is it even possible for over 30 students to get perfect scores?!” Yuu tried to comprehend the situation.
“Well, I guess it depends on how many students are in our year. Then we could get the percentage…” I feebly tried to explain it.
“More importantly, if I’m not top 50, I will be violating the contract!” Grim wailed.
There was an awkward silence in our group as Grim statement sank in.
Ace was surprised. “Eh? ‘Contract’? Grim, now way you…”
Deuce grew nervous, “Ace, by that look on your face did you also…”
“Is anyone going to fill us in? I asked. A flash of silver mixed with purple magic flashed in front of me. When it was gone, these weird sea-flowers were sprouting from Ace, Deuce, and Grim’s heads. “Okay, now what the crap is this?”
Grim started to freak out. “Fyna! What the heck is this?! Why is this anemone growing on my head?!”
“Grim, did you make a contract with him too?! That’s cheating!” Deuce scolded.
“Same goes for you Deuce! It’s on your head too!” Ace pointed.
Grim pulled on the thing growing from his head, “Ow ow ow! I can’t get it off!”
“What did you all do?!” Yuu screamed at them. Anger was mixed with concern in their voice.
“I knew you guys would be here since it’s so noisy,” Jack came up from behind me. I jumped slightly. “What are you all doing?”
“Jack did you make a contract- no…” Deuce looked surprised. “There’s no anemone on your head!”
“I never pictured you as the studious type,” Ace’s lack of a filter struck once again.
“Huh? What are you talking about? What’s that thing on your head?” Jack looked at them with a grossed-out face.
“These are, um…Ah!” Grim’s head was yanked to the side. “What’s happening?!”
“G-Grim?!” I tried to pull him back down, but that only seemed to make it worse.
“Ah! The anemone is pulling on my head!” he cried out.
“Owww! It’s gonna rip my head off!” Ace screeched in pain.
Deuce was being pulled along as well. His face was contorted as he was being manipulated, “Dammit! Is this what he meant by ‘absolute submission’?”
Grim was pulled out of my arms. The three amigos were dragged down the hall. Yuu, Jack and I watched in disbelief.
“What’s going in? The anemone on their heads are dragging them somewhere,” Jack sighed. “What a dumb picture.”
“We need to follow them” Yuu was obviously anxious. “Come on Viv, Jack.”
“Huh? Why me? This has nothing to do with me,” Jack started to back off.
“Oh, the wounds I got from the Magical Shift Tournament still hurt~” Yuu clutched their head.
“Concussions do take a while to fully heal,” I played along. I gave a smile to our wolfy friend.
“Tch, you’ve grown comfortable since coming to this school,” Jack crossed his arms. “You got a lot of nerve using me like that.”
Yuu started giving him the puppy-dog eyes, “Please, Jack?”
“Fine, I’ll go with you. Just for a little bit,” Jack caved. “I’m curious what’s the cause of all this. It’s not like I’m worried or anything. Don’t get the wrong idea. Got it?”
Yuu and I fist bumped as we dragged Jack along to follow our anemone-headed friends. We went all the way to the Hall of Mirrors. There was a large crowd of student, all with anemones on their heads and spouting similar woes.
“I was so sure I was going to make the top 50!” one boy said.
“We were tricked by that scheming octopus bastard!” another barked.
“Octopus? That’s a weird insult,” I said to myself.
“I thought it was just those three idiots, but all these people have anemones on their heads.There are even second and third years here too,” Jack observed. “They’re all gathered in front of the Octavinelle mirror.”
“Who is this ‘scheming octopus bastard’ they keep talking about?” Yuu looked at the surrounding students.
“I bet we will find out if we go through the mirror,” I pointed to where all the anemone-heads were being dragged.
“Let’s go check it out too,” Jack made a way for us with his large figure. Yuu and I followed in his train through the teleportation mirror. I was sandwiched between Jack and Yuu as I stepped over the shells leading to the mirror. When I passed through the mirror, my breath hitched. My legs stiffened and my hands shook. I saw the bubbles rise and the currents sway.
“Woah! The dorm is under water?” Yuu stepped out of the mirror with amazement. I was frozen in place.
“This is incredible! Night Raven College is amazing!” Jack’s tail began to sway. Yuu giggled and Jack quickly regained his stoic composure. “Ahem, we’ll be entering another dorm, so be careful and keep your guard up.”
Water. I’m surrounded by water. I am surrounded by water.
My breathing got shallow. Jack and Yuu walked forward with ease. I couldn’t move. Other students walked through the mirror and shoved past me. I knew I had to move, but my body wouldn’t listen to me. I tried to call out to Yuu, but my voice got stuck in my throat. I saw Yuu looked panicked and look around them franticly. They turned back and saw me still in front of the mirror. Yuu got Jack’s attention and the two of them pushed against the crowd to get to me.
Yuu waved a hand in front of my face, “Viv? Viv?! Hey, are you okay?!”
“So, so much…wa-water…I’m sorry. I-I can’t- surrounded…hng, scary…” I barely managed to whisper. My throat felt dry. It was hard to keep my breathing steady. Terrible memories flashed to the forefront of my mind. It made me want to curl up and cry.
“What? Viv, I can’t understand you,” Yuu placed a hand on my shoulder. I flinched. Yuu quickly removed their hand looked at me anxiously.
Jack tried to get my attention, but I stared blankly ahead. Jack moved into my line of sight. He blocked out every regarding the water. “Hey. You’re worrying your dorm leader. Snap out of it.”
“But the water…the water is out to get me,” I choked out and shut my eyes tight.
“The water can’t get to you. Don’t worry, once we are in the building you won’t have to see the water,” Yuu tucked my arm under theirs. “Just hold me, okay?”
I opened my eyes and tightened my hold on Yuu’s arm. Jack walked on my other side without saying a word. We moved at a slow pace through the dormitory. My legs still shook violently, but I was able to move them at least. I looked around the dorm as we walked down the halls with the rest of the crowd. I tried to ignore the water. It was a very beautiful dorm, I had to admit, but I couldn’t look away from Yuu or the ground for too long before I felt anxiety rising in my gut.
We got to a large room where everyone was crowded around one another. “Everyone with the anemones on their heads are here,” Yuu looked around us.
Jack counted all the heads, “One hundred…no, more like two hundred students are crammed in this place. What even is this place…seems like a shop?”
“I think I see a sign over there,” I pointed. My voice was breathy and had the qualities of a mouse.
“Mostro Lounge?” Jack read aloud. He scanned the area again. “Where’s Ace and the others?” Then the lights went out. I clung onto Yuu tighter.
At the top of the stairs, a spotlight snapped onto a person with silver hair and pale skin. He wore glasses and a fedora with a purple shell ornament placed on the grey sash. He had on a black suit with a white dress shirt and a purple bowtie. A scarf with the dorm logo hung around his neck and a grey trench coat draped over his shoulders. He looked like a mafia boss.
“How unfortunate that all of you were unable to make the top 50,” he projected his voice. “Welcome to Mostro Lounge. You all already know who I am but allow me to reintroduce myself. I am Azul Ashengrotto. I am the Octavinelle dorm leader as well as the manager of the café Mostro Lounge and starting today I will be your master.”
Chapter 27: Chapter 26
“You all played against me, and you lost. According to the contract, you will all work as my servants until the day you graduate,” Azul reiterated.
“Ace and them were fools,” Yuu whispered.
“Wait a second! This is a scam!” Ace’s familiar voice spoke up from the crowd.
“Speak of the devil,” I groaned. I loosened my grip on Yuu’s arm. Being surrounded by other students calmed my nerves slightly, but I still shook nervously.
“How rude of you to call this a scam,” Azul sighed. “I gave you the perfect notes for the exam as stated in our contract. If you studied from them, well, you should have gotten at least 90 points.”
“Yeah, I got a 92,” Ace defiantly stated. “I didn’t know you’d be giving everybody those notes.” Deuce and Grim backed him up.
“Even if we got the notes, it’s impossible for all of us to be in the top 50,” Deuce pointed out.
Grim added, “If everyone got higher than 90, then you get an 85, your rank isn’t going to be that high.”
If they had used their brains like this to study on their own, they wouldn’t be in this mess…
I sighed as Azul went on about confidentiality. “As you see here on page one hundred twenty-seven of the contract, there is a nondisclosure agreement clause. I am just upholding the contract.”
“Then what will happen to my fire magic I gave you as a collateral for the notes?” Grim looked scared.
“He did what?!” Yuu’s whisper was harsh. Other unfortunate students begged for their magic.
“Oh my, everyone~. Did you all forget the terms of our contract?” Azul recited the document from heart. “In exchange for giving you notes for ou to prepare for the exam, you must give me your most prized ability. If you are able to rank in the top 50, your magic abilities will be returned, and I will continue to give you notes for exams until you graduate. However, if you do not rank in the top 50, you will be under my complete and absolute submission as my servant. Isn’t that correct?”
“This is unbelievable!” Ace yelled.
“They really are idiots to have signed such an obviously skewed contract,” I rubbed the side of my nose to release some tension.
“How can you just give away your magic?” Yuu was almost pulling their hair out.
Jack growled, “I’ve been listening this while time, but I can’t stand any of you!”
Our cover was blown as all eyes turned towards us. I leaned on Yuu as they hid their face in their hands. They muttered something, but I couldn’t tell what it was.
“Jack? What are you doing here?!” Deuce asked.
“Trying to see what trouble you got yourselves into this time,” Yuu tapped their foot.
“You don’t have an anemone on your head,” Azul noticed. “We are currently in a staff meeting. Can unauthorized personnel escort themselves out?”
Jack let out a deep growl, “You’re going to kick me out? I won against all of you by studying hard on my own! But all that effort means nothing now, because of you! I am involved now!”
“This isn’t going to end well,” Yuu predicted.
“Yuu! Jack! Viv too! Did you guys come here to save us?!” Grim hopefully cheered.
“Don’t get the wrong idea. I still hate everyone here,” Jack said point blank.
“Honestly, if I had known you’d signed such a sketchy contract, I’d have never come here. Y’all need to face the consequences of your actions,” I scolded.
Jack went on to say, “I am not picking sides between those who scam others and those who depend on others.”
“Then why are you guys here?” Ace mumbled.
“Because of Jack I realized something,” Grim got a determined expression. “We need to fight for ourselves! In other words, if we take the contract we signed with Azul and destroy it, then it will be null and void, right?!”
I face palmed while Yuu tried to stop them. “No! You guys!”
“Good grief, I honestly didn’t want it to come down to this, but you leave me no choice,” Azul waved his hand. The Leech twins stepped forward. “Jade, Floyd. Come play with them a little bit.”
“Oh no,” was my sigh of resignation.
“Understood,” Jade looked all proper in his suit. The twins wore the same suit as Azul, but they had inverted colors of his bowtie and dress shirt, along with a lack of a trench coat.
Once again, Floyd’s outfit was all over the place. He had a large, closed eye smile, “Does this mean I can strangle all these guys? Ah~. Yay!”
“He doesn’t mean literally, does he?” Yuu pondered.
“I think he does,” I say. We both turned tail and ran away from the twins while everyone else charged right at them. The army of peeved students were disposed of by the three Octavinelle members. Everyone was exhausted and the lounge looked like a battle zone.
Floyd pouted, “They’re all so weak. I didn’t even get to strangle any of them.”
“They really are like a helpless school of fish aren’t they,” Azul brushed something off his sleeve.
“Azul can use all that magic?! That isn’t fair!” Ace whined.
“You shouldn’t have picked a fight with a con-artist!” I yelled at him.
“Damn it. I didn’t realize I relied on my magic so much,” Deuce hissed.
“And without his fire magic, Grim is just a normal racoon…” Ace sighed.
Grim was sprawled across my lap in a daze. “I am not a racoon…” he gurled before fainting. I petted his fur to comfort both him and me.
Azul rolled up the golden contract in his possession. “No matter how much magic you use, you won’t be able to leave a scratch on this contract. Fufufu. The second those anemones sprouted from your heads; you have no other choice then to follow my orders.”
“What is with this school?” I whispered.
“Shall I have you start cleaning the lounge first? Next, the food prep,” Azul started to go down his to-do list. “Now then, get up and get to work!”
“Are you serious?!” Ace protested.
“This is why you don’t sign contracts with guys like him!” Yuu slapped him on the shoulder.
“Jade. Floyd. Please train our new staff,” Azul ordered.
“Yes,” the twins said together.
“You are Jack Howl from Savanaclaw, and Yuu and Vivienne Abiba from Ramshackle dorm, correct?” Azul’s attention went back to us. “Please escort yourselves out soon. Next time you are more than welcome to visit the lounge. I will kindly welcome you.”
As Azul walked away Jack growled at him. “Hey, Yuu, Viv, let’s leave for now.”
“But Grim and the others,” Yuu started to protest.
“You just saw how that battle went didn’t you? There’s nothing we can do right now,” Jack started to lead us out of the lounge. I handed Grim over to Deuce. I trailed behind Yuu and Jack, not really wanting to go back to being surrounded by water.
I looked back at the sea of students in front of Azul and the twins. I met Floyd’s eyes, who gave me a lazy smile and a wave. I glared. I grabbed onto Jack’s blazer as we neared the exit of Mostro Lounge. Floyd’s lazy smile turned into a dark pout. He turned his attention back at the see of students and rolled his shoulder back. I turned by attention back in front of me and took a deep breath in. Jack looked at my hand, a bit confused, until he looked ahead of us and saw the watery tunnel that led out of the Octavinelle dormitory. He sighed and slowed his pace for me.
Chapter 28: Chapter 27
We all got back to the Ramshackle dorm building in one piece. I went straight to the couch and flopped down on my stomach. “I’m so glad we finished renovating the living room before all this started happening,” I sighed against a pillow. Yuu moved my legs off one end of the couch and sat next to me. I immediately put my legs back up so that they were on their lap.
“You two seem to get along well,” Jack commented.
“That’s what happens when two people get transported to a magical world together,” Yuu sighed. “Now we can be confused about everything together.”
“It helps when you’re two out of three members of a makeshift dorm,” I added. “You get to know a lot about a person.”
“Like the fact they get scared stiff when surrounded by water?” Yuu sat up to question me. “What happened back there, huh?”
“Oh, uh, you see…” I fumbled with my words.
“You have a fear of water, don’t you,” Jack hit the nail on the head.
“Yeah…It’s called aquaphobia,” I sighed. I felt myself tense just thinking about it. “In heavily simplified terms, anything bigger than a bathtub or getting sprayed by large quantities of water throws me into a state of anxiety. The bigger the quantity, the worse the reaction.”
“Oh man,” Yuu said. “Are you okay after all this in Octavinelle?”
“For the most part,” I sighed. “My nerves are shot, but they’ll heal. As long as I don’t have to go there again, I’ll be peachy.”
Jack sat on the ground in front of the couch and leaned back. His head was right by my hand. “If you want…you can…pet, me. But only while we plan our next move!” Jack grumbled.
“Really?!” I perked up.
“That’s nice of you, Jack,” Yuu smiled.
“No! Not really. If you’re gonna help, then we need you at the top of your game,” Jack wrote off his action.
“Of course, Jack. Thank you,” I shared my gratitude. I ran my hands through his hair as he recapped the situation the other three got themselves in.
“I thought it was strange that Grim scored higher than 80,” Yuu mentioned.
“Honestly, there’s no point in getting good grades just because of someone else!” Jack barked. “All they want to do is show off how great they are to others…How stupid.”
“If I can scorer higher than an 80 by playing catch-up, they can do it too,” I mumbled.
“It’s troublesome how all the kids at this school don’t share Howl’s mentality. No, it they were all serious, maybe I wouldn’t be having such a hard time,” Headmaster Crowley’s iconic voice popped in.
We all scrambled. Jack and Yuu stood up in a rush to greet the headmaster. I ended up on the ground because of their sudden movements.
“What? Headmaster?! You startled me!” Jack exclaimed.
“Why do people feel like they can just enter our dorm building out of the blue…” Yuu whined.
Crowley sighed, “Once again, I wasn’t able to stop Ashengrotto’s ‘business’…”
“Do you know something Headmaster?” Yuu prodded.
“He is an exceptional dorm leader and second year student, but he’s just a little, no very problematic.”
“Is that because of that scam he’s running? Then as headmaster why don’t you order him to stop?” Jack asked.
“That’s…because I am a teacher. I can’t ban his actions,” Crowley explained. He explained how what Azul was doing wasn’t technically breaking any rules. All he was doing was giving a very extensive study guide he made himself. Crowley also tolde us that this wasn’t the first time Azul had done this. He had also done this scheme the previous year. Same penalty and everything. The only reason those students have their magic back was because Azul extorted the headmaster into signing a contract that exchanged the students’ magic with the managing operation of the Mostro Lounge.
“What is with that guy,” Jack was baffled. “I can’t believe he got Headmaster to sign a contract. He made what Leona did look like child’s play.”
“I think they’re both terrible, just in different ways,” I sat back on the couch.
“Ah, I wonder what he will demand of me this year,” Crowley fretted. “Will I fall for yet another trap in order to save those idio- I mean poor unfortunate students? I am so very kind. Ashengrotto is very good at studying. From other’s point of view, he is just helping his fellow students. I’m just a teacher. I can’t stop him. Why is this school full of slightly problematic students?!”
The headmaster let out a terrible wail of a cry. I scrunched up my nose. Yuu whispered in my ear, “If this is going how I think it’s going, we are going to have a lot more problems…”
“So, Yuu, Abiba. Can you go to Azul and convince him to stop all of this?” Crowley asked.
“There it is,” Yuu snapped their fingers. They responded to Crowley, “He doesn’t seem like the type to be easily convinced.”
“Ah!” Crowley took a pondering stance. “It seems the Ramshackle dorm’s food expenses have been very high lately…how cruel.” Yuu and I went slacked jawed. “And I’ve been researching long and hard for certain people to find their way back home. I don’t have the time to deal with all this.”
We stood in awe.
He wonders why the students act the way they do!
“Such blatant usage of blackmail…” I sighed.
“Oh, don’t mind me. This is just what I get for being so kind,” Crowley said with a wave of his hand.
“And here is the added guilt trip for good measure,” Yuu narrated. Yuu let out a long sigh. I thought I saw a grey hair on their head. “We’ll try our best.”
Crowley perked up like a kid promised candy. “Is that so?! You will do it?! As expected from the dorm leader I chose myself! Now then, I am a very busy man, so allow me to excuse myself. I’ll be counting on you.”
With that he left. We stayed silent for what seemed like a substantial amount of time trying to process what just happened. Yuu plopped into an armchair. The ghosts even stopped in to see what was going on.
“So, what’s the plan?” Jack looked at Yuu. “Just like you said, he doesn’t seem like the type of person who’ll just stop just because we asked.”
Yuu leaned forward as they put a finger to their lips in thought. Then they gave an exhausted smile, “A good investigation starts with observing the target.”
Chapter 29: Chapter 28
We snuck around the halls the next day. “I can’t believe we are skipping class…” Yuu said in a hushed tone.
“It’s an order from the Headmaster, so I’m sure he will excuse us from classes,” Jack assured.
“I can’t believe Jack agreed to help us,” I said.
“I don’t like to lose. I just want to know why Azul is using his powers like this,” Jack crossed his arms.
First period was music. We hung in the back of the room and watched Azul practice a tune wordlessly.
“He is surprisingly a pretty good singer,” Jack’s ears went back in shock. Second period was animal language. Azul accurately translated what Professor Trein’s cat said. “Not only does he understand animal language, but he can also speak it well too!”
“There’s an animal language class?!” I asked excitedly. We continued to follow him to his classes, even lunch. The only conclusion we could end on was that he was the epitome of an honor student.
During lunch, Ace, Deuce, and Grim came in looking haggard. “I’m so exhausted from being on Azul’s beck and call,” Grim sighed. All three sat at the table and told us their woes.
“Hmph, you get what you deserve,” Jack showed them no sympathy.
“Seems like you guys can’t handle manual labor,” Yuu chuckled.
“Stop it you two. They’ve had a long day,” I scolded. I munch on a baby carrot aimlessly and played with my food.
“I couldn’t stop myself from teasing these dorks,” Yuu sighed. “I will say, we have to do something fast.”
“Oh my, what seems to be troubling you? You all have such long faces,” a smooth voice spoke at the end of our table.
“Gak! Ackack!” I coughed as the carrot went down the wrong pipe.
What is with people just showing up out of nowhere?!
“Ahahah~. Well, if it isn’t the school of anemones,” a lazy voice gave a laugh. He walked over to where I sat between Jack and Yuu. “Leafy Sea Dragon is here too! Lucky~!”
Why me…Oh lord, why me…
“Yeah, we are troubled after being used by a certain someone,” Ace pointedly said.
“Ah~ the anemone who violated the contract is saying something~,” Floyd put his chin on top of my head. His hands rested on my shoulders. His voice changed into a threatening tone, “You are in no position to complain. Now shut up.” His grip on me tightened. His words weren’t directed at me, but I still made a point not to make a sound.
Grim hid behind Deuce, “Hee!! Am I gonna get strangled again?”
“Floyd, be careful,” Jade nodded in my direction. Floyd clicked his tongue. He got off me and walked over to his brother. I rolled my shoulders as Yuu checked me over. “And I was not talking to the anemones. I was talking to the Ramshackle dorm leader, Yuu.”
“Y-yes?!” Yuu flinched. They leaned back from the twins.
Floyd giggled, “Look at them, getting all scared, backing away like a little shrimp. Shrimpy~. You’re so tiny, like a little shrimp.”
Deuce muttered under his breath “I think everyone looks small compared to these two.”
“They sound very threatening, don’t they?” Ace sweat dropped.
“I remember you were spying with Riddle the other day, so we are already acquainted, but allow me to reintroduce myself,” he had a very polite smile permanently on his face. “I am Jade Leech, and this is my twin brother, Floyd.”
Floyd’s cute persona returned, “I’m Floyd~. Nice to meet you, Little Shrimp.”
“Now then, back to the main order of business,” Jade got back on track. “Could it be that what is troubling you is related to these dumb anemones over there?”
“Excuse me?” although Yuu looked terrified, their words were far from it.
“Hard to believe you are actually concerned when you have that huge grin on your face,” Jack pointed out.
“Who are you? Your hair is spikey, like a sea urchin,” Floyd played with Jack’s hair. A slight glare was in his droopy eyes.
Jack got huffy and swatted Floyd away, “I am not a sea urchin! I’m a wolf!”
Jade ignored his brother’s antics and went up to Yuu, “If the source of your troubles is related to the anemones, you should take it up with Azul directly.” He gave a pointy-toothed smile to them.
“And the true motives start to appear,” I raised my eyebrows.
“Azul is a compassionate individual, just like the Sea Witch of the Great Seven. Surely, he will listen to your troubles.”
“Yeah~, Azul can solve any problem. For example…” Floyd joined in with his brother’s persuasions, “you can wish for him to get those anemones off your pals.”
“Eh?!” everyone gasped.
“You have my attention,” Yuu put down their utensils and pushed their food away.
“Of course, you must realize this won’t be for free,” Jade made the point to say.
“Of course. Compassion and charity are two different things, after all,” I rested my chin on my hand. I gave Jade the same type of smile he gave us.
“You guys are just trying to get Yuu to sign a contract,” Jack growled.
“You don’t need to bare your fangs at us,” Jade didn’t even flinch. “Land creatures are so vicious, aren’t they?”
“We are just trying to be kind and let you know,” Floyd cooed. “Right, Jade?”
“Indeed, Floyd. We can’t leave these poor, unfortunate souls in need.” They both started to laugh with wicked grins.
Whelp, they sure got the creepy twin act going for them. Floyd is a whole lot easier to handle by himself, that’s for sure. And what the crap was with that “land creatures” bit? Something is fishy about them…
“It you are interested, please visit the Mostro Lounge at nine o’clock tonight. We will have delicious tea waiting for you,” Jade invited.
“We’ll be waiting, Little Shrimp~,” Floyd giggled. “Be sure to bring Leafy Sea Dragon too~.”
“Does he mean you?” Yuu asked me when they were gone.
I nodded. I readjusted my braids and mumbled, “I don’t trust them.”
Chapter 30: Chapter 29
“So, in other words…” Deuce started.
“If you make a contract with Azul and win…” Grim continued.
“We will be set free!” Ace finished.
All three of them got a serious expression as they begged in unison, “Please dorm leader! Please win against him!”
“You guys have no shame,” I said.
“Coming from someone without an anemone from their heads! You wouldn’t understand!” Grim accused.
“It’s your own fault for cheating in the first place,” Jack reprimanded them.
“We already learned our lesson,” Ace whined.
“We won’t ever do it again,” Deuce showed remorse. “Next time, I will accept the failing mark…Hn!”
I reached over the table and pinched his cheek, “You should put your time and energy in making sure you don’t get a failing mark the honest way!”
As I did this, Jack addressed Yuu, “Are you going to play along with those guys?”
“I will listen to what he has to say…” Yuu sighed.
“Oh Yuu, please tell me you got a plan,” I stopped messing with Deuce to look at my fellow dimension traveler.
“This is the first time I ever respected you as my dorm leader!” Grim cheered.
“The first time!” Yuu exclaimed. They sighed in defeat, “Thanks, I guess…”
“I’ll tag along with you two, just because you seem like the types to jump in headfirst into danger,” Jack volunteered.
“Hey, I at least think about it first,” I corrected.
“I appreciate the offer Jack,” Yuu bowed their head.
A weird squelching noise came from across the table. “Not again!” Deuce yelled. “The anemones are pulling on us!”
“He’s going to make us work during lunch!?” Ace exclaimed.
“You’re our only hope, Yuu!” Grim cried. They were all pulled away in agony. We sighed at their hopeless behavior.
“Wait a minute,” I came to realization, “this means I have to go back to the underwater dorm…Fudge!”
It was now nine o’clock and we were back at the Mostro Lounge, to my dismay. I clung onto Jack’s blazer as we entered. I was shaking a bit, but I tried to not let my fear show through my face.
“I didn’t notice earlier, but this place has a very ‘grown-up’ atmosphere,” Yuu took in the scenery as they took the lead.
“We are in enemy territory. Don’t let your guard down,” Jack warned.
“Ah~, Little Shrimp and Leafy Sea Dragon~. Welcome!” Floyd greeted us. He looked at Jack, or more precisely where I was gripping his blazer, “I see you brought the sea urchin here with you.”
“Hi Floyd,” Yuu greeted.
“I told you, I’m not a sea urchin!” Jack barked. Floyd had a smile on, but his eyes were menacing.
“Thank you for deciding to come,” Jade walked over to us. “Welcome to the Mostro Lounge. This is your first time here, isn’t it?” He had a knowing smile. He reminded me of a butler welcoming guest to the manor.
“We stopped by once before, but we were unable to dine due to prior engagements,” I answered in my best ‘customer service’ voice I could muster at that time.
“I’ve been wondering this for a while,” Jack growled. “Do you like to ask questions you already know the answer to?”
Jade chuckled. “It is merely a formality that I ask. Now then, let me explain the precautions and disclaimers to you before we continue.” Yuu nodded for him to go on. “The Mostro Lounge is a gentleman’s social club. So please refrain from fighting with others from different dorms. Here, everyone abides to Octavinelle’s rules. So please, follow the rules and enjoy yourself here at the lounge, ok?”
“Understood,” Yuu responded for us all.
“Now then, beloved customer, what brings you here today?”
“I would like to speak with the manager,” Yuu said with confidence.
“Very well then. However, the manager is with another customer at the moment. Would you mind waiting in the lounge for a little bit?”
“You’re the one that told us to come at-Ack!” I was cut off when Yuu elbowed me in the ribs. I zipped my lips.
“We wouldn’t mind at all,” Yuu smiled.
“Come relax Leafy~!” Floyd grabbed my wrist and pulled me away from Jack. He yanked me around with him. Jade guided Yuu more calmly to one of the booths.
They sat us down. Jack decided to stand. Floyd stayed by my side while Jade continued to talk with Yuu. “Loitering is also prohibited. We ask that you please buy one drink while you wait.” Yuu and I made eye contact from across the booth. This was giving off total mafia crime boss vibes. “Mr. Anemone, please come take their order,” Jade called over the server.
The server was none other than Deuce with a tray of beverages. Ace was next to him with his own tray of drinks. “I can’t. I have to deliver these other orders.”
“Same here. Can’t you just take the order?” Ace snapped back. “Look how relaxed they are while we are here working our butts off.”
I wanted to bang my head on the table. Of all the times Ace could have a smart mouth, this is one of the worsts.
“Oww ow ow!” Ace’s anemone yanked upwards.
Deuce’s did the same, “Stop pulling the anemones!”
“Azul left me in charge of training the new staff. So, those who violate the rules will be punished,” Jade said. With a flick of his fingers, the anemones lurched again. I could see the faint seafoam light of magic connecting his finger to the anemones each time.
“Ow ow ow! I got it! I got it already!” Ace screamed.
“Please wait!” Yuu interjected.
“Oh my, well this certainly won’t do, dear customer,” Jade turned to look down at Yuu. “I believe I already told you that you are to follow the rules while you are in the lounge.”
Floyd leaned down to talk at my ear level, “We have the right to strangle the necks of problematic kids who don’t listen~.”
My hand went up to my neck in reflex and rubbed my nape. I cleared my throat and asked, “Don’t you think doing such a punishment in front of guests is unbecoming?”
“Not at all~,” Floyd smiled, leaning closer.
Jack placed a hand on Floyd’s shoulder and pulled him back out of my bubble. They both clicked their tongue. Jack said, “So you’re saying we aren’t allowed to talk back to you?”
“Well then, would you like to man the shop in their place?” Floyd challenged the wolf.
“Ah! That’s a good idea, let’s do that!” Ace cut in. “We could really use their help right now.”
“You little-! Why are you deciding stuff on your own?” Jack exclaimed.
Through clenched teeth I said, “That is really something a supervisor should decide on.”
“That is alright with us, as long as you are willing to actually work,” Jade consented.
“It would be bad if you got kicked out, right?” Deuce noted.
Ace pleaded with Yuu, “We’re really tired! Grim has been washing the dishes in the back and now he is covered in bubbles. I’m begging you!”
“Tch, fine. Let’s just get this over with so I can go back to my dorm and go to sleep,” Jack easily gave in.
“Sleep? It’s only nine. What time do you go to sleep?” Ace asked.
“I’m in bed by 10 pm.”
“Wow, Jack is such a good boy!” I gasped. “I don’t get under the covers until midnight.”
“I’ll help too. I hate to see you guys over worked,” Yuu’s soft hearted nature showed up.
I stood up from my seat and said, “If my dorm leader says we are serving drinks, then I guess we are serving drinks.”
“So, Little Shrimp, Sea Urchin, and Leafy Sea Dragon will be helping us?” Floyd grabbed a tall glass of some colorful drink and gave it to me. He pointed to a table and instructed, “Then take this to table three.”
“Oh, okay,” I walked over carefully and set the drink down. “Here you are sir.”
“Waiter! Can we get a refill over here?!” someone called form another table.
“Coming!” Yuu sped walked over to them. We were all running back and forth. We looked like headless chickens.
Don’t these boys have homework to do?! And how do they have the money for this?!
I let out a sigh of relief when the late-night rush was over. There was a long lull in the orders.
“Ah, look at all the good work you’ve done!” Floyd stood behind me and started playing with my braids. I bit my lip to stop myself from whacking him in the face with the serving tray I held. I kept trying to move out of his reach, but he continued to follow and mess with my hair. “Thank you for helping, Little Shrimp and friends~.”
Gosh I hate people touching my hair…
“You’re welcome,” Yuu pulled me away tentatively from Floyd. The sound of clapping made us look down a hallway that led off from the main lounge.
Azul looked pleased, standing there. “You all did such a wonderful job. I must admit you were a big help. My apologies for making you wait. The VIP Lounge is ready, so please come this way.”
Chapter 31: Chapter 30
We were shown into a fancy looking office with a large safe behind a desk. It wasn’t something you would see in a school dormitory.
“Now, don’t just stand around. Please take a seat,” Azul offered as he sat behind the desk. “What is it you would like to discuss with me?”
Yuu wasted no time, “Please let the students you are forcing to work go.”
Azul let out a light chuckle,” Haha! Well, this is so sudden! Saying that almost makes me sound like a villain. So, you want me to release all 225 students who have a contract with me?”
“225?!” Jack and I gasped.
“Jade and Floyd worked very hard to improve business this year. Thanks to them, we were able to obtain a lot more customers,” Azul proudly shared.
“So, they were the ones spreading the rumors,” I muttered.
“Now then, Yuu. You said you wanted me to set all those students free?” Azul continued.
“That is correct,” they nodded.
“I’m not forcing them to work unfairly or anything. They agreed to the conditions when they signed the contract with me.”
“That does not mean those conditions are humane,” Yuu pointed out.
“A contract is not something you can just get rid of because you feel sympathetic for them,” Azul sternly said. “In other words, you are already too late.”
“Then, let’s make a deal,” Yuu proposed.
“Hey! What are you thinking?” Jack barked.
“Prefect Yuu, this man is a silver-tongued con,” I tried to choose my words carefully. “His deals will never be in our favor.”
“Those not involved with the negotiations, please be quiet,” Azul shot us a look before returning to Yuu. “So~, you want to make a deal with me? How interesting.”
“Ha~ Shrimpy sure is brave~,” Floyd giggled.
“Hm…I understand you would like to deal with me, but we have a little problem, you see? If I remember correctly, you don’t have any magic. Nor do you possess a beautiful voice, and you aren’t the heir to a noble country. You are nothing more than a simple human,” Azul laid it on thick. “If you wish for something big, you must surrender a collateral of equal value.”
“A collateral?” Jack pondered.
“For example…handing over ownership of the Ramshackle dorm to me.”
“And we see the scheme’s goal at last,” I hissed. A loud bang announced the entrance of a certain monster racoon-cat.
“I’m all on board for that!” Grim yelled.
“Grim! How long have you’ve been there?!” Yuu stood up in shock.
Grim started to moan, “I can’t live like this anymore! My fur isn’t made for washing dishes!”
Jade showed up behind him, “Grim, you are not going to get away with skipping out on work and eavesdropping on other’s conversations. Floyd, kick him out.”
“Yes sir~,” Floyd cracked his shoulder.
“Now wait a second you two,” Azul stopped them. “We now have all the members of Ramshackle dorm. Yuu, you should listen to your dormmates’ advice.”
Yuu looked at me. I crossed my arms to give my opinion, “I’d say no. Technically it isn’t ours to give.”
“You could always offer your unique magic as collateral, Abiba,” Azul suggested. “Healing magic is quite rare, so even the feeble amount you have is valuable.”
“How did you…oh,” I answered my own question. I shot a sideways glare at Floyd. I was starting to regret playing that game with him. “Mr. Ashengrotto, I am not the one making this deal with you, nor do I agree to a contract that I cannot read. My parents taught me that. Yuu is my dorm leader, and I also consider them my family. Whatever they choose, regardless of my stance on the matter, I will support them.”
“It was worth a try,” Azul went back to pressuring Yuu. “So, Prefect Yuu, what do you say? Will you give me the Ramshackle dorm as a collateral for our deal?”
“Yuu, save me please,” Grim whined.
“Yuu, don’t do it! You know the contract isn’t going to be in your favor!” Jack reiterated.
“I know that!” Yuu snapped. They took a deep breath and asked, “First, what are the conditions to this contract?”
“Hey!” Jack reached out but I held him back.
“They haven’t made a decision yet. Just wait,” I whispered to him.
“The conditions of the contract are:” Azul informed, “In three days, I want you to steal a specific picture from the Atlantica Memorial Museum located in the Coral Seas.”
“So, you’re asking us to steal a work of art?” Jack growled. Even Jade looked surprise to hear the conditions of the contract.
“It is not a piece I want you to steal. What I want is a commemorative photo of Prince Rielle’s visit from 10 years ago,” Azul elaborated. “The photo is displayed near the entrance. It is just a photo with no historical value. No one would be concerned if it were to suddenly disappear.”
“So, to stop your indentured servitude, we must commit a crime. Sounds totally balanced to me,” I sarcastically commented.
“It wouldn’t be a challenge if I made you do something easy, now would it? It wouldn’t be worth it for me,” Azul glared me down. “I’m not some sort of charity after all.”
Jade took over the explanation, “The Atlantica Memorial Museum is in the Coral Seas, which is a very famous tourist attraction. It’s not like we are asking you to go down to the bottom of the ocean.”
“Ah~, I remember going to that museum in elementary school for a field trip,” Floyd reminisced.
“Hold on, isn’t the Coral Seas Kingdom completely underwater?” Jack brought to light. I immediately tensed up and my heart rate started to pound. “We don’t have gills or fins, so this is going to be impossible for us to do under these conditions.”
“Yeah, I can’t breathe underwater!” Grim protested.
Azul looked rather annoyed, “That is something for you to figure out. However, in this case…” Azul brought out a glowing green liquid kept in an intricate swirled shell glass bottle with a cork. “I will give you this potion, which will allow you to breathe underwater. I have somewhat of a heart, don’t I? Fufufu.”
Azul put the potion aside and leaned forward with his elbows on the desk. “Well, what will you choose? I’m a very busy person and I haven’t got all day. So go ahead, make your choice.” When Yuu sat quietly in thought Azul got snippy. “Now!”
“Fine. It’s a deal!” Yuu put their arm out for a handshake.
“Very well then! Now, please sign right here,” Azul looked absolutely thrilled when he handed them the white feather pen. Once he got Yuu’s signature, he chuckled to himself. “Now that everything is in order, this completes our contract.”
“I will not lose to you,” Yuu declared.
“What have we gotten ourselves into…” I dragged a hand over my face.
“Jade. Floyd. Kindly escort our guests out,” Azul ordered his men. As we left, he added, “I look forward to seeing you in three days.”
Chapter 32: Chapter 31
“Oh, so this is the Ramshackle dorm. This is my first time ever coming inside,” Jade looked around the main hallway as we stepped into our dorm, “a nice place indeed.”
“Yes, our renovations came out spectacularly,” I huffed.
“It’s very close to the school as well. This is the perfect place for Mostro Lounge’s second location,” Jade smiled.
“There are ghosts here to, right? How fun is that~?” Floyd played with his fedora as he looked around.
“You didn’t win yet, so don’t get too ahead of yourselves,” I growled as I went for the stairwell.
“Why did you guys escort us all the way here anyway?” Grim looked up at the towering twins, perplexed.
“Isn’t it obvious,” I leaned over the railing. “We’re being evicted.”
“Fnya?!” Grim gasped.
I started to climb up the stairs as I spoke, “Yuu signed this place off as collateral to good-ole Azul. It is not ours.”
“Precisely. As a result, this dorm will be impounded during the three-day period,” Jade finished.
“What?!” Grim yelled.
“Didn’t he take your magic when you offered it as collateral, Grim? Didn’t you expect this?!” Yuu asked. “I thought you had understood and that’s the reason you were fine with using the dorm!”
“No way…” Grim slumped.
“It will be in your best interest to not fight over the matter,” Jade kindly warned.
“We’ll give you some time to get what you need,” Floyd said.
“If Azul becomes the permanent owner of this dorm, everything in here will be surrendered to him. Please keep that in mind.”
“Hehehe, it’s okay~. As long as you bring us the photo in three days, we will give everything back to you.”
The back and forth of Jade and Floyd made my blood boil. Yuu’s demeanor was too calm for my liking too. I wanted to kick them right where it hurt, since that is the only place I could reach. I stormed the rest of the way to my room. I packed what little belongings I had into my school bag. It was mostly spare undergarments and school supplies. It wasn’t like I had any sentimental items, but it still stung to leave this place.
“Little Miss are you going to be alright,” the deep echo of the pudgy ghost cued me in on their entrance. I looked up to see the one ghost hovering on the other side of the bed.
I sighed, “I won’t die, hopefully, but there won’t be a calm moment for the next three days.”
“Well, we won’t make it easy for those louts either, kekeke,” the ghost assured.
“Good. Haunt their butts,” I said. I grabbed the potion bottle the nurse had given me. Its contents were diminished. I placed it back in the basket I had gotten and threw in my extra wrapping bandages. “Ugh, wearing the bandages for three days without a break is going to be painful.”
I slung my bag over my shoulders and held the basket in my hands as I went back to the foyer. I was the first one done. The twins greeted me.
Floyd enthusiastically came up to me, “Hey hey, Leafy Sea Dragon, when can I play with you again?”
Really? REALLY?!! You’re kicking me out and you have the GALL to ask me that?!
I tightened my grip on the basket and took a deep breath in and out. I couldn’t risk making the situation worse by letting my tongue flip. “I don’t know sir. My schedule is filled for the next three days, and I plan to be busy afterwards with school assignments,” the use of my “customer service” voice sure came in handy for times like these. Although, I did nothing to hide the loathing on my face.
“Aww~ don’t be like that~. It’s just business. Besides, we didn’t finish our game last time,” Floyd reached his hand out to touch my head, but I moved out of the way.
“Yes, it is just business. Since this is a business transaction right now, I ask that you please refrain from unnecessary physical contact as well as personal topics,” I went to the far wall and leaned against it. I felt a pat on my back through the wall. I figured it must have been one of the ghosts. I relaxed my shoulders afterwards. Yuu and Grim came down the steps shortly after with their and Grim’s belongings.
“Is everyone ready?” Jade asked.
“Yes, we’re ready,” Yuu answered for us. “Come on Viv.” I got up from the wall and went to the door with them.
“See you later, Little Shrimp, Earless Seal, and Leafy Sea Dragon! Have a safe trip~!” Floyd waved.
Before we closed the door Jade offered, “If you don’t have a place to go, please let us know. You can reserve a guest room at the Octavinelle dorm for 10,000 Madols a night.”
“I’d rather sleep in a bramble bush than ask a glorified butler and a sentient pool noodle for help!” I snarled at them. I slammed the door and stormed off the porch.
“I’ve never seen Viv so mad,” Yuu followed.
I sat myself outside of the gate to the dorm. Yuu leaned on the fencing while Grim sat in front of them. There was silence between us.
“Wait! An ‘earless seal’?! Was he talking about me!?!” Grim screeched. A cold wind blew through us. We all shivered. In a less animated voice, Grim stated, “It looks like we’re going to have to sleep outside tonight…so unfair…”
“And who’s fault is that!?” I snapped.
“Fynyaa! I didn’t know they’d kick us out!”
“Stop it you two,” Yuu sighed. “We need to find a place to sleep for the night.” In the distance, three familiar silhouettes came running at us.
“Hey!” Deuce’s voice rang out. “Yuu! Grim! Viv!”
“You guys! Did you come here to save us?” Grim looked at them expectedly.
“We aren’t really worried about you Grim, but it’s kind of all of our faults Yuu and Viv are in this mess,” Ace mumbled. “It would be bad if they got sick or caught a cold.”
“That’s very kind of you guys,” Yuu said.
Grim grumbled at Ace, “Stop trying to act all tough.”
“We already talked to Prefect Rosehearts about what happened,” Deuce said. “If you don’t mind sleeping five to a dorm, then everything should be ok.
“Wouldn’t that be too crowded?” Jack voiced. “Does the Heartslabyul dorm have any free rooms available?”
Deuce shook his head, “Our dorm hasn’t had any students that have been expelled, so we don’t have any vacant rooms.”
“Then,” Jack paused for a moment, “why don’t you stay at the Savanaclaw dorm?”
Everyone was caught off guard. Yuu said, “I understand Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum offering a room, since they owe for when I let Ace stay at Ramshackle, but you don’t owe us anything Jack.”
“Am I Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum?” Deuce asked Ace.
“Obviously you’re Tweedle-Dum,” Ace sneered. Deuce looked like he was about to punch him before I grabbed his leg to stop him.
“I picked a fight with Azul, but I wasn’t able to do anything to help. I’m sure Leona wouldn’t object after everything you did for us at the Magical Shift Tournament.”
“Oh?” Deuce got a devious smirk on his face.
“Heh, Jack really is a nice guy on the inside, isn’t he?” Ace teased.
“How unexpected,” Grim joined in.
Jack went on the defensive, “Don’t get the wrong idea! It’d be bad for me if Yuu doesn’t beat Azul before the next test.”
I leaned in to whisper in Yuu’s ear, “The people here sure aren’t honest with their feelings, are they?”
Yuu shook their head, “They sure aren’t.”
Deuce gave his opinion, “I think Yuu and Viv will sleep more comfortably with what Jack suggested.”
“I think so too. Five to a room is just too much,” I yawned.
“Savanaclaw it is then,” Yuu decided.
“Let’s get going then. It’s already almost midnight…” Jack let out a large yawn after his sentence.
We picked up our things and said goodbye to Ace, Deuce and the Ramshackle dorm. For now, at least.
Chapter 33: Chapter 32
“Absolutely not,” Leona refused. We stood in the common area of the Savanaclaw dorm with our bags as Leona crossed his arms in our way.
I groaned, “You didn’t have to be so quick on the trigger to shoot us down.”
“Our dorm has a strict ‘no pets’ policy. Take your furball somewhere else,” Leona shooed us away.
“YOU LIAR!” Grim yelled. He pointed to Leona’s ears and tail, “You guys have more fur than me!”
“That’s that and this is this,” Ruggie shrugged it off.
“Besides, we never cleaned any of the free rooms out, so they are all just storage rooms now,” Leona turned to Jack. “You want me to let you leave these three here?”
I raised my hand, “I’m okay with a storage room.”
Yuu nodded,” Yeah storage rooms are a-ok.”
“Oh, is that so?” Ruggie grinned. “Hey, Leona, why don’t you let them sleep in your room?”
“Ha?!” we all looked at the hyena boy in disbelief.
Leona scowled, “Hey Ruggie, you better shut that mouth of yours. Unless you want me to shut it for you.”
“But aren’t you used to having servants in your room? If you give the three of them all your chores in exchange for letting them sleep in your room, it’s a win-win situation, isn’t it?” Ruggie suggested.
“Grr, Ruggie you…” Leona growled.
“You know, I’m still in so much pain from what happened at the Magical Shift Tournament,” Ruggie rolled his shoulder as he sighed. “I don’t know if it’s because of that magic amplifier I had to drink, but all this hard work is exhausting. After all, I risked my life just for Leona.”
“This is true,” I softly added.
“I’d recover much faster if I had these three helping me to take care of you.”
Leona clicked his tongue, “You’re a sneaky little bastard, you know that?”
Ruggie chuckled, “Aw come on, you know I’m not lying! Shishishi.”
“Well, I’m not gonna let them just stay in my room that easily,” Leona looked over his shoulder and yelled, “Hey, runts! Come over here!
Three very large and muscular Savanaclaw dorm members stopped what they were doing and walked over to us. They stood in a line that felt like a wall. “Yes, dorm leader,” one of them said.
Another pointed at my face and growled, “Aren’t these the guys who were trespassing on our turf the other day?”
“Hehehe! Our little prey is coming back to play!” the final one eagerly giggled.
“I don’t like where this is heading Yuu,” I mumbled.
“Me either…” they agreed.
Leona had a sadistic smirk on his face, “Play and win against my dorm students, and I’ll let you be my servants. Even if it’s just three days, I’m not going to have any dead weights in the Savanaclaw dorm.”
“And by ‘play’, do you mean checkers?” I asked hopefully. I already knew the answer before he said it.
“Nope, I mean a little sparring match,” Leona’s grin widened.
“Of course. It’s always violence…” I sighed.
Yuu was motivated, “We need a place to sleep, so bring it on!” I let out another sigh as I put down by bag and basket and rolled my shoulder.
It is far too late to be doing this…
“We won’t go easy on you!” one opposing student said.
They charged at us. It was easy for Yuu to trip him with their foot. Grim jump on the prone fool and set about clawing at his face. Another set his sights on me. He was going for a punch. When he swung, I blocked using my forearm to push his fist aside. I countered by bringing the arm I blocked with up to clothesline his neck and wrapped my foot around his. In one, albeit strained, motion I used my free hand to help me throw him to the ground. Or rather, aggressively lay him down.
There was a small smack when he hit the stone floor and I winced, “Sorry!” He got to his knees. He growled as he lunged at me. I skipped back, but he still managed to grab my ankle. I fell on my butt, Before I had time to slide away, he had my hands pinned above my head while he was above me. I kicked up with my legs, but he just laughed.
“Hehehe! Your weak paws don’t even sting. That move earlier must have been a fluke!” I gritted my teeth. This was a very unsavory position. I was too exhausted to use my unique magic to overpower this guy. I pulled my legs in and kangaroo kicked his gut with all my strength. “Gah!” he yelped. His hands immediately let go of me and went where I kicked him. I scrambled away in a flash.
When I was on my feet, I put a hand over my mouth. He was holding his groin area. “Tch…I was not aiming for that spot! So sorry about that!” I looked to Yuu and saw them bring down the final guy with a kick to the back of the legs. All of our opponents were dispatched.
Leona hid his face in his hand. He spat out, “How can you lose to these herbivores?! Don’t ever show your faces to me again!” The three students fled the scene with their tails between their legs.
Grim stood triumphant in front of the lion. “A deal is a deal! We’re going to be staying here for the next three days!” he announced.
Leona rubbed his temple. “Tch, if you make even the slightest noise, I’m throwing you out!” he growled. “Understood?”
“Y-yes…” Yuu stuttered.
“Quiet as a door mouse,” I whispered.
Grim started to relax. “In any case, now we don’t have to worry about where we’re going to stay.”
“Alright, Jack, please take the spare beds over to Leona’s room,” Ruggie instructed.
“Right away,” Jack went down a corridor before us.
Ruggie giggled like a schoolgirl, “Shishi! Lucky~! I’m going to have less chores to worry about for the next three days.”
“Hey, I can hear you,” Leona hissed. “You better be prepared for when this is over. Hey, herbivores come this way. Stop slacking.”
It is well in the am-hours now, and you just had us fight your goons. I will take all the gosh darn time I want! I thought as I picked up my things and trailed behind.
Chapter 34: Chapter 33
The morning with Savanaclaw was both refreshing and agonizing. The early morning workout was intense. We now sat with our hosts in the cafeteria for breakfast. Grim was stuffing his face as usual while I tried to not fall asleep in my bowl of cereal.
“So why did you do something so stupid and make a deal with that scamming octopus?” Leona pried. Yuu explained the situation from the beginning. At the end, Leona let out an amused chuckle, “Ha! So, you made a deal with Azul so you can set all those idiots free? Hahaha! This kid is not half bad! You’re giving me the chills!” Leona broke into a hearty laugh. He smiled, showing off his fangs.
I hovered a spoonful of cereal in the air while I yawned, “Could you be so kind as to not laugh at our dilemma?”
“Well rumors say Azul’s exam notes are amazing. I’m not surprised people want to get a hold of them,” Ruggie mentioned.
“Now that you mention it, both of you didn’t make the deal with Azul for the test notes,” Jack pointed out. “Leona seems like the type to take the easiest way- ah no, nevermind.” Jack bit his tongue. Probably for the best.
“Idiot, who in their right mind would make a deal with that cheating octopus?” Leona scolded. I shot a glance at Yuu and Grim, who become fascinated by the sausage links on their plate. “I’ve made a deal with him before, but the conditions weren’t a problem for me.”
“He’s not the type of guy you can trust,” Ruggie commented.
“That sure would have been nice to know…” Grim hugged.
“That is why you should do your due diligence,” I said.
“Or just, you know, study on your own,” Yuu added.
Ruggie continued, “He is a strong magician though. He can make even the wildest wishes come true.”
“The bigger the wish you have, the more of a disadvantage he’ll make it for you to get it,” Leona took over. “But there are so many herbivores who sign the contract without thinking of the consequences.”
So, what sort of disadvantage does releasing 225 students come with? And why does everyone call Azul an octopus?! Are they considered bad in this world, enough so to be used a cruel nickname?
“Can we actually win against him?” Yuu asked to no one in particular. I could see the worry in their eyes.
“Let me ask you this. What were the conditions to the contract you signed with him?”
“We have to steal a picture from the, uh, Atlantica Memorial Museum and give it to him by sunset in three days,” Yuu recapped.
There was a long pause. Ruggie leaned over the table and patted Yuu’s shoulder, “You…have my condolences…”
“Really Ruggie?! Those are your words of encouragement?!” I huffed before scooping a mouthful from my spoon.
“We are just getting started!” Grim scowled.
“You know, the Atlantica Memorial Museum is underwater, right? How do you plan to get there?” Ruggie questioned.
“We have a…a potion to help us breathe underwater that they gave us,” I answered after swallowing my food. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to Yuu. They pointed at my hand. I saw that the top of the spoon was bending at how hard I gripped it between my thumb and knuckle. I quickly bent it back and set it on my tray. I sat on my hands with a tensed smile.
“We don’t know if the potion really works though,” Jack confessed.
“If it is from Azul, it’ll work,” Ruggie assured. “Azul takes too much pride in his work to give you a bogus potion.”
Leona pondered for a moment before smirking again, “Then, why don’t you hurry and get a move on? Time is money as they say.”
“Fnya! That’s right! Let’s hurry and go to the museum!” Grim jumped up.
“You’re right. We only have three days. We’ve got no time to lose,” Jack got up as well.
Grim was already making his way to the door, “Let’s make sure to grab Ace and Deuce!”
“Guys wait up!” Yuu called while they took their tray. “Come on Viv, otherwise we’ll get left behind.”
“Ah! C-coming!” I got up from my seat. “Wish us luck, we’re gonna need it!” I ran off to catch up with the rest of the team.
Chapter 35: Chapter 34
Mentions of past bullying
“Will this potion from Azul really help us be able to breathe underwater?” Deuce examined the glowing green concoction skeptically. We all stood in the mirror chamber while Yuu poured the potion into small paper cups.
“That’s what he said,” I nervously tapped my fingers on my leg. “Let’s just get this over with please!”
“Then we drink on ‘go’,” Ace called as we each got our share. “Ready, set, GO!” We all gulped down the potion. It went down like a yogurt smoothie. There was only one problem.
“THIS IS NASTY!” I exclaimed. I scrunched my face in disgust as I scraped my tongue on my teeth. “It’s like sewage and skunk spray!”
“Bleeh…no, it tastes like frog and rotten mushrooms,” Grim’s eyes watered as he held his stomach. Yuu covered their mouth, most likely trying not to throw up.
“What kind of comparisons are those? How do you know what that tastes like? Kek!” Jack coughed. “The taste sure is strong, whatever it is.”
Ace and Deuce seemed the least phased by the potion. Ace simply scrunched his nose and sighed, “I think they need to fix the taste of magic potions. How do adults drink them like it’s nothing?” Ace gagged a bit at the end.
“You mean…all magic potions taste this bad?!” Yuu whined.
The potion the nurse gave me doesn’t taste like this. It’s just a little tart, like cranberry juice.
“Effectiveness is more important than the taste,” Deuce surmised. He got a pained look as he clutched his throat. “What? …It’s…getting hard for me to breathe…”
My lungs started to burn too. I coughed as Jack spoke, “Are our lungs adjusting to allow us to breathe underwater?”
Ace panted as he put his hands on his knees, “This is bad…it’s getting really hard to breathe now…Hurry, let’s get to the ocean.”
“Mirror of Darkness, guide us to the Coral Sea!” At Jack’s command, the mirror started to glow a bright white like the ones that travelled between dorms. One by one, the others went through until it was just me and Yuu.
My legs were shaking so bad that my knees knocked together. Yuu grabbed my hand and through labored breath said, “We have to go! …I’ve-I’ve got you!” They led me through the mirror. When we went through, I felt the sensation of water rushing over me. I stiffened. I shut my eyes tight and clung to Yuu’s arm for dear life.
I’m surrounded by water…water-water hurts! Bad, bad!
My mind was a blur. Hazy scenes of my past buzzed in my ear.
“Haha! Come on Vivienne! Let’s go for a little swim~! ” the teasing voice sneered.
“Yeah, Viv. Don’t be such a stick in the mud!” another joined.
“What are you talking about? She is the mud!” a third voiced joked.
“Hahahaha!” they all laughed.
Please…I-I don’t want to…let me go…
“Viv, calm down! I need you to look at me, please!” Yuu’s urgent, but soft voice reached my ears. I felt hands rubbing my shoulders and upper arms. I peeked opened my eyes to see Yuu in front of me. They gave me a relieved smile. “Good, now breathe.” They motioned for me to breath in and out. I let out a breath I didn’t notice I was holding. I was stunned that the intake felt no different than taking a deep breathe in an open spring meadow. As my field of vision grew, I saw the others looking around in awe. The colors of the coral around us were vivid and the fish that swam by looked peaceful.
“It is so beautiful,” Yuu softly stated.
“Y-yeah…” I was barely audible. A small fish swam by my face. Its fins tickled my nose, and I felt a bit of my anxiety fade. “All the…all the fish are super cute!”
Jack put an end to the tourist behavior with a curt statement, “We don’t have time for sightseeing. Let’s hurry and do what we came here to do.”
We started to half walk, half swim. Yuu let me cling to them as we went. Grim grumbled beside us, “Fnya, I can’t move my body well…” We swam like that for what felt like forever to me before we came to more open waters.
“Oh…there’s something over there,” Deuce pointed ahead. A building of swirling columns and towers that looked like seashells stood proudly before us.
“That’s the Atlantica Memorial Museum, isn’t it?” Ace identified.
“Ah!” Grim gasped. “There are people with fish tails where their legs should be!” He pointed at two folks, one old and one younger, that stood by the entrance.
“No way…” I whispered. I looked over Yuu’s shoulder to see the creatures only spoken of in fairytales back home.
“Are they…mermaids?” Jack put a name to the people we were staring at. “I can’t believe there are people who live underwater.”
Two large shadows passed over head. I looked up to see nothing. “What was…”
“Ah~, they’re here! Little Shrimp and friends!” an all too familiar voice squealed from above. We tried to look around but saw nothing.
“Greetings everyone! What do you think of the world that is under the sea?” another voice came down. I felt something swim behind me. It was much larger than the fish we had passed thus far. A shiver went up my spine. The tiny amount of anxiety and fear that went away earlier was back multiplied by one hundred.
“That voice…” Grim’s face frowned at the realization, “it’s of those twins!”
“That’s right~,” Floyd popped his head over my shoulder to address Grim. Jade came from the other side of Yuu. They swam around us. We got to see their long, dark teal bodies with lighter patches on their hands, face, and chest. They had pointed fins where their ears would be and on their forearms. Darker stripes decorated under their heterochromatic eyes, their upper arms, and around their waists. A serpentine tail with fan-like dorsal and ventral fins replaced their legs. When the light hit them, their skin seemed to have a green tint. Their hair was the same as ever. Everyone jumped at the sight of them floating among us.
Jack sputtered, “You-you guys…Why do you two look like that?”
“What do you mean? This is what we normally look like, you know?” Floyd looked at Jack confused.
“I-I am pretty sure I’d remember playing basketball with a, a fish,” I remarked in a quivering voice. “So…so are you~”
“We’re mermaids,” Floyd happily declared. He got closer to me with a closed eyed smile. His sharp teeth were on full display.
So were his abs.
My legs gave out from beneath me. Luckily, Yuu still had a hold of me and pulled me back up. “You two are mermaids?!” they said in shock. “But, you have legs in school!”
“We drink a potion that lets us shapeshift while on land, since it’s hard to walk with tail fins,” Jade explained as his brother swam away from me and past Ace.
“You both are so long!” Ace gapped. “How tall are- How long are you guys?!”
“Are you some sort of sea snake or something?” Deuce asked.
“Nope! We’re eels,” Floyd corrected as he blissfully swam along.
“Why are you guys even here anyway?” Grim asked.
Floyd cracked up laughing as he went back to float next to his twin, “Hahaha! Isn’t it obvious? We came to get in your way.”
“Yup, I knew it,” Ace whined.
“Well, it wouldn’t be fair if we let you clear the condition so easily now, would it?” Jade smirked. They both torpedoed through the water. We all jumped back, but the current was strong. It knocked me and Grim off Yuu. I tumbled in the water until I landed in a nearby seaweed patch. Jack managed to grab Grim and swim to a better position. An underwater battle was starting, and we were greatly at a disadvantage.
Chapter 36: Chapter 35
“I summon ice!” Deuce casted the spell aimed at Floyd. The magic aura just veered in another direction at a flick of Floyd’s clawed finger.
“That kind of magic won’t hit me,” Floyd stated.
Ace was occupied with Jade, but still managed to make a snide remark, “You have no control! Try to hit him at least once!” With a flick of his magic pen, Ace sent a beam of magic at Jade. “Take that!” It went wide, almost hitting the kelp bush I was hiding in.
Why did I agree to go underwater with them?! Nothing good happens in the water!
I tried my best to summon some sort of spell to contribute to the fight, but nothing would happen. Magic was not cooperating, and I was totally fine with that. I concentrated on not going into full panic mode.
“Fufufu, where exactly are you aiming?” Jade laughed. He was mocking the poor ginger with a smile on his face.
“Like you’re one to talk!” Deuce yelled back. With each magic blow and movement of fins, the water churned. My eyes were burning as though I was crying, but if tears fell, they were lost to the sea.
Where is Yuu? They got to be here somewhere!”
I looked around to see them behind Jack with Grim in their arms. They were on the whole other side of the battle. Jack used his magic, but this time I saw a sparkling aura come from Floyd. The magic was practically the same color as the water, making it hard to see clearly. Jack’s magic was sent shooting upward.
“What? Somehow they changed the direction of my magic…” Jack muttered.
I took a deep breath. I popped my head out of the seaweed and yelled, “Floyd’s blocking it with magic!”
“Hee~ Little Sea Urchin is being very attentive,” Floyd had a drowsy smile. “And that’s where my Leafy Sea Dragon swam off to.”
“Oh, dang it,” I popped my head back in.
“Creatures from land have truly incredible eyesight,” Jade complimented.
“I’ll tell you why your magic won’t hit us,” Floyd explained. “My unique magic is called ‘Bind the Heart’. It deflects others’ attacks, so you can’t hurt us. Interesting, isn’t it?”
“That’s not fun at all! That’s cheating!” Grim pouted.
Jade sighed like a disappointed parent, “Floyd, you can’t just go around disclosing your unique magic to others.”
“It’s fine. Just because they know doesn’t mean they can stop us,” Floyd grumbled.
I tried to leave the kelp bed I was in while they were distracted, but of course, my legs got tangled. I scrunched my nose as I tried to unwrap the underwater plant from my legs. My head was out in the open waters. My braids floated in rhythm with the seaweed while I bucked and twisted to try and escape.
“Come on. Come on! Hurry and run away! If I catch you, I’m gonna squeeze you with my tail,” Floyd’s child-like threat met my ears. “Who shall I strangle first?” When he said that, our eyes locked.
“I hate water…,” I whimpered to myself as I yanked on the seaweed. A long shadow came from above and before I knew it, I was being hoisted up and out of the kelp. “Why me~…”
“It looked like you were having some trouble,” Floyd put his chin on my shoulder as he coiled himself around me, “so of course I’d help you Leafy Sea Dragon. Plus, now I get to squeeze you~!” His hold on me got tighter. The little bit of oxygen in my lungs was pushed out. “Hehehe~,” he giggled in my ear.
Bubbles left my nose. It became difficult to breathe. “Please…stop…,” I whimpered.
“Viv!” Jack growled. He rushed over as Floyd dropped me. I floated down with a limp body. Jack caught me and helped me to stand on shaking legs. “Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “I-I want…to go…home,” I squeaked. I was on the verge of sobbing. I could tell there were tears in my eyes as my vision went blurry.
“Last time Leafy giggled after I squeezed them,” I could hear the pout in Floyd’s voice. I glared up to see Floyd confused face. I couldn’t tell if I imagined the worry that flashed in his eyes before they turned dark. “Why aren’t they giggling? Hey, Sea Urchin, if you know why you better tell me.”
Jack ignored Floyd. He guided me away from the overly enthusiastic eel merman. He growled, “These guys are enjoying this. We are at a complete disadvantage!”
“We need to think of a new plan,” Yuu called out. “For now, retreat!”
“Hahahah~! The same thing will happen when you come back. There’s no way your scrawny little legs can win against us underwater,” Floyd said.
“We shall await your return,” Jade bade us farewell as we swam away.
Stupid Pool Noodle. I thought as I held onto Jack’s shoulders.
“I don’t like it,” Floyd spat out as he floated next to Jade. He watched our forms swim away.
“What don’t you like?” Jade inquired as he swam closer to his brother.
“The way Leafy Sea Dragon is making me feel guilty for squeezing them. I never feel bad for squeezing some little fish,” Floyd folded his arms in front his chest. “And they keep clinging to that stupid Sea Urchin! Ugh, I want to strangle him every time.”
“Something does seem to be making them closer. I wonder what it is,” Jade pondered.
“Tch,” Floyd clicked his tongue as he swam off.
Chapter 37: Chapter 36
We all fell through the Dark Mirror into the mirror chamber. Our uniforms were soaked and dripped with water. Deuce sat back on his hands and panted, “Is everyone alright?”
I flinched as I felt the water drip from my hair on my face and my binding chaffing on my skin. I curled up into a ball on the floor. My everything was shaking.
“Viv?” whoever called my name was drowned out by the pounding in my head. “Vivienne!”
“Just…give me a minute please…” I whispered.
“I can’t believe those guys are mermaids,” Jack muttered.
“It felt like we were being chased by sharks!” Grim compared. “It’s not fair they can swim that fast.”
“We don’t stand a chance against mermaids underwater,” Ace sighed.
I uncurled myself with a large gulp of air. “We-we have to push through though,” I exhaled. “If we don’t get that pic, we lose Ramshackle.”
“We need to think of another plan,” Deuce suggested.
“Yeah, I don’t think Viv can handle going back underwater right now anyway…” Yuu placed a hand on my head.
Ace asked, “What happened to you down there anyway Viv?”
I blinked at him a few times. I fiddled with my braids, “Oh, yeah, about that…I have, uh, aquaphobia.”
“Eh?!” Ace let out. “Does that mean you’re spooked by water? Why’d you come then?!”
“I wanted to help! It’s my dorm too, so I should do something!” I yelled back. My voice went a bit higher than I wanted.
“You’re squeaking like a mouse in a teacup! There has to be a better way for you to help that doesn’t involve Yuu or Jack dragging you around in the waves!” Ace dug in.
Deuce stepped in, “Ace, quit it! Shee-shear! The shear amount of courage it took Viv to come help even though they are terrified is something we shouldn’t take for granted!” He gave me an apologetic look. Yuu put a hand on their forehead to cover their eyes.
Ace sighed. “Well, I’m going to ask our info broker, Cater, for help,” Ace announced.
“Let’s go back to the Savanaclaw dorm and talk to Ruggie and Leona,” Jack said to me an Yuu.
“That sounds good,” Yuu agreed.
“Plus, we need to change. Like, as soon as possible please,” I squirmed.
“What the heck happened to you guys?” Ruggie asked as we walked into the dorm. We left a trail of water as we went.
“We’ll tell you later,” Yuu sighed. “First, a nice warm shower sounds great about now.”
Jack nodded, “That sounds good to me.”
“Ah, Leona is playing a game of chess some first year challenged him to, so you don’t have to worry about waking him up in his room,” Ruggie informed us.
“Great, I wasn’t going to be careful anyway,” I said as I stretched my arms.
Yuu and I walked back to Leona’s room with Grim. Jack followed behind. When we got to the room Yuu went to their bag and grabbed their dorm uniform from their bag. I went and shuffled my things around in my bag to buy some time.
“I’ll show you guys to the showers,” Jack offered. Yuu walked back to the doorway while I stayed in place. Jack raised an eyebrow at me. “Are you coming Viv?”
“I, um, I’ll just dry off and change in Leona’s room…” I nervously said. “I’m still…on edge with the thought of being hit with water, you know? I’ll just shower in the morning.”
Yuu made a silent “oh” after I was finished. They placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, “Let them do what they have to. Come on.”
Jack was hesitant to go, but did so, “Alright…We will meet you back in the lounge area.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I half-heartedly smiled. When they left, I let out a sigh, “Finally. Gosh, I need to change this wrapping ASAP.”
I pulled out the extra bandaging from my bag along with my dorm uniform and a towel. I rushed to pull down all the blinds in the room and lock the door.
I need to take all precautions possible.
I got out of my damp school uniform and dried myself off. I undid my binding and threw it aside to be taken care of later. Once I was dried off to my satisfaction, I put the towel back in my bag and threw away the ruined bandages. I went to work rewrapping my chest. It was taking longer than usual. I blamed my shaking hands. I kept having to readjust my grip and how tight it was. After such a long day, it was frustrating.
Then I heard the jangle of the doorknob.
“Who the crap locked my door?” I heard Leona’s voice on the other side. I started to panic. I kept going back and forth on what to do.
Should I run to cover myself with a towel? I have pants on, so I could play it off, but I still have the wrapping half finished! If I just stop it’ll fall down, and I’ll have to start all over again! Crap! Gah! Dangit!
I tried to rush my binding job as I responded, “Uh, um, I’m changing!”
“Tch, why’d you lock the door then? We’re all guys here,” Leona scoffed. “I have a key, so I’m coming in.”
“No, no wait!” I pleaded. I pinned the wrap and fumbled for my shirt but it was too late. The door opened and Leona was halfway through the door before he froze. I froze too. I didn’t know whether to scream or divebomb into my pile of clothes. Before I could decide, Leona walked back out of the room and slammed the door. I heard the click of the door lock. I slid to my knees. “Oh fudge…”
I sat there for a good while contemplating my life choices and cursing the world. With a long hard sigh, I finished changing and put my wet clothes on the balcony to dry. I unlocked the door and slowly opened it. I didn’t see anybody, let alone Leona, in the hallway. I exited the room and headed back to the lounge. I saw Yuu sitting with the other Savanaclaw members, including Leona. I clenched my fist and walked out to sit next to Yuu. I avoided eye contact with Leona as much as possible. Nobody else seemed to be up and about.
“Viv, are you good?” Yuu asked.
“Uh,” I drawled out.
“No, she isn’t,” Leona answered for me. He grumbled, “Sorry about that…”
Yuu snapped their head from looking at me to Leona and back. “Sh-she?! What are you talking about Leona? Viv isn’t a girl,” Yuu rushed to deny.
I sighed and hung my head, “Yuu, he saw…”
“What do you mean he saw?” Yuu asked worried.
“I walked in on the runt changing, herbivore. I saw the…the wrapping and everything on her chest,” Leona scratched his head and avoided eye contact.
“Wait, hold up. You’re saying that Viv here is a girl?! At Night Raven College, an all-boys school!” Ruggie freaked out.
Jack crossed his arm and cleared his throat into his hand. “That is a…development.”
I buried my head in my hands. I groaned, “Ugh…this is the worst way anyone could find out…”
“Huh, so yeah. Vivienne is a girl,” Yuu sighed in defeat. “But this has to be kept on the down low. If too many people find out, then the school will have a lot of scandals. Not to mention the sort of danger Viv could be put in. So, let’s keep this hush hush. Got it?” Yuu looked both pleading and threatening.
“Don’t worry, we won’t let it slip out,” Leona promised.
“Thank you,” I sighed.
“So, what exactly happened?” Leona asked. It was dark by now. The moon shined on us in the open-air savanna lounge. We recounted our endeavor to Leona and Ruggie but garnered no sympathy. “You’re a bunch of idiots,” Leona growled.
“You’re the one who told us to hurry and get a move on!” Grim yelled at him.
Leona just brushed it off, “Hmph. No one told you to jump in the ocean like an idiot.”
“What were you trying to say then?” Yuu crossed their arms.
“Your time is limited. All I meant was for you to use your heads and think of a way around it,” Leona clarified. “You know you don’t stand a chance against mermaids. You were set up to fail from the start.”
“Um…Leona, did you already know that they were mermaids?” Jack asked.
“Well yeah,” was Leona’s short answer.
“Last summer I saw Floyd revert back to his true form during swimming class,” Ruggie recounted. “I understand how scary it must have been to be chased by him in that form…”
“How about being squeezed?” I glared. “A heads up would have been nice, you know.”
“It’s not my fault you guys just left before gathering any information. All you had to do was ask,” Leona purred with his little smirk.
“That’s right. You gotta think before you act. Shishishi!” Ruggie tacked on. Yuu just shook their head. “If you don’t think ahead, you won’t survive in the savanna.”
“We aren’t in the savanna, we are in deep water,” I hissed. Ruggie’s ears pulled back at my tone, but his cocky smirk stayed in place.
“So, Azul was planning on interfering from the beginning,” Jack pieced together.
“Obviously,” Leona said.
“With the Leech twins doing Azul’s bidding, they’re known for making things harder for others,” Ruggie told us. “There’s even a rumor they’ll continue to interfere so you don’t fulfill your conditions of the contract.”
“What a bunch of cowards,” Grim grumbled. Then, his lips puckered, and his eyebrows pinched as he whimpered, “So if Yuu loses, I’m going to be stuck working for Azul forever?”
I hugged Grim and stroked his fur, “Not at all. I’ll tie that Pool Noodle Floyd Leech in a knot if I have to so that you aren’t used as a sponge.” My face was crestfallen too. “I just don’t know what we will do if we lose the Ramshackle dorm.”
“I know we’ll figure something out,” Yuu tried to cheer us up, “…probably.”
Leona got quiet. “Leona?” Ruggie called out.
“Azul’s unique magic is ‘It’s a Deal’. If someone signs a contract with him, he can take on of their magic abilities,” Leona started his lecture. “However, if they break or can’t complete the terms of the contract they will be bound to work for Azul.”
“The magic itself is hard to operate, but once he does, he is ruthless,” Ruggie added.
“All the magic he takes are sealed inside that contract, and Azul can use it whenever he pleases.”
“So that’s why the contract had a weird glow to them,” I put together, “I was seeing the magic sealed inside!”
“So then, the reason why Azul can do such high difficulty magic is because…” Jack started to figure things out in his head.
“They were probably all the magic he has stolen from people who have signed contracts with him,” Ruggie finished for him.
“What a guy! He is nothing but a cheating fraud!” Jack barked.
“Jack’s integrity is probably the most intimidating thing about him,” I muttered.
“Heh, I think he is just intimidating to begin with,” Yuu chuckled.
“His unique magic is pretty high level, so I wouldn’t call it all cheating,” Ruggie pointed out.
“I’ve never given him any of my magic, so I can’t tell you how it works,” Leona admitted.
“Eh? Then what did you give him as collateral?” Jack inquired.
Leona let out an angry growl, “It doesn’t matter. Don’t make me remember.”
“Oh, but that just makes me more curious,” I teased.
“Anyway, as long as he has that contract, it is impossible to break the deal with him. That’s why he makes it sounds so tempting,” Leona ignored me.
“Because no one is going to sign a contract if it doesn’t sound like it will benefit them,” Ruggie cut in.
“The best way to win against Azul is to, ‘not make a deal’. Haha!” Leona scoffed.
“Then what do we do?” Grim wailed from my arms.
“Please tell us what you know!” Yuu asked with earnesty.
“Idiot don’t rely on others,” Leona scolded. “Use your head more. You have to do something to win against someone stronger than you.”
“And just what would you do in our situation?” Yuu pointedly asked.
Chapter 38: Chapter 37
“If I was in your position, I’d think of a way to destroy that contract first,” Leona shared.
“But those contracts are indestructible,” Grim whined.
Something clicked in my head, “Or…they appear to be.”
“At least one person has a brain in Ramshackle,” Leona groaned.
“They’re still the type to get scammed really quick,” Ruggie categorized us. “Why did you believe Azul when he said the contract was indestructible so easily?”
“Our attacks had no effect on it,” Jack told them.
“Didn’t the possibility of it all just being a performance cross your mind?” Ruggie scoffed.
“Every magic ability has a weakness. No matter how great a magician is, everyone has their limits. So that’s why Azul’s so called invincible ‘It’s a Deal’ isn’t all that invincible,” Leona wrapped things up.
“Wow, Leona can actually say some profound things,” I gasped.
“Shut it runt!”
“Azul’s unique magic has a weak point,” Jack collected his thought out loud. “Instead of trying to defeat the Leech brothers in the sea, we might be able to find their weakness up here. So that’s what we have to do to win?”
“Sounds like a safe foundation to build a plan on,” I rubbed my hands together.
“But doesn’t it seem like cheating?” Jack bashfully asked.
“You know what Jack,” Ruggie said in a tired tone, “it’s good you have morals and all, but you aren’t going to pick up a good fight with Azul on land.”
“To put it this way, those guys tricked naïve herbivores into signing away their magic,” Leona paraphrased. “Why are you holding back? Whether it’s cheating or not, if you win you will be able to nullify the contract.”
“Kuu! That’s our Leona for you! Bad to the bone,” Ruggie cheered.
Yuu facepalmed, “You haven’t learned a single thing from the tournament, have you?”
Leona just gave them a smirk, “Didn’t I tell you before? I do whatever it takes.”
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” I muttered.
“Alright! We got two days. Now let’s go to Azul and destroy those contracts!” Jack said with determination.
“Let’s do our best!” Yuu cheered with him.
“Ok then, do your best little ones,” Leona wished us luck.
Grim jumped from my lap and gasped, “Eh? You told us all this info and you aren’t going to help us?”
“Why would I?” Leona crossed his arms. “I already did you a huge service by giving you hints. The rest is on you guys. Bye.” He got up and left the lounge.
Ruggie followed in his train, “I’m out too. Good luck guys.”
“Thanks,” Yuu said after them.
“So cruel!” Grim exclaimed.
“Shush, they actually helped a lot,” I flicked Grim’s ear.
The next day, we reconvened with Ace and Deuce in the hallways. We told them of the plan we formed that night. We were filled with a new sense of energy and ready for the next trial.
“Find a way to destroy the contracts? Sounds like a plan, but we’re gonna have to play dirty,” Ace excitedly agreed.
“Even though it’s cowardly, this way we may be able to get what we want,” Deuce reasoned.
“Shut up! We don’t have time to worry about if we are following the rules!” Grim snapped at him.
“Even if this is cheating, Azul is doing no different,” Jack backed up the plan. “Sending us to go steal a photo in the ocean and planning to get in our way from the beginning… Leona may be a coward at times, but he is smart. I think we should give it a try.”
“I think we’re saying the word ‘coward’ too much…” Deuce whispered.
“Hmm…Just thinking about when the twins were chasing us underwater sends chills down my spine,” Grim whimpered.
“Just thinking about going underwater again makes me want to cry,” I whined.
“A challenge of speed…” Deuce muttered. “We could have beaten them if I could only use my magic wheel underwater.”
“Yeah, we know,” Ace brushed Deuce’s comment off. “Even so…mermaids huh? The Leech brothers are eels, so does Azul have a different form while underwater too?”
“Now that you mention it, Leona always calls him an ‘octopus’…” Jack brought up.
I slapped my hand onto the side of my forehead, “All those comments about the ‘shady octopus’ makes sense now!”
“So, if he has more legs underwater, he might be even stronger than the eels!” Grim predicted.
“That’s why I’m saying we need to find a way to fight them that doesn’t involve us going underwater,” Jack said sternly.
“We have to find the contracts first,” Yuu reminded us.
“It’s probably in that safe in the VIP room of Mostro Lounge,” I guessed.
Grim pumped his fist in the air, “If that’s it, then let’s go infiltrate Octavinelle!”
“There shouldn’t be anyone there since it’s lunch break right now. Let’s go check it out,” Deuce encouraged.
“We’re really going to break in,” Yuu sighed. “Fabulous.”
It was a hop, skip, and a jump from the main building to the Octavinelle dorms. We crept into the VIP lounge ‘Scooby-Doo style’. Grim led the way. He whispered back to us, “Everything’s clear! Follow me!”
“We are going to get into so much trouble if we’re caught,” Yuu whispered.
“He’s right though. It looks like there is no one here,” Jack confirmed.
“I have a very bad feeling about this,” I warned in a hushed tone. We stood in the office lounge of our opponent and searched every nook and cranny. I stood closer to the door as Deuce went up to the safe.
“The safe requires a passcode and a key. This is going to be difficult,” Deuce updated. He examined the safe with Ace butting in every now and again.
I began to pace the room. I would press my ear to the door every once in a while, to check to see if I heard anyone coming.
Ah, great. We are turning into safe crackers too!? Is this just a fantasy version of Mission Impossible? Is that the story I’m in now? I was really hoping that if I got poofed into another world it would be more like a romantic chick-flick!
I sighed when Jack stiffened by the desk. His ears twitched and did the satellite motion I had seen in dogs. “Someone’s coming,” he whisper-yelled. I leaned my head on the door to hear faint footsteps down the hall.
“Crap, hide!” Ace said. They all ducked under the large desk. I scrambled about the room. I shimmied my way under one of the couches. It paid to be small sometimes. I could hear angry whispering from the others. It was soon silenced. I heard the door to the office open and barely managed to see a pair of feet come into view.
Chapter 39: Chapter 38
“Now, let me see…” Azul’s voice mumbled. He walked further in the direction of the safe. I heard the clicking of locks. Soon enough, the creak of the safe opening followed. I couldn’t see anything, but I heard him count, “One, two, three…fufufu.”
Is he counting the contracts? That is messed up. Just go back to class already so we can leave too!
My prayers were answered. Azul said to himself, “Ah, it’s about time I head back.” The safe closed and the footsteps faded away. Once we were sure he was gone, a collective sigh left our mouths.
We all crawled out of our hiding areas. “I thought we were gonna get caught,” Grim said in a hushed tone.
“Wait, look,” Jack pointed to the table in the middle of the room, “he left a contract on the table.”
“No way! Lucky!” Ace cheered. “Now, let’s hurry and get out of here so we can try and destroy it.”
“I didn’t think Azul would be so careless,” Grim mocked.
“Neither did I…” I put a finger to my chin. “Something is off guys. Why wouldn’t he put it back in the safe right there?”
“I agree with Viv on this,” Yuu said. “We need to be- Grim NO!” Yuu tried to stop the impulsive monster as he reached out to touch the contract. As his paw grazed the gold parchment, an electric current shot through the room.
“RATABATABABATATA!” everyone screamed. It felt like the worst case of static shock ever. It kept jumping from one of us to another.
“BAAHAA! My whole body is numb!” Grim collapsed on the ground. Yuu was brought to their knees. I clung onto the back of the sofa I had hid under to stabilize myself.
“AAAHAHAHAHA!” a joker laugh burst through the room.
“Oh no,” I shuddered. “I’d know that laugh anywhere…”
“Oh my~. You’re all shaking like you’ve been electrocuted,” another familiar voice said. Azul and the twins entered the office with amused smirks. Azul went on, “How unsightly, everyone.”
“You little…You knew we were here!” Jack growled as he gripped the wall.
“Obviously. Your fluffy tail was on full display from under the table,” Azul pointed to Jack.
“I told you to make sure it was out of sight!” Yuu snapped.
“It looks like you were about to try and steal the contracts,” Azul had a disappointed look on his face as he continued. “These contracts will electrocute anyone who touches them besides me. Too bad, isn’t it?”
“You’d go to such lengths?!” Ace said.
“Didn’t I tell you? These contracts can never be destroyed,” Ace reiterated the point.
“Hahahah!” Floyd’s wild laughter rang through the room. “These guys are so stupid!”
“What did you say?” I snarled. My legs wobbled as if I was a newborn foal. It cut my intimidation factor a smidge, but my anger still rose. “I’m not stupid.”
Floyd’s voice went darker when he locked eyes with me, “Why did you come back here when you knew what was going to happen? Pretty stupid if you ask me.”
“Heh, Floyd. Try not to laugh at these poor souls too much,” Jade’s double-edged words cut deep with his sharp smile. “They’re doing the best they can with those little brains of theirs.”
“That’s it! I’m tying these eels in a knot!” I threw my hands up. Yuu grabbed my collar and arm to hold me back.
“Calm down Viv!” they urged. I stopped trying to get out of their grip, but I was still furious.
And at first, I didn’t mind Floyd! He seemed nice! A bit overbearing, but nice! Now- oh ho ho! I want to strangle the stinking pool noodle!
“Bad boys who steal things that don’t belong to them need to be punished,” Azul pushed up his glasses.
Jade backed up his dorm leader, “We must teach them properly, so they never attempt such a thing again.”
“I’ll make sure to squeeze each and every one of you~” Floyd said in a sing-song tone.
“Here they come guys!” Jack alerted us.
“Let them come! I am majorly ticked off!” I brandished my magic pen.
“Aww, Leafy looks so cute when they are angry!” Floyd cooed.
“Shut up Pool Noodle!” I spat at him. I sent a spell his way. He just redirected it to hit some of the books behind him. I stomped my foot, “Gosh darn flapjacks!”
“What?” Ace looked at me.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. I was trying to think of spells to use. Everyone else was holding their own despite the fact we were obviously overpowered by the Octavinelle gang. I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a burden. “Tch, Levitate!” I aimed the magic at the books that got displaced from my spell earlier. I flicked my wrist and had them fly towards the back of Azul’s head. Azul put up a shield like it was no problem. All the books knocked into it and fell to the ground.
Jack aimed a punch right at Azul. Azul dodged it nimbly. A purple pulse of magic pushed Jack back. He tumbled headfirst over the back of one of the sofas. The collision had a loud smack
“Jack! Are you okay?” Yuu rushed over to check on the wolf-boy. I rushed to help sit him up.
He was panting heavily and clenched his fist tighter. “Dammit! The dorm leader is so strong.”
“If you can’t even handle this, then there is no way you can steal the contract,” Azul degraded.
“Wouldn’t it be faster if you went to the Atlantica Memorial Museum? Floyd sneered.
“Your time limit ends tomorrow at sunset. You don’t have much time left,” Jade reminded us.
“And have you two swim us into a whirlpool? I’d rather not,” I rolled my eyes. Yuu and I hoisted Jack back to his feet. He winced and held his back.
“If you rest in the infirmary after getting beaten up, then you for sure are going to run out of time,” Floyd teased.
“Just you wait!” Deuce yelled. “We’ll beat you yet!”
“Floyd Leech!” I called to get the wild twin’s attention. When he turned to me with a smile, I gave him my coldest glare, “As long as I am in this world, I will not play with you ever again.”
Floyd’s expression fell. “Eh? Leafy Sea Dragon, you’re joking. You must be.”
“Not joking,” I sternly said. He gave me sea-puppy eyes, so I turned my gaze away in a huff.
“Dammit, I’m not very good with summoning magic, but,” Ace aimed his magic pen above Floyd’s head, “Summon: Cauldron!”
“You- Don’t copy me!” Deuce yelled at his dormmate.
“Those two pinheads share one braincell, I swear,” Yuu muttered under their breath.
“I told you already,” Floyd got an annoyed grimace. His voice became a bit more psychotic than his usual creepy jester tone, “That won’t work on me! Bind the Heart!” The cauldron flew past all of our heads and hit the safe with a loud crash.
“Floyd! Where do you think you’re aiming?!” Azul scolded. He ran over to the safe. “Can you be careful not to hit the safe!”
“Ah? Sorry~” Floyd gave a half-hearted apology.
“Ah! There is a scratch on the door! I need to make sure the dials still work,” Azul panicked. He twisted each knob and turned some keys in rapid motions. He let out a breath of relief when everything seemed to work right. “Thank goodness.”
Azul turned back to Floyd and started reprimanding him harshly, “I keep telling you to stop using your unique magic so carelessly! How many times do I have to tell you?!”
“I said I was sorry!” Floyd lashed out like a small child. “You don’t need to get so mad over a little scratch.”
“It’s too late if it’s broken!”
As they bickered, Yuu tapped my shoulder. They motioned to the door with their head. I mouthed an “oh” and nodded. Slowly, our group headed towards the door. Yuu and Grim brought up the rear.
“Both of you calm down, or else,” Jade warned, “they’ll escape.”
“Eh?” Azul and Floyd both looked at the door I held open. Yuu was just about to exit with Grim in their arms.
“See ya!” Grim waved.
“Bye~” Yuu waved as well. I stuck out my tongue and high-tailed it out of the room.
“Stop right there!” Azul commanded. “Jade, Floyd, after them!”
“Why?” Floyd flatly asked. “You got mad at me, and Leafy Sea Dragon said they won’t play with me anymore. Now I’m not in the mood.”
The sound of their arguing was the last things we heard as we ran out of Octavinelle.
Chapter 40: Chapter 39
We all caught our breath in the Hall of Mirrors. I leaned on a wall with my hands over my head in order to get more air in my lungs. “Worse. Lunch break. Ever!”
“Well, that was scary,” Deuce sighed.
“At least we got out in one piece,” Yuu looked on the bright side.
“To think it was all because Jack is so big,” Ace complained.
“That’s just because I train more than you guys,” Jack defended himself. “Besides, wolves tend to be big.”
“We couldn’t even touch those contracts. How are we supposed to destroy them?” Deuce thought out loud.
“I’m too riled up to think clearly about this,” I groaned.
Jack nodded. “This is all we can do for today.”
“We wasted a whole day,” Grim sighed.
“Don’t say that Grim,” Yuu corrected the cat beast.
“Is there really a way to destroy them?” Ace doubted. We all fell silent.
Yuu let out an unsure hum. We walked back to our classes for the rest of the day.
“Tonight, I’m going to have you help me clean Leona’s room,” Ruggie said while handing us various cleaning supplies.
“You better pay your rent herbivores,” Leona smirked.
“I’m being used by Azul and now by Leona…” Grim panted. “I’m so exhausted, hoho~”
“First we are going to pick up the dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. Then, we’ll clean the desk. Accessories go in the dresser, books go on the shelf, and then start dusting,” Ruggie explained.
“We aren’t little kids; we know how to clean…” Grim grumbled.
“Ah? Did you say something?” Leona scowled.
Grim stiffened. I stepped in and said, “It’s nothing.”
We started to clean the room like we were a hotel’s room service. Yuu dusted, I picked up his laundry, and Grim organized his desk. As I was throwing garments into the basket, I saw Ruggie scold Grim.
“I keep telling Leona to stop leaving his expensive stuff out in the open,” Ruggie sighed. In a louder voice he said, “It’ll be too late if someone steals it!”
“Shut up. What are you, my mom or something?” Leona groaned.
“I feel like it while picking up your stinky clothes,” I sassed him. I threw a sweaty t-shirt into the basket. It was nice to let off some steam by chucking the clothes with force. “You have to treat your stuff better!”
“None of this stuff is important to me, so it’s not a big deal if someone steals it. Besides, I’d like to see someone try to steal from me,” Leona brushed the situation off.
“I’m telling you it is a big deal!” Ruggie ranted. “It’s people who treat money like nothing and then cry over one madol. Geez, this is how spoiled rich kids act.”
“THAT’S IT!!” Yuu screamed. I dropped the hamper at their sudden exclamation.
“Yuu!? What’s wrong?!” Grim panicked.
“You nearly gave me a heart attack!” I heaved while clutching my chest.
Leona raised his voice, “Don’t just start screaming like that!”
“He puts them in a safe because they really aren’t invincible!” Yuu was jumping in place with their realization.
“Ah!” I pointed my finger at them when the lightbulb lit. “Because if you had nothing to fear, you wouldn’t care!”
“Ha! Hahaha! That’s it! I see now,” Leona laughed. “You two can say some interesting stuff, you know that?”
“Eh? What’s interesting?” Grim looked at us in confusion. Yuu and Leona took the time to explain the epiphany. As they went on, Grim’s grin got larger. “I get it now! Now that we know their weakness, let’s hurry and sneak into Octavinelle!”
“There’s a problem,” Ruggie cut in. “If what Yuu said was true, then the Leech brothers will be right there waiting for you guys.”
“There are more factors to be aware of than just the safe,” I pointed out.
“Dammit! We are getting so close!” Grim stomped his back paw.
Yuu scratched their neck. Then they got a devilish grin and said, “So, you guys are saying we need to do something about those brothers?” They looked at me.
“Huh? What?” I blinked in confusion.
“Hey, I think I know what you’re thinking but let me tell you right now, I am not going to help you,” Leona told us.
“Why not?!” I asked.
“I’m not going to get myself involved in something so troublesome. Especially if it’s against that rotten octopus,” he explained.
Ruggie raised his hands in defeat. “It is impossible. You might as well give up now.”
“Hmph! You guys are so cold,” Grim grumbled.
“But Leona,” Yuu said in a sickening sweet voice, “we’ll have nowhere to go if we lose.” They gave him the biggest puppy dog eyes.
“Not my problem,” Leona shrugged them off. Yuu looked at me with a face that screamed for help.
I joined the assault. “With no dorm to look after we sure will have a lot of time on our hands, won’t we Yuu,” I pointed out. I took a few steps closer to Leona.
“It seems like it, Viv. Especially during the nighttime hours,” Yuu walked up on Leona’s side. “Everyone else will be getting nice and cozy in bed while we wander the grounds.”
“I guess we’ll have to make ourselves busy with new hobbies, huh?” I went to Leona’s other side.
“Yep,” Yuu grabbed their chin. “You know, I have wanted to get better at MagiShift ever since the tournament. Maybe some night practices will help.”
“That sounds wonderful!” I said in glee. “I used to love singing at night while stargazing back in my hometown. I sang soprano in my choir. I absolutely adored the more operatic pieces.”
“I’d love to hear you sing Viv, but where could we do both?”
“Hmm…Oh, I have the perfect idea!”
“Savannaclaw has their own Magical Shift field right outside,” I pointed out of Leona’s windows. “And the stars are so bright here I could easily sing to them for hours!”
“I’m sure if we do this every night, we will improve greatly!”
“Oh no you won’t!” Leona finally cut in. “You must be out of your damn mind to think I’d let you do that.”
“I know, I’d rather sing somewhere I wouldn’t bother anyone, but I’d be too scared being away from Yuu and Grim at night,” I hung my head. “Being the only girl at an all-boy’s school in a strange world is very nerve wracking. Especially when I can barely control the magic, I only just learned I had. Regular self-defense can only get me so far against magic.”
“You wouldn’t want to do that, would you?” Yuu asked rhetorically. “If you don’t help us, then we’ll be forced to come here every night and make noise right. Outside. Your. Room.”
“You’re bluffing.” Leona scrunched his nose.
Yuu and I were on either side of him. We looked at each other before we both leaned in and said in unison, “Are we?”
“Shishishi, those two are terrible together,” Ruggie giggled off in a corner.
“And Leona is terrible for being so calloused,” Grim crossed his arms.
Ruggie whispered to the grey cat-racoon monster, “Well, after Leona learned Viv was female, he started to make preparations to let her stay here in case you guys really did lose Ramshackle. His pride as a male from the Afterglow Savanna wouldn’t allow him to let a girl sleep in the bushes.”
“Eh?! What about me?!” Grim yelled.
“He’d kick you to the curb the moment it was confirmed you lost,” Ruggie laughed. “Same with Yuu.”
“Grim! Vivienne,” Yuu got the attention of their monster companion and me, “let’s do our best!”
Chapter 41: Chapter 40
We stood in an awkward silence. Yuu, Grim, and I stood across a baffled Ace, Deuce, and Jack. Yuu had a confident grin along with Grim. I had a nervous smile with my snaggle tooth poking from the bottom.
Jack was the first to break the silence. “…You’re serious?”
“Yes, it has been settled. Today, we are going to the Atlantica Memorial Museum,” Yuu smiled. “Onward! To the Coral Sea!”
“No no no no!” Ace quickly stepped in. “Didn’t we say how it’s impossible to get the photo because of the Leech brothers?!?”
“Even I think this is a little ridiculous,” Deuce agreed. “And what about Viv’s phobia?”
“I…am making a needed sacrifice for the end goal,” I gave a timid thumbs up.
“That’s right, so listen up guys,” Grim gathered us close. “Our plan is to- Gag ack!” We all leaned back when Grim coughed.
“What is up with you? Do you have a cold?” Ace asked.
“No, I was shouting a lot yesterday,” Grim shared. “That doesn’t matter right now. Allow me to explain our plan first, so listen up!”
“Ehhhhh?!” they all screamed after the debriefing.
“Are you serious? That’s a pretty bold plan,” Ace said with wide eyes.
“Amazing. You’ve got a lot of guts, Prefect Yuu,” Deuce said with enthusiasm.
“Do you really think this is going to work?” Jack asked.
“It has to work, so we will make it work,” I said.
“We’ve come this far, so we don’t have any other option than to try your idea,” Deuce said to Yuu. “We don’t have much time left.”
“True, it is better to get going before the sun starts to set,” Ace agreed.
“Understood,” Jack joined. “We better get a move on. Nothing will happen if we just stand around here.”
“Let’s get this done and over with,” I gave big stretch. “Time to see if all those practice sessions with Riddle paid off.”
“Yuu, you really are determined once you set your mind to something,” Jack complimented.
“There are times you are a bit too bold,” Ace nervously chuckled.
“That’s what makes them lovable!” I gave them a big hug. Yuu gave me a quick squeeze back.
“Let’s go to the Atlantica Memorial Museum and get that photo!” Grim cheered. He scampered off in the direction of the Mirror chamber, with the rest of us in tow. Jack and Yuu practically dragged me along.
“CLOSED?!” We all screamed at the sign.
“Of all the times…” I rubbed my head, “it just had to be closed!”
“Well, the Leech brothers haven’t come after us. Do you think they knew about this?” Deuce pondered out loud.
“With what we’ve seen so far, most likely,” Yuu sighed.
“We came all this way, are we really going to run back home with our tails between our legs?” Jack asked in frustration.
“Wait a second, I have an idea,” Ace spoke up. “We need to get closer though.”
I held on to Jack as we approached the museum. “You are doing a lot better than you did last time,” Jack complimented in his gruff voice.
“Hahaha,” I nervously chuckled. “I feel like my stomach is going to jump out my mouth and my legs feel like they are made of spaghetti. I’m trying not to dig my nails into you arm by accident while keeping my nerves in check for when I play my part of the mission. Hahaha~” I word vomited to Jack. He blinked back his surprise I gave him weak smile.
“Fgna!” Grim gasped when he caught sight of the mermaid guards. “Well, I guess in a world of mermaids, even the guards are mermaids.”
Deuce cocked an eyebrow at Grim, “Isn’t that obvious?”
“Alright, I’ll try and distract the guards,” Ace went over his idea, “and you guys go sneak in from the back and take the photo.”
“Will you be fine on your own?” Jack asked. He looked concerned for the ginger.
“Jack, you are too honest sometimes, Deuce would not be able to pull this off, and Viv is barely keeping their wits about them,” Ace pointed out. “Just leave it to me.”
I leaned over to Yuu and whispered in their ear, “Ace is the only one here that still doesn’t know I’m a girl…You think we should tell him?”
“Nah,” they whispered back, “let’s see how long it takes.”
I nodded. Ace walked up to the entrance to start his performance. In distress he yelled, “Oh my gosh! Seriously?!”
The older guard looked at Ace with concern and confusion. “Hm? What’s the matter young man?”
“Is the museum closed today? I can’t believe this. I was looking forward to coming here,” Ace feigned sorrow easily.
The guard looked him up and down, “Are you a human from the surface? Did you come here by yourself?”
“Yes! I’ve always admired the world of mermaids ever since I was a child,” Ace said like aand elementary student. He was bouncing on his toes with the largest grin I have seen on him. “I’ve been saving up my allowance and bought a magic potion that would let me come down here.”
“I’m getting flashbacks to when I first met Ace…” Yuu whispered. They had a flat stare like they ate a bad banana. “That hooligan.” A smirk snuck its way on to their face.
“Oh my gosh! You’re a real mermaid! So cool! Do you mind if I get a closer look?”
“Oh really?” the guard looked flattered. “Would you like to see my dorsal fin?”
“This guy, I’m surprised he’s able to just lie on the spot like that,” Grim said. The lovable cat monster looked fed up with his classmate.
“He’d make a great actor if he set his mind to it,” I chuckled.
“The guard is completely into the conversation. Now’s our chance!” Deuce urged us to get moving. We swam around Ace and the guard to the side entrance of the museum. Yuu tried the door, but the handle didn’t move.
“It’s locked!” they harshly whispered.
“Here, let me,” I let go of Jack and did a little swimming jump to the door. I couldn’t see any magic, so I just grabbed a spare bobby pin from my blazer pocket. With some fumbling, I managed to pick the lock. “Ah! It actually worked!”
“How’d you know to do that?” Deuce asked.
“Huh? Uh, from spy movies back in my world…” I sheepishly put the pin back in my pocket. “This was my first time using a hair pin, so I didn’t think it would actually work. Usually, I’d use an ID card to unlock the music room at my old school, cause the instructor would forget to before class.”
“Wow, that’s resourceful,” Jack looked impressed.
“We can talk more about this later, come on!” Yuu opened the door and we all filed in. When we saw the large main lobby, it was awe inspiring. The glass roof let in the light of the coral-based building. A large statue of an important looking mermaid was in the center of it all. It was easy to forget about the fact we’re underwater while looking at the beauty.
Jack went in front of us. He took in our surroundings with serious eyes. “So, this is the place Azul was talking about.” He then found a wall filled with photos and walked up to it. Jack scanned each one in detail. “There’s a lot of them…I think no one would notice if one photo was gone.”
Deuce was the one to point out the photo-of-interest that we needed. “This photo is of Prince Rielle’s visit from ten years ago…This one’s it! Isn’t it?” He pointed to a picture filled with small mermaids of various types. He read the caption, “‘Prince Rielle, visiting with friends from school’.”
“It looks like it was taken during an elementary school trip,” I said as I got a better look. “All the little mermaids look so cute!”
“Why would he want us to get a photo like this?” Jack seemed skeptical.
“To be a pain in the butt,” Yuu muttered. I seemed to be the only one that heard. I nodded to them to show my agreement.
“Let’s get this photo to Azul so we can get these anemones off!” Deuce said happily. “Grab it and go!”
Yuu reached up and grabbed the photo off the wall with ease. We held our breath for some sort of alarm to go off, but nothing happened.
“There isn’t an alarm system. It is just some plain photo. I’m relieved,” Jack said as he let go of his breath.
“What are you all doing over there?!” a voice called from down the hall. The relief was short lived. We turned to see a guard coming towards us.
“Crap! It’s a guard!” Grim whisper yelled.
“I’m not surprised this would happen. Let’s put this guy to sleep for awhile,” Jack growled.
“Oh lord, here we go again,” Yuu and I said in unison.
Chapter 42: Chapter 41
WARNING: Scenes of Aquaphobia and past Trauma
“So, how did it go?” Ace asked when he finished his lovely talk with the elderly guard.
“We got the photo, it was almost too easy,” Grim put his paws on his hip as he confidently told him of our success.
“Well then, let’s hurry and get back to the school,” Ace grinned.
“Let’s shove this photo right at Azul,” Deuce agreed.
“I didn’t even have to do my main part of the plan,” I lazily smiled at Yuu. “Lucky me. I won’t have to come back.” I grabbed on to Jack’s sleeve, ready to make our way back to the school when he tensed up. “Huh? Jack?”
“Wait!” Jack pushed me behind him when he growled the command to the others.
It took the two long shadows from above for me to register what was going on. My heart sank, “I jinxed myself…”
“Ah~, they’re here~” Floyd’s high-pitched coo floated down along with him.
“I hope you all are having a good day. I see you have traveled to the sea once again,” Jade greeted us as he came down as well. “It seems you were able to get the photo.”
Jack growled at the eel formed brothers. Floyd flicked his tail back and forth. “Incredible~. Good little children…but…” he said.
“But what?” Yuu challenged.
“We can’t let you take that photo back, so why don’t we just play tag until sunset, okay?”
“I knew you guys would show up,” Ace mocked Floyd’s manner of speech. “I was just thinking this was way too easy. Your plan was to come after we got the photo and chase us until we ran out of time huh? That way, you don’t have to take the anemones off, and you get the photo too.”
“Fufufu,” Jade gave an airy laugh. “Obtaining maximum profit with minimum effort. It’s just business.”
“You really are evil!” Jack growled. He tensed his hands as if he was going to claw their eyes out.
“Well, Prefect Yuu, what do we do now?” Ace asked Yuu.
“I’m sure you have something else planned just in case right?” Deuce said.
“Viv!” Yuu motioned for me to come over.
“Oh boy…” I reluctantly staggered over. It was a weird combination of a doggie paddle and shuffling feet.
Yuu passed me what they were holding beneath their blazer quickly. I barely managed to hide it under my own. “Sorry,” they whispered. They spun me around and gave me a hard shove in the direction of the way back to school. “Vivienne run! Everyone else, protect the photo!”
“I don’t know how far we will go without our magic, but…” Deuce trailed off.
“We’re already here, so let’s go!” Jack charged.
I kicked my legs as fast as they could go. The others covered me with their magic as I sped off with the cargo.
Make the aquaphobic one run away in the ocean. Yes~ that makes so much sense. She’ll definitely be able to out swim EEL MERMEN!!
“YOU SO OWE ME ONE YUU!” I screamed.
“Oo, Oo! I’ll go after Leafy Sea Dragon!” Floyd excitedly swam after me.
“Wait Floyd!” Jade called out to his brother, to no avail. “Ha~ I guess it is fine.”
Gotta go faster. Have to get some distance…Ugh! The water is rushing past me~! I hate it! It’s like chains pulling me back…and down…deeper…NO! Keep your wits, Vivienne. Just long enough to get the job done at least. Focus…he should be right on you. You have to be ready to go.
“Leafy Sea Dragon~!” Floyd’s face popped up next to mine right on cue. “We get to play again! Your vow yesterday is already broken.” He cut me off. I tried to stop, but my control over my own body was not aligned. I ran headfirst into him. We tumbled in the water, but Floyd corrected us fast.
“Sorry Pool Noodle, I’m in a hurry. Emergency. Very busy, you know. Sorry,” I said in a mocking tone. I pushed off his chest. I was expecting to feel scales, but his skin was smooth and soft.
It feels cool to the touch. It is smooth and soft…
I shook the thought out of my head. I tried to swim up but was pulled down by my ankles. The familiar anxiety and fear shot through my head. “No!” I yelped involuntarily.
“Heh heh~. You’re such a bad swimmer Leafy,” Floyd looked at me with his heterochromatic eyes. His golden right eye seemed to glow.
“Really? I didn’t notice,” I pushed from gritted teeth. An orange spark of magic veered away from us. Floyd looked past me with hooded eyes and knit brows.
Jack and Deuce were swimming over. “Viv! We’re coming!”
“Sea Urchin again, and one of the anemone heads too?” Floyd whined. “Just leave us alone.” He muttered a spell and a cyclone of water pulsed towards the first-year boys. While I wasn’t in the direct line of fire, the wake of the torrent continuously smacked me in the face.
“What’s the matter Vivienne? Can’t handle a little water?” a young voice from a kid back in my neighborhood jeered. Him and a few other kids surrounded me. The all bombarded me with the squirting of hoses.
“Pu-please…stop it…” my high-pitched whimper from my younger years pleaded.
“We’re only trying to clean you up. You got covered in muk while up in the mountains.”
“That-that’s because you g-guys…”
“Didn’t you say your ma and pa would be mad if you came home all dirty again? We’re only helping…”
“STOP IT!” I screamed while gripping my braids.
“Eh?” Floyd jumped at the sudden volume of my voice.
I pulled my magic pen out from behind my ear and started reciting, “The angel’s whisper in the night, the helping hand that delivers might, envelop the heart the aches for adventure. Darling Mother!” The peachy magic aura surrounded me. I felt a surge of strength in my bones and muscles as I took a deep breath. With a quick yank, I freed my left ankle from his grip. I kicked his thumb to release my other ankle. Floyd retracted his hand with a small wince.
I used my arms and legs to propel myself up. I could feel myself going faster than before. “Hey, wait up Leafy!” Floyd called after me. He swam up and the true chase began. I was weaving between coral outcrops. I would bump into rocks along the way, but nothing that slowed my momentum by much. Even with my unique magic giving me a boost, I could see Floyd’s shadow hot on my trail.
A blast of magic kicked up the sand in front of me. “AHH!” I yelped and made a sharp turn.
“Just give me the photo Leafy. That way we can play without Azul’s rules,” Floyd said.
“I don’t want to play!” I yelled back at him. I could feel the aura start to falter. I made a sharp turn into a patch of tall seaweed.
Ugh, I feel myself getting dizzy. Those two need to get their end of things done! I ducked into a bed of kelp to catch my breath. The magic around me was faded, but it wasn’t flickering just yet. I can hold out a bit more…right? The last thing I want to do is faint underwater…
Chapter 43: Chapter 42
“Ah…I’m getting really annoyed with this game of tag,” Floyd groaned.
“Just a little while longer,” Jade assured his brother. “Try to enjoy yourself.”
I had continued to pop in and out of the kelp around us. I saw Yuu, Jack, and Grim standing off to the side. For the moment, Floyd was not actively searching for me, so I swam over. I was still holding on to keep my Darling Mother up. It had been longer than what I had been able to do before. The strain was catching up to me. The aura flickered every so often, and if I moved my head too fast my vision would get hazy.
I popped out of the kelp behind them and grabbed Jack and Yuu’s shoulder. With heavy pants, I asked, “How. Much. Longer? I’ve been doing this for two minutes straight already!”
“If we keep this up Yuu, the sun is going to set soon,” Jack pointed out.
“Are you sure this plan is really going to work?” Grim asked.
“It will work,” Yuu guaranteed. “As long as they do their part.”
After Yuu finished talking, a bright flash blinded us. “What was that light just now?” Jack asked as he shielded his face.
As the light faded, Ace yelled, “Ah! Deuce! The anemone on your head is gone!”
“Ah!” Deuce patted the top of his head. “You’re right!”
Grim rubbed the top of his own head, “Mine and Ace’s are gone too!”
“They did it!” I slumped over and broke my concentration for my unique magic. “I don’t have to pretend to have the stupid photo anymore!”
“You didn’t have the photo?!” Floyd pointed at me.
“Heck no! You said yourself that I’m a terrible swimmer! Giving me the photo would be moronic!” I yelled back. I pulled out a can of tuna from under my blazer and raised it for him to see. “We were playing keep-away over one of the Great Grim’s can of tuna. Hehe.”
Grim was dancing in the water, “Yes! Leona and the others did it!”
“…What did you say?” Jade’s usually stoic expression was no more. He looked at us with utter shock.
“What is the meaning of this!?” Floyd demanded.
“We made a deal of our own with Leona in order to get his help,” I answered fully sprawled out on the sand.
“What?! There is no way a lazy lion would help you,” Floyd said in disbelief.
Jade joined his brother’s sentiment, “As a fellow dorm leader, he shouldn’t have gotten involved. How did you convince him to help you?”
“Well, my dorm leader,” Grim boasted, “told him that if he helped us get Ramshackle dorm back that we will leave Savannaclaw quietly tomorrow.”
“If he didn’t cooperate, we would make a bunch of noise in front of his room, every. Single. Night,” Yuu said innocently.
“Just to prove we meant every single word of it, we made a big ruckus till morning,” I woozily said.
Grim pouted slightly, “And thanks to that we were up all-night shouting and didn’t get a wink of sleep.” Jade and Floyd looked downtrodden at out story.
“So that’s why your voice sounded rough this morning,” Deuce pieced together.
“Isn’t that more like a threat than a deal?” Floyd pointed out.
“A cheat for a cheat. Evil for evil,” Jack recited.
“We can do this now that I have my wind magic back,” Ace smiled.
“Summon: Cauldron!” Deuce shouted. A large, black cauldron dropped in front of him. “It’s back!” he happily cheered.
“Fngya! I can’t check my fire magic because we are still underwater!” Grim mourned.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine without your fire magic,” Ace teased.
“Let’s retreat Floyd. Their anemones disappearing can only mean one thing,” Jade said.
“Yeah, I have a bad feeling about this…” Floyd muttered.
“You hold on, we are finally getting serious,” Deuce glared.
“Don’t say you’re going to leave yet. Play with us a little~” Ace taunted the eel brothers.
Floyd fell for the taunt hook, line, and sinker. “Annoying little fishes. I’ll get rid of you in one second,” he threatened. He slowly swam closer with a wide eyed glare.
“Floyd, just leave them be!” Jade tried to stop him. He mumbled under his breath before joining Floyd in the fight.
“Viv, can you stand?” Yuu asked.
“Eh, maybe. I’m just super tired now,” I sighed. I grabbed Yuu’s outstretched hand. They helped me up and we stood back from the fight. Ace, Deuce, and Jack were on the offensive this time. Floyd and Jade blocked their attacks, but they were getting sloppy.
After blocking another blow, Floyd threw his arms in the air. “Ahh!! Enough! They are so annoying!” he whined. He crossed his arms and furrowed his brow. It was like a child throwing a tantrum.
“Let us retreat Floyd. This isn’t the time to play around,” Jade put a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Tch,” Floyd brushed Jade’s hand off. He shot one last glare at us before turning around. “I know, let’s go.” They swam away with hurried motions.
“We did it! They’re running away!” Grim cheered.
Jack came back over with Ace and Deuce. He said, “Let’s head back to school too. We’ll shove this photo in Azul’s face and claim our victory!”
Chapter 44: Chapter 43
We arrived at Octavinelle around the same time as the Leech twins. The dorm was surrounded by a dark miasma. We saw Azul draining students one by one of their magic with flashes of white and purple lights. My nerves were still recovering from being underwater for so long, and now we were in a horror setting. My knees knocked against one another. It took all the energy I had to not let my legs give out.
“Azul! What on earth are you doing?!” Jade yelled out.
“Eww! What is happening?!” Floyd looked disgusted by the scene.
Ace and Deuce reacted with surprise at the scene. “Eh?! What’s with this chaos?” Ace asked as he took a step back.
“Is Azul going on…a rampage!?” Deuce said in a hushed tone.
“Eee!” Grim hid behind Yuu’s leg. He poked his head around and pointed a claw at Leona and accused him, “Leona! You did this, didn’t you!”
“This is my fault?! You’re the ones who told me to destroy the contracts!” Leona retorted.
“I didn’t think he’d react like this…” Yuu muttered. I couldn’t tell if they were scared, worried, or both. They clutched their arms. I linked my arm with theirs and tried to control my own shaking.
“Jade, Floyd. Ahh~” Azul greeted his friends and henchmen with an airy voice. “You finally came back to me. Because of these idiots, all my contracts are gone. So then…please give your magic too. Come on, please give it to me!!”
“Stop this at once!” Jade stepped forward and slightly in front of his brother. He tried to reason with Azul, “You know your magic is too strong to control without a contract! You know what will happen if you keep this up.”
“But it’s because it’s all gone…” Azul softly said. He sounded defeated, but his mood quickly changed. “Ah hahaha…AHAHAHA! At this rate, I’ll end up going back to my old self.”
“Old self?” Yuu repeated under their breath.
“You know, you’re a lot lamer now than you were before Azul,” Floyd made a pointed remark.
“Ah…is that so?” Azul snapped. “I’m nothing but a stupid, idiotic octopus who can’t do anything by himself, right? That’s why, I’m going to take everyone’s magic so I can be the best me I can be! A beautiful singing voice, the most powerful magic, all of it will belong to me! Gimme! GIVE THEM ALL TO ME!”
A dark purple burst of magic pulsed from Azul. People around us panicked. Screams filled the air and boys ran wildly.
“Not again…” Yuu pulled me and Grim back with them.
“What’s with him? Black muddy stuff is coming from Azul,” Floyd asked Jade. “That’s not ink…right?”
“He’s using too much magic! He’s exceeded the blot’s limit! At this rate, he’ll-” Jade looked on in horror.
“Overblot!” Yuu and I said in unison.
“Ahahaha! AHAHAHA!” Azul laughed like a super villain. The muddy miasma flew up around him like a geyser. When it came down, Azul no longer had human legs. Instead, eight black tentacles with purple suction cups were in their place. His face, hands, and chest were a pale lilac grey, and the rest was black with grey speckles. Around his neck was a gold necklace with a swirled shell pendant like the dorm logo. Barnacles and coral decorated his waist and shoulders in black and pale indigos. A crown made of ink adorned his silver hair. His eyes were an illuminated ice-blue and a violet magic aura emitted from his left eye. Droplets of ink hovered around him like they were suspended in water.
“That must be what he looks like underwater,” Yuu said.
Azul sent a blast of lightening magic in our direction. “Yuu, duck!” I pulled them down and casted a shield around us. The force of the blow cracked the shield. The electricity wasn’t able to shock us, but the aftershock knocked us over.
We both sat up with a groan. “We have to get him back to his senses,” Yuu said. “Grim, go help Leona and Ruggie contain Azul’s legs!”
“Eh? Why?” Grim protested.
“Just do it please!” Yuu pleaded. “Viv, do you think you’re up to fight?”
“I won’t be able to use my unique magic,” I said honestly, “but I’ll do my best.”
I got to my feet and stretched my arms and legs out. “Don’t do anything rash!” Yuu reminded me.
I gave a thumbs up as I ran to a collapsed student. From his uniform, it looked like he was from the Scarabia dorm. “Hey, can you hear me?” I nudged his shoulder. I could see his chest rise and fall, so I wasn’t worried if he was dead. “Sorry my dude, but I can’t pick you up. Sooo…” I grabbed both his arms and dragged him to a nearby wall, away from the fighting. I dragged other collapsed students to sit up against the wall, so they were out of harm’s way. Ace and Deuce were escorting the ones still standing to the mirror. Jack helped Yuu and the others to fight the overblotted Azul.
“I think I got them all,” I said to myself as I scanned the area. “Alright, I’ll go out and help-!” One of Azul’s tentacles grabbed my leg. I tripped onto my face with a powerful smack. I flipped over onto my back when he started to pull me closer. I tried to pry him off.
“Ah~ you, Viv Abiba, give me your healing magic,” Azul’s distorted voice demanded. “GIVE IT!”
“Oh sh-!” I scrambled to get my magic pen from behind my ear.
“VIV!” Yuu screamed. I saw the purple and black magic heading towards me. I closed my eyes and raised my arms in front of my face.
“BIND THE HEART!” Floyd yelled.
“Take that!” Grim’s voice followed. The tentacle around my leg unraveled and someone picked me up.
I peeked an eye open to see Floyd setting me on my feet, “That was a close one.”
“Eh? Floyd? Why?” I was so confused. I took a few steps back.
“I didn’t want to see you get hurt by Azul,” Floyd bluntly said. He smiled and I felt my cheeks heat up. I looked down to hide my face with my braids.
“I should go that way,” I pointed before running from the tall upperclassman. I headed to Jack and Yuu with my magic pen in hand. As I ran, I yelled, “Summon: Giant Burr!” I aimed my pen at Azul’s side and an opaque peach magic shot out. The magic faded to show a giant burr you would find in the woods sailing in the air towards the giant, overblotted octopus merman. Azul swiped at the projectile, but the hooks dug themselves into his suction cups. I summoned a few more that attached to other tentacles.
“Aaagh!” Azul yelled. He tried to pry them off, but they just reattached to him.
“Great job, Viv!” Yuu praised as I slid to a stop next to them. “Grim! Try setting those on fire!”
“Got it!” Grim breathed out a funnel of his blue flames. The burrs ignited in a flash.
“Jade, now!” Floyd jumped behind Azul’s enlarged body.
“Yes, Floyd,” Jade followed his brother’s lead. The Leech twins lined their magic pens up and sent a combo blast of magic through Azul’s stomach.
A popping sound accompanied the large cloud of ink and dark miasma exploding everywhere. I covered my eyes with my arm and coughed. I waved a hand in front of my face to clear the rest of the magic fog around me. Azul was on the ground in his human form.
“Haaa~,” I sighed and slid down to my knees. “Azul isn’t in Overblot anymore. Isn’t that great Yuu?” I looked up to see that Yuu’s eyes were hazed over like when Leona came out of Overblot. They stood frozen and unblinking. I got back up to my feet and waved a hand in their face. “Yuu? Prefect?”
A single tear fell from their eyes as the haze disappeared. Yuu blinked rapidly and wiped their face. “Huh? Vivienne? Is everything alright?”
“I should be asking you that. You were completely zoned out,” I grabbed their shoulder out of concern.
“Ah, he’s awake,” Floyd called from standing over Azul. Jade was knelt beside the Octavinelle dorm leader. He helped Azul sit up. We all gathered around them.
Chapter 45: Chapter 44
“Azul, how many fingers am I holding up?” Jade asked, holding up his hands.
“…Eight…” Azul answered in a daze.
“Alright, you still seem a little shaken up, but I’m relieved,” Jade sat back on his knees. “It seems you were able to contain your blot.”
“Geez, you’re such a pain,” Leona hissed.
“No, Leona. You don’t have any room to talk,” Ruggie awkwardly pointed out.
“You really don’t,” Yuu agreed.
Azul looked amongst us and asked warily, “What…did I do?”
“You used too much magic and you went into Overblot,” Jade answered. His expression was of slight concern. “Do you not remember?”
“‘Give me your power~!’” Floyd imitated him. “You were running around crying, trying to take everyone’s magic. It was so lame, almost didn’t seem real.” I elbowed Floyd in the side for his rendition of events. “What?! It was!”
“I…lost control,” Azul stared at the ground in front of him as he came to terms with what happened. “Unbelievable.”
“Nah, it’s totally believable,” I said with a wave of my hand. “We destroyed your life’s work in a blink of an eye and rubbed it in your face. A freak out was only to be expected.” Floyd jabbed my side with his fingers, causing me to jump in place. I gave him a side glare while he just smiled.
“If someone broke open my piggy bank and stole all my saving, I’d never forgive them,” Ruggie gave an example.
Grim walked closer the Azul’s prone body, “But even so, it’s no good to scam people. You better do some self-reflection.”
“You guys need to do some self-reflection too and stop relying on other people’s notes to study,” Jack sent Grim’s advice right back at him.
“I mean, those notes were amazing. They got Grim to score an 80 on the test,” Yuu pointed out. “No one else could have made notes like that.”
“Eh?” Azul looked at Yuu with bewilderment.
“It’s true. With Azul’s notes I was able to get a 90 just by reading his notes the night before,” Ace said.
“Yeah, but you really should try and study before the night of the exam,” I grumbled. “You might have gotten a perfect score.”
“Headmaster told us that you made the notes by going through exams from the past 100 years,” Jack told Azul. “Even though I don’t approve of cheating, your dedication is incredible.”
Azul fixed his glasses, “Hmph, consoling me isn’t going to make me happy.”
“What’s this? Azul, are you getting teary eyed?” Floyd leaned down and teasingly said to his octopus-pal.
“Oh my, oh my~. Are you going back to your old, little crybaby self?” Jade joined in.
“You two! I believe we had an agreement to never talk about that,” Azul scolded.
“Oh, pardon me,” Jade had on his signature butler smile on.
“Ah…oh yeah,” Jack pulled out the picture we had stolen and walked it over. “Here is the picture of Prince Rielle you asked us to get. We brought it just as instructed. The sun has still yet to set. Which means, we win fair and square.”
Leona grabbed it from Jack and looked it over, “What’s with the photo? A bunch of little mermaids? Isn’t it just a picture?”
“It’s an elementary school class photo? What do you want this for?” Ruggie asked as he looked over Leona’s shoulder.
Floyd yoinked the photo from the lion and held it up happily. “Ah! How nostalgic. This is a photo we took when we went on a field trip in elementary school.”
“Oh, yeah. You mentioned that you went during the contract signing,” Yuu recalled.
Floyd presented the photo to us as though we were in show and tell, “Right here is me and Jade. And here, the one hiding in the corner is…baby Azul!”
“EHHH!!??” we all gasped.
“UUAHHHH! STOP IT!” Azul pleaded. He sprung up to try and grab the picture, but Floyd held it over his head. Floyd held Azul back with a hand as Azul begged, “Don’t look! Please don’t look!”
Ruggie jumped up and took the photo from Floyd. We all crowded around. Azul tried to go to Ruggie, but Jade grabbed both of his shoulders, “Oh my, Azul. You seem to be feeling a lot better. Why don’t you rest a little more? It would be best to just give up at this point.”
“Let me guess, the shy, little one with octopus-legs that is bigger than the other kids…” Ruggie awkwardly pointed out.
“Azul, you were chubby when you were younger?” Grim blurted out.
“Grim, you can’t just go blurting stuff out like that!” I flicked one of his flaming ears.
“You were so round and cute!” Yuu squealed. “I wanna squish your cheeks.”
“AHHH!!” Azul wailed into his hands.
“I completely understand how you feel! Everyone has a past they want to disappear!” Deuce passionately said. “I didn’t see anything! Everyone, forget what you just saw!”
“No way, I thought I was going to die getting this thing,” I said while staring at the photograph. “I’m burning this into my brain.”
“Dammit,” Azul mopped. “I thought I’d be able to expand the Mostro Lounge and destroy my dark past all at once…My plan was perfect…”
“They say those who chase two rabbits always end up with none after all,” Ruggie quoted.
“From school yearbooks to photographer films, I thought I’d finally gotten rid of all photos of me from back then, but that one photo from the museum was the only one I wasn’t able to get my hands on,” Azul lamented.
“Stop making people do your dirty work!” Grim said.
“I don’t mind at all. I like the old Azul,” Floyd ruffled his childhood friend’s hair.
“Now that’s very sweet!” I swooned.
“He looked so delicious!”
“And I take it back…”
Azul squatted and whined, “That not the problem!”
Yuu went over to Azul and rubbed his back. In a comforting tone they said, “You don’t have to hide it. If it wasn’t for this past self, we wouldn’t have the present Azul.”
“Ugh…I’m done. I want to go back inside my octopus pot…” Azul mumbled.
I tilted my head in confusion. What the crap is an octopus pot?
I looked over to see Jade staring at me. I gave an awkward smile which he reciprocated. “Uh, is there something wrong?”
“It would seem that you are bleeding,” Jade pointed to his forehead.
I brought a hand up and touched my forehead. I winced a bit and brought my hand back down to see blood on my glove. “Oh, would you look at that.”
“Eh?! You just noticed your bleeding?!” Ace yelled.
“There was a lot happening! None of you noticed either!” I yelled back.
“Ah, the blood is coming from Leafy’s braids!” Floyd went and started moving my box braids around all willy-nilly.
“Ahdada! Gentle. Gentle!” I cried out. “Sensitive scalp here! No touchy!” Floyd dropped my colorful hair. I softly patted my roots as tears pricked on the corners of my eyes.
“Can’t you just heal yourself? Like you did with my ankle?” Floyd asked.
“You know, I never tried that,” I said. I placed my hand where I thought the injury was. “Darling Mother.”
I concentrated like I would when healing the others. I felt my magic condense around my head, and a splitting pain shot through my skull. “Ah!” My vision went black for a second and I felt hands around my arms. I blinked the black veil out of my eyes and groaned, “Please tell me that the bleeding stopped…”
“No, it’s still bleeding,” Jack said. He had my right arm while Deuce had my left.
“Whelp, guess that means I can’t heal myself with this magic. Figures,” I laughed.
Chapter 46: Chapter 45
“Anyway,” Jack interjected while Yuu and Ruggie tried to stop my bleeding, “we held up to our end of the contract and brought you the photo. We cleared all of your conditions.”
“I mean, we already destroyed all the contracts,” Grim pointed out.
Jack looked uncomfortable, “But, you know I don’t like stealing. Azul, I know you are a man of your word. Do what’s right and give everything back to where it belongs.”
“We can all go together,” Yuu offered.
“…Understood. But please, just give me the photo back so I can get rid of it,” Azul bartered.
“Ha, how horrible of you,” Leona scoffed.
“He’s right,” Jade said to Azul with a hand over his heart. “Memories are special.”
Floyd bounced around his brother. “Hey. Hey, when are we going?! We’re all going right?” He looked at me when he said the last part. “I’m looking forward to going to the Atlantica Museum. We haven’t been there since elementary school.”
I sighed. Knowing this lot, they’ll drag me down there no matter what. I shuddered. Something furry brushed against my leg and I looked to see Grim sniffing the floor. “Grim? What are you doing?”
“My gourmet hunter senses are tingling…” He continued to roam the ground. “A delicious black truffle treat is somewhere around here!”
“Are you a pig?” Ace asked.
“Grim, I swear to god…” Yuu facepalmed.
“Am I missing something?” I looked around.
“Fgya! I found the black treat! Nothing can fool the nose of the Gourmet Hunter Grim!” Grim held up a black stone. It almost looked like an onyx of some sort.
“A rock?” I stared at him with confusion.
“Thanks for the food!” Grim quickly stuffed it in his face. “Mmmn…such a rich taste with a savory kick at the end.”
“GRIM NO!” I yelled. I grabbed his collar and pulled him to eye level. “Spit that out right now!”
He swallowed and gave a cheeky grin, “Too late.”
“Is he eating random things off the floor again?” Deuce asked.
“AGAIN?! That’s a whole new level of gluttony for you,” I looked Grim in his fiery blue eyes.
“There’s no point in trying to stop him. Monsters might have different taste buds,” Ace said in a defeated tone.
Leona looked from Grim to Yuu with a thoughtful stare. “…Does the racoon always eat black rocks off the ground?”
“Not always…” Yuu nervously responded. “He definitely has a gluttony problem though.”
“Leona, is something wrong?” Jack asked.
“Not really…It’s nothing,” Leona shrugged it off.
I was in my room of Ramshackle getting ready for the evening. Yuu had said they were going for a late-night stroll, while Grim knocked out the moment he got in his little bed. That left me alone with my thoughts.
Today was full of twist and turns. I can’t believe I witnessed another Overblot, and so close to the last one too! That makes, what? Two? Technically, Yuu said that they dealt with one before I got here, so three all together?
I passed by my full-length mirror as I hung up my school uniform. I brought my hand up to the bandage wrapped around my head from the infirmary. I laughed at the memory of the nurse lecturing Yuu and me about protecting our heads more. My mind wondered back to when we all noticed the blood at Octavinelle.
Floyd looked worried. That was unexpected.
“Hah~” I sighed as I dropped my hand back down. “I don’t know what to think with that guy…”
“With what guy?”
“Eii!” I lifted my foot in surprise as I let out the soft scream. The skinny resident ghost of Ramshackle floated through my mirror. “Goodness, you want me to join you as a ghost?”
“Kekeke, maybe. Who are you talking about?” he asked as he floated around the room.
“Floyd Leech from Octavinelle, the stinking pool noodle,” I grumbled. “His mood changes so much that I don’t know what to do with him. One minute he is acting like a carefree child, another he’s a mafia goon. It is exhausting honestly.” I plopped myself onto the side of my bed and laid back.
The ghost hovered close to the ceiling and said, “Ah, that fellow. He was lively while he was here. Made things interesting, but we couldn’t prank him, so it was no fun.”
“Haha, he does seem like a hard one to prank. He is a wild child for sure.” I thought back to the whole “squeezing” incidents. “Definitely on the rougher side.”
“I thought he was going to undo all your hard work in renovating the place.”
“Oh, I would have squeezed him if that happened. I’d probably do zero damage, but that is beside the point.” I closed my eyes, replaying the recent events in my mind. I sat up in a rush and slammed my hands to my temples. I yelled, “AH! I never said, ‘thank you’! Ow ow ow!”
Smart one Viv…real smart.
“Huh?” the ghost floated down to my level.
“During the fight, Floyd blocked me from getting hit by Azul’s crazed magic. I forgot to say thanks! Dang it! Oh, Mama would not be happy with me…” I wrapped my braids around my face like a scarf. I groaned into my hair as I fell back on my mattress again.
The ghost tilted his head to the side, “The Prefect mentioned you guys would be going back to the Coral Sea to return the photo in a few weeks. Isn’t everyone going? Just tell him then.”
“But I’d rather just dissociate if I have to go underwater again,” I whined. A brilliant idea popped into my head. “Wait. I’m pretty sure there is a guy from Octavinelle in our class. I can just write a thank you note and ask him to hand it to Floyd! Brilliant!”
I ran to my desk. I opened the draw that held my stationary to see the contents floating away. “Hey! What the crap!?”
“If you are really thankful, you should tell him in person.”
“But that requires social interaction.”
“Life requires social interaction. I’m a ghost, so I am not required to talk to people anymore. You, young lady, are quite alive. So go talk to your upperclassman!”
“Fine! Yeesh, why did I miss this place?” I crossed my arms. “Can you stop levitating my stuff now, please?”
The ghost lowered my pens and paper into the drawer. The ghost phased through a wall, and a knock at my door soon followed. I sighed in relief, “Come in Yuu.”
Yuu opened my door and stood in the arch. In a soft tone they asked me, “How are you doing?”
“I’m wide awake mentally but dead tired physically,” I yawned. “You?”
“I saw Tsunotarou on my walk and talked with him for a bit, so I feel better mentally. He is happy we got the dorm back by the way. Physically though, I’m pretty sure my body has already fallen asleep on me, hehe.”
“Heh,” I laughed along with them. There was a moment of silence between us.
“If you don’t want to go back to the Coral Sea, I won’t force you,” they spoke up. “I know how much strain it puts you through.”
I pondered for a while. I exhaled strongly and said with conviction, “I’ll go. I was there to take it, so I should be there to put it back. Just buy me a cream-filled bun at lunch afterwards.” I smiled at them with a thumbs up.
“Alright. Well, goodnight, Viv.”
“Nighty night Yuu.”
They closed the door behind them. I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling. I had seen the ghost leave, but something told me he and the other two were close by. “Night Ghosties.” I brought the covers up and slipped off to sleep.
Chapter 47: Chapter 46
Yuu and I sat in the living room with a nice stay-in breakfast. Grim was scarfing down one of his cans of tuna when we heard a knock on the door.
“I’ll go get it,” Yuu said. As they got up, two heads popped around the archway from the main foyer.
“Shrimpy, Little Seal, Leafy Sea Dragon~ Good Morning!” Floyd cheerfully greeted.
“Why are you in our dorm?” Yuu slouched their shoulders.
“We came to pick you up! Come on, let’s go,” Floyd waved his arms towards the front entrance.
“Ugh, whenever I see you two, I get scared you’re here to steal something from me,” Grim said as he finished his tuna. He had bits and pieces all stuck to the fur around his mouth.
I went over to him with a napkin, “Wipe your face.”
“Oh, not at all. We would never come to harm those who didn’t break the contract,” Jade assured.
“I’d hate to know what you did to the ones who did,” Yuu nervously chuckled.
“Now then, it is a beautiful sunny day today. Perfect weather for a field trip,” Jade commented.
Floyd ran up to me and pulled me up by my arm. “Let’s get going to the Atlantica Memorial Museum!”
“That’s today?” I whined. I thought I’d have a bit more time to prepare myself emotionally for this.
“As arranged by Azul, the whole museum is reserved for us today,” Jade smiled. “Azul left earlier and will be waiting for us there.”
“He didn’t edit the photo, right?” Yuu asked as they walked to the door with Grim.
“Yes, I kept the photo safe,” Jade answered.
“Good,” Yuu nodded.
“Come on! Hurry! Let’s hurry and go!” Floyd urged as he dragged me down the hall.
“But I, uh um…” I frantically tried to come up with an excuse to stall. I looked to Yuu for help, but they just giggled at my situation. I gave a defeated sigh, “Haa~ let’s go…”
As Jade said, we were the only ones in the museum. The twins had put a spell on our clothes, so they’re water resistant this time to go along with the potion to breathe underwater. I hung back from the rest of the group. They looked around happily. I didn’t want to ruin their fun by clinging to anyone, so I just stood by myself. I shook with a nervous smiled as I watched Deuce, Ace, and Jack admire the statue in the center of the building. Azul meanwhile came around the corner to greet us.
“Everyone, welcome to the Atlantica Memorial Museum,” Azul’s suave voice floated to us. “Today is the Mostro Lounge’s study trip. On behalf of the reservation made today, please enjoy yourselves.”
“Nya! There you are you octopus Azul…wait…” Grim trailed off as he got a better look at him. “Why are you still in your human form?”
“Yes, octopus mermaids are very rare in this area. I would like to avoid unwanted attention after I put back the photo,” Azul explained away.
Jade countered his argument, “There is no need to worry. I’m positive no one would notice that the octopus in the photo was you.”
“We haven’t been down here in a long time, so wouldn’t it be easier to be in your real form?” Floyd pointed out.
Azul shifted his glasses. “Hm…Please let me do as I please.” He composed himself and continued. “Well then, I will be going to return the photo. Please feel free to look around the museum.”
“There is an exhibition of the mermaid princess’ silver hairbrush over there,” Floyd pointed excitedly. He led the way for everyone else.
Ace caught up to him with the pamphlet in hand, “The pamphlet said that earlier, but isn’t this a fork?” He pointed to the encased utensil. “I don’t see anything else.”
“Fufufu…It might look that way to those from the surface,” Jade giggled. I was still by the statue, barely moving.
I just need to grab Floyd alone to say a quick thank you then I can shut down completely. Easy right? You got this Vivienne.
“I got this,” I whispered to myself.
“What do you got, Leafy Sea Dragon~?” Floyd whispered in my ear. Speak of the devil.
“AHHIIII!” I tumbled in the water when I jumped. A hand grabbed my ankle and brought me back down to stand. I tried to slow my breathing. “When…did you get…behind me?”
“A few moments ago! You were lagging, so I wanted to see what was taking so long. You must be really scared of me in this form to scream like that,” Floyd giggled as he swam circles around me.
“Scared? Of a pool noodle like you? No way,” I crossed my arms and turned my head away. I felt my legs shake. “You just surprised me is all. I was very deep in thought.”
“About what?” Floyd stopped in front of me and curled his tail around himself. It reminded me of sitting crisscross-applesauce.
I bit my lip. Crap. I was not ready for this! Ahh!
“Uh, well…I wanted toooo~ say thanks. For, um, blocking Azul’s magic from hitting me during his Overblot. I forgot to say it then, so I decided to say it now,” I rapidly mumbled. I avoided eye contact the entire time. When I looked back at him, he was looking at me with wide eyes. “What? Do I have seaweed in my hair or something?”
Floyd shook his head. He smiled with a pinkish-purple blush, “It was no problem! If Azul hurt you, I wouldn’t be able to play with my Leafy!” His face went dark after he said that. “Oh wait. You said I couldn’t play with you anymore…”
I raised an eyebrow before it hit me. I just muttered, “Oh.”
That’s right! I told him I’d never play with him again! Oh gosh. Oh crap!
“Hey Yuu! Look at this huge dinosaur bone over there!” Grim called out. Everyone looked over to see the giant display of a creature far bigger than any dino I learned about.
“That’s not a dinosaur, it’s a monster called a ‘Sea Dragon’,” Jade explained. “Legend says that the Sea Witch had sea dragon bones right in the entrance to her cave.”
“Woah~” I said. I jumped and floated carefully closer to the thing. It was massive! I was mesmerized by the remains of it when something popped into my head. I turned to look at Floyd and said, “Wait a minute. You call me ‘Leafy Sea Dragon’ all the time. Are you referring to one of these?!”
“Oh no no, my brother isn’t talking about this beast of legend, but it’s living descendant,” Jade answered for him. “The one he calls you is very tiny and hides in kelp. It is about the size of a teacup.”
“Oh,” I said, a bit disappointed. “Well, I’m gonna think of this thing from now on, haha! Makes me feel all tough!” I flexed my biceps in a joking manner.
“Look this way! This way!” Floyd quickly swam by and grabbed my hand. He pulled me along in the water with him. By reflex, I clung to his arm for dear life with my eyes shut tight. “Over there is a replica of the Sea Witch’s cauldron.”
“What? They have cauldrons underwater too?” Deuce asked in amazement.
“How would you heat it up down here?” Ace asked.
“Eh? I don’t know. Azul, explain!” Floyd whined.
“Very well but let me warn you my tour guide fees are very high,” Azul said in a slick tone of voice.
“Haaa~” I sighed. I still had my eyes shut while I tried to calm down.
“If you keep squeezing me like this, I’ll have to squeeze you back Leafy Sea Dragon~” Floyd adorably warned.
I opened an eye to see I was wrapped around his arm like a koala bear. I felt my face and neck heat up in embarrassment. I instantly let go. I frantically stuttered, “I- I am so, eh, um sorry! It, it was a, uh, a re-reflex! I didn’t hurt your fins, did I?!”
“Hahaha!” Floyd laughed. “Leafy is so cute like this! No, my fins are fine. It’ll take a lot more than a squeeze from you to hurt them.”
“Oh, well that’s good,” I responded. I clutched my arm anxiously as I stood there. There was a different type of churning in my stomach from the unease I felt due to the water. I liked it far better.
Chapter 48: Chapter 47
We were all in the mirror chamber after spending the day under the sea. I felt absolutely exhausted emotionally. I sat on the floor with a guttural groan.
“Paah! Nothing beats fresh, on land air!” Grim exclaimed next to me.
“Going to the Atlantica Memorial Museum was fun,” Deuce said.
“Before I thought the place was boring,” I didn’t notice Floyd peek at me while he said this, “but it’s fun to go there every once in a while.”
“Since living on land, it’s interesting to see how misunderstood the surface world is to mermaids,” Jade thought back.
“I’m glad to hear you all had a good time,” Azul said. “You are all probably exhausted from our trip. It’s almost time for the Mostro Lounge to open. How about you come in for some tea?”
“Yahoo! Good, cause I’m getting hungry!” Grim jumped with joy.
I put a thumbs up with my head between my knees, “Tea sounds good.” I lifted my head with the sound of footsteps. As I saw the rest of the group start to head out a hand came down. I looked to see Jack offering to help me up. “Oh, thanks Jack.” I grabbed his hand and pulled myself up. I let go. We pulled up the rear.
As we were walking, Jack started a conversation. “I’ve noticed something with you.”
“Oh really?” I curiously raised an eyebrow. “And what, pray tell, have you noticed?”
“You hold back a lot. Not just in battles, but in daily situations and conversations. You can be blunt, but you bite your tongue.”
“Haha! Wow, you really read me like a book there,” I chuckled.
“Why?! You shouldn’t be passive about the things you believe in!”
“That’s a long story,” I said as I looked at the ground we walked on, “but the lesson I learned is that sometimes, battles are won by the things left unsaid.”
It looked like Jack was going to say something else, but we made it to the mirror leading to Octavinelle. We passed through the marine decorated dorm hall. I was a little more at ease with the underwater dorm after the overblot battle, but my eyes did not linger on the surrounding water held back by magic. Our large group walked in on an already busy lounge. Students from a variety of dorms were calling out their orders.
“Eh?! Why are there so many people here already?” Ace exclaimed.
“Oh my, it seems our new advertisement is working,” Jade remarked.
“Advertisement?” Jack repeated.
“We got in trouble by Headmaster so we can’t make contracts anymore to take people’s magic,” Floyd filled us in.
“He actually does his job sometimes,” Yuu and I mumbled.
“So, Azul made point cards!”
“Point cards? For the Mostro Lounge?” Ace tilted his head in intrigue.
“Yes, you get one point for every order of a 600 madol special drink. If you order the 1500 madol meal, you get three points,” Azul explained. “If you are able to get up to 50 points, then you get one meeting with me and I will listen to your troubles.”
“Do you mean any kind of troubles?” Grim asked.
“Even…school troubles?” Deuce added.
“Yes, of course,” Azul said with a smile.
Jade added, “Also, if you get up to three points on your card you get an even more special service.”
“For more information, please look at our pamphlet or the lounge’s website,” Azul wrapped up the infomercial.
“They got a website?!” I rhetorically asked as Jade handed us a folded pamphlet.
“Ah! Then, I’d like the special drink!” Grim excitedly ordered without even reading the pamphlet.
“Me too!” Ace joined.
“I’ll have the meal drink set please,” Deuce ordered. All three took a seat in one of the semi-circle booths.
“Thank you so much for your order,” Azul said in a scheming tone.
“You guys…” Jack groaned as he slid in next to them. Yuu went next and I was seated at the end.
“You three never learn,” I sigh.
“You have to respect the hustle at least,” Yuu laughed. “I’ll order a piece of cake. Viv, are you getting anything?”
“Huh? Oh, uh I’ll just have some hot tea,” I added to our order.
“Now then, Jade, Floyd. It’s time for business,” Azul proclaimed.
“Yes,” Jade and Floyd responded together. The three of them went off to the kitchen and left us to our own devices.
It was a nice way to relax after all the drama that went down. Yuu and I had to stop Grim from dancing on the table while the others laughed. We ended up staying until closing. The guests of the lounge left one by one, and we were a part of the exit. Once in the hall of mirrors, we all went our separate ways. Grim was passed out in Yuu’s arms, having eaten some of Deuce’s food and Yuu’s cake. There was a chill breeze as fall was slowly, but surely turning into winter.
“We’ve been here to see a change of seasons,” Yuu noted.
“Yeah, crazy to think about,” I sighed. There was a moment of peaceful silence.
“If I wake up tomorrow and Crowley has another game of ‘play school therapist’, I’m slamming my head through the wall.”
I bent in half laughing, “Nooo, hahaha!! Yuu, you can’t do that!”
“Why not, I’ll just have you heal me.”
“’Cause he’ll make us pay for the repairs, haha!!”
Yuu pointed their finger at me, “True.”
“Gosh, when we get back to our world, we need to become pen pals or something. Otherwise, I’ll miss your dry sense of humor.”
“I’m pretty sure I had social media accounts back in our world.”
“I think I have one, but that’s it.”
“What’s that thing Cater is always uploading selfies on? MagiCam? Is that the only form of social media here?”
“I doubt it, but I also wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Well, it’s not like we have a phone to use it, so I guess we don’t have to worry about it,” Yuu shrugged.
“Not like we need a phone anyway. We mostly stay on campus and with each other. There really isn’t a need,” I kicked a pebble that was in our path. “The only reason I had a phone back home was to call my family to pick me up from after school activities.”
“You remember your family?” Yuu tilted their head to the side.
I looked at them slightly confused. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
“Oh, since my memories got all messed up when I got here somethings are just…not there. Like, I know I have a family of some sort, but I can’t remember what it was like,” Yuu scratched the back of their head. At this point we had made it to the front porch of Ramshackle and were standing outside the door. “At least I hope I have a family.”
“You do have a family. Us!” I opened my arms wide. “I’m the motherly big sister, and Grim is the chaotic housecat!”
“Pfft!” Yuu covered their mouth. In a sassy tone they said, “What makes you think I want a big sister like you?”
“Ouch,” I opened the door and let them inside, “that cut me deep Yuu. Boo-hoo~.” I pretended to cry.
“The therapist is off duty. Come back never.” We both laughed in the foyer before heading off to bed.
Chapter 49: Chapter 48
The sky was filled with pinks and blues like cotton candy with clouds sprinkled about. The Wendy-girl, in her blue night gown, flew like a bird as she surveyed the island below her.
“FIRE!!” a collective cry came from below. Rocks, sticks, and other makeshift weapons came hurling at her. She was able to move out of the way from getting hit, but she tumbled out of the air.
She started to fall into the woods below headfirst, letting out a terrible scream as she went. The poor girl was headed straight for an outcrop of sharp rocks. As she braced herself for impact, the boy in green flew down and caught her before she hit the jagged stone. He floated down to land on the rocks.
“Oh, Peter! You saved my life!” Wendy happily exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around her rescuer’s neck.
“That is all for today’s class. You are dismissed,” Professor Trein said. We all got up and gathered our supplies.
“Hey Yuu, what are you going to do now?” Ace asked them.
“Hmm? I was going to head to the library for a bit. Why?” Yuu asked him back as Grim went to sit on their shoulder.
“Would you be willing to record my stats for the Basketball Club?” Ace put his hands up in a pleading manner.
“Nope,” Yuu started walking away. I covered my mouth to stifle a laugh. I followed them out of the classroom.
Deuce said in shock, “The Prefect just shot you down with no remorse.”
“Ehh?! Why not?” Ace ran to catch up to us down the hall.
“Right now, Crowley isn’t sending me on some convoluted tasks and I’m not getting dragged into another student’s problems,” Yuu pointed out. “So! I am going to enjoy the time I have right now the way I want to. Ask Deuce or something.”
“I already tried,” Ace huffed, “but his club overlaps with mine so he isn’t able to help.”
“What about Viv? They aren’t in a club,” Yuu pointed their thumb at me.
Ace and I looked at each other. He asked me, “Would you be able to track my stats, Viv?”
“Wow, I feel so honored to be the third person you ask,” I placed a hand over my heart. I saw him roll his eyes at my behavior. I shrugged my shoulders. “Sure thing Ace. I’ve been bored anyway since I don’t have regular tutoring sessions with Riddle anymore.”
“Great! Practice is in the gym! Follow me!” Ace excitedly pulled me along.
“Oh, well I guess I’m going now. See you later Yuu and Grim,” I waved at my dormmates. As we walked down the halls with a quickened pace. I fiddled with my magic pen behind my ear and asked Ace, “So why are you so keen on getting someone to record your stats?”
“My aim is to become a regular on the team for the tournament coming up, so I want to be able to track my improvement,” Ace explained to me on our way there.
“That’s actually a good idea. I’m so proud,” I pinched his cheek.
“Ick, stop acting like some middle-aged lady!” Ace swatted my hands away.
“I am not some old lady!” I snipped at him a bit too quickly.
Ace sighed, “Besides, it wasn’t my idea. A senior on the team mentioned it. I honestly don’t know what you’re supposed to track.”
I threw some of my hair over my shoulder. “Ha~ don’t you guys have a manager or something? They’re usually the ones who do this.”
“Apparently we did, but they quit last year, and the coach never found a new one.”
“Well, a manager isn’t a requirement,” I mentioned. “By the way, am I even allowed to view you guys’ practice?”
“Eh, don’t know. Should be fine.”
I know why Yuu said no now…
We came to the gym doors and Ace went in first. There were already a lot of men in their gym uniforms from multiple dorms. Most paid no mind to our entrance. Some waved at Ace, and a few acknowledged my presence. We walked over to where the bleachers were, and I put my stuff down.
“I’m going to go change. Get yourself situated and stuff. We’ll start running drills soon,” Ace filled me in.
“I’ll be here,” I sent him off. Ace walked off and I sat in the bleachers. I grabbed my notebook and untucked my magic pen to start making tables and categories that I thought were appropriate.
“Excuse me, but why are you here?” a voice caught my attention. I looked up to see a guy with long hair with three cornrows on one side of his head pulled into a ponytail. He had a darker complexion like me along with a serious case of RBF. He stared, waiting for an answer.
“Oh! My friend asked me to keep track of his stats so I’m just here to watch him,” I said, showing my notebook as proof. “I’ll do my best to stay out of the way. If I’m not allowed to be here, I’ll leave though.”
“If you’re helping a member that’s fine, but who is the -”
“Jamil! They’re with me!” Ace ran out from the changing rooms.
“Oh, Ace he’s with you?” Jamil tucked a basketball under his arm.
“Yeah, sorry about that. Just wanted to try the thing you mentioned,” Ace scratched his neck as he chuckled.
“Oh Jamil! You’re the one dude from the Magical Shift Tournament! I’m Viv from Ramshackle,” I put my hand out for handshake. “You won’t even notice I’m here.”
“Ah, the other student from another world. Well, just don’t get hit by a ball,” Jamil warned me. He shook my hand, but it was hesitant.
“Don’t worry, I know my way around the court enough,” I gave him a thumbs up. Jamil gave me a nod before he walked off. I turned to Ace and said, “I don’t want to move from this spot, so you’re going to have to report things to me.”
“Yes mom~ Ouch!” Ace picked his leg up. He rubbed the area on his shin where I kicked him.
“Quit it with the mom jokes,” I scolded him.
“Got it. Yeesh, didn’t have to come after my shins like that,” Ace grimaced. “I’m going to start practice now. Keep watch!”
“Don’t get cocky,” I rolled my eyes at him. He went off to stretch and I got comfy on the bleachers. That is, until I heard a certain voice yelled in my ear.
“LEAFY SEA DRAGON!!” The next thing I knew I was hoisted into the air and squeezed tightly. My legs swung back and forth with the motion of my not-so-secret assailant’s motions. “I can’t believe you’ve come to the basketball club! And here I thought it was just going to be another boring practice~” Floyd giggled.
“AJKDGI- DOWN PLEASE!” I firmly requested. I tried to pry his arms off from my waist. It didn’t hurt.
He’s too close to my boobs!! I didn’t have time to get my arms over my chest! Binder, do your thing please!
Floyd seemed to listen to my request. He placed me on the ground again. I put a hand over my heart and heavily breathed out, “Aiya! What the crap are you doing here, Pool Noodle?!”
“I’m part of the club silly~” Floyd cheerfully grinned. “You don’t have to pretend to not know I’d be here. You must have come to see me after all~”
“I didn’t come to see you. I came to watch Ace.”
“Eh~? Really? You came to see Crabby?”
“Why~? I’m much more fun and way better than him,” Floyd whined. He had a childish pout on his face. It was absolutely adorable, considering his otherwise tall, domineering appearance.
“Pfft,” I caught myself before I let out a giggle.
No. Don’t encourage this behavior, Vivienne.
I took a deep breath in and said, “I’m helping him keep track of his stats. So, if you’ll excuse me.”
I tried to pick up my notebook and pen that had fallen to the ground, but Floyd was faster. He snatched them up and demanded, “Do mine too!”
“Maybe some other time,” I said. I tried to yank my things back.
“That means you’ll have to come to practice again right!”
“Floyd! Get over here! We’re about to start some drills!” one of the team members called.
“Well would you look at that. Seems like you have to start practice and I have to start observing,” I quickly grabbed my things from Floyd and moved down the bleachers. “See you on the court Pool Noodle.” I was prepared for Floyd to ignore the calls of his teammate, but he just went to the court obediently. I sat down and got my pen at the ready.
Chapter 50: Chapter 49
I don’t know what I was watching, but I wouldn’t call it basketball. It was more like an awkward mix of Keep-Away or Monkey-in-the- Middle. All of this was because Floyd was absolutely dominating the court. He wasn’t going easy at all.
I think this is an even worse beating from when he played me…
“Geez! Why is he so into it today?!” a raspy voice from a teammate exclaimed. They were taking a small water break after a 3v3 drill against the wild merman.
My condolences… I sighed as I looked over what I had gather for Ace in previous drills. It wasn’t terrible. He was able to cross the court seven times in one minute in the basic drill and he showed fabulous control during the dribble conditioning drills. The suicide drill was a train wreck, however. I scribbled down some notes in the margins.
“Hey. Hey~ Leafy Sea Dragon did you see what I did?” Floyd gleefully bounded over. His hair was sticking to his forehead from all the sweat. “Those little guppies were so easy to beat!”
“Well, when you keep dunking on them it does become child’s play,” I commented as I tucked my pen back behind my ear.
“That means you were watching me, right~,” Floyd gave me a cheeky smile. I paused for a moment.
This little punk! How do I respond to that without sounding like I’m a flustered mess?!
…Chill Viv. Just state it nonchalantly.
I cleared my throat and shrugged, “Ace wasn’t playing, so I didn’t need to record anything.”
“Did you record anything for me?”
Floyd’s mood visibly dropped, “Eh~? Why not?”
“Because I’m only here to record Ace’s stats,” I reiterated.
“Hmph,” he pouted.
“Next teams to play! Ace, Jamil, and Victor against James, Fredrick, and Darian! On the court!” the coach yelled out.
“Duty calls! I grinned. I took my pen from behind my ear and got ready to record Ace’s shot-to-score ratio.
“Leafy Sea Dragon~,” Floyd whined.
“Hey Leech! Get to the lay-up drill!” the coach ordered.
“Tch,” Floyd clicked his tongue and sat next to me. “If Leafy isn’t going to watch me, then I don’t feel like it.”
“Ugh, fine. Everyone else at my whistle!” the coach blew into his whistle and the next round of practice began.
“Leafy~ can I squeeze you?” Floyd leaned over me.
“No,” I quickly muttered out. I followed Ace’s movements with care. I tallied each shot on the basket he himself made from the total his team had. Each assist and block of his was also marked down. My eyes went back and forth from the paper to the scrimmage. I was getting tunnel vision to keep up with the fast pace. I could feel Floyd’s stare from my left. My braids fell in my face to shield me from his heterochromatic eyes. The sound of sneakers squeaking filled my ears.
“Hey Leafy. How can you see through all that seaweed in your face?”
“Huh?” I turned my head slightly in his direction to show I was listening. “Seaweed? What are you -”
I stopped mid-sentence as I felt something graze against my face. My braids were pushed behind my ears. I turned to face him fully with wide eyes.
“I much rather prefer to see Leafy Sea Dragon’s face than all the seaweed they hide in. Hehe~” Floyd gave a toothy grin to show off his sharp choppers.
I felt my face and neck heat up as my mouth dropped. “I-I…Y-you-!”
“HEY WATCH OUT!!” someone yelled.
I turned my head to see a basketball hurtling towards my head. “Crap!” I crossed my arms in front of my face, bracing myself for an impact that never came.
“Are you okay Leafy Sea Dragon?”
I lowered my arms to see that Floyd had reached across me and palmed the basketball inches from my face. My mouth hung open as I processed what just happened. Floyd threw the ball back to the Scarabia player who lost control of the ball.
“Viv! You alright?” Ace called out. He ran over to me as his teammate got scolded.
“Uh, yeah. Floyd stopped it before I got hit,” I assured. I was half dazed trying to figure out the situation myself.
Ace sighed, “Thank goodness. I didn’t want to think about what Prefect Yuu would do if they saw I got you hurt from helping me.”
“Meh, the worst that would have happened is I got a broken nose or something,” I waved it off.
“Trappola! Leech! Get over here now!” the coach projected across the gymnasium.
“Ah, it’s probably the closing huddle,” Ace surmised. “You can go back to Ramshackle if you want Viv. I’ll grab whatever you wrote tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” I gave him a thumbs up. Ace went off with Floyd in tow. I got up and gave a big stretch. Sitting on bleachers absolutely destroyed my spine. I hummed to myself as I gathered my things together.
Floyd really saved my hide there…again. That makes, what? Two times he stopped something from smacking me in the face? Gosh darn it. I should do something to thank that Pool Noodle… But I really don’t want to…But Nan said to always repay kindness…Aggh!
I roughly scratched the root of my braids as I went to exit the gym. As I put my hand on the door, the coach’s booming voice made me jump a bit. “Vivienne Abiba!” I slowly turned around to see the huddle of basketball players dispersing. Only Ace remained next to the overly muscled teacher. He waved me over and I heaved a sigh. Ace shot me a half-hearted smile when I got closer.
“Yes sir?” I got a closer look at the coach. His red and gold track suit made his body-builder physique more obnoxious. His semi-pompadour connected to his beard to frame his boxy smirk.
“Do you know who I am?” he crossed his arms. I squeezed my lips into a line as I shook my head. “Of course not, cause you’re never in PE.”
“Well sir, that’s because- “
“Yeah, yeah. Crowley and the nurse told me there are medical reasons why you are exempt from my class,” he cut me off, “but I still think a key part of a budding magician’s career is to be physically strong! Or else my name isn’t Ashton Vargas!”
I felt my jaw drop slightly as I watched this man. Before I could even think twice my feet took a step back from his boisterous behavior.
“Now, Trappola here tells me the reason you were viewing the practice was to record some base stats for him. Is that right?”
“Y-yes…” I squeaked. He held out his hand, an arrow shaped bracelet glinted off his wrist. I looked from his hand to his expected face. Without exchanging any words, I robotically pulled the notebook I had been using out and turned it to the corresponding page. I gently offered it to Coach Vargas who took it with as much fervor as a track star in a relay.
He scanned over the page and then looked me dead in the eyes. “Have you managed basketball before?”
I felt my heartrate go up. “Not basketball, per-say. I used to manage my old school’s hockey team,” I muttered.
“Then how come you have such detailed notes on how to improve each skill?”
“M-my, well, I have-had-have an older brother who played, and our dad was really into it so I just, kind of, paid attention to them?”
He puckered his lips as he scanned the page once more. I swayed in place as I looked about the gym. Team members were exiting the lockers and going about their business. Ace was still next to me tapping his foot.
Coach Vargas got our attention, including those in the gym at the time as he slapped my notebook. “AHA! This is great!”
“My stats?” Ace prodded.
“Great Sevens, no. You have a long way to go Trappola,” Vargas shut Ace down. “No, I say we found our new manager!”
“Say what now?”
Chapter 51: Chapter 50
“GOSH DARN IT ACE!!”
“I DIDN’T THINK THAT WOULD HAPPEN!!”
I slammed the door to Ramshackle wide open. The sound of splintering wood echoed down the hall and dust flew into the air. Ace was right on my heels. I entered the lounge where Yuu was doing homework and Grim munched on tuna salad sandwiches.
They looked up at the commotion we were causing. Yuu put their pen on the coffee table they worked at. They were void of any emotion as they stated, “Let me guess. Because you helped Ace by taking his statistics you are now being forced into helping the other team members.”
“How did you…” Ace sweat dropped at Yuu’s accuracy
“Spot On!” I bombastically spewed.
“This is exactly what I thought was going to happen,” Yuu patted the spot next to them. “So, what have they got you doing now Viv?”
“I am now the manager of Night Raven College’s Basketball Club,” I said with false pride. The sarcasm dripping from my words turned venomous as I continued, “That means I am in charge of keeping the game books, calculating team statistics, collecting paperwork, organizing supplies, and the first aid! Oh! Let us not forget Coach Vargas is going to get Crowley to have this be my substitution for not having PE! SO, I’M GOING TO BE GRADED ON IT AND I CAN’T QUIT!”
“Hehe! You and the Prefect are too nice. You should try to be more selfish,” Grim snickered. He shoved another sandwich into his mouth when Yuu gave him the side-eye.
I plopped onto the sofa, exasperated. “At the next practice, I have to record everyone’s baseline stats.”
“Is that tomorrow?” Yuu asked.
“Well, Floyd sure will be happy. That’s the happiest I’ve seen him at practice,” Ace teased.
I rolled my eyes and gave Ace a long, hard stare, “I don’t care if that pool noodle is going to be happier. I was enjoying going to the infirmary every time you guys went to the gym.” I sighed, “I just organized stuff and helped patch up people if the nurse wasn’t there.”
“Why were you exempt from PE class anyway?” Ace sat himself in one of our armchairs.
“I have a chronic health condition called ‘none of your business’,” I answered him.
Ace placed his hand over his heart, “Man, Viv. Aiming to kill with those words?” He grabbed one of Grim’s sandwiches.
“Hey! You troublemaker Ace!” Grim stood up to challenge the first year.
Yuu grabbed Grim by the collar, “Ace, don’t you have your own dorm to bother?”
Ace paused in his chewing. He swallowed and got up, “Okay, okay. I know when I’ve overstayed my welcome.” Yuu and I shared a look before rolling our eyes. “Well, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
Ace left the Ramshackle dorm. I stretched my body with a groan, “Ugh! It’s only been a few weeks since Azul’s overblot. I don’t want the responsibility!”
“Did he give you the supplies to do all that stuff you mentioned earlier?” Yuu asked me.
“He said that he’d give me the books and keys to the supply closet tomorrow,” I answered as I got my homework out.
“Hey, you said you had to do the first aid,” Grim jumped onto my lap. “Does he expect you to use your unique magic for that?”
“I hope not,” I sighed.
“Unless Ace or Floyd spilled the beans to him, how would Vargas know?” Yuu went back to work on their and Grim’s homework. “Besides, didn’t Riddle scold you during your tutoring session after the heist about you over use of that healing function?”
I shuddered, “Don’t remind me. My achievements on the exams were overshadowed by his nagging. Not to mention I was exhausted for the three days afterwards.”
“But you can hold that peach-fuzz stuff for a long time now, can’t you?” Grim grabbed the last of his sandwiches.
“I can hold it for a minute and a half to two minutes and still feel fine,” I rambled off. “I can go longer, but…”
“But then you run the risk of passing out. So don’t do that please,” Yuu sighed. “I can’t carry you all the way back to Ramshackle.”
“Yes, Prefect Yuu,” I trilled back.
Tomorrow came and classes went. I grumbled as I got my things together and followed Ace to the gym. We walked in silence. Ace opened the door and we both entered the gym to see other members playing mindless shooting games. Again, they stared at me coming in.
“It’s that dude from last time.”
“Did Trappola get a lackey?”
“Isn’t that the magicless human?”
“What? No, it isn’t. They don’t even look similar. That must be the magicless human’s dormmate.”
For teenage boys, they sure gossip like middle aged ladies in the boring suburbs.
“I’m going to change, Viv,” Ace pointed to the locker rooms with his thumb.
“Alright. I’ll go find Coach Vargas,” I waved him goodbye. I looked around the court to see the buff teacher talking to some student I didn’t recognize across the room. The student had a long nose with a gangly physique. I sighed and navigated my way to the other side of the room. As I grew closer, they stopped their conversation. “Hello, Coach Vargas. I’m here.”
“Fantastic! This here is the team captain. He’s in charge of running practice when I’m not here, preparing drills, and team excursions. You’ll be working with him mostly,” Vargas introduced us.
He held out his hand. His voice was sharp and shaky as he said, “Nice to meet you. My name is, uh, Phoebus. Phoebus Achilles.” Phoebus had overly pink cheeks with a few freckles sprinkled about. His eyes were a black color with a yellow sclera. He kept tucking his medium length, curly locks behind his ears. The hair looked green in most angles but got a gold shine when it was in the light. “I’m sorry about yesterday. You could have gotten hurt.”
I accepted his handshake, “Not to worry. I’m Viv Abiba, a first year from Ramshackle.”
“Oh! I totally forgot to say my year and such! Hehe, silly me,” Phoebus jittered. “I’m a third year from Ignihyde. Coach showed me what you did for Trappola, and color me impressed.” He gave a small smile that showed some sharp teeth.
“Thanks, it was just an educated guess though.”
Coach Vargas clapped his hands together, “Haha! Great to see you’re already working well together. Abiba! I want you to record these boys’ stats here.” Coach shoved a notebook into my chest. I tried to recollect my breath as he went on. “Achilles here did some techy stuff to make this special notebook to help calculate the team statistics. It even comes with a nifty pen!”
I opened the notebook to look at it. I went slack jawed at the organization. Everything was laid out in preset tables with every team member’s name, year, and jersey number organized by alphabetical order and year. The drills were listed on the top and there was even a place for me to take notes. As I flipped through, it reminded me of a spreadsheet program.
“Uh, I made it so that when you start recording more inputs for each player, the notebook will automatically calculate percentages and create graphs for each player,” Phoebus gave a short explanation.
“You’ll have to re-record Trappola’s info. I want different drills to use as a baseline,” Vargas added.
“O-okay,” I scratched my head and tried to collect my thoughts.
“Will it be easy for you to use? I wasn’t sure how well you manage magical items since you’re new and all. I could always simplify it!” Phoebus rattled off like a hovering mother.
“This is fabulous, Phoebus,” I reassured my senior with a smile. “If I can’t figure it out, I’ll ask you for help.”
“If,” he gave a hopeful grin, “if is good.”
“Well, I’m going to make an announcement about you joining so get ready!” Vargas slapped his large hand on my shoulder. I winced at the impact. “Achilles, get the team together!”
“Y-yes coach!” Phoebus scurried to the court. “Everyone, gather around! Coach has an announcement while we stretch!”
All present members arranged themselves in the center of the basketball court. They began their combine stretching routine. Ace gave me a friendly wave as I approached the front of the crowd with Vargas. Floyd wasn’t among the faces I saw.
Where is Pool Noodle? Shouldn’t he be at his own club?
It seemed I wasn’t the only one thinking that. Phoebus scanned the team and called out, “Has anyone seen Leech?” The murmur of negations met his inquiry. “Great Seven, this second year…”
“No use waiting for him! If he comes late, I’ll make him run extra laps!” Vargas declared with a laugh. “Now everyone! This here is Vivienne Abiba! He’ll be your new manager from this point on! Since Abiba will oversee your stats and paperwork, you all better listen to him if you want an accurate account!”
“Yes sir!” everyone said in unison.
“Haha! We are doing conditioning today. Take it from here Achilles!” Vargas blew his whistle. Phoebus gathered the team to start the drills. Vargas turned to address me, “Just go sit over there, Abiba. I’ll send them your way as we go.”
“Alright Coach,” I took my things and went to a corner of the bleachers.
Chapter 52: Chapter 51
“Year and last name please,” I repeated the phrase for what felt like the millionth time. It was the last drill I needed to record, and boredom was engulfing me.
“Viper, second year,” Jamil responded with the same lack of enthusiasm.
“What was your time?”
“Thirteen minutes and ten seconds,” he reported.
I puckered my lips a bit at his time. I gave him a quick once over to assess his physical condition. While I could see some sweat, he did not look like he just ran two kilometers. I wrote down the time and dismissed him, “You’re good. Thank you.”
Jamil walked away as I jotted down a few notes. Seems reluctant…to try. His. All. Another set of legs entered my peripheral vision, and I restarted my spiel, “Year and last name please.”
“Do you really need my year and name at this point?” Ace complained.
I took a deep sigh, “It helps me put a face to the name and jersey number.”
“We’ve literally fought monsters together. You know who I am,” Ace countered.
“No exceptions. Now, year and last name please,” I reiterated.
Ace wiped the sweat off his forehead, “Ugh, first year Trappola.”
“What was your time?”
“Nine minutes, forty-six seconds,” Ace gave me. I looked him over and he looked exhausted. Like an athlete who just ran a mile. As I waved him off and moved on to the last team member, the doors to the gym swung open. In waltzed Floyd. He was already in his gym uniform, but all scuffed up.
“Leech! Glad you could show up!” Vargas sarcastically yelled across the gymnasium. “Eight laps around the court for being late!”
Floyd rolled his eyes at the teacher. “I’m not in the mood for laps,” Floyd shuffled to the bleachers like a gangster.
Well, someone woke up on the wrong side of the kelp…
I clicked my tongue as I shut the notebook. Vargas looked absolutely done with the merman. “Just finish the laps and get through the drills so your new manager can get your stats and go!” Vargas ordered as he motioned to me. Floyd followed Coach Vargas’ motion to meet my gaze.
“Manager?” Floyd perked up slightly. He still looked grumpy, but curiosity was poking through.
“Yeah, Abiba here is the club’s new manager. He’ll be in charge of-”
“Doesn’t Leafy go by ‘they’?” Floyd interrupted. “It’s rude to use the wrong terms, Lobster teach.”
Everyone stopped. We were all caught off guard at the semi-profound threat that Floyd spouted. Coach Vargas looked to me for confirmation, “That right, Abiba?”
I stuttered, “Uh, I-I mean yeah. I’d, um, prefer you use they/them instead of he/him.”
Vargas nodded, “Alright! Well, they oversee things number wise and to keep things running smoothly behind the scenes. Since you, Leech, were late, you have to do all the drills by yourself so that Abiba can record the stats.”
Floyd’s excitement grew as Vargas explained, “So you’re telling me that I have Leafy Sea Dragon all to myself and they have to give me their full, undivided attention?”
Oh lord help me.
I slumped my shoulders at what I knew would be coming. Vargas affirmed, “Yes, so get your laps done so you can get everything wrapped up.”
“Okay~!” Floyd jumped to his feet and started to run around the court. When he would pass me, he flashed a smile.
I got flustered and fumbled my words, “But I- You see there’s a, um- Do I really…tch. I don’t know. I have no clue how to run these drills by myself!”
“I can give you a quick walkthrough and leave the drill sheets with you, if you want,” Phoebus offered. He came over and searched in his duffle bag. “You should probably familiarize yourself with the drills anyway, just in case.”
“I’m going to be here for a while still, aren’t I…,” I sighed. Phoebus simply gave a sympathetic nod as he continued his search. The other members trickled out of the gym. I made eye contact with Ace. He just snickered and sent me an apologetic wave as he skedaddled.
I’ll never forgive you for this, stupid Ace!
Phoebus gave me the run down for the conditioning drills as Floyd finished his laps. “I’ll grab the papers from you later. So, uh, don’t die,” he gave me a thumbs up before he ran off too.
“‘Don’t die’ he says. That really gives me that boost of confidence I need,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath.
“Leafy Sea Dragon~! I’m done running in circles!” Floyd bounded over to me.
“Ah, good job Pool Noodle,” I gave him a tired smile. “I guess we should start with the, um, full-court dribbling and layup? It calls for two, 1 ½ minute sets.” I explained the drill verbatim from the paper. I sat at the bleachers with a stopwatch Phoebus left for me.
“You’re going to have to watch me very closely, Leafy,” Floyd said as he stretched at the baseline.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You better keep count too,” I got myself ready. “And…Go!”
And thus, my private drill session with Floyd started. His enthusiasm fluctuated with each drill. Sometimes he decimated everyone else’s times, and then he’s barely getting a decent score. Like every other time this upperclassman has gotten involved, I had no clue what to make of it. I just wrote multiple question marks for my notes on him. Even the notebook couldn’t figure out how to calculate the statistics with all the outliers. He finished the second to last drill as I recorded the number.
“Eh~, Leafy Sea Dragon how much longer do I have to do these stupid games?” Floyd whined from the center of the court.
“Only one more. You have to run a mile as fast as you can,” I told him.
“Then we can play together!” Floyd jumped up and ran over to me.
“Nope. No play,” I quickly waved my hands in front of my face. “I want to go back to my dorms.”
“Aww, but I want to hang out with you Leafy,” Floyd sat down next to me.
“Floyd, the sun has set, and I am tired,” I pointed out. I could tell winter was getting closer. The days were getting shorter and the air colder.
Floyd pouted, “But this is the longest I’ve had your full attention. I don’t want to let you go.”
My cheeks and neck grew warm. I fumbled to change the subject. “I-duh, um- how did you know I preferred gender neutral terms? I never told anyone that.”
“Well, Azul mentioned that when you first showed up, the headmaster only used they/them, like with Shrimpy,” Floyd shared.
I thought back, “Oh, yeah. Azul was there.”
“Plus, every time they used ‘he’ you’d crinkle you nose and get all stiff. You looked uncomfortable,” Floyd seemed to be calm, but he looked at me like I was prey.
“You… are much more observant than I thought…” I was caught off guard. I began to feel antsy under his gaze. I was as though he was trying to uncover all my secrets. “Uh, twenty laps around the court, please. Last drill.”
Chapter 53: Chapter 52
“And done!” Floyd cheered as he finished his laps.
I stopped the timer with a gapping jaw. The stopwatch read six minutes and twenty-four seconds. “Great job,” I praised in astonishment. I wrote down the time and filed away the notebook and other papers.
“Was I the best one you saw today Leafy?” Floyd fished for more compliments.
“In which drill? Some of them you have the best times and others are garbage,” I honestly told him. I made a B-line for the door, but Floyd cut me off.
“Am I better than Sea Urchin or Crabby?”
I backed up slightly at the question. “Huh? You mean Jack and Ace? Yeah, I guess, but you do realize Jack isn’t in the club, right?”
“But you think I’m better than him, right?” Floyd threw back at me.
I paused for a moment. “Not really,” I answered as I tried to pass him. Floyd got in my way once more. I was getting really annoyed. “What now, Pool Noodle?”
When I looked up, I was surprised to see sad, heterochromatic eyes looking down at me. I tucked some of my hair away during the awkward silence.
“Do you hate me?” was what he finally asked after staring at me for an eternity.
“You hate me, don’t you,” Floyd despondently concluded. He sat himself on the floor in front of me. “That’s why Leafy Sea Dragon likes Sea Urchin more than me. That’s why Leafy said they’ll never play with me again…”
Why is everyone at this school a master at guilt tripping people!
I tapped my fingers on my thigh. I willed myself to keep firm, but my heart ached a bit at his dejected form. “Why is the fact I said I’d never play with you again such a big deal to you? We barely know each other. We only played one game of basketball together,” I sighed. I sat across from the upperclassman. I put my head in my hands and asked, “Why are you so invested in me?”
“I like you, Leafy Sea Dragon,” Floyd locked eyes with me when he made his blunt confession.
“Huh?” I dropped my chin at that. My mind went blank. “Say what now?”
“You’ve been nothing but exciting since I met you. I want to be your bestest friend ever and play together all the time!” he went on. Floyd looked like he was going to cry.
I leaned back on my hands in relief, but a slight twinge of disappointment came up. “Oh, you want to be friends.”
“But you hate me.”
“What makes you think I hate you?”
“Because I chased you in the Coral Sea. I squeezed you too hard. I squeezed your friends and beat them up. I called you stupid,” Floyd listed off.
“Don’t forget you kicked me and Yuu out of our dorm.”
“See! You do hate!” Floyd pouted.
“Pfft,” I tried to hold back my laughter, “I won’t lie. You sure gave me a lot of reasons why I should hate you. For some odd reason though, I don’t.”
It was Floyd’s turn to look shocked, “You don’t?”
I shook my head, “Nope, but I don’t consider you a friend either.” Floyd was no longer pouting as he shifted about. He wasn’t in a good mood, but it was still better than nothing. At least he didn’t look like he was going to cry.
“I want to be your friend though!” Floyd scooted forward and invaded my personal space. “How can I make you, my friend?”
“Okay. First, back up a bit please,” I requested. Floyd leaned away from me, but he was still seated closely in front of me. “Thanks. Now I guess if you want to be friends, I’ll give you a chance. We’d need to talk more, obviously, and-,”
“And you’ll play with me again?!” Floyd was now back in my face like an over excited puppy. His arms were on either side of me and our knees were touching.
Man, this guy has no concept of personal space.
“I’m not too keen on…playing just yet,” I hesitantly said. I watched Floyd’s mood begin to fall and hastily added, “How about you and I make a promise?”
“Yes. If Night Raven wins the basketball scrimmage next Friday, I will rescind my earlier declaration and bee willing to play with you in the future,” I proposed.
“Really?! Are you being serious right now, Leafy Sea Dragon?! If I win that silly game, you’ll play with me again?!” Floyd grabbed my shoulders intensely. His face was only a few inches from mine. He smelt like sea salt.
I let myself giggle at his antics for once, “Hyehe! Yes, I’m serious!” I held up my pinky, “Pinky promise. More binding than one of Azul’s contracts.”
Floyd hooked his pinky with mine and gave me a toothy grin. “I’ll squeeze you if you try to weasel out of it.”
“Hehe, I believe you,” I sighed. “Now…I need to get back before Prefect Yuu starts looking for me.
I squirmed and shimmied my way out of his grip and crawled my way onto my feet. Floyd was hot on my tail, following me out.
Chapter 54: Chapter 53
Floyd walked a few paces behind me as we walked down the dimly lit path from the main building.
“So, Floyd,” I spoke up in an attempt to make conversation, “what’s something you like to do besides basketball?”
He thought for a bit before responding, “I like swimming.”
“I would hope so, seeing as you had to as a child,” I remarked.
“Oh, but there were these obstacle courses in shipwrecks that we’d play in. Hehehe, those were fun. As long as you didn’t get a fin pinned in some floating debris.”
I shuddered at the thought, “That sounds…very painful.”
“You should come and watch sometime Leafy Sea Dragon!” Floyd offered.
“Hehe, really? Should I now?” I nervously blurted.
“The land-dweller’s equivalent is parkour. I tried it out and it’s just as fun!” Floyd enthused.
I perked up. “Parkour!? I used to watch that stuff back in my world!” I shared. I added a quick skip to my step at the memories. “I watched an international competition with my dad!”
“You’ll love watching me then! We’d just need to get Azul to make you another potion to come to the Coral Sea.”
“Oh,” I slowed myself. “Yeah, that would need to happen. For the whole…underwater…parkour thing.”
We came to a split in the path. The left walkway headed towards Ramshackle while the right one led to the Hall of Mirrors. It was an awkward way to part, but my exhaustion resurfaced at the thought of being done for the day.
“Haa~,” I sighed, “well I go this way. See you later, Pool Noodle!” I began walking to my dorm and heard footsteps behind me. I looked over my shoulder to find Floyd still following me. “Uh, last time I checked, you were in the Octavinelle dorm and not Ramshackle.”
“Eh~ I don’t wanna go back yet. Jade found a new mushroom and he hasn’t stopped talking about it,” Floyd whined. “Let me hang with you and Shrimpy.”
“I don’t think the Prefect will be in the mood to hang,” I answered.
Floyd drapped himself over me and drawled out, “Leafy Sea Dragon is trying to hide from me~.”
“I’m-gah! Not hiding from you,” I gasped at his added weight. “Now get off you damp pool noodle!”
“Why? You’re comfy,”
“Why?! You are twice my size and covered in sweat! Now get off!” I tried to pry off the clingy eel to no avail. “ARE YOU SURE YOU AREN’T A SUCKERFISH INSTEAD OF AN EEL!?!”
“Hehehe~” Floyd squeezed me tighter. “My Leafy~” I rolled my eyes as I shoved his face away. I punched his chest with my other arm.
“Viv?” a familiar voice came from further down the path. I paused mid-shove of Floyd’s face to see Yuu looking on at us. They jogged over and pulled me out of Floyd’s grasp. “There you are! I was wondering where you were when club’s let out! Ace only said you had to stay overtime as manager. What exactly did they have you do to have you out so late?!”
“Calm down Shrimpy. Leafy Sea Dragon and I were just having fun,” Floyd brushed off Yuu’s concern.
Yuu pulled me closer to them and glared at our upperclassman. Floyd looked down at Yuu with a bored smiled. I could see the sparks between the two in the cold night air like a static shock. I sucked in a breath before explaining, “Pool- I mean, Floyd came late to practice so I had to stay late to keep records. That’s all. He didn’t do anything to me.”
Yuu let me go. They stepped in between me and Floyd. “Okay then. Well…” they bit back whatever pill they were trying to swallow and got out, “thank you for walking them back, but I will take them from here.”
They began to usher me away from the wild upperclassman. I yelled back, “See you Pool- I mean Floyd! Don’t go stirring up too much trouble!”
Yuu walked quickly with me in tow. There was a silence between us. I would stare at the back of their head every so often. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came. I could only follow my dorm leader back to our makeshift home.
We were on the porch of Ramshackle. Yuu was hesitant to open the door. I stood behind them with my hands folded behind my back. I wiggled my toes as my gaze wondered.
“I was scared,” Yuu finally spoke up.
“Yuu?” I whispered.
Yuu turned around and their eyes were glossy. They hung their head and spoke to the rotten boards. “You weren’t with Ace when we went to dinner. He wouldn’t explain anything to me, just told me you’d be done soon. So, I trusted him and decided to wait. Not like I could call or text you to see when you’d be back.” Yuu rubbed their neck and tucked their other hand under their armpit. Their voice warbled and I thought I caught some tears fall. “When it got dark, and you still weren’t back I…I just started to get this pit in my stomach. I tried talking to Grim, but he’s Grim, heh. Then I tried the ghosts, and they at least could tell me you were still alive, but…the dread didn’t go away.”
The tears fell consistently now. I held them by their shoulders and guided them to sit on the steps with me. “Oh Yuu, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you worry like this. I would have let you know if I could’ve. I wasn’t expecting to stay out this late either.”
I am going to rip Ace to shreds for not telling Yuu why I was held up! I promised myself.
“I- hic- decided to go out and find you. Grim was a-asleep- sniff. I was panicking, but…” Yuu looked me in the eyes. The dark circles under their eyes were bigger than usual. “W-when I…huu…when I saw you there pushing Floyd away from you my panic turned into this weird rage and and-hic!”
Yuu started to sob again. I hugged them tightly. I swayed back and forth to try and soothe them. “It’s okay. You did what you thought was necessary. I’m happy that you are here to worry about me, and you should know I worry about you too.” I pulled them back from me so I could look them in the eyes with a smile.
Yuu wiped their eyes. “I thought that Leech was trying to drag you into something, and it reminded me of when we were in the Coral Sea,” Yuu’s voice trailed off.
I sighed, “I chose to help in that situation. You bought me a custard roll for lunch that entire week to make up for it. That was enough of an apology.” Yuu still didn’t seem convinced. “I did make a teensy tiny deal with Floyd though.”
“Vivienne Abiba, you did what?!”
“I just promised to give him a chance to be friends if he won the basketball scrimmage next week. Until then, I agreed to be cordial with him.”
“Hnngh,” Yuu groaned. “I know that you can make your own friends…but I don’t like it. Or more precisely, him.”
“I’m a tough girl, Yuu. If I get a whiff of something sketchy, I’ll be running for the hills,” I extravagantly said.
Yuu looked me in the eyes with a stern look to them. With a sigh, they leaned their head on my shoulder as they looked out to the dark courtyard. I rested my head on top of theirs, “Viv, no matter what happens with our current situation, we’ll support each other through it. Right?”
“Most definitely.” We sat there for a while, looking out in the night. I scrunched my face when I saw a few green lights resembling fireflies.
They shouldn’t still be out at this time of year…what the-
“Uh, Yuu? Question.”
“This Tsunotarou guy you talk to every now and then, does he have horns?”
“He’s standing outside the gate surrounded by fireflies, staring at us.”
Yuu lifted their head slightly to see. They waved and the horned figure waved back.
“You should come say hi Viv,” Yuu suggested as they sat up.
“Nah,” I shook my head. “Go have a chat. I’m gonna go to bed.” I stood up and rustled Yuu’s hair. I waved at Tsunotarou before heading into the dorm house.
I stormed down the hall of Night Raven with a certain Heartslabyul student in my sights.
“ACE TRAPOLLA!!” I yelled.
Ace turned to look me in the eyes from down the hall. “Uh oh. What did I do?”
“I don’t know,” Deuce responded.
“GET YOUR BUTT OVER HERE SO I CAN WHOOP IT!”
“What did I do?!” he asked again as started to run away. I gave chase and he bolted screaming, “WHAT DID I DO?!!”
Hiya everybody! Thanks for reading thus far! It makes me so happy to see other people enjoying this story so far and reading the comments are the highlight of my week! School semester is starting to wrap up for me and holidays are coming up, so that is why this week has a shorter update. I tried to make up for it with the pictures XD. I will have to skip next week update (US Thanksgiving) and the updates on Dec 8th and 15th (finals week T^T). Again, thank you so much for reading. I hope you all have a wonderful day/evening where ever you are! - M.P. Furo