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Aoi's Secret

5 p.m.

The kids were walking back toward the buses parked in the bus station. They arrived at the station and before the teachers could do a head count, Luuk ran onto the bus to make sure his TV was still there. It was. He came back out and Ms. Martinez gave him a dirty look and he explained that he just wanted to make sure his TV was still there. After the headcount everyone no one boarded the buses, because there was a problem. They had one extra.

"Who exactly are you?" Jack asked the girl with Dan.

"Uh, my name is Florida Gators. I'm from Ireland."

"Why is she here?" Jack asked Dan.

"I got her fired," Dan answered. Jack raised an eyebrow at him.

"That job was worthless anyway," Florida added. "So don't worry about it."

"You have a Gift, right?" Jack asked her.

"Yeah," she said as her body ignited into flames. "I can do this." Jack thought to himself for a moment.

"You weren't invited, but I guess you can enroll in my school," Jack told her as she powered down.

"Well, as long as I'm with Dan," she said hugging Dans arm. Jack shrugged and walked to the first bus. The other students then loaded their assigned buses, carrying anything they had purchased. The students placed their new belongings into the overhead storage compartments. The buses then rolled out of the bus station and they went through the city and onto the highway back to the college.

Later that night.

The buses pulled back up in front of the college. The students carried their things to their rooms and then those who weren't falling asleep went back down for some dinner. Rikki met Suzy at their table by the window. They were joined by Lotus and Aoi.

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Aoi asked Lotus, just starting a conversation.

"It was nice," Lotus said. "I hope we can go back sometime."

"I hear it's a nice place to spend Spring Break at."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah."

"We never really had spring break. I mean, not back home."

"Why?"

"She's from England, remember," Rikki said.

"Yeah," Lotus said. "So the only season we have there is rain."

"Seriously?" Aoi asked.

"Yep," she answered. "For most of the year anyway."

"That's why I keep telling ya," an Irish voice said. It was Florida and Dan. "Ireland is better."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because our festivals are a lot better than whatever it is you posh English celebrate there."

"What does that mean?"

"It means Ireland is better."

"What-?" she asked. She then felt as if someone was standing behind her. She looked over and saw Ms. McCracken standing there. "Oh, Professor McCracken."

"Sorry," she said sitting down. "I couldn't help overhearing your argument."

"Well, what do you think?"

"Be specific Ms. Elise."

"Where do you stand on our whole 'Ireland versus England' debate?" Aoi pulled some headphones out and she plugged them into her MP3 player and she began to listen to a heavy-metal song.

"Well," McCracken said with a small, wry smile, "personally, I believe that Scotland overrules those two."

"WHAT?!" Lotus and Florida shouted at the same time.

"I almost forgot you were from Scotland," Rikki said.

"Ailsa, I told you to not involve yourself in students' arguments," Jack said walking over to the table.

"I'm sorry, Jack," she said ruefully. "I couldn't help myself."

"Then let me be the first to say, that I also overheard your little quarrel, and I just couldn't resist laughing." he sighed heartily. "Oh, the things this generation of youths argue over."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Suzy asked.

"Hm? Oh, nothing Ms. Garrison. I just envy the young. So full of youthfulness and energy. It reminds me when I was young."

"Our pizza's ready," Aoi said not looking up from her phone screen.

"Then feel free to help yourself," Jack said to them. Everyone but Aoi stood up and walked toward the serving bar with Florida and Lotus still locked in battle.

"Hmm," Ailsa said looking at them. "Those two are going to start World War 3," she said with a small laugh. She stood up and she walked away toward the teacher's lounge. Jack was still standing by the table. Aoi moved her eyes in his direction and he glanced back.

"Do you not like pizza?" he asked with a slightly curious smile. Aoi pulled her headphones off.

"What?"

"Do you not like pizza?"

"Not really." They looked over and saw Dan with a large stack of pizza slices on his plate. "I never really knew why it's so popular."

"Well, you could always try it sometime."

"I have. Before." There was almost a smile on her face. "I didn't like it."

"It sounds like you should be more adventurous."

"What?"

"Don't be all show and no go."

"Are you saying that I don't show emotion?"

"No, not at all. I'm not saying anything like that." He sat down in front of her.

"Then what are you saying?"

"I'm simply saying, you can show your friends more of who you are." Aoi thought to herself for a minute. "I'll leave you to your thoughts." Jack said as he stood up and walked to the teacher's lounge.

"Show my friends more of who I am?" she asked herself. She continued to stare downward while everyone came back to the table with their dinners. Lotus and Florida were still locked in their argument. She simply decided to put her headphones back over her ears but she didn't hear anything, she just heard her thoughts saying 'show my friends more of who I am' over and over. Something then made its way into her field of vision. She looked down and she saw a plate with a slice of cheese pizza on it. She looked at it and she saw Rikki's arm retreating. He had offered her a slice. She looked at him and she removed her head phones again.

"You should eat," he said.

"I… uh…" she said, "I'm not hungry." She pushed the plate back toward him. Rikki picked up the slice and he ate it. A moment later he then pushed the plate back toward her, this time there was a chocolate bar on it.

"Eat," he said. "You'll feel better." Aoi blushed as she couldn't help but showing a small smile. She unwrapped the candy bar and she broke off a small piece.

He was right, she thought to herself as she ate the chocolate. Maybe… I should tell them.

"No," she found herself saying.

"What?" Rikki asked.

"I-uh…" she stuttered as the others looked at her. She simply stood up and walked quickly away.

"What's wrong with Aoi?" Suzy asked him.

"I don't know," Rikki answered. "Maybe you should talk to her. Here, she left this," he gave her the half eaten candy bar. Suzy stood up and she walked away to find her. She found Aoi outside in the small group of trees out front. She was sitting on the ground with the full moonlight shining through the leaves.

"Aoi?" Suzy asked. Suzy walked into the small thicket. She noticed that there was something different about her. She looked different. "Aoi?"

"Suzy?" Aoi asked not turning around. "Is it just you?"

"Y-yeah." Aoi stood up.

"Don't be scared."

"What?" she asked. As an answer, Aoi turned around and Suzy saw her face had changed to become the face of a human and cat Hybrid. Suzy gasped and she brought her hand to her mouth. Aoi was a Hybrid.

"Hello, Suzy," she said in a calm but nervous voice. "This… is… me."


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