Like Another World, Only Weirder
“Is it too damn much to ask for a place to study?” she screamed at the courtyard fountain, extremely lost and not caring who heard her outburst.
The sound of water raining down into the basin was the only answer she received. While it would have been nice to stay outside and play in the fountain, she turned on her heel and stomped back inside the building. Work before play; it was a motto that Haruhi religiously lived by.
But not one that anyone else has, she thought with a dark scowl, because all four of the libraries are being taken up by gossiping kids with nothing better to do than coast through classes. Must be nice to be rich.
Not that she really hated them for what they had, or what she lacked, but the utter disregard that most students here had for the school’s generous and high-quality endowments annoyed her to no end. She worked hard to get here, dammit, and she wished they understood what it was like to get something because they earned it, not because it was handed to them on a gold platter.
She stopped in mid-stride, suddenly realizing that the sounds of chatter and teenaged liveliness had long since died away. Judging by the number of stairs she climbed, and the view through the gigantic windows, Haruhi figured she was probably in the center tower, somewhere on the third floor. She glanced around, looking for signs of familiarity, and caught a set of three symbols on top of the nearest set of double doors.
Third Elemancy Room
Suddenly, Haruhi felt her spirits rise with hopefulness. Not only were the magic rooms filled with all the things she’d need to work, they were also well warded and protected from outside influences. Even the inner walls had anti-elemancy spells to keep any dangerous energy from escaping. She could practice to her heart’s content, unconcerned about accidentally destroying property or hurting someone if something spun out of control. The other two rooms she encountered had been full to the brim of students doing anything but elemancy, but this corridor looked so deserted that she hoped no one would be inside.
With only a hint of hesitancy, she knocked twice before opening the door. “Hello?”
And was nearly bowled over by the sight before her.
Standing there were six students – male students. Oh-so-very-male students, each breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly attractive. All six were wearing one of the expensive men’s uniforms, woven of elementally-charged silks that reacted to the wearer’s magic. At the moment, all the uniforms were composed of a gray-blue jacket, white shirt, and black pants; nobody was using their talents. It was a simple style, yet the men before her wore it with handsome aplomb. They were images of perfection, lighting up the room with their presence.
She, on the other hand, was wearing an old sweatshirt and horribly baggy jeans. Her glasses had never reached the top of any fashion curve in the last hundred years, and her hair was a boy-cut mess of unkempt brown. She was nothing worth looking at.
Yet they were looking at her with a focus she’d never received in her life, and the air hummed with tension.
Then their interest died away when they got a good look at her. Two of them – wait, those two have to be twins – frowned in disappointment and said, “It’s a guy.”
The blond man in the middle threw a disdainful look over his shoulder. “Men are important patrons, too, so watch your mouths.”
Then he came over to her, nearly gliding on air, and offered his hand to her. “Fujioka Haruhi!” he said, his voice a ringing tenor in the almost-empty room. “You, my dear, bright boy, are a rare and wondrous creature wandering within these hallowed halls! Welcome to the Ouran Host Club.”
Haruhi let out a little whimper of terror.
Very few in the world are Elementals; people with the innate ability to magically manipulate the elements of the world around them. One institute is particularly famous for educating some of the best and brightest young talents, yet its doors are not open to all. At the Ouran Elemental Institute, blood speaks and money smiles. Only those with both are offered the chance to learn from the world's most respected Elementals, to later earn the rights to control corporations and wear the crowns of nobility.
Haruhi had neither riches nor fame to her name, and the six men standing in front of her seemed weirdly familiar with that fact.
"Top scorer in elemancy at your junior high; worthy of the scholarship that this school offers, but poorer than the dirt beneath your shoes. A blue-collared boy braving the wilderness of poverty, fighting with a heart of gold and courage against those who would hold you back," the blonde said, building up a full head of steam. As he spoke in melodramatic tones, resting his hand on her shoulder with big-brother sympathy, Haruhi impassively watched his clothes change colors.
Definitely a Light Elemental, she thought as his jacket and pants started glowing with a platinum-white energy as he rattled on and on. Even his undershirt turned gold, an effect that was this close to blindingly histrionic. He was literally sparkling, dropping bits of light from his clothes like a rose shedding its petals. Only a Light would be this theatrical. Someone shoot me.
"I've also heard the rumor that you're gay."
Her head whipped around so fast she almost hurt herself. "WHAT?"
"Don't worry," he said in an overly placating tone, violet-blue eyes radiating (what he thought was) benevolence and what Haruhi saw as patronizing. "We're not here to judge. Just tell us what you prefer. Strong and silent? Forbidden lovers? Or perhaps…," and he slid a hand under her chin, pulling her face towards his, "you'd prefer someone like me?"
She was close enough to see the tattoo light up on his skin. It shone in every conceivable shade of white, spiraling like a shooting star over his right eye and cheek. Everyone with even the slightest hint of elemancy in their blood was born with the magical mark, forever identifying them as "different" from the rest of the world. It remained invisible until the Elemental used their powers, or their emotions flew out of control.
For this guy, Haruhi was surprised that the tattoo wasn't an omnipresent sight, and it would have been mesmerizing if she wasn't so freaked out.
She quickly pulled back. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"It's what the Host Club is here for," said what looked to be the youngest member. He stood a good three inches shorter than her own five feet, and had a tight grip on her sleeve. Somehow, the innocence on his face made her more nervous than the overdramatic blonde. "Don't you want to spend time with us?"
"No!" she said vehemently, snatching her arm from his hand. "I just need a place to study, that's it! I didn't mean to come here! So if you'll excuse me, I'll just be-"
Her backpedaling surprised everyone, Haruhi included. She moved so quickly that when she felt herself smack against a pedestal, she couldn't stop herself. She turned around with barely enough time to see a large vase topple over and, like watching a movie in slow motion, smash against the ground.
That would have been bad enough, but then she saw that the vase had been filled with glass balls, each the size of a small melon. Some of them rolled out of the vase, some of them flew through the air, but all crashed to the ground with painful percussive force. From the remains, a seven-colored swirl of energy spun into the air, angrily mussed up her hair and tugged her clothes, and then disappeared into nothingness.
Silence, for a handful of heartbeats.
The twins stepped closer, and one of them crouched down to study the pieces. "Well… that vase was going to be sold at the school auction for 80 grand, but I have a feeling it won't get that now."
Haruhi nearly died; she actually felt her heart skip a beat upon hearing the damage that she inflicted. The other twin leaned against her with false companionship, strawberry blond locks brushing against her ear. "Never mind the vase. It had been filled with fifty spellglobes. Now, however, they seem to be quite broken and useless. Shame, don't you think?"
This time, she actually felt herself falter, leaning against the now-empty pedestal for support. Spellglobes were glass balls filled with an Elemental's magic, to be used for a specific purpose. Even non-Elementals could have a few – for powering their cars or controlling the temperature in their houses – but they were extremely expensive. It took a lot of time and energy to make one, and only the very wealthy could afford more than a handful in their lifetime. For the vase to have been filled to the brim with them, in glass containers nearly twice the size of a "commonplace" spellglobe, bespoke of Ouran's wealth better than anything else.
And I broke them!
"I'm sorry!" she near-wailed, bowing extremely low before them. "I'll pay you back for everything!"
"No doubt you will, but how?" one twin asked, and his brother picked up. "You can't even afford the uniform."
Haruhi's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. I'm screwed. I'm screwed. I'm so screwed I should open a hardware store.
"Well, Tamaki, what do you think?" another host asked, idly fingering a broken piece of spellglobe. This one was all sharps and shadows, and even without seeing his talent she could tell he was a Dark.
The blonde from before – Tamaki – let out a great, dramatic sigh. "Well, I suppose we have no choice. Fujioka, are you familiar with the phrase, 'If you don't have cash, pay with your carcass'?"
Then he smiled, no affection and all menace. "I hope so, because as of right now… you're the Host Club's errand boy."
Haruhi prided herself on having self-control and the distinct lack of feminine dramatics. She liked to think of herself as level-headed and more common-sensical than the vast majority of people in the world. Yet, upon being told that she would now be a slave to the Host Club, which she still had no idea what it was about and had absolutely no interest in finding out, to pay off a debt of over 80,000, she did the unthinkable.
She passed the hell out.