It wasn’t like them to become attached to a place. But they missed the school sometimes. The laughter they had, the trouble they got into at school, it was an experience like no other. Maybe it was something that they would never get again. Not to mention their friends in school, the Cygnus Knights’ counterparts. Every time they saw the Cygnus Knights, the Heroes would feel somewhat down. It would be hard to have that sort of bonds with them, especially Nineheart.
The Heroes sat down and discussed it. Perhaps, they should stop. Decrease their number of days in school, before stopping it immediately. It wasn’t like them at all. This… This mission had gone on for too long, all the Heroes agreed. It was time to move on, there were no more Dusties. Elwin and Lily would take care of the world, they would only come if needed.
They never expected something, or someone else to drag them back in for a goodbye gift.
It was a call that suddenly alerted them. After the ghost incident, it had been Christmas preparations, not to mention the Heroes once again did not come to school in favour of training in the new Mechanical Graveyard. While Evan had been in the Mechanical Graveyard, stocking on potions, he got a call from Nineheart. It was the robot, One Eye, whom pointed out his pocket, was glowing and buzzing. Evan took out the phone, while everyone else was stocking up on return to town maps and potions.
“Hello? Nineheart? What’s wrong?” he asked, wondering what was so important that Nineheart had to call him.
“Get to the office… I… I can’t even…” His voice was coming out in gasps.
Evan frowned, confused. “What office, Nineheart? Did something happen?” he inquired, worried.
Nineheart groaned into the phone. “Still with the jokes? Come to the office immediately! My office!” The phone was clicked shut.
Evan was somewhat confused. Turning to the rest, he hurried over to them. “Nineheart asks that we meet us in his office,” he reported.
Aran grabbed her bundle of potions, frowning. “He has an office?”
Mercedes, Luminous and Phantom all looked puzzled at his words. Shade glared at all of them. “School. Office. Nineheart. Cygnus,” he listed quietly.
Everything clicked in their heads. School! They had missed a week of school! They ran out of the Mechanical Graveyard, with Aran complaining loudly behind them. Once they got the Henesys, they rushed into Elwin’s house. They saw Elwin and Lily, pacing out. Lily was muttering angrily. When they both looked up to see six Heroes already in their uniforms, Lily yelled at them.
“Do you know how hard it is to manipulate your attendance?” she yelled. They shrugged sheepishly, laughing nervously. Elwin turned into a dog, gesturing to the wardrobe. “Come on! Go already!” They rushed into the other world, charging to school. They got to Cygnus’ office, throwing open the door.
“Sorry!” they yelled in unison. Silence, before the Heroes took in the sight before them. Evan started to giggle, while Aran just looked confused. Luminous scowled at the scene, Phantom looked away, as if he didn’t know who was before him. Shade just stared, though it looked as if he was dreaming of something. Mercedes recoiled on sight and hid behind Aran.
In the middle of the crowd, there was a squid standing there, flailing about. Luminous was the first to break the awkward silence. “What in the world happened?”
The squid cried out loud suddenly, causing everyone to jump. “I’m done! I hate this damned world!” it cried out in a very familiar voice.
It took a second or two for the Heroes to recognize the voice, but when they finally did, they all screamed, “Hawkeye?!”
The squid was wearing Hawkeye’s scarf and his hat, and its voice sounded much like the Chief Knight. Evan walked over, taking on tentacle in his hand. “What happened?” Hawkeye was still sobbing away, crying tears of… sorrow? He wrapped his tentacles around Evan, sobbing into his head. “Yes, I’m seafood now. I’ll be a squid for the rest of my life,” he whimpered. Mir, beside Evan, barked at the squid, disgusted at the slobbering that the squid was giving to his master. Evan patted the squid awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
Hawkeye continued to weep, hugging Evan tighter. Oz looked quite surprised. “I guess this is what happens when people are traumatized,” she noted.
Hawkeye cried harder, burying his head in Evan’s hair. “I shouldn’t talk like a human anymore,” he wailed, “I’m going to speak squid now! Squid, squid, squid…”
Mercedes, from behind Aran, looked sharply at the rest of the people gathered there. “What happened?!” she asked.
Nineheart sighed, shaking his head. “It all happened yesterday,” he began. Taking out his clipboard, he began to recite from it, “Yesterday, Hawkeye was dumped by his girlfriend, who had been good with him up until last week. She revealed that she did not like Hawkeye as a man anymore, ever since she met the new teacher,” Nineheart paused. Mercedes nodded, using Aran as a shield between her and the squid. Nineheart continued, “She had met the new trainee teacher, it seemed, and no longer thought of Hawkeye as a man. Hawkeye decided to pay a visit to said teacher, before returning to the office. He has looked like this ever since his visit.”
Hawkeye was taking to stroking Evan’s hair now, still crying all over him. Evan’s hair looked quite drenched. Evan, being the sweet boy he was, was still hugging Hawkeye. Hawkeye chuckled sadly, saying, “Love is meaningless.”
Everyone gaped at him. Mercedes yelled from behind Aran, “Hawkeye! Who was the one that said to get Mahilga in order to have romance?!” Hawkeye cried harder, squeezing Evan and ignoring Mercedes. Evan coughed a bit, but resumed patting Hawkeye, comforting him.
Irena walked up to Mercedes and patted her shoulder. “I feel sorry for him,” she said, casting a pitiful look at him.
Hawkeye sniffed, squishing Evan. “You can leave if you want to! Girls are all the same, to me, you are all just someone to play with, to carpet dim with! I wanna wake up from this nightmare… be next to some girl…. I don’t care if she’s eight or nine,” he muttered. Shade shook his head.
“If she’s eight or nine, that makes you a criminal, Hawkeye,” Mihile called out from the table, writing something on his paper. Eckhart was next to him, scribbling away. Phantom peeked over to see the two of them completing a math worksheet. Irena sighed.
“You mean carpe diem. No wonder she dumped you,” she corrected him.
Shade leant to the side, whispering to Phantom, “Carpet dim doesn’t mean what I think it means, does it…?” Phantom looked at him gravely, nodding slowly. Shade’s pupils grew smaller by a fraction and glazed over as he stared at Hawkeye, clinging onto their little Dragon Master.
Hawkeye pointed a tentacle at all of the people in the room, crying out for everyone to hear, “You cut me deep! Calamari! Calamari!!!”
Luminous rolled his eyes. “Nineheart, who is this trainee teacher?” he prompted the blue-haired student.
Nineheart gave him a strange look, replying, “It’s the White Student Teacher.”
Oz zeroed in onto Luminous, squinting at him. “Irena, Irena! Help me here!” Irena came over, frowning at Luminous. “Looks like him, don’t you think?” Oz asked. Irena nodded slowly. Luminous glared at the two of them, scowling. Irena snapped her fingers. “You two look like twins!” Luminous’ face became confused.
Phantom laughed, poking Luminous with his cane. “If this White Student Teacher looks like Grumpy Pants here, I don’t see why Hawkeye would turn into a squid. The definition of ‘man’ is definitely not Sparkybutt here!” Luminous slapped the cane away, scowling harder.
Nineheart shook his head, holding out a piece of paper. “I’m sure you are dying to see him, so take this study guidance plan. Trainee teachers are required to turn in a plan on a weekly basis. Deliver it to him.” Aran took the paper, Mercedes peeking over her shoulder. “Will do, Nineheart. Let’s go.” Shade walked out.
Evan waved to them, smiling cheerfully. “I’ll stay here and take care of Hawkeye!”
All the Heroes clutched their chests. Sweet innocent Evan lost to that sloppy squid! They would not take his sacrifice for granted! They hurried over to the teachers’ office. But who to go in? No one dared, in case they were all turned to squids, or in the case of Mercedes, a fangirl.
Aran waved the paper just out of reach of everyone, cheerfully calling it, “I’ll go! I don’t care about how you look like there, plus we don’t need any more squids! I can handle it!” Once everyone agreed, Aran walked into the office, while everyone else peeked in to watch.
But their eyes fell on someone they didn’t expect. Mercedes gasped, while Shade and Phantom immediately turned to Luminous, whose eyes were bulging at the sight before him.
The White Mage?
Aran walked up to him, waving the piece of paper. “Mister!” she called out. The White Student Teacher looked up, surprised. “How may I help you?” he asked politely. Aran shoved the paper in his hands, grinning widely. “Was told to give you that,” she informed him. The White Student Teacher examined the paper in his hands, smiling charmingly at Aran. “Thank you for bringing this personally to me,” he said. The rest of the Heroes at the door could see the sparkles coming off from him, and had to squint in order to protect their eyes. The White Student Teacher eyed Aran, who was still grinning away. “Have we met before?” he asked. Aran blinked at him, folding her arms.
“I dunno. Maybe. Don’t think so? I’m sure I’ll remember someone as sparkly as you,” she pondered. The White Student Teacher smiled, chuckling at her comment. “I must be mistaking you for someone else, then,” he said. He gestured to around him, the ‘sparkles’ coming off from him glowing brighter. By this time, Mercedes and Phantom dug out a pair of shades and placed them on, while Shade was hunting around for a pair of sunglasses. Luminous kept staring ahead, used to the glaring light.
“Some people make me feel this way, like we’ve met before somewhere else. They call it déjà vu. Please disregard what I have said,” he told Aran. Aran shrugged in response. He smiled gently at her, though it did not seem Aran had noticed. “What is your name?” he inquired.
Aran grinned, giving him a victory sign. “Aran!” she introduced herself. The White Student Teacher smiled at her enthusiastic introduction. “Well then, Aran, nice to meet you. I hope we have a good three weeks together,” he said. Aran scratched her head, frowning. “I dunno, mister. I might be going off now and mmph!” Her words were covered when all the other Heroes at the door, with the exception of Luminous, ran forward and covered Aran’s mouth.
“Ahahah… Sorry, sir! Aran really needs to go now!” Mercedes laughed sheepishly. Shade picked up Aran, who was wriggling in his hands. He quickly left the room, leaving Phantom and Mercedes to flee. However, they were stopped by the White Student Teacher.
“Oh, you are all Aran’s friends? Then what are your names? I suppose I would be seeing all of you as well,” the White Student Teacher smiled at Mercedes. Mercedes laughed nervously. It was clear that she was not comfortable.
Phantom grabbed her and pulled her behind him, smiling just as brightly to the White Student Teacher. “Phantom, and this is Mercedes. Now if you excuse us, we simply must leave right now. Time waits for no man, so I do hope you understand,” he quickly said. The two of them turned and fled, crashing into Luminous who was waiting for them. They scurried back to the office, dropping to the floor the moment they closed the door.
Evan looked up, Hawkeye now wrapped event tighter around him. “How did it go?”
Aran peeled Shade’s hand away from her mouth, shaking her head, “Brilliant! But what was that for?” Mercedes sat up and pointed to Luminous, who looked dazed. He was staring at the ceiling from his position, a neutral expression on his face. Phantom snapped his fingers in front of him.
“Gone,” he muttered when Luminous did not respond.
Nineheart walked over, prodding Luminous. “I can see his influence on Luminous,” Nineheart mumbled, writing down on his clipboard.
“So Luminous went to see him?” Oz asked. Aran shook her head, thumping her chest with her fist.
“Nah, I did. I don’t see what’s so handsome about him, looks pretty much normal,” she commented. Nineheart’s jaw dropped, as did his clipboard. Irena and Oz gaped at her.
“H-How did you come out alive?” Nineheart blurted out. Aran shrugged. “I dunno what the fuss is all about, really.”
Mercedes shook her head, sighing. “Aran isn’t… She isn’t affected by good looks. She’s a meathead,” she reasoned. Aran looked proud of the description. “I like men like I like coffee!” she cried. When questioned how much she liked coffee, Aran declared with a loud voice, “I don’t like coffee!”
Nineheart picked up his clipboard and scribbled something down. He looked at the rest of them. “What about you all?”
Phantom looked away, while Shade curled up, looking quite unhappy. Mercedes said nothing, staring at Nineheart. Once he got the idea that no one was going to tell him, Nineheart sighed. Irena smiled at Aran. “I know how you feel. He is handsome, but is he worth losing sleep over?” she gestured to Hawkeye, who had pretty much clung to Evan. Irena continued to speak, “I like the more… masculine types.”
Mercedes raised her eyebrows at Irena, who flushed and looked away. Oz laughed beside her. “Irena, he may not be your type, but he’s ridiculously dreamy…” Oz’s words trailed away, and she sighed.
Irena nodded. “Yes. I have to admit that I can’t keep my eyes off him. Maybe Mr. Big Headward was right,” she muttered, looking away. Nineheart shook his head, looking quite irritated.
“Whatever the case is, we have to stop it somehow. The school will surely descend into chaos over this,” he stated.
Oz frowned, quickly eating some bread. “I think you are overreacting, Nineheart,” she complained.
Nineheart shook his head vehemently. “Think about Helen of Troy,” he argued, “Her matchless beauty was the cause of the Trojan War.” He looked to the Heroes for help, but their clueless faces left him sighing.
Who was Helen of Troy again?
Nineheart took out a piece of newspaper from his clipboard, showing it to Oz, continuing his argument, “Not to mention just two years ago, an Emirian man was expelled from Saudi Arabia during a religious festival because his good looks may charm the local women.” He looked satisfied with his evidence. Mihile finally looked up from his homework, appearing quite surprised. “So… are you saying we should expel the White Student Teacher for the peace of the school?” he asked.
“I cannot allow that.”
All of a sudden, Cygnus spoke up. Mihile looked confused for a second, looking around until Eckhart grabbed his head and turned it towards Cygnus. Cygnus repeated, “I cannot allow that.” Her words rang through all their heads. Phantom dropped to his knees, shocked. He was muttering, “No… not you…” over and over while cradling his head in his hands. Aran scratched her head, frowning. “You are kinda firm today, Cygnus,” she said.
Cygnus got up, smiling sweetly. “I’m the principal, but before that I am also a student at this school. I cannot agree to expel the White Student Teacher from the school,” she explained. Nineheart seemed to have accepted the fate, judging from the defeated look on his face. Turning to the remaining conscious people, which consisted of Phantom, Mercedes, Shade and Aran, he beckoned them closer.
“We have no choice then. Since most of you can resist his power, I have a special mission for you,” he instructed, “You are all in charge of keeping an eye on the White Student Teacher, and minimize his damage on the student body. And, if possible, figure out how to reverse this squid transformation. I do not need a squid infestation in this school.” Everyone nodded. This was the White Mage, he could very well have turned into the Black Mage a long time ago, but no one even knew! There was no magic to change his hair color, no magic to make him look completely different.
They heard a groan from behind them. They turned to see Luminous looking at the rest, his eye on fire. “Why… do you all never do anything…?” he grumbled. Dusting himself, he glared at Hawkeye, who extracted himself from Evan immediately.
They heard a phone buzz. Luminous took out his phone, turning his back to the others. “Elwin. This is not a good time.” he growled.
Elwin’s voice came in from the other end, somewhat frightened. “Holy cow! Luminous, what’s going on at the school?” Luminous rubbed his temple, scowling darkly. Phantom snatched the phone from him, ignoring Luminous’ yells and explained to Elwin what happened. Elwin replied, “There’s a really handsome trainee teacher? Okay, look, I don’t know what’s going on, but the school is filled with dark energy! It’s about to burst at the seams!” Phantom quickly relayed the message, whispering to the others. Eckhart looked up at them. Nineheart raised a hand, shaking his head. Eckhart stared at Nineheart for a moment, before returning his attention to his homework.
Elwin continued, “Every time Dusties or Troublemakers appear, I can feel dark energy from them. But the school is now half-drawn in ink! This is the only reason I can think of that explains the boys turning into squids and the girls being in love with the teacher. Almost every girl in school is in love with him! Imagine the impact if they all got hurt!”
Phantom gulped, sweating slightly. If he calculated correctly, the number of Troublemakers had a chance of overwhelming all six of them. Not to mention with the students all around them, it would be even harder to fight. They had to risk losing their secret. He opened his mouth to ask Elwin if he knew what to do, but the dog was faster. “No, I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t have an explanation for this, either,” he quickly said. “I’ll go get Grendel, but in the meantime, keep an eye on the situation, alright? With the energy signature so big, the cause of all this can’t stay hidden for long,” Elwin said, before the phone clicked shut.
Phantom turned and quickly informed of them of the current situation. The school bell rang just as they all agreed to watch out. Evan quickly ran off to clean up for class, while everyone else returned to their classrooms.
It appeared the White Student Teacher was taking care of the second and third years. In the second year classroom, just before they saw the White Student Teacher, Phantom rushed back to inform Shade and Luminous. Shade immediately grabbed Orchid and placed her in the seat next to his, before whispering-slash-begging to her to not attract attention. Phantom and Luminous took their seats next to each other. Luminous opened the textbook and shoved his head into it, hiding his face from the teachers. Almost all the boys in the class were squids. When he came in, the four of them at the back remained silent. Orchid seemed more preoccupied with Shade rather than the White Student Teacher.
The White Student Teacher was teaching, but the moment he spotted Luminous, he walked over. “Are you okay? Is everything alright?” Luminous nodded. Phantom spotted all the girls looking extremely jealous when the White Student Teacher focused on Luminous. Shade, from behind, sank into his seat, trying to appear inconspicuous. No one wanted to see the man darn it!
The White Student Teacher frowned. “Now, now. What is your name again? Luminous? Please put down the book so I can see what you are doing,” he instructed.
Luminous put the book down slowly, now staring at his lap. The White Student Teacher nodded and left. Immediately Luminous put up the book again, hiding his disgusted face. Shade sank deeper into his seat, while Phantom ran a hand through his hair. The White Student Teacher had told him to put down his hat. Protesting would have made a scene.
Each time the White Student Teacher asked if there were any questions, many of the girls would ask him personal questions. One of them would even try a joke, to which the White Student Teacher would laugh and smiled at the girl, leading her to swoon in her seat. Luminous pulled a face at Phantom, who nodded.
Stan was yelling at everyone to focus, but it was hard when it was so glaring. Luminous’ red eye had been permanently lighted up, every time he saw the White Student Teacher. Whenever the White Student teacher called out to him, he would only look down, answering him while hiding his face. As they were doing problems in class (It was Chemistry, the three of them had no problems. Somewhat.), they could hear the girls calling the White Student Teacher over many times over the same darn problem. Phantom gagged in silence, while Luminous struggled to contain his rage.
It came to the point that the White Student Teacher was now standing next to Shade, observing his work. Phantom and Luminous froze, waiting for him to pass, but he never did. It was nerve-wracking, the way they could feel his presence behind them.
Shade himself had not responded to the White Student Teacher, merely nodding and letting out grunts to acknowledge him. Finally, the White Student Teacher noticed the way Shade was acting. “Eunwol? Is something wrong?” he asked.
Shade shook his head, his pencil breaking under his grip when he squeezed it too tightly. “Ah, your pencil is broken! Is your hand okay?” The White Student Teacher took his hand, removing the broken pencil and opening his hand to reveal his calloused palm.
Immediately, Shade snatched away his hand, cradling it in his other arm. Something dark. He could feel something dark when that person touched him. “I-It’s fine, sir. Nothing is wrong,” he let out slowly, as if holding his breath. The White Student Teacher studied him for a moment, and then smiled and nodded. “I understand. If it’s injured, please see the nurse, alright?”
Shade didn’t move, as the White Student Teacher moved on. Orchid grabbed his hand and started to bandage it. Shade sighed, pressing his head to Orchid’s own hand. One loud smack later, Shade was back to his work, a large red handprint on his face.
The one that the White Student Teacher was most interested in was Luminous. He kept coming to check on Luminous, while Phantom got off easy, despite being one of the most noticeable in the group. It was clear to the White Student Teacher that Luminous was wary of him, for some reason. Sometimes, when the White Student Teacher tried to teach Luminous, Luminous would turn away immediately, consulting Phantom or Shade instead. He refused to talk to the White Student Teacher no matter what.
Even in corridors, Luminous would dart behind someone or something to hide himself from the White Student Teacher. Once, when the White Student Teacher called out to him, Luminous had resorted to jumping out the window to avoid him. Fortunately, it was on the first floor.
After class, just before they left, the White Student Teacher called Luminous. “Luminous, I know you have been quite uncomfortable with me. Do you mind telling me what am I doing wrong? Is there any way that I can change so that the lessons would be more… enjoyable for you?” Luminous kept his head down, refusing to speak. The White Student Teacher frowned. “Luminous, it is rather rude not to look at the person when they are speaking to you. I have seen the way you interact with your friends, you know this. So why aren’t you looking at me?” Phantom and Shade at the back of the classroom could only look on worriedly. They could only wait for him to come back… or did they? Shade nodded to Phantom. Now or never!
Phantom took out his deck of cards. Placing them on the table, he blew them across the classroom. One by one, they slowly moved and landed around Luminous. If Luminous saw the cards, he did not say anything. The White Student Teacher kept questioning Luminous, trying to coax an answer out of him. The moment the entire deck was on the floor, the cards suddenly flew up, causing the White Student Teacher to shield himself. Luminous took the chance and bolted out the door, with Phantom and Shade.
The White Student Teacher did try to get Luminous back with him multiple times, but to no avail. For each time, they would avoid him like plague, sometimes showing a bit of hostility when he came near. To the White Student Teacher, it looked almost as if Phantom and Shade was shielding Luminous from him.
No matter how much he tried, Luminous would run away. But the Heroes knew how hard it was for Luminous not to burst out at the man. The one of the reasons he was hiding his face was because of his red eye that was brightly lit each time the White Student Teacher appeared. The other reason was that his face looked exactly like the White Student Teacher. Evan patted Luminous, worried. “Should you not come to school, Luminous? You can’t keep avoiding him,” Evan reasoned.
Luminous snapped his head up, glaring at Evan. “I refuse. This man will not intimidate me,” he growled.
No one spoke at all. Luminous had to take out his anger on monsters each time, and would attack all the Dusties in the school with such ferocity. Phantom and Shade had not been born when the White Mage was alive, while Mercedes had. She knew how painful it was to see this man again, after so many decades of fighting him. Aran seemed to not give a care, but then again, it was Aran, after all. Luminous was the most badly affected.
It came to the point that the White Student Teacher called him out in class. Luminous could feel all the girls glaring at him, while Phantom and Shade looked panicked. Luminous stood up slowly. His head raised a little, allowing the White Student Teacher to see a part of his face, but not the entire thing.
His flaming red eye was hidden underneath his fringe, the red flame not visible in the bright light of day. “Nothing is wrong, sir. I am merely… suffering from a sore throat,” he rasped. Shade and Phantom exchanged confused glances. Luminous’ voice was sore? The White Student Teacher nodded, allowing him to sit down.
Phantom whispered, “Lumibutt, what happened to your voice?” Luminous glared at him. “Training,” he muttered.
He had yelled so much during his battles with the Dusties, his own voice was lost?! Phantom and Shade turned back to the front, slightly horrified.
At the end of the week, Luminous’ voice had healed. They had come out from class to see Mercedes and Aran. Aran wrapped an arm around Luminous just before the White Student Teacher came, dragging him away. Mercedes, Phantom and Shade quickly fled before the White Student Teacher could stop them. As they ran down the stairs to Evan’s classroom, they quickly hid, watching as the White Student Teacher entered the office. They came out, just as Evan exited the classroom. “Hello!” he waved to the six of them.
As they got together, Luminous reaching out and hugging Evan for therapy purposes, Mercedes spotted two groups in front of the teachers’ office. “What’s that?” Evan waved his hand from Luminous’ arms. “Mr. Stan called me to go see him earlier. Could you go instead? I… I can’t move,” Evan smiled sheepishly, gesturing to Luminous. Mercedes nodded, grabbing Phantom to go.
The two of them entered the office, sneaking past the White Student Teacher and up to Stan. “Mr. Stan, what is it? Evan sent us here instead because he’s busy,” Mercedes said.
Stan looked at them up and down and sighed. “Did you see the students congregating on the first floor?” A quick nod from Phantom and Mercedes made Stan sigh. “Humph! What are they doing instead of studying? When I asked Nineheart about this, he shook his head and said the first civil war in Shinsoo International history!” he growled, while Mercedes and Phantom politely nodded.
Stan pointed out the door, grumpily saying, “Now there’s some group out there who calls themselves the SRA. Can you go see what they are up to?” The two of them saluted to Stan and hurried out, sneaking past the White Student Teacher again. Phantom gagged in silent behind him, before fleeing.
When they came out, they heard squid noises. Phantom pushed Mercedes towards the girls, while he went ahead to deal with the squids.
The squids were yelling, “Guarantee basic human rights for ordinary looking men! Guarantee!” Phantom scratched his head. “What are you doing?” he asked.
The squid turned to look at him, holding a sign. “We are the Squid Rights Association, SRA for short! We represent all Squids for their basic rights!” it yelled in Phantom’s face. Phantom wiped off the spit, smiling politely. “Ah, yes…” Phantom began, but the squid continued to yell, “Being a squid is not a choice! We demand equal treatment from the female students!” He held up his signboard, which had the picture of the White Student Teacher on it with a large cross. “End the trainee teacher’s reign of terror! Resign! Resign!” it cried. Phantom was taken aback. Even when he appeared, the men were not so angry. In fact, some of them were jealous, and did try to mimic him, but in the end, they all admitted defeat. Some of them became his staff on the ship. But this was absurd!
The squid continued to yell, across to the girls, “Return all our girlfriends to us! Squids are people too!” He turned to Phantom, holding out a board. “Phantom! If you support our cause, and want equal rights for everyone, sign right here!” Phantom looked at the board. Smiling slightly, he picked up the pen and signed his name with flourish.
When the squid took back the board, Phantom laughed lightly. “Tsk, tsk. Really, there shouldn’t be anyone else taking away all the ladies. Why, they deserve a chance to find the actual love,” he said, walking back into the office.
Meanwhile, Mercedes was at the girls, eyeing the Vice President whose tears kept pouring out. “Uh… Who are you?” she asked.
The girl turned to her, waving her signboard. “We have done nothing wrong! We, the girls who have our eyes opened to the true potential of love, are the White Student Teacher Lovers’ Club, WLC for short!” Mercedes took a step back, somewhat surprised. The girl turned to the squids, yelling back, “We demand an end to the discrimination against our dear student teacher! Any talk of him being resigned, deported or being termination is unacceptable! We want him to have a permanent spot here in the school!” Some of the girls screamed with her.
The Vice President held up her phone, showing the messages on it. “And all of you ex-boyfriends,” she cried, “Stop harassing us! It’s over, we have all found true love, and it’s not with you! Stop texting us!” She turned to Mercedes, holding out a board. “Mercedes! If you support equal rights for us, sign here!” Mercedes, frightened by the girl's’ screams, quickly signed her name, running into the office to meet with Phantom. They hurriedly reported to Stan, who started to rant, “This is insane! I don’t care what they are going on about! I will shut this thing down!” He lumbered out, and Mercedes and Phantom crouched, covering their ears. Alas, it was no use.
“You knuckleheads! Stop yammering about stupid stuff and go back to your classrooms! I don’t care if you are a boy or girl; I’ll punish you all if I have to!” The two of them winced at the volume.
He lumbered back, sitting down. “They finally quietened down,” he muttered gruffly. He looked at the two of them, nodding. “Glad it wasn’t something serious,” he said.
Out of nowhere, the White Student Teacher had appeared behind them. “I’m sorry for causing such a commotion,” he said. Mercedes and Phantom instinctively moved away, Phantom raising his cane to defend himself while Mercedes ducked under a table. Stan gave them a strange look, but shook his head.
“It’s not your fault. These students are getting out of hand,” he grumbled. Phantom and Mercedes took the chance to sneak out as the White Student Teacher continued to talk to Stan.
Once out, they saw Aran waving. “Oooi! We gotta go to the reading room! Elwin says ASAP!” she yelled. The six of them hurried up the staircase, entering the reading room. They saw Elwin beckoning them.
They followed the tiny dog into a secluded corner. “Hey! Three Dust Zones appeared!” Everyone gasped in shock, before covering their mouths. Phantom looked around for anyone looking at them and quickly gave them the confirmation. Elwin brought his voice to a whisper, “I know you all have been trying to handle the Dusties, but this is huge!” This was too much. For the entire of the female population in school to fall in love with this man, thus creating so many Dust Zones, this was crazy!
Mercedes took charge. “Alright then, Elwin, where are all the Dust Zones? We have six people, we can split up and minimise the damage and the exposure,” she asked. Elwin nodded. “One here in the reading room, the others are in the music room and the science labs,” he counted. Mercedes nodded. Placing a hand on her bowguns, she dispelled the illusion. “Aran and I will take the reading room, Phantom and Shade, the music room, Luminous and Evan, go up to the science lab. Meet back here in the reading room once we are all done, alright?” Everyone nodded, and the teams parted ways.
In the reading room, Mercedes and Aran cleared theirs easily. Despite the large number of Dusties, it appeared that it was the least out of all of the Dust Zones, or so Elwin said. Once they were done and had changed out, Elwin beckoned to them. “Since the others aren’t here right now, could you check the situation on the roof? I don’t know, if all the Dust Zones appeared on almost all the levels, there might be a Dust Zone on the rooftop. When you get up there, talk to Lily, kay?” he requested. Mercedes nodded, and the two ladies went up to the roof.
On the roof, they heard a voice. A very familiar voice. They peeked outside the door, spotting Ephenia and a few other girls.
“Was it you?” Ephenia was asking. The girl looked extremely frightened by Ephenia, backing away slightly.
The girl looked away, stammering, “M-me? Me what?” Ephenia took a step closer, appearing threatening. “I’m asking if it was you who ripped my letter. Are you sure it isn’t you? Then why can’t you look at me in the eye?” she demanded.
Mercedes pressed her lips together. Walking out, she ignored Aran’s whispers of “Not worth it!” and “Stop!” and marched right up to Ephenia. She stood in front of the girl, glaring at Ephenia. Ephenia looked annoyed.
“What is it, Mercedes? This is none of your business,” Ephenia sneered. Mercedes smirked, folding her arms. “Didn’t think you would stoop to harassing your juniors just to get what you want,” she retorted. Ephenia clicked her tongue, frowning. “Harassing? Oh now, Mercedes. We were just having a little chat, right?” she said sweetly, fluttering her eyelids. The girl behind Mercedes shivered. “I-I swear Ephenia, I didn’t tear your letter,” she said, hiding behind Mercedes. Ephenia rolled her eyes and sighed heavily.
She leaned on one leg, her hands on her hips. She squinted at the girl. “Really? Then I must wonder, why was there a witness who saw you did it? And you leave a drink for the trainee teacher every morning. Is that true?” she leaned forward slightly, her voice sickly sweet. The girl nodded quickly, too scared to answer back. Mercedes shifted slightly, catching Ephenia’s attention, a warning to the girl if she did attempt anything.
Ephenia straightened up and tucks her hair behind her ear. “See, the funny thing is, my letter magically disappears every time you leave a drink on his desk. Care explaining?” Ephenia challenged the girl. The girl remained silent, shrinking behind Mercedes’ back. Ephenia laughed at her reaction. “Now, now, let’s not make this a bigger deal than it is, shall we?” she said.
The girl nodded vigorously. “Y-yeah… But I’m innocent!” Tears were starting to form in her eyes, as she clung onto Mercedes.
Ephenia spotted the tears and groaned dramatically. “Hey, don’t you cry. You are making me look bad,” she cried, fanning herself. The girl covered her mouth, hiccuping. Ephenia smiled triumphantly, nodding. “Now, we shall go down together with a smile on our faces, got it? Act natural,” she said, though it sounded more like a statement than a confirmation. The girl nodded slowly, detaching herself from Mercedes.
“Get that eyeshadow off your eyes. And why are you wearing mascara to school?” Ephenia demanded.
Mercedes finally spoke up. “If she wants to wear makeup, let her. I don’t see why she can’t when you do the same thing, Ephenia,” Mercedes pointed out. An expression of annoyance briefly appeared on Ephenia’s face, before it was replaced with another sickeningly sweet smile.
“Oh, no, Mercedes. Look at her! She looks like a Jackson Pollock painting!” she exclaimed. Mercedes refused to shift her gaze, glaring at the fairy queen’s counterpart.
Ephenia huffed, folding her arms. “Look, what do you want? I’ve seen you nosing around in everyone’s business lately,” she said. Mercedes folded her arms, copying Ephenia’s position.
“Oh, I don’t know. Why are you so interested? Scared I’ll snatch away your precious teacher?” she snapped.
Ephenia looked infuriated. “Whatever! Not that I’m scared of you, you wouldn’t stand a chance. If I see you going after that trainee teacher, you are going to answer to me, got it?” snarled Ephenia. Mercedes laughed. So even in this world, this was her relationship. Too bad. Mercedes was not going to back down.
“Maybe I would go after him. Who knows, isn’t he the best man in this school?”
“Why…? Hmph, so be it. You never stood a chance anyway!” Ephenia glared at Mercedes, who met her eyes. Aran was clutching the door so hard it cracked. She could almost see the electricity running between the two of them.
Ephenia was the first to break her stare, looking somewhat uncertain. “A-Anyway! I’m going down!” she said, before storming down the stairs with the girls on the roof. Mercedes huffed, staring after her. Ephenia barged past Aran, who was at the door.
Aran walked up to Mercedes, chuckling. “Seems like there was someone far scarier than Dusties here! Should I take her down?” she asked innocently. Mercedes shook her head, smiling. “Not worth it. It feels good to stare her down, however. Where’s Lily, by the way? We have to find her,” Mercedes noted. Awkward meowing could be heard from the ventilators. Walking over, Mercedes looked up and spotted the cat standing above them.
Lily jumped down, landing on the bench. She licked her paws, before speaking, “That was scary. There are always girls like that everywhere. By the way, what are you two doing here?” Lily looked up at them, asking.
Aran looked around for a bit, before answering, “Checking the rooftops. Elwin was worried.” Lily frowned, shaking her head. “No Dust Zones here, luckily. Instead, these confrontations are taking place several times per day. That girl is the president of the WLC, it seems,” she explained. Mercedes giggled, covering her mouth. So the fairy queen, the one who loved the White Mage so much that she joined the Black Mage, was the one in charge of that insane group? How perfect.
Lily did not look amused, however. “Don’t laugh like that. Anyway, wars of nerves like that aren’t common, and they’re just the beginning of a more serious conflict,” she concluded. Aran nodded, agreeing with Lily. Mercedes sat down on the bench, sighing heavily. “The things people do in the name of love, sweet, pure, innocent love. But really, does she think that trainee teacher would really go for her? I mean, isn’t it a taboo?” she asked. Aran shrugged.
They got up after a while, heading down to the reading room. There, they saw the rest had already gathered. Evan waved to them, smiling brightly. “Where did you two go? You weren’t here like you said, we thought you had trouble,” Shade spoke up. Aran and Mercedes exchanged looks, before giggling. “Psh, nah. We were just dealing with some bullies,” Aran explained. Everyone else looked confused. Mercedes looked up at the clock on the wall.
“Come on, let’s go back, it’s too late already,” she said.
They went back to the Lumiere to have a discussion about the current situation. In the conference room, Mercedes explained what had happened. It resulted in many sighs, especially from Luminous. “Honestly, Mercedes. You want to go head to head with Ephenia there too?” Luminous grumbled. Evan slumped on the table, looking up at the Elven Queen. “Is it really a good idea, Mercedes? Won’t Elwin and Lily get mad?” he asked quietly. Mercedes shifted in her chair, shaking her head.
“I don’t think so. Anyway, it’s only a simple competition. And a way to get back at her. She has to stop bullying!” she exclaimed. Aran patted Mercedes’ shoulder, while the rest looked away.
“I don’t understand what’s going on in her mind,” mumbled Shade. Mercedes’ sharp ears caught Shade’s words, and the rest of the meeting, Mercedes was glaring hard at the pirate, who sank into his seat.
The first week was just over, and it was off to a bad start.
Over the weekend, they made plans to counter the White Student Teacher. Luminous was to be given an illusion to cover up his flaming eye. Shade and Phantom could not leave Luminous alone until school was over, in which he was to rush back immediately. Evan was allowed to talk to the White Student Teacher, in order to procure some information. He was forbidden to talk about Luminous. Evan was also in charge of watching over the SRA, while Aran was watching over the WLC. Once their plans for the next week was made, the six of them resumed training, returning once to the Alliance for a regular meeting once per month.
Nineheart brought up a certain incident that occurred two weeks ago, urging the Alliance to watch out for any lookalikes that wore ‘sloppy’ clothes. The Heroes didn’t know what he was going on about, though Evan had pointed out that even if there were lookalikes belonging to the Black Wings, they were unable to enter Ereve due to Cygnus’ magic. Nineheart assured that he was looking into the incident.
Meanwhile, he was feeling quite fortunate. They did not recognize him. Perhaps they did, but they were not assuming him to be behind the attacks. How ironic. However, that student president was also wary of him, making it hard for him to approach that student. No matter. He had to find out more about these transfer students. Luminous was avoiding him, how cute. Once he gathered enough power, he would attack once more. He could just feel it.
When it was finally back to school, the six Heroes came back, wary and prepared to avoid the White Trainee Teacher. In class, each of the teachers in charge of the classes announced a piece of dreadful news. “Our trainee teacher will be holding 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with each of you while he is here with us for the remainder of the school,” they said. The girls, needless to say, started to shriek and scream. All the Heroes had to cover their ears. It was also mentioned that the White Student Teacher was taking the first year as well, due to popular demands from the students. This was going to end badly. The White Student Teacher had also announced that he could spare one day on the weekend for the students. The rumors spread like wildfire, having said that the White Student Teacher would go on a date with one student over the weekend.
After school, Nineheart called all the Heroes down. They entered the office. Hawkeye immediately wrapped around Evan again, weeping once more as a squid. Evan patted him awkwardly once more, while Mercedes was stuck against the wall in the furthest corner of the room. Nineheart ignored the distractions. Regarding the rest, he said, “I presume you all know of the latest news, that the students are fighting over a daily dating coupon to have a date with the trainee teacher.”
Aran shook her head, while the rest nodded. “I thought it was some kind of studying session?” she asked. Nineheart sighed, rubbing his temples.
“The teacher said he he could provide consultations on the weekends. However, that had snowballed into a day-long date with him, like any other rumors usually do,” Nineheart explained. Aran nodded slowly, understanding the current situation slightly better. Nineheart looked at the rest of them gathered.
“I want one of you to secure that dating coupon,” he commanded.
Everyone froze and stared at Nineheart, as if daring him to repeat his words. “...Come again?” Shade asked. Nineheart repeated his words, slowly. Evan coughed.
“W-Why us, Nineheart? We aren’t interested in… in dating the teacher,” he said quietly. At the thought of dating the White Student Teacher, Phantom, Luminous and Shade started to back away from Nineheart. “I-I don’t think any of us swing that way, Nineheart,” Phantom said, laughing awkwardly. Aran looked at them, shrugging.
“Not to hurt your feelings, Nineheart, but I don’t have time nor interest in dating,” she explained. Mercedes remained silent, weighing her options. Evan shook his head from his position, still wrapped in Hawkeye’s tentacles. “Phantom says I’m too young to date. So I don’t think I can do it,” he explained.
Nineheart sighed again, irritated. “That coupon will cause nothing but trouble for the students. It is at the heart of the dispute. If you get it and destroy it, there’s nothing left to fight about,” he explained. He also picked up the piece of paper on the table. “And with six of you gunning for it, the chances of winning is higher, unless all these grades are for show,” he said. Resigned, the six of them agreed. Evan peeled Hawkeye away from him and rushed off to change, while Nineheart gave the rest the location of the ‘competition’.
The six of them walked up to the third-year classroom, peeking in. Mercedes walked in first, with Aran right behind her. Ephenia, who was at the center, spotted Mercedes. “What, you again? So you are serious on taking me on?” she sneered. Mercedes nodded, grinning. Ephenia snorted, waving a piece of paper at Mercedes’ face. “Everyone flocks to this place as bugs to lights. Not that it matters, that coupon is mine!” she declared. Mercedes shook her head, shrugging.
“I must say, what was that phrase again? ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’? I’ll be the one who defeats you, Ephenia,” Mercedes took a step forward.
Ephenia laughed at her words. “You? Defeat me? Think again, Mercedes,” she giggled, staring straight at Mercedes.
In the distance, thunder could be heard. Aran turned to the rest, pulling a face. The four at the door shrank. “A-Aran. Maybe you and Mercedes take on Ephenia. We’ll just sit here…” Phantom made a shooing gesture. Aran sighed and turned back around.
Mercedes met Ephenia’s gaze, still smiling away. “I don’t think that I can defeat you, Ephenia. I know. Unless you plan on cheating?” Mercedes’ tone was dark, challenging, mocking. Ephenia took the bait. “As if. I’ll win this competition fair and square. That’s why I hired some help,” she snorted, presenting a man wearing a dog costume, rapping away.
“Hey, yo! Name’s Kemdi! The girls want me so bad, I couldn’t resist them, you feel me?” the dog called out.
Aran’s jaw dropped. “Isn’t that that rapping -Oi!” Mercedes pinched Aran, making her shut up. The others shrank even further. Why was he here of all places?! Last time they saw him, he was taking care of the Kuro Game Area. Mercedes ignored Aran’s protests. Walking up to Kemdi, she smiled sweetly. “Let me join this competition. I’ll win it fair and square,” she said. Kemdi nodded. “Alright! Let the games begin! Now I’ve got a game in mind, yo!” he cried. Aran cringed from Kemdi’s speech pattern. Mercedes showed no visible reaction, though, Aran could tell she, too, wanted to cover her ears.
Kemdi unveiled two large boards behind him. “Here it is, baby! The OX quiz! Score points to win the competition! There are twelve questions in total! Are you game?” he asked Mercedes, who nodded. Students carried the boards out into the middle of the classroom. Aran quickly retreated to the rest. From there, the five of them watched, safely.
The quiz began. Mercedes thanked Rhinne that most of the questions were easily answered. Studying and reading the books in the reading room really helped her, not to mention Lily’s constant quizzing helped her memorized this information.
“PDT is seven hours behind GMT. True or false?” Kemdi shot out the first question. Mercedes frowned. PDT was Pacific Daylight Time. GMT was Greenwich Mean Time. If she remembered correctly from the world map Lily gave them...Yes! She dashed over to the board with the large ‘O’ on it. She stopped, just as the timer went off. Kemdi grinned, waving a green flag. “Correct! Next question!”
“‘G-R-A-Y’ and ‘G-R-E-Y’ are both correct spellings for the color! True or false?” Without missing a heartbeat, Kemdi shot the next question. Mercedes remained where she was. Pretty common knowledge. Both spellings were used in the Maple World, even with the greatest scholars that dealt with language used it interchangeably. Once again, she was correct.
“Alright! The White Student Teacher is wearing a single-breasted suit. True or false?” Kemdi’s next question came out. Mercedes thought for a bit. A single-breasted suit… It used one row of buttons. How many buttons did the White Student Teacher have? Mercedes could not remember. She could see Ephenia smirking away as the countdown reached five. As the time whittled down, Mercedes chose ‘false’. She held her breath as Kemdi looked at her. When he declared her correct, she breathed a sigh of relief. Lucky!
Moving on, the next question was “12 p.m. is noon, not midnight.” This was easy. Mercedes ran over to the big blue button, smirking at Ephenia when Kemdi once again declared her correct.
“Birds are mammals, true or false?” The next question came. Mercedes huffed. Too easy! She walked up to the giant red cross. Correct again. Five questions, five points. Seven more points were needed if she needed to ensure she beat Ephenia.
“Lake Baikal is in the United States! True or false?” Kemdi shot out a hard one. Mercedes thought hard. Lake Baikal? Was there even such a lake? Not in the Maple World, but in this place known as the United States. The name itself sounded weird. Perhaps this was not the name of the lake. She remained where she was. When Kemdi revealed the answer, Mercedes was shocked. There was such a lake! It was in a completely different area. Once again, she had been fortunate.
“The Water Lilies series was painted by Manet. True or false?” Kemdi asked. Mercedes frowned. Manet? There wasn’t such a person on the Maple Island, much less an artist. Monet, she had heard of such a name. Manet just sounded awkward. But what if there was such a person known as Manet? Mercedes spied Ephenia, who was biting her manicured fingernail on her thumb. Mercedes took a step forward. Ephenia looked surprised, before looking more anxious. Another step, and the anxious expression disappeared, now replaced with a sly look. Mercedes went back, smirking when she saw Ephenia regaining the anxious expression.
Correct. The look on Ephenia’s face was priceless. Monet, huh?
“Next! Forty plus twenty over ten is forty-two. True or false?” A math question. Mercedes calculated on her fingers silently. If it was anything, she could work fast, due to Lily’s training. She ran over to the blue sign, earning her another point.
“A declarative question always ends in an exclamation point. True or false?” Easy! Mercedes skipped over to the large cross, once again gaining another point. She waved to Ephenia, who looked infuriated.
“A sea squirt is some kind of plant, true or false?” Sea squirt? What was a sea squirt? A squirt was someone short, and was mostly used in teasing, if Mercedes remembered correctly. So a sea squirt would be something small and cute that lived in the sea? Plants… in the sea, Mercedes rarely saw any small plant in Ludus Lake. She stood where she was, praying to Rhinne she was correct. Thank Transcendants she was. Mercedes frowned. She was cutting a little bit close there. She would have to tread carefully.
“Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. True or false?” Mercedes grinned. She threw her hair behind her back, allowing the wind in the classroom to catch it and walked straight up to the blue circle. Studying for those tests really paid off, it helped her a lot in this. She got the point. One more question, one more point, and she would ensure her victory.
“The White Student Teacher’s eyelashes are two pixels thick, true or false?” Mercedes’ eyes widened. What? What sort of question was that? Ephenia was smirking at the side. Shoot! Mercedes looked around wildly. Wait. She didn’t need to panic! Grabbing her phone, she rushed to the door. She grabbed Luminous and yanked him in. Five seconds left. Mercedes held up her phone and snapped a picture of Luminous, who yelled in protest. She shoved him to the side. She looked at the image, zooming in. Two seconds left. She ran back.
One second. Mercedes dived for the blue circle.
Mercedes had gotten twelve points.
Ephenia started to scream, “She cheated! She cheated, I say! The last question! She took a picture of him! You manhandled him!”
Mercedes laughed into the back of her hand. “Ho ho, is someone feeling bitter? I merely took a picture of my friend and junior, who clearly isn’t the White Student Teacher. Or are you blind?” Luminous, who had fallen on the floor, sat up.
“What the heck was that, Mercedes? Taking a picture and tossing me on the floor, I’m not your toy!” he growled. Ephenia looked at him and realized her mistake.
Mercedes laughed again, smirking. “I didn’t cheat, because he isn’t the White Student Teacher. He’s just Luminous, a junior. The question had nothing to do with him,” she said.
Kemdi nodded. “True, true! Outstanding, my friend! You’ve obtained twelve points, a point higher compared to Ephenia! You are the true intellect of this age! You’re an ardent fan of the trainee teacher! And you are a quiz champion!” he cried, patting Mercedes on the back. He held up a slip of paper, which had the words “Dating Coupon” written on it. He handed it to Mercedes, who curtseyed and took the coupon.
Ephenia immediately came up. “I thought I was the winner!” she protested.
Kemdi wagged a finger at her, bouncing here and there. “Sorry, my cher. You only got eleven questions correct, while Mercedes here got all twelve,” he explained.
Enraged, she pointed Mercedes right in her face. “This isn’t fair! She’s not even part of the WLC, so therefore she has no claim to that coupon! I do because I’m next in line!” she cried. Mercedes backed away.
“What, can’t take a fair and square loss? As I said, I didn’t cheat. Or are you really a sore loser?” Mercedes said, folding her arms. Ephenia was left speechless. Her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish.
Another girl spoke up, “Ephenia, show some sportsmanship and accept your defeat. She won by the rules.” Another girl nodded. “She’s right,” she said, “Rules are rules. Mercedes has one point higher than you, so by right, she wins. Accept your defeat.”
Ephenia turned onto the girls, glaring at them. “You two… Whose side are you on?” The girls exchanged looks, then turned back to Ephenia.
“You are being too greedy, Ephenia,” the first girl said.
The second girl continued, “Just because you are the president of the WLC doesn’t mean you get what you want.”
At the doorway, Shade looked away. “Their friendship… destroyed in the name of love…” he muttered. Evan reached up and grabbed Shade’s hand, smiling up at him. Shade gave him a grateful smile, before returning his attention to the scene.
Mercedes took the coupon, staring at it. Her satisfaction over winning the competition was gone now, and to be honest, she had no idea what to do with it. Unless… She knew someone who needed it badly. Lily could not possibly keep changing her grades, and she just kept sleeping in class. Mercedes turned around.
“Hey, Aran. Take it. I don’t want it. You need it, your grades are bad,” she said, pressing the ticket into Aran’s hand. Aran looked surprised.
“Aw man, Mercedes. You know I don’t want to. Don’t force me…” she protested.
Mercedes shook her head. “No. Take it. I won this fair and square, but I don’t need it. So I’m going to do whatever I want with it. Which is to give it to you,” she explained.
Aran sighed. “Fine, I’ll take it. Yeesh, not like I’m going to study anyway,” she muttered.
Mercedes turned to see Ephenia’s expression of anger and shock. It was priceless. Mercedes wished she could use her phone to save this moment, but it would be rude. Ephenia opened her mouth to scream.
Suddenly, Nineheart appeared, pushing past the people gathered at the doorway. “Everyone, enough!” he yelled. Everyone turned to him, watching him adjust his tie.
“You shouldn’t sacrifice your friendships at the cost of the dating coupon. Why don’t I offer you the judgement of Solomon?” he offered. Everyone looked at him blankly.
“The White Student Teacher only said he would set aside one day. Not one student,” he explained. Nineheart spread his arms, his gaze sweeping through the crowd in the classroom. “The White Student Teacher belongs to all of us. We can all go on a date with him on the day he’s available,” he said. Excited chatter erupted among the students.
One girl yelled out, “You are a genius, Student President!” Another yelled out, “You are smarter than you look!” Nineheart appeared pleased, then frowned. “What?” he asked. One more girl screamed, “You are the most handsomest out of all the squids!” Nineheart looked irritated. “I am not a squid!” he snapped. No one heard him.
Ephenia yelled, “Wait! If all of us go with him, then it isn’t a date!”
The Vice President scoffed. “It’s better than losing the coupon to one of us! The White Student Teacher belongs to everyone! To the office!” The five Heroes at the door barely avoided the stampede, but followed after it down to the first floor, into the teacher’s office.
In the office, however, everyone was stopped.
Stan made it extremely clear that it was not allowed. “Stop right there. No means no!” he yelled. The WLC fell silent. “There is no dating between students and teachers! Stop harassing the student teacher!” Stan shouted at the group.
The Vice President cried out, “You can’t stop us! We don’t need an ugly teacher telling us what to do!” Stan looked infuriated.
“Do you want a noogie? I will give you all a noogie if you don’t stop this nonsense right now!” he yelled once more. The WLC fell silent again. Stan glared at all of them. “For the last time, no dating! I have had enough out of all of you!”
At the doorway, Nineheart sighed. “So this is how it ends. I expected as much,” he said. There was a slight triumphant smile on his face. The Heroes stared at him, their expression deadpanned.
“You expected diddly squat, Nineheart,” Shade said, Luminous and Aran scowling at Nineheart. Taken aback, Nineheart looked away and hurried off. Aran looked at the slip of paper in her hand. Poking Mercedes, she pointed at it.
“So is this still valid?” she asked. When Mercedes nodded, Aran looked crestfallen. Evan hugged Aran. “Don’t worry Aran! When you are gone, the rest of us will still continue training! Plus, Lily says she can’t keep changing your grades any more! So this will do you good, yeah?”
Aran looked at it. “Fine! I’ll go. But I want to see those piles of boars when I get back!” Everyone agreed. They exchanged secret smiles. A rest day!
Shade patted Aran on her arm. “Don’t kill him, okay? I’m sure you can do it if you tried,” he said. Aran nodded.
The rest of the week passed by uneventfully, with the White Student Teacher being surrounded everywhere he went. The plans they made were not put to use, simply because the White Student Teacher was stuck behind the large crowd. In fact, it was so bad, that the Heroes were able to slip away, not giving the White Student Teacher a chance to talk to them. Lucky for them, not so lucky for him, as Aran would say.
Once or twice, Luminous would be caught, but then the large crowd of girls would charge in, giving him the chance to run. The second week was over, the school life improving somewhat for the Heroes.
Of course, on the first day of the weekend, Aran changed into her uniform. “Okay. Keep working on your training, you all! I’ll go to this dating thing. Ick. I expect large piles when I get back!” Everyone waved to Aran, smiling brightly. Their piles of boars had already been prepared overnight. Today was the day they got to relax while Aran was away. Aran eyed Luminous suspiciously, who was grinning.
“No cheating! I’ll be back!” With that, she set off. Once she was out of sight, everyone split up to return home and relax from the constant training Aran put them through. A rare day indeed.
In school, Aran stared at the gate. It was closed. There was no one in sight. Aran gripped the bars. Much as she wanted to bend them, it would be too obvious. Aran looked around. Oh well, might as well. She couldn’t climb as well as Phantom or Mercedes could, anyway. She gripped the iron bars and pulled them apart, creating a hole for her. She squeezed in through the hole. Turning around, Aran pushed the bars back. Once they looked straight again, Aran turned and entered the school, whistling a tune.
In the office, she threw open the door. “Good morning! I’m here for some dating coupon thing! I got my books and everything!” she yelled. Stan, who was in the school, looked up and glared at Aran.
“What did I say about dating?! NO DATING, ARAN!” he yelled.
Aran covered her ears. “Yeah, I got that. But I needa study or something. And I was told this coupon used to be for an extra session. So that’s why I’m here. Who wants to date that old man with the white hair?” she asked, waving the coupon at him. Stan looked surprised. “I-I see. Well, remember to treat him with respect, young lady. He’s on the second floor, in the second-year classroom. The other girls were supposed to come tomorrow though…” he muttered. Aran turned around and shut the door, walking up the stairs.
In the second-year classroom, Aran threw the door open. Sitting on the teacher’s table, was the White Student Teacher, looking surprised. He had a few stray hairs sticking out of his head. Aran took one look and burst out laughing. “You look ridiculous!” she laughed.
The White Student Teacher blinked at her, before smiling and smoothing down his hair. “You are right, I do look ridiculous,” he said.
Aran walked up to him and shoved the coupon at him. “I’ll redeem this now, thank you. Eugh, Mercedes forced me to, and I don’t wanna waste her present,” she said. With that, Aran took a seat and took out her text books. The White Student Teacher walked over.
“Now, which topics are you unsure of?” he asked. Aran yawned loudly.
“I’m sure of all of them, I think,” she answered.
The White Student Teacher frowned. Going back to his table, he picked up a record sheet. “... Your grades are quite average. Are you sure you know all of these topics?” he asked. Aran nodded. “I know all of them, ‘cept Physics, because it doesn’t make any sense,” she explained.
The White Student Teacher looked surprised. “Well, okay. I do know Physics myself. Why don’t you take out your book and start revising? I’ll be here doing my lesson plans, and if you have any questions, you can ask me,” he instructed. Aran nodded. She opened her Physics textbook, flipping to a random chapter. Then, she put her head down and started to sleep.
Next thing she knew, the White Student Teacher was shaking her awake. “Aran, Aran!” he was calling her. Aran looked up, dazed.
“Huh…? What…?” she mumbled. Rubbing her eyes, she looked at him. “What is it?” she asked. The White Student Teacher was rolling his shoulders, wincing. “For a girl, you are pretty solid,” he complimented her.
Aran grinned sleepily. “Thanks. I train hard,” she said.
The White Student Teacher frowned. “I said study, not to sleep. No wonder your grades are bad. Come on, how about we go through it together?” He took the book, guiding Aran. Aran sighed.
As the White Student Teacher revised the chapters, Aran’s mind was wandering. She hoped the rest were training. She glanced at the clock. They should be halfway done. Her stomach grumbled. Mm… She should be snacking on some boar by now. Curse this stupid coupon!
She jumped and turned to look at the White Student Teacher. He was smiling at her. “Come on now, Aran. We have to pull up those grades. This is your final year, after all. Can you pay attention for today?” he asked gently. The White Student Teacher reached out and touched Aran’s arm. Aran stared at him for a moment. Her eyes went to his hand, then back at him. Hmm. In class, the girls would squeal. What was so weird about his touch?
Aran frowned. “Nah. Too boring. No point learning all this stuff,” she said. The White Student Teacher looked shocked. He was probably used to girls swooning all over him. Aran felt a slight irritation at her thoughts. Men! But something looked really familiar. She tapped her chin, leaning towards him.
“You know, you look a lot like Luminous when he’s surprised,” she noted.
The White Student Teacher’s brow furrowed, perfect creases on his forehead. “I don’t understand… Is that why he avoids me? Because I have the same face?”
Aran chuckled. “Nope! He’s just like that all the time. Luminous avoids you because he’s not comfortable with people like you. Well, he’s not comfortable with Phantom either. And they are old friends,” she explained. The White Student Teacher raised an eyebrow at her. He laughed softly. Aran grinned, leaning back. “I don’t know why, but he rarely laughs like that. Probably because he’s always so grumpy!” The White Student Teacher studied her for a bit.
“You sound very fond of him. Are the entire group of you all old friends?” he prodded.
Aran nodded. “I think so. I can’t remember what happened, I lost my memories. But, yeah, I’m their big sister, after all. I gotta take care of all of them,” Aran sighed sadly. She wished she remembered. But she had to get over the fact she lost her memories. The White Student Teacher took her hand in his.
“...I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure that even before your memories were lost, you were a great sister,” the White Student Teacher said softly. Aran nodded.
“Yep! I sure was,” Aran grinned. The stories she had heard from Mercedes and the rest had been more than enough to know her past self. That, and being told that she never changed. Shade especially, who was now training with her, outside of normal training as well.
Her stomach grumbled again. “Aw snap. I’m hungry,” Aran grumbled. The White Student Teacher coughed.
“How about this, if you go through this book with me and answer all my questions correctly, I’ll order pizza for us to share? How does that sound?” he offered.
Aran brightened up instantly. “Okay! I’ll go through this faster than you can say ‘Maha’!” With that, she took the book and started to flip through it.
She failed to notice a dark annoyed expression flit across the White Student Teacher’s face.
Fifteen minutes later, she put down the book and looked at the White Student Teacher. “I’m ready. Come at me!” she yelled.
The White Student Teacher assumed an expression of surprise, before he smiled. “You are fast. Alright then, let’s start.” He started to give her questions, in which Aran cleared them as quickly as she could. To the White Student Teacher’s surprise, she got all of them correct.
“How? You are a very good learner, but why are your grades this bad?” he asked. Aran was leaning on the table, looking quite worn out. “Mm? Too much trouble, not gonna use it anyway, so I just sleep,” she mumbled. The White Student Teacher’s eyes widened. Aran held up a hand.
“Say, you promised pizza. Where is it?” she asked.
The White Student Teacher blinked at her. He started to laugh suddenly, hard. Aran looked at him in surprise. “Sorry. You are the first person to ever do this to me. Most people would go out of their way to ensure I was satisfied, but you… You are very different,” said the White Student Teacher, struggling to hold in his laughter. “I must say, you are quite interesting, Aran. I would like to know more about you,” the White Student Teacher smiled at her. Aran frowned.
“Get pizza with the extra meat, and then we’ll talk,” ordered Aran. The White Student Teacher nodded, picking up the phone.
When the pizza arrived, Aran ran down the stairs and grabbed the pizza, yelling in excitement as she ran back up, leaving the White Student Teacher to pay for the meal. When he got up, he saw Aran already tucking into the pizza. The White Student Teacher entered the room and took a slice, talking with Aran.
“So, tell me more about yourself and your group of friends.”
“Nothing much to tell you. I don’t remember about myself or my life. And for them, they are the best people I know,” Aran said. She took a big bite out of her pizza slice, chewing and thinking. “Mercedes is really nice, and she’s a good leader, while Evan’s like a kid, he still has a lot to learn." she said. Thinking for a bit, Aran continued, "Phantom’s weird. He doesn’t really show much of his emotions, like he has this mask on all the time, but when he’s just with us, and especially with Luminous, he shows off everything." She paused to take another bite and swallowed, before continuing, “Luminous is this grumpy guy. He’s always grumpy. But he’s a good guy, always helping out with the others. Luminous is easily angered, though. Phantom and Luminous butt heads all the time, it’s fun to watch them fight!” Aran chuckled, remembering the times when she had to step in in order to stop them from fighting. Sometimes the argument was funny. They were a comedy duo, that was for sure.
“Shade… Shade’s different. He knows us like forever, but no one remembers him that well but Mercedes. She remembers a bit about him, but not a heck lot. He’s like the middle guy, who needs to stop every fight. He’s cool. And strong. Pretty great guy,” Aran sighed. The White Student Teacher nodded.
“Interesting. So you are all good friends? How nice.” There was a strange tone in his voice. Aran looked at him, confused. The White Student Teacher wiped his hands on a tissue. “Finish up the rest, then. I do believe you are quite hungry,” he said, smiling at her. Aran stared at him. Something was wrong. She eyed him
“...Yes? Is something wrong?” he asked. Aran shook her head slowly.
“No. Nothing,” she muttered. She took the pizza and shoved it into her mouth. There was a strange feeling. An awkward silence filled the room. Aran finished up, wiping her hands on the tissue. “...Are we done? Can I go now?” she asked. The White Student Teacher was by the window. He looked at her. Nodding slowly, he turned back. Aran got up quietly and packed her bag. Picking it up, she took the pizza box and walked out, tossing it into the dustbin.
Something was very wrong. Something dangerous was approaching. Aran knew it. And that teacher was in the center of it all.
When she returned, the rest of the Heroes found it weird that Aran did not inspect their piles of boars. Instead, she simply retired to her room in the safehouse in Leafre. She spoke to Shade, who relayed to everyone else that Aran was not feeling well. During dinner, they tried to press her for details, but all Aran said was that she and the teacher had a talk. It was very uncharacteristic of Aran, which made the others feel awkward and wary. Aran must have seen something.
He was still in school. It was dark. He was on the roof, staring at the moon. It was round, bright, white. Aran had been gullible, but she had not fallen for his charms. It was a surefire way of making sure that all the girls listened to him, while the guys were to remain aside, unable to do a thing. They were somewhat resistant, but he was sure that once he turned up the ‘charm’ as high as he could, they would fall under the spell. He had been wrong. The first week, he tried it on that forgotten hero. He snatched away his hand before he could even cast the spell. Clever, perhaps he did sense his magic after all. But Aran, why, she didn’t even fall for it twice! What a meathead. His touch would have sent any other person over the edge, sending them into overdrive. But this interesting girl ignored it. However, something must have tipped her off, for she had acted somewhat wary of him earlier. He had better be careful. After all, wouldn’t want the big sister to act out now, would he?
The final week passed by without any events. The White Student Teacher did not approach any of the Heroes. Even during class, he treated them like they were normal students. It was unsettling, but more comfortable for them. Aran and Shade, however, looked very worried.
When it was the final day of the White Student Teacher, Phantom and Mercedes crept down to the first level to spy on the ceremony. For some reason, Aran was among the group, looking quite out of place. She was staring at the White Student Teacher, her expression neutral. Stan was standing in the crowd. “Today is the last day the White Student Teacher is here,” he said. The girls of the WLC were crying, holding out a bouquet of flowers to him. The White Student Teacher took it, smiling. The girls wept harder, cries of ‘We’ll miss you!” and “Don’t go!” could be heard.
Stan looked annoyed. “Can it! Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. And if his grades are good, we might hire him next year, so stop crying!” he said. Phantom and Mercedes looked at each other. There was truth in what Stan said.
There were less Dusties now, nothing that Elwin and Lily cannot handle. Perhaps it was time to stop. Perhaps it was time to leave this world forever. This was a sign, perhaps? They could not stay here forever.
Ephenia made a strangled sound. The White Student Teacher looked at her. “Ephenia, do you have something you want to say to me?” he asked gently. Mercedes gagged a little. Ephenia looked as if she wanted to cry. “Teacher… Let’s not be… strangers…” she said quietly. Mercedes had strained her ears to hear.
Suddenly, the entire group of girls burst into tears, sobbing loudly and grossly. Stan backed away, disgusted. “Gah! What’s wrong with all of you? Why are you crying so loudly all of a sudden?” he yelled.
One student managed to control her sobs long enough to shout, “We love you, Teacher!” before dissolving into tears again. The other girls continued to weep, hugging onto their items. “Please keep in touch, Teacher!” they were all saying. Stan shook his head.
“Right. Whatever. Why don’t you address these students for one last time?” he asked. The White Student Teacher chuckled sadly. Phantom frowned. Something was off. That emotion… it wasn’t real. Phantom knew when Luminous looked sad, and this wasn’t it. He squinted at the White Student Teacher.
The White Student Teacher faced the girls. “I shouldn’t. Thank you, everyone,” he said simply. More cries of “Promise you won’t forget us!” could be heard. The White Student Teacher laughed. “I do. I had so much fun teaching you all,” he promised. One of the girls asked Aran to take a picture for them. The White Student Teacher smiled at her. Aran smiled back politely. Raising the camera, she took a picture, before handing it back to the student.
The White Student Teacher looked at Aran. “Thank you. Are you sure you don’t want to be in the picture?” he asked. Aran shook her head no. The White Student Teacher smiled at her. “I’ll definitely miss you, Aran. You are one of a kind,” he muttered, just loud enough for Aran to hear. Phantom read his lips, passing it onto Mercedes. Both of them looked shocked.
“What a surprise! Aran managed to charm him,” Phantom said. Mercedes shook her head. “I never knew. Aran might be a meathead, but… she did it,” she whispered.
They turned to see Aran frowned. “Mm. Yeah. You are one of a kind as well, Mr. White Student Teacher,” she said, her tone sounding as if she was bored. But her stance told Phantom and Mercedes otherwise. She was ready to fight. But why?
The White Student Teacher chuckled.
Aran turned on her heels and walked away. Mercedes and Phantom hurried up the steps back into the second-year classroom, where they were all the meet. When Aran came up, they remained silent.
Mercedes broke the silence, speaking, “I propose we stop this facade. We are no longer needed. Elwin and Lily can handle things over here.” They all remained silent. Mercedes look at her friends, smiling sadly. “The time for us to go is now. We are getting too attached here. Our place is in the Maple World, where our responsibilities lie. We can no longer shirk them. This had been a fun experience, but it has to end,” she explained.
No one made a sound. Could they really forget the place they had spent months in? Shade looked at Mercedes. “... I second that motion. We can have Lily wipe the m-memories of the students…” His voice fell silent. After all, he was going through the same thing all over again. Evan hugged Shade. They were all sad, longing to stay in this peaceful world. But their place was not to be here.
Mercedes sighed. Times like this, she wished Freud was here. “...All those in favor, say aye. All those not in favor, say nay,” she spoke.
Everyone raised their hands. “Aye,” they spoke in unison.
They were no longer returning to this place.
Just then, Evan’s phone started to ring. He picked it up. “Lily? What is it?”
The Manipulation Master’s voice floated through, “Evan? Is that teacher gone? Finally, peace can return to the school. Anyway, that student wants to see you right now. Are you ready to go?” Evan relayed the message. Everyone nodded gravely. Once Evan gave Lily the confirmation, they got up and left.
Along the way, they walked past their friends.
“Eunwol! There you are. Hey, listen to this,” Eckhart stopped Shade, putting his headphones on him. Shade listened to it, smiling sadly. “... It sounds nice,” he said. Eckhart grinned, taking back his headphones. “I’ll bring it to you tomorrow, okay?” Before Shade could say anything, Eckhart ran off, waving.
At the same time, the other Heroes were stopped by their friends. Oz shoved a piece of bread into Aran’s hands. “Try this! Next time we can eat together again!” she smiled. Aran accepted the bread, smiling and hugging Oz.
Irena pointed at the archery range in the school, smiling. “Are you free now?” When Mercedes shook her head, Irena sighed. “Next time then. We got moving targets installed,” she explained.
Hawkeye was no longer a squid, but a human. “Phantom! Say, could you help me? Teach me some of your flirting skills, dammit!” he cried. Phantom stared at him, before laughing cheerfully. “Of course. No worries, Hawkeye. Besides, all you gotta do is to listen to the master, and you’ll be fine,” he said, puffing his chest out. Hawkeye nodded, grinning away. “Whoops, clubs now. Seeya!” he yelled, waving to Phantom.
Mihile walked up to Evan, holding out a book. “Hey. Not sure if you would like this, but I got this book on Physics. I heard your Physics wasn’t that good. So… I thought this book would help you a lot. There’s these notes inside that would help a lot! You gotta start from your first year!” Evan stared at the book. Taking it, he opened it. Sure enough, there were notes in it. Both in Mihile’s handwriting and typed. He looked up at Mihile, who smiled. “Some extra notes, if you need them,” he explained. With that, he ran off, waving his kendo stick.
Luminous stood there, watching all his friends standing stock still. It was hard. Was it lucky he didn’t really make many connections? Even the thief was affected. He felt a presence next to him. Turning, he saw Nineheart.
“Tough keeping them all in order, yes?” Nineheart muttered. Luminous stared at him, before nodding. “They are. Especially the thief,” he answered. Nineheart turned to him, staring. “... It has been hard on you, tolerating them all, I presume,” he said, turning back to face the group. Luminous chuckled darkly, his red eye alight.
“Maybe. They annoy me a lot, I would have fun taking them down,” he said darkly. When Nineheart looked at him, his red eye was no longer on fire, but instead, a rare, tender expression was on his face. “...I don’t know what I would be doing without them, though,” he muttered. Despite everything, it was them who helped him cope with this dark side. Even during the very first Alliance meeting, they supported him no matter what.
Nineheart sighed. “I wouldn’t approve of such a young child being exposed, though. Take good care of him, and of the rest of them. I’m sure despite what they say, they trust you a lot,” Nineheart simply said before walking off. Luminous stared after him, wondering what he meant. Suspicious.
“...Poofy Pants. Are you coming?” Luminous turned to see Phantom at the doorway. His hat was tipped down to hide his eyes. “Let’s go home, shall we?” he asked. Luminous nodded, walking after the thief, back to the dorm, back to their world, where they stood before the student once more.
It was no longer a hassle. They were submitting this mission, once and for all.
The student looked at them. “How was my world? What do you think of it?”
The Heroes were silent. Evan smiled at the rest of them. Friendship, relationships, those were all important to these people. He answered in their stead, “A wonderful place, I think! Not bad at all!” he said, smiling brightly. The student nodded. Then, the bomb was dropped.
“Well, okay, see… I think I’m ready to go back.”
Everyone stared at the student in shock, who continued to explain, “I hated going to school. I thought anywhere but school was good.” A pause, before the student continued, “But during my time here… well, I realized that I can’t run from reality forever. This world is cool, really it is, but there’s so much for me back home.” The student looked at all of them gratefully.
“Thanks for going to school in my place. This may be late, but I want to set everything right again.”
The Heroes were silent for a moment, before Phantom suddenly burst out laughing. “My my! What a coincidence, really! We were just thinking of leaving that place, you know? I mean, it’s turning into too much of a annoyance! Going back and forth, yep! School is fun and all, but it’s getting in the way of our training. Our sleep schedule too, if we even have any!” Phantom cried.
Hooking an arm around the student, Phantom waved his cane. “Don’t you worry! We already had a discussion and decided to leave this place today! How lucky! There would be no problem whatsoever!” Phantom released the student, turning to Lily. Evan could see his smile was forced, his eyes were dazed. Everyone was affected by this decision.
Lily looked at the other Heroes sadly. “I do hope you all realize we will have to wipe you from all the memories of others,” she explained. Everyone nodded numbly. Lily bowed to them. “... I know this is sudden, but I’m sorry,” she said. Lily straightened up. “The Troublemakers will no longer be your problem. The Mage Guild will take care of the matters from this point on. We are no longer allowed to intervene with this world,” she continued. Everyone continued to nod.
They understood, they knew this was going to happen.
But why did it sting so badly?
Lily smiled sadly. “Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. If you have someone you still want to talk to, I suppose you could give them one final call, yeah?”
Everyone immediately took out their phones, opening it.
Luminous pressed Nineheart’s contact. “This is Nineheart. What is it?” Luminous did not reply. Sitting down on the floor, he listened as Nineheart continued, sounding annoyed. “Excuse me? I was just reading a book while taking a break from studying. Just tell me what you want,” Nineheart demanded. Luminous chuckled.
“I just called, Nineheart, I’m sorry,” he said. Nineheart clicked his tongue, annoyed. “You. Just. Called. You may have too much time on your hands, but I don’t,” he snapped. He sounded annoyed and tired. When Luminous opened his mouth to speak, Nineheart cut him off. “Not a day has gone by without trouble ever since you came to our school. There’s always bound to be an incident that would take days to clear. And even then, those rare days are choked full of trouble as well. Thanks to you, I’ve been busy straightening things out,” he growled. Luminous rolled his eyes, his red eye lighted up. He blamed them for all that?
“Thanks to us? Thanks to us? Nineheart. You were the one who was slaving us around,” Luminous snapped back. Nineheart snorted on the other end. “Slaved you all around? Who did? I did? You must be mistaken, Luminous. Though I can show you what it is really like to be slaved around, how about that?” he retorted.
Luminous frowned. Nineheart was being snappy. As per usual. Why did he even call this man? He regretted it. Silence could be heard over the phone, before Nineheart spoke again.
“Although… Thanks to you, we managed to clear up these problems quickly enough,” he said. Luminous stared at his phone in surprise. Nineheart was thanking him? “...No problem. We just did as you asked. I don’t see how…?” Before Luminous could finish his sentence, Nineheart spoke again, “Don’t belittle yourself. You have much more compared to the rest of us. Sharing that gift to help us, well, it would be bad to not thank you for that. I suppose I will see you in school again. Oh yes. Please report to the office tomorrow morning,” Nineheart said. Luminous hesitated. Should he…?
“Very well. I will… pass on the message. See you tomorrow,” Luminous said. Nineheart replied curtly, “Well then, please excuse me. See you tomorrow,” before he cut off.
Aran had chosen to call Oz. The girl had a black hole of a stomach, and Aran loved to snack with her. She knew a lot about good food, and yet, Aran wished she could have gone on more trips with Oz. It was so very limited. When Oz picked up, Aran chuckled.
“Hewwo? I’m eafing somefing wright now,” she said. Her mouth must be full of food, Aran could imagine it. “Oz! How are you? Just calling to see how you are doing, yep!” Aran replied. She could hear Oz swallowing her food. “Hmm? Oh, I’m fine! It feels like it’s just yesterday that you transferred, huh? How do you like the school so far? Oh, whoops. Telling you this after a couple of months in school, it’s kinda late, huh?”
Aran laughed, shaking her head. “No no, it’s not. School is pretty boring. Did you find anything new to buy food from?”
She could hear Oz excitedly squealing. “Yeah! I found this bakery that just opened across the street. Do you want to come with me? I heard the cakes they serve are really good!” Aran froze. She paused, then smiled sadly. Of course. “Mm. That sounds good,” she replied. Oz’s worried voice came back, “Aran? Is everything okay?” Before Aran could answer, she heard Oz’ shout. “Shoot! My batteries are running out! See you tomorrow, kay?” With that, the phone clicked shut.
Phantom called Hawkeye. How could he not, when it was this person that he bonded the most to? Especially over the matchmakers. When Hawkeye picked up, Phantom grinned. “Hey.”
“What’s up? Oh, it’s you.”
Phantom laughed at his disappointed tone. “What, expecting a girl to call you?” he teased. Hawkeye sputtered back. He continued, “What are you up to?”
Hawkeye laughed, whispering, “Me? I’m just talking to this gi- hey! Where are you going? It’s just a frien- Aw man. You owe me!” Phantom laughed when Hawkeye cried and wailed. Phantom wiped away his tears.
It was fun. “How will I pay you then? By going out with you? Sorry, I don’t swing that way,” he chuckled.
Hawkeye yelled back, “Hey! Neither do I!” After a short silence, Hawkeye asked, “Phantom. Say, you wanna go out and pick up some girls? I can show you just how charming I can be, and you can show me how good your flirting skills are. Are you up for it?” Phantom sighed. An empty promise. He could never fulfil this, probably. Never. Never again.
“...Sure. I’ll show you the skills of the Master Thief Phantom, yeah?” Hawkeye laughed at his words.
“Sure sure, Mr. Thief. Keep calling yourself that. Hey, see you tomorrow, kay?” With that, the phone clicked shut.
Mercedes called Irena. When the phone opened, Irena’s voice came. “Hello? Mercedes? What is it?”
Mercedes paused, and then smiled. “Just calling to see what you were doing,” She could hear the sounds of bows in the background. Was Irena in the middle of training?
“Me? I’m in the middle of club right now. But anyway, you really have to try these moving targets! No one has been able to hit them! I got these on your suggestions last time, remember?”
Mercedes remembered asking Irena to get moving targets. She just didn’t believe Irena would take her seriously. “Sure. I’ll come by next time,” she muttered. Irena must have caught onto her mood. “Mercedes? Is something wrong? You can tell me,” Irena asked, concerned.
Mercedes could feel tears forming. Wiping them away, she laughed lightly. “No no, it’s fine. See you tomorrow,” she quickly said, before clicking the phone shut. She didn’t need Irena to hear her sobbing.
Evan called Mihile. He had been pacing around until Mihile picked up. “Evan? What is it?”
Evan breathed a sigh of relief. Sitting down, he spoke, “Hello! Just wondering what you were up to! Mir says hi!”
A small laugh from Mihile. “Nothing. I’m in club, resting for a little. So how is that Physics book I got you? I used to use it when I was your age, I hope it’s useful,” he said. Evan looked at the book in his hands. It was not useful to him, not in this world.
But he would treasure it all the same. “It’s really good! I understand a lot more now, thank you!” He could imagine Mihile smiling brightly, much more relaxed than his Cygnus Knight counterpart.
“... You know, you should really join the Kendo Club.”
Evan made a sound of confusion, while Mihile continued, “It really builds up your discipline. I’ve seen you with the rest of us and them, you look like you really have the potential. Besides, you aren’t in any clubs right now, are you? Discipline would help you, and your dog can come to! I heard when the masters are disciplined, their dogs would be more obedient and disciplined as well,” he explained.
Evan started to cry. Of course Mihile would ask him to join the club. But he couldn’t. He sobbed into Mir, who wrapped his tail around his master sympathetically. Mihile’s worried voice came through, “Evan? What’s wrong? Evan?” Evan brought the phone closer, hugging Mir.
“No, it’s fine. I just… Yeah. I might join the Kendo Club. I don’t know how to use a sword, though,” Evan said. Mir licked his face, comforting him. Mihile’s breath of relief on the other end showed that Mihile was worried.
“I’ll teach you. And if you need help with Physics, I can help too. Phantom and Luminous are really bad at Physics, Eunwol is… a little weak. So if you have any questions, you can come by. I’ll gladly help,” he offered. Evan nodded weakly, then remembered Mihile couldn’t see him.
“Yeah. I would. Thanks,” he replied. Mihile said goodbye, before clicking the phone shut. Evan buried his head into Mir’s body, sobbing quietly.
Shade was the last to open up his phone. He clicked the one contact that he had been very close with. Eckhart.
When Eckhart picked up, Shade leaned against the wall. “Eunwol? What is it?” Shade smiled at his name. After this call, he would hear it no longer. Instead, it would be used coldly, merely a name that referred to him. Right now it was a friend calling him.
“Nothing. Just… wanted to talk,” he replied.
Eckhart remained silent, then spoke again, “Eunwol. Remember that music CD that I let you listened to earlier? Yeah, I can bring it to school. Let’s listen to it during break, I can lend it to you if you want,” he said. Shade fell silent. He could not cry. It happened once. It hurt. It happens again. This time, it still hurt.
Will he grow numb to the stinging pain in his heart?
“Yes, please. I would love to listen to it once more,” Shade said. Eckhart grunted, “Okay then. I suppose we’ll meet on the rooftop. See you tomorrow, Eunwol.” Shade smiled, replying for the last time, “Good bye,” and the phone clicked shut.
Everyone had made their calls. Everyone was down. Mercedes was almost breaking down, hugging Evan and Mir. Phantom smiled, but it looked forced. Luminous was looking away, his phone in his pocket. Shade was against the wall, the shadow of his fringe hiding his eyes. Lily looked at all of them, shaking her head.
“Did you all finish your last call? Then I’ll get to work. I hope you enjoyed your time together,” Lily said, before transforming into a cat. She looked at all their expressions. “I know it’s hard. But all good things come to an end. There will be more adventures awaiting you in this world,” she said. With that, she walked through the portal. The Heroes followed after Lily, Elwin keeping to their heels. Mir was transformed back into a dog, being hugged by Evan, whose eyes were red.
They went to the school, where everyone was still in it. The Heroes watched as Lily performed her spell, effectively removing their presence from the school and the world. Evan hugged Mir tighter, not wishing to cry again.
Once the spell was done, Elwin patted their legs. “We’ll head back first. When you are ready to come back, please do.” With that, the two animals walked off. At the front of the school yard, the Heroes stood, looking at the school, the building they had spent a couple of months in.
“..So this is the last time,” Luminous began. Mercedes nodded.
“It was fun, wasn’t it? Even for us old people,” she giggled.
Phantom took off his hat, allowing the wind to blow his hair out of place. He held the hat to his chest. “I guess you could say that. We are really way past our prime, especially old buddy Lumi here,” he teased.
Luminous elbowed him, but didn’t retort. Shade watched the school. “Once again, forgotten. I suppose this is my destiny,” he muttered. Evan remained silent, as did Aran, who bowed her head.
This time tomorrow, they would discard their uniforms. They would return to their daily lives. No more school. No more fun. No more entering a brand new world.
Their phones began to ring. Everyone had been surprised. All at the same time, an unknown number. No one should remember them, so who was calling them? They all held out their phones, putting the caller on speaker.
In unison from the phone, the same voice spoke. It was eerie, hearing the same voice from six different phones, combining together. “Are you leaving already? I would like to speak with you once more,” they started.
Evan frowned at it. “W-Who are you?” The speaker chuckled, amused at Evan’s question.
“My identity is not important. What is important is you. I know all about you all. Who you are, what you’re capable of… and where you came from,” they finished.
The Heroes were shocked. Who was this?! Aran yelled at the phone, “Hey! Who the heck do you think you are?” There was no answer, for the speaker ignored Aran.
“Meet at Sunset Yard. We will talk more there.” With that, the phone was shut off. They put away their phones.
“...Let’s go,” Shade made a move. Everyone else nodded and followed after.
Meanwhile, in the school, Nineheart looked out. Once again, the cat caught him. Luckily for him, he had been reviewing the videos he had been saving to confront them with. It broke the spell easily, this time, seeing that Nineheart had broken out of it once before. Now, they were hurrying off. From the looks of it, they were no longer planning to meet him tomorrow. For now, there was the matter of clearing up a certain teacher’s record. He always had his suspicion on the man the moment he stepped in. And he had already found out the evidence. He hoped the tracking device worked. Doctor Freud assured him it could track their phone signals. When Luminous called him, Nineheart had used the machine to remember the signal.
The Heroes stopped at Sunset Yard. Walking in, they equipped their weapons. Now that they were no longer bounded by that promise to restrain, they could go all out. Evan removed the transformation spell on Mir.
It was fortunate for them, for they were ambushed. Dusties appeared out of nowhere, attacking them. They all took out their anger and sadness on the Dusties, wiping the floor with them. Even Luminous was yelling and charging around. The Dusties stream was endless. They continued to fight, until they were confronted with a Troublemaker.
The same one from Orchid’s concert. It had not been defeated.
Evan pointed at it. “No way! It’s back!” he cried. Aran raised Maha, yelling. “Raaaargh!” she screamed, slamming it onto the Troublemaker.
Shade nodded to the rest. “Clear out the Dusties before more come!” he commanded. Aran chased after the Troublemaker, which kept attacking her. Shade joined in, throwing as many punches as possible. Now, with Phantom in the group, the Dusties were being cleared much faster. It wasn’t long before Aran’s and Shade’s attacks were landing each time.
The battle was over too soon. The six of them in ragged clothes, breathing heavily, walked to the park. Near the swing, stood a very familiar man. Aran gritted her teeth, standing in front of everyone, shielding everyone else. “You!” she cried.
The White Student Teacher stood before them, smiling. “Hello. You have kept me waiting. That last one, tsk, it was still weak,” he said simply.
Shade grabbed Aran before she moved. Stepping forward, he spoke, “You… You aren’t just a normal trainee teacher, are you? You don’t belong here.”
The White Student Teacher laughed, shaking his head. “And you aren’t just a normal student. Honestly, you took the words right out of my mouth!” he replied. Shade frowned.
The White Student Teacher continued, smiling away, “You speak to animals and hunt down monsters during breaks and after school. No student from this world would do that,” he said, shaking his head. Aran growled from behind Shade. “Just who the hell are you, huh?” Luminous shouted from his position. He was trembling as he stood, glaring at the man before them.
The White Student Teacher laughed. “Me? I’m just a trainee teacher,” he replied.
Luminous flared up. Before anyone could stop him, he charged forward. “Enough with your lies!” he yelled, pointing his shining rod at the White Student Teacher. “Spectral Light!”
The white and gold motif formed, and a large light beam appeared, shooting straight for the White Student Teacher. The White Student Teacher dodged easily, laughing. “No. I really was a trainee teacher for the past few weeks. Just like how you all have been students for a while, no?” he replied.
Aran pushed past Shade, charging for the White Trainee Teacher. “Come back here, coward! Tell us who you really are right now!” she roared, swinging Maha.
The White Student Teacher jumped just out of reach, sighing. “I can’t give away all my secrets, can I? Where’s the fun in that?” He was now standing on top of the swing. He chuckled to himself. “I must say, thanks to all of you, I have gained a substantial amount of material. I learnt all about your world, your powers, and the strange occurrences in the city,” the man said, smiling down at them.
“You came in from a different world to take care of some strange phenomenon, am I right? Do you really think this is all a coincidence?” he asked. Mercedes glared at him.
Pointing her bowguns at him, she snapped, “Tell us! Lily should have wiped any memory of us from all those who interacted with us!” The man laughed harder.
“Really? You still do not believe me? A locked door does not open by itself. Your friend opened the door, but someone had to unlock it for him,” he explained. Phantom froze, thinking. If what he remembered from the magic books was correct, all those books about portals to different worlds, an unproven theory....
“You helped Elwin open the the portal,” Phantom whispered, horrified. Everyone turned to him in shock. The White Student Teacher laughed.
“I’m glad someone figured it out. We will meet again soon. Here is a parting gift.” With that, he vanished, his laughter left behind. Evan looked around wildly.
They were surrounded by Troublemakers. There were six of them.
Mercedes faced one that had a golden dented crown perched on its head, its hands long and trailing on the floor. A ruined cape rested on its back. Mercedes could hear the White Student Teacher’s voice: “The once mighty ruler now fallen, the Ruined Royal Troublemaker,” it whispered.
Aran turned to face one that had axes for hands, its eyes blindfolded. Around its neck were chains, choking it. It roared, waving its arms around Aran. She could hear the White Student Teacher’s voice as well. “The one who forgets, the Forgetful Troublemaker,” it whispered.
Phantom whirled around to see a Troublemaker, wearing a ruined hat. The gem was bright red, and around its neck, hung a poor imitation of the Skaia. It wore a mask, half crying half smiling. Its hands were chained behind its back, but it could still move. “The one who disguises revenge as justice, the Vengeful Troublemaker,” the voice whispered again.
Luminous roared when the White Student Teacher disappeared. A black light appeared in front of him, forming a Troublemaker, wearing a mask both black and white. Black chains surrounded the Troublemaker, while a white halo rested upon the head of the Troublemaker. The halo looked half destroyed, while the white half of the mask was broken. “Which is black, which is right? The one who only seeks the light, only to fall down to the dark, the Prideful Troublemaker.”
Evan gritted his teeth, jumping back slightly when it appeared. It wore the Dragon Headband, and it wore a translucent mask over its face. A bright red bandana was around its neck. Its hands were long cloths, as Evan could see when it roared. “The naive one, so easily tricked, so easily known. The Gullible Troublemaker.”
Shade stared ahead, at the Troublemaker before him. Short, fluffy light pink hair, curling near the bottom, it’s mask was half broken. Around the body were gold chains, as well as large blue balls floating around it. “My, my. It must be painful to be ignored, no? The one who is always left behind, the Forgotten Troublemaker.”
They were facing the Troublemakers of their own. Aran looked around, and then focused on her own. “Everyone! Take your own Troublemaker! Charge!” she shouted. With that, she swung Maha. Everyone else charged. Mercedes avoided the large arms swinging at her, grazing her if she had timed her jumps properly. It knew her weakness, using them to its advantage. Mercedes found herself dodging more than she could attack. She could land the hits, however, and managed to whittle its health down.
Aran was faring badly. The Troublemaker she faced was strong, defending itself from the power of Maha. Even when Aran was buffed, she could not get past the defense of the Troublemaker. Each and every move she pulled was parried, blocked or dodged. Aran could not land a single hit.
Phantom had been enraged. How dare this Troublemaker mock him! He did this to protect the world Aria loved! He charged forward, slamming into the Troublemaker. He quickly jumped back, barely dodging the cries of the Troublemaker. Those stung. He quickly buffed himself with the stolen skills, before charging right back in, keeping a safe distance away from the Troublemaker, who could move just as fast as he did. Phantom thanked Rhinne he was one of the fastest people in the world, allowing him to close in fast on the Troublemaker, before jumping back and dodging the attack.
Luminous was literally always on Eclipse. He was furious the White Student Teacher escaped, and the fact that the Troublemaker was making fun of his situation made his mood worse. The dark chains kept rising, slamming into the Troublemaker. It seemed alright, until the Troublemaker shot him with a reflect. Luminous cursed as he fell back. It hurt! The chains around it shot out towards Luminous, who took the attack head on. It threw him some distance away. Luminous snarled. He could not get Equilibrium fast enough. Once he got Equilibrium, he could just kill this thing!
Evan was doing very badly. Mir was hitting the Troublemaker the best he could, but the Troublemaker took the chance to hit him equally hard. It didn’t help that Evan could not defend himself, and could only rely on Mir to attack. Evan wanted to cry. Each time Mir managed to attack, the Troublemaker would return it, making it hard for Mir to move around. Could he really take this Troublemaker on? Why wasn’t he more powerful? Evan’s eyes stung. He kept being blinded as well, so Mir could not hit very well as Evan was unable to aim. It sucked.
Shade defended himself from the Troublemaker. Surprisingly, this was a long ranger Troublemaker. The balls by its side were hurled at him. Even when Shade managed to get close enough, the Troublemaker would suddenly reach up and slammed a sleeve into his face, tossing him away. Shade did not have the time to launch Spirit Trap, and he did not have enough time to use Death Mark either. He had to slowly whittle down the energy.
It wasn’t long before the Heroes started to struggle. Each and every one of the Troublemakers were created to target their weakness. They were falling back. Each time they tried to take on one Troublemaker, the others would come in as well, turning it back to a 1-on-1 fight. And when they did change Troublemaker, they would change as well, so everyone was back to square one. Aran and Evan were suffering the worst. Aran was low on mana, while Evan was still blinded, which did not help at all. The Heroes were worn out, tired. Their potions were running out. Luminous was still going strong, but he too was getting tired.
“Dammit! Isn’t there some way we can defeat these damn things?!” he yelled.
Phantom slammed into his back, dropping to the ground. Getting up, he stood back to back with Luminous. “I don’t think so, Lumibutt. These things are really strong,” he hissed. Shade was next, walking backwards into the circle.
“...This… They were summoned with the thought of defeating us. These… These are our own Troublemakers,” he muttered. Aran and Evan were blown back to the circle. Evan got up, wounds all over his body. “I can’t do this!” he wailed. “I can barely attack!” Aran got up, shaking herself.
“Pretty darn tough. A challenge, after a long time!” Aran exclaimed. However, it was clear she was about to fall, judging from how she was trembling.
Mercedes landed near the group, shooting at her Troublemaker. “No good. We just need an opening,” she called out.
However, now that they were all in a circle, the Troublemakers stopped attacking. Shade frowned. What was going on?
Suddenly, there was a buildup of energy. A moment too late, they tried to dodge. A large flash of black light, and a beam of dark energy slammed into the Heroes, sapping their strength. The Heroes let out cries of anger and hurt, before dropping to the floor.
They quickly downed as many health potions as possible. Shade pushed himself up. “W-We can’t stop. We have to defeat them… or else…” he growled. The Heroes slowly stood back up. Too weak. Too tired. They were reminded of the loss of their original powers. Mercedes gritted her teeth.
“We will never stop!” she yelled. Aran raised Maha along. “We will continue till our last breath!” she shouted. She swung Maha, ready to slam it into the Troublemaker.
It swung back, catching Aran in the stomach.
“Aran!” the Heroes all cried out in unison. Their warrior, the polearm wielder gagged, for a split second, blood came out of her mouth. Then she was flung back to the group. Aran forced herself up, coughing blood. She used Maha as support, pushing herself up. She stumbled forward. “We cannot stop. Why are all of you stopping?!” She yelled back. Phantom slammed his cane on the floor, healing Aran.
“Fool! You were injured!” Luminous yelled, using Ray of Redemption to heal everyone, while damage the Troublemakers.
Was this really the end? Their potions would run out soon. Evan was whimpering. He wasn’t strong enough. If only he was strong like his predecessor… Aran coughed again, holding Maha up. She… She couldn’t protect anyone, she broke her promise as the big sister of everyone. She was doing her past self a disservice. It was hard.
They wouldn’t last long enough to fight.
The bushes rustled. The Heroes paid it no mind, eyeing the Troublemakers. Then, out of nowhere, Evan saw Mihile jump up from behind the Troublemaker. He slammed his kendo stick onto the head of the Troublemaker. It grabbed him and tossed him to the group. He landed on the ground with a cry.
Oz’s screams could be heard. Stones were being tossed at the Troublemakers. “Stay away from them, you big darn bullies! Stay away!” she screamed.
Arrows struck the Troublemaker in front of Mercedes in the head. “Get away from them! Can’t you see they are too weak to continue?!” Irena yelled. Raising her bow, she shot more arrows.
“Tada! Hawkeye to the rescue!” Hawkeye burst out of the bushes, slamming into the Troublemaker. He kicked it away, grinning. “Aha! Got y- ARGH!” the Troublemaker screamed, sending Hawkeye flying. He landed on Phantom, who caught him.
Shade turned from the crowd to see Eckhart wrap his arms around the Troublemaker, trying to bring it to the ground. When it didn’t work, he threw a punch at it. The Troublemaker ignored it, for the sole reason it was attacking Shade. “...Pay attention to me, dammit! Stop hitting him! I’m the one in the Fight Club!” he snarled.
“I don’t take kindly to those who harm our students. So step away before this gets serious,” Nineheart stepped out of the bushes. In his hand was a slingshot. He loaded stones on it, aiming at the Troublemaker. He let go of the projectile, striking the Troublemaker in the head.
The Heroes were shocked. Despite the little damage the students dealt, they were fighting. For them. Shade felt tears well up in his eyes.
Chains went straight for Nineheart, who was frozen to the spot. Luminous teleported in front of Nineheart, taking full brunt of the attack. He coughed, dropping to the ground.
“What the heck are all of you doing here?!” he snarled. Nineheart bent down, pulling him to the side. “Rescuing you, that’s what,” he said simply. Luminous pushed him away, getting up.
“We don’t need it! Get away from here while you can!” he yelled.
Mihile pushed himself up, pointing his kendo stick at the Troublemaker. “No. We will not sit by when our friends are getting hurt! I will not look away when anyone gets hurt!”
Eckhart was flung away, landing on the ground. He got up, spitting on the floor. “No one needs to fight. Nineheart showed us. You had always been fighting for us,” he explained.
Mercedes shook her head. “How did you all bypass Lily’s spell?” she whispered.
Irena smiled at her. “What did they say about us humans? We are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. Nineheart broke the spell, that’s what he told us. It’s bad to forget about your friends, right?”
Oz nodded vigorously. “Yep! And we all made promises! So don’t you dare forget about them!”
The Troublemakers suddenly attacked their new assailants. Hawkeye was attacked out of nowhere, the Troublemaker screaming and slamming him against the tree. Nineheart was slammed against the tree, wrapped by chains, slowly tightening. Nineheart screamed in pain. Luminous ran forward, trying to remove the chains. Eckhart was punched in the face, into the ground. Successive punches were thrown at him as he defended himself. Shade ran up, hitting the Troublemaker as hard as he could, but to no avail. Irena was suddenly grabbed and slammed against the ground as well. Irena screamed, while the Troublemaker’s arms suddenly formed a giant hammer, bringing it down onto Irena. Irena would have been crushed had it not been for Mercedes, shooting the arm away.
The Forgetful Troublemaker suddenly charged at Oz. It swung its axe hand at Oz, who screamed. Aran yelled out, charging forward. Using Maha, she hooked onto the hand, which swung her forward. She released her grip on Maha, reaching out to hug Oz.
The axe sliced deep into Aran’s stomach. Aran screamed in rage. “Shoot…” she hissed.
Oz stared at her bloody hands, at Aran in horror. “No… No, Aran! We can save you! Aran!” Aran grinned at her, smiling.
“Don’t worry. Get out of here!” she said, pushing herself into a sitting position. Blood was pooling all around her. She reached up and grabbed Maha on the floor, using Maha as a crutch.
Idiot Master. Your wounds are great! Get healed, dummy!
“Yeah, yeah, Maha. I got it,” Aran said. Shoot. She was out of health potions. Her health was in the red. Aran glared at the Troublemaker. She could barely move, let alone attack. How was she going to save Oz?
Evan could only watch as his friends got pummeled. They were injured. Pain.
He wanted to help. But he was no use.
Another cry of pain, and Evan turned to see Mihile being tossed back. He was bleeding from his head. He got up, staggering. “Mihile! Stop, you are going to die!” Evan cried. Mihile shook his head, refusing to face Evan.
“It’s okay Evan… I’ll protect you… so get out of here! You are too young for this!” he ordered. Evan froze. Too young? He looked at Mihile, who was only what, seventeen? Evan was twelve, nearing thirteen. Too young? He stared at Mihile.
Water was dripping down his chin.
Mihile was crying. Out of pain, out of fear, or just plain sad, he didn’t know. Evan looked around. Eckhart was crying as well, despite Shade’s best efforts. Hawkeye was trembling, his pants wet, but yet, he was helping Phantom to the best of his ability, despite being knocked around. Irena was frozen, as Mercedes was attacking, fearful. Oz was wailing loudly, begging Aran to stop. Nineheart was choking, while Luminous tried desperately to remove the chains.
And he looked back at Mihile, who was fighting for him.
He needed to get stronger. Stronger! Evan would not let Mihile fight for him!
Mir suddenly felt power surging through him.
“M-Master! What is going on?” he stared at Evan, who looked determined. He ran forward yelling, pushing Mihile out of the way as an attack came. He was struck, flung back. But something else was at work.
Evan got back up, glaring at the Troublemaker. “You will never again hurt my friends! Never!” he screamed.
Bright light swarmed around Evan. It surrounded him and Mir. Mir roared, flapping his wings. Evan felt all the spells he knew, all the spells he learnt with Mir, being replaced. A whole new assortment of spells flew in, while the light healed him, replenishing his mana. A large wave blew back the Troublemakers. Nineheart was released, coughing and taking in deep gulps of air. Aran looked at Evan. Smiling, she pushed herself steady. She coughed. Her health was really low. She fell back down, gritting her teeth. Dammit… she needed to get stronger. She couldn’t…
She needed to protect Oz. Protect the students. Protect her friends. She promised.
Just before darkness overwhelmed her, Aran could make out light, swarming around her. It healed her wounds. Her old spells removed, replaced, powered up. Aran felt power flowing right through her. She could feel Maha’s strength, his presence stronger than ever. Yet another shock wave was sent out, this time, healing the Heroes slightly.
Aran jumped right back up, grinning. “Now we are talking. Everyone! Gather them up!” she commanded. The Heroes nodded.
Evan waved his wand. “Circle of Mana!” He summoned up a circle, which shot balls of mana at the Troublemaker. It roared, attempting to blind Evan. Evan moved out of the way, before pointing the wand at the Troublemaker. “Dragon Dive! Dive of Thunder!” he cried. Mir rushed forward, flying up and dropping down onto the Troublemaker. Evan shot out balls of lighting at the Troublemaker. The Troublemaker roared, and blinded Evan. His balls missed, but Mir was unaffected. He slammed into the Troublemaker over and over again, sending out shockwaves to hit him. Evan grinned when he heard Mir. “Keep it going Mir!” he cried. He felt around and grabbed Mihile’s arm, pulling him away into the bushes.
“Stay here!” he said. The others took the cue from Evan, grabbing the nearest student. Each of the students were quickly taken to the bushes, while the others started to attack with harder force. Evan could switch targets, allowing Mir to attack multiple targets at the same time. It pushed the Troublemakers back once more. Aran dashed to behind the Troublemakers.
“Let’s try this! Final Charge!” she yelled, swinging forward to slammed into the Troublemaker, freezing it in the middle. The Heroes were making a comeback. While Evan and Mir were keeping the aggro of the Troublemakers, the others could go from behind and launch their attacks. Once they were gathered in the middle. Shade jumped into the air. “Spirit Trap!” he yelled, summoning forth the orange spirits again. The Troublemakers, trapped, were vulnerable. Aran cracked her knuckles. “A little payback, why not?” she cocked her head, an evil grin on her face.
The Troublemakers looked extremely fearful.
All the Heroes jumped onto the pile of Troublemakers, landing as many hits as possible. One by one, the Troublemakers were defeated. When they were all gone, the Heroes were left standing. Panting, they grinned at one another. Aran held up Maha. “We did it!” The Heroes cheered alongside her. Evan turned and ran over to Mihile.
“I’m sorry… You must have been very scared,” he said. Mihile wiped away his tears, smiling. “Very. I guess you didn’t need our help after all, huh?” he said ruefully.
Evan shook his head, hugging Mihile. “We needed you!” When Mihile grunted in pain, Evan immediately detached himself and started to dig in his pocket. “Uh, I have white potions, would you take it?” Evan held up the bottle.
Nineheart took it gratefully. “Thank you.” Everyone drank the potion, gagging after they had it.
“Yuck! This tastes disgusting!” Hawkeye exclaimed. Mihile was frozen solid, until Eckhart shook him awake.
Oz was looking at her injuries. “They are all gone! This is like some sort of magic miracle cure, only tasting really disgusting!” she cried. The Heroes frowned.
Shade opened the bottle, sniffing it. “It isn’t disgusting? We drink this all the time when we were weaker,” he explained. The students looked horrified.
Suddenly, a scream could be heard. All the Heroes turned to see one last Troublemaker. Luminous groaned. “Next time, we stroke each other’s ego when we are sure we are all done fighting,” he grumbled.
The Squid Troublemaker had appeared, and in its hand it held Cygnus.
Nineheart dashed forward. “Shoot! Cygnus!” he yelled. The Troublemaker slapped him away.
Nineheart yelled in pain, landing on Aran, who caught him. She quickly placed him with his friends. It started to shoot squid missiles at the Heroes. They dodged out of the way, while the students hid in the grass. Aran gritted her teeth.
“Alright! Someone get me as close as possible to the Troublemaker! I’ll cut those hands right off!”
Evan nodded. Running forward, he pointed to the Troublemaker. “Dragon Swift! Swift of Wind!” he yelled. Mir rushed forward, striking the Troublemaker. He swerved, turning back around and flying back, attacking once more. He continued the action, while Evan was firing sharp wind blades at the Troublemaker. It struck the Troublemaker, which flailed.
Cygnus screamed harder, crying for someone to save her. Shade took the other side, making the Troublemaker moving back and forth. He used Shockwave Punch, in fear of actually hitting Cygnus. Aran rushed from behind, raising Maha, “Boost End - Hunter’s Targetting!” she yelled, swinging Maha and cleaving the hand of the Troublemaker away.
The hand released Cygnus, who screamed as she fell. Phantom teleported below her, catching the small girl, before teleporting back. Once that was done, Luminous raised his shining rod. He was in Equilibrium mode, thanks to the earlier Troublemakers. Mercedes nodded to him, raising her bowguns.
“Circle of Mana!”
When all four attacks connected, it destroyed the Troublemaker. It flailed for a bit, before swirling into the air and disappearing. The Heroes stood still, looking around for another Troublemaker. When there was no more signs of any trouble, they all cheered. Nineheart hugged Cygnus, apologizing profusely for causing her to be in danger. Cygnus patted Nineheart, before detaching herself. The other students rushed forward, embracing the young girl.
Aran looked at them, smiling. “Well. It’s nice to be remembered,” she muttered. Shade agreed, watching the group with fond eyes.
Luminous was staring at the empty space where the Troublemaker was. He turned to Mercedes. “He summoned those Troublemakers on purpose,” he muttered.
Mercedes frowned. “How was he even able to do such a thing? This is getting suspicious. Come on, let’s head back,” she said. Luminous nodded. Mercedes walked up to Aran, whispering in her ear. Aran nodded. While the students were rejoicing over the battle, the Heroes snuck away. Before they could get far though, Nineheart called out to them.
“Hey! Transfer Students! Or should I call you Heroes instead? Why would you do all this?” Nineheart called. They stopped. Turning around, they all grinned back.
“Mm, we are both, so I suppose you could call us the same thing,” Mercedes said.
“Why we do this? Psh, we do it because that’s our mission!” Aran placed a fist on her chest, grinning.
“Saving not one world, but two? A tall order, but it will be done. After all, you all want to live in peace, right?” Phantom tilted his hat, smirking.
“Ignore that thief. We made magic enter this world, so leave the fighting to us. Don’t bother helping, it will only get you killed,” Luminous declared, slapping Phantom’s hands away as the thief came over to poke him. The secret was out, they didn’t care anymore.
“It’s the right thing to do! We fight for our world and yours, and we won’t let you all suffer!” Evan called out, while Mir roared in approval.
Shade smiled at his team. “Because we want to. We fight because we want to. But thanks to you all, we are able to stand up straight and fight harder than ever. We do this because we want to protect you,” he said. The students were frozen. Mercedes laughed at their faces. “Besides, we are all older than we look! Leave the fighting to the adults, kay?” she teased. Hawkeye’s face turned red, and he looked away.
Mihile scrambled up, running forward. “T-Then…” he looked at Evan. Evan grinned cheekily. “I’m twelve, I’m almost thirteen! Mir is four years old!” Mihile gaped at Evan, who laughed. Aran reached up and ruffled Mihile’s head. “Don’t belittle this kid, he’s way stronger than you! Besides, this old lady is still young at heart!” she said. Mihile escaped from Aran’s grasp, adjusting his hair. Nineheart got up, walking forward. His expression was unreadable.
“But… I trust you will appear in school tomorrow?” he asked, almost hopeful. The Heroes exchanged looks.
“Well, there is that guy we gotta catch,” Aran said.
“And there are more Troublemakers out there…” Evan continued.
“I suppose… we can try,” Shade finished with a grin. Nineheart looked relieved. The Heroes waved, before booking it out of there. They had to go back and report! They yelled their goodbyes to the students, rushing back to the dorm.
They entered the portal to see Grendel. Mercedes quickly filled Grendel in on what happened. Grendel remained silent, before speaking again, “I see. Based on what he said, the dark magic leaked into the world was, perhaps done by design, not accident,” he said. He shook his head, sighing deeply. “There are shared elements between parallel worlds. Those you met may face a similar evil in their world, or a calamity that the Maple World has encountered would occur,” he explained.
Lily looked uncomfortable. “But we do not have the right to intervene any more,” she pointed out. Grendel fell silent.
Elwin frowned, walking up to Grendel. “Master? Are you sleeping?”
Grendel suddenly moved, smacking Elwin on the head with his staff. “I was lost in thought, you rascal!” he cried. Elwin fell to the ground, his hands on his head, whimpering. He turned to the Heroes.
“I will take this into consideration. If evil from our world threaten another, perhaps it is our responsibility to stop it,” he concluded. Lily protested, but Grendel shushed her up. “I’m sure it will work out. After all, won’t a return trip do them good? Look at their faces!” Lily turned to see all the Heroes brightening up. Evan was hugging Mir, happily dancing. Luminous had a small smile on his face. while Shade had a happy aura. Phantom was looking up at the ceiling, a big goofy grin on his face, while Aran and Mercedes were hugging and squealing.
Lily sighed. “But we already removed the memories of them all in the school!” she cried.
Grendel laughed. “What, you can’t put them back? What sort of magician are you?" he snorted, smiling at Lily's mortified look. " Besides, those students have already regained their memories.” He smiled at the Heroes.
“It’s quite funny. They have a villain over there, so why not send in a hero to match? But to send in all of those who have been known as ‘Heroes’ since the first war… What a coincidence!” Grendel chuckled. The Heroes laughed with him, before they returned home to rest. A tiring day, but each of them felt fulfilled, happy and excited.
The next day, Officer Helena was in the school, reporting to Nineheart and Cygnus. “Just let us know if something happens in the school,” she said.
Nineheart shook his head. “Don’t worry about us. We have the perfect team looking out for us. A group of students,” he said. Helena looked confused. Cygnus giggled brightly.
There was knocking on the door. Cygnus smiled. “Welcome back, Heroes!” she called out. The door opened to reveal the Heroes, decked out in proper gear, at the doorway.
“We are back!”
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