"...And you still have the audacity to use your magic, despite previous warnings! And to not consider your surroundings, to simply use them like that, do you think that Lily can wipe everything? Are you going to rely on Lily to mop up your mistakes? You are Heroes, for Transcendents' sake! No matter how irresponsible you may be here in the Maple World, I don't care for whatever reason, but you all are much more intelligent than an average Adventurer! I expected better from all of you, to at least exercise caution and not to run into battle without a thought for any unexpected spectators and casualties. If that child had awoken in the middle of the battle, how would you explain his injuries?" Grendel's blood pressure skyrocketed through the roof.
They got a very harsh scolding from Grendel, to say the least. But when Elwin heard that there were monsters in the other world, he fell quiet.
“Maybe the evil energy from here has entered and manifested in the other dimension. Perhaps it would be better if you stay there for a while and collect the energy. We can’t close the barrier unless all the energy has been removed.” With that, the Heroes were told to return to the same area at the same time tomorrow. Yawning, the Heroes made their way back to their respective homes.
None of the Heroes had a habit of being late, other than Phantom, who arrived just on the dot. Already dressed in their school uniform, of which Phantom had switched his for silk, they entered the closet. Six Heroes made their way out of the dorm, smelling the scent of food all round.
“I wonder what’s so good here.” Aran sniffed the air, her mouth watering. Mercedes sighed and patted Aran on the back.
“Come on now, we have full health. Let’s hurry to school, we do not want to be late,” she chided. They hurried to school, ignoring the scent of eggs and bacon. The moment they stepped outside, the same ringtone came again. Mercedes immediately picked up her phone, staring at the icon.
“Hello, Cygnus. What is it?” She glanced at the rest, gesturing them to come closer. “Oh? Yes, they all are. Mhmm, alright. We will see you there.” She closed the phone and turned to her friends.
“Cygnus asked us to meet her in her office on the first floor. She wants to give us a tour around later after school. We mustn’t keep her waiting.” The rest nodded, turning to the road. They hurried across the bridge and arrived in school. They made their way to the office at the back of the first floor.
Evan knocked on the door, peeking in. Cygnus was sitting in the room. She smiled and beckoned them in. The Heroes strode in, and hesitated.
Evan smiled shyly at Cygnus. “E- Cygnus, what is it? Where’s the p-principal?”
Cygnus shook her head. “I take care of the administrative matters here in school, as part of a job experience. I guess you could say I’m the principal here. But please, I am also a student here, so don’t treat me otherwise,” she laughed, that same melodious laugh that the Heroes were familiar with. “Oh yes, here. As transfer students, I require you to fill out a form and sign it.”
She picked up a small stack of papers on the table and distributed them out. The Heroes looked at the forms, frowning. Huh. Their names were written on it, and a couple of lines. Above the lines it asked them to fill in their motto before signing it. They scratched their head, before each Hero took a pen from the desk and started to scribble on it.
Mercedes paused, before scribbling down her motto. “To never give up in the face of danger, despite the odds.”
Evan frowned and immediately wrote, “To work harder and be worthy of succeeding the previous Dragon Master person of my position.”
Aran scribbled down something, but to Cygnus, it was… rather illegible. She couldn’t read a single word. But Aran insisted her motto was there, so Cygnus accepted it nonetheless.
Shade had merely scribbled down three words before signing it. “Forget me not,” It was written in his neat handwriting. Cygnus wondered what had happened in Shade’s past, but chose not to press on it.
Phantom had written down, in his curly handwriting, “The world she believed in isn’t dead yet.” He presented it to Cygnus with a bow, smiling slightly. Cygnus smiled back, though she wondered, why such strange wording?
Luminous had returned her a blank piece of paper. Staring at it, she shook her head. Luminous scowled and scratched his head, unsure of what to write. Finally, he scribbled down something after much thought. It read: “What do you want me to say?” Much thought indeed.
Cygnus didn’t want to ask if they were serious, so she kept the papers and smiled. The Heroes smiled back. Cygnus waved a hand to the door, still smiling. “The head teacher is also looking for you. Please, proceed to the staff room next door. And do have a good day!” Her welcoming hospitality not faltering, she mused, “I wonder.. which one of you is the Fateful…” and she paused, knowing the ‘transfer students’ were looking at her. “Never mind!”
And so they exited the room, a little weirded out by her words. They entered the staff room only to meet up with… Stan. It was almost as if he was the Chief they knew, always mad about something. Well, he certainly was mad at something. Them.
"I heard you were fighting yesterday, Evan. What makes you think you can do that in a school like this? You aren't above the law, and you most certainly are not above anyone else here! To think, to pick a fight on the first day of school, are you trying to ask for a suspension? Or are you trying to prove something? That you are better than the school? Now you stay quiet, but you are smiling underneath that face, aren't you! To think a first year could do this, it is disgraceful. And the rest of you, are trying to be idiots?! Goading him on to fight, and even insulting the other party! Not to mention the fact that you are seniors! Setting a bad example for Evan, what do you think you are doing?! Why, you ought to be ashamed, being such bad role models for the other students! Irresponsible! Are you trying to get us to explode in anger and expel you?" The scolding went on and on and on.
They got a scolding of a lifetime, thanks to him being tipped off about their lightshow the day previous. Wincing as he yelled at them, the Heroes sighed. Fighting was what they did. Evan appeared to be on the verge of crying, but clung to Mir. After he was done, Stan sighed.
“Now, I don’t know why, but I was requested to leave your punishment to the Student Council President. You do know him, right? Here’s his number. One of you, call him now.”
They stared at the number written on the paper, shivering under Stan’s stare. Aran picked up her phone and called the number, while the others inputted it in. Aran heard the phone click, but before she could say a word, she heard two words.
It was cut off. Sputtering, she stared at the phone. “Hey! He cut off on me! I didn’t say a word!”
Mercedes frowned, a little irritated. “Try again.” Aran mumbled something in irritation and pressed the call button again.
"I already said I'm not interested.”
But before he hung up again, Aran butted in. “Don’t you dare hang up on me, Student Council President! Ch - I mean, Stan made us call you.”
“Oh,” came the placid reply. “Hmm? Is this one of the Transfer Students' number? I thought you were a phone salesman."
"Yeah, it's Aran. Stan said you wanted to see us?"
"Mr. Stan to you, Aran. Meet me in the reading room on the second floor. I don't like to be kept waiting."
The phone was clicked shut, while Aran stared at the others. "We gotta go see Nineheart." The Heroes gulped down their building dread, before they slid of the staff room, wondering what sort of punishment they were in for. They entered the reading room to see Nineheart reading a book.
Nineheart looked up and snapped the book in his hands shut. "So glad you are finally here. Now, I've heard of your offences, fighting in school grounds and making a disturbance of yourself.” With the same serenely annoyed tone they were so used to hearing from the Advisor himself. “So here is your punishment. Recently, the school has been rather dirty, with dust clouds everywhere. Go clean the school. I'll be watching you. All of you. Even though the 5 of you did not participate in the fight, you are still punished for even cheering Evan on." With that, Nineheart dismissed them.
Aran frowned. Cheering on?
"Some people must be blind if we are 'cheering Evan' on. Yeesh, not even a lighter sentence." The polearm-wielding warrior grumbled, and the others seemed to nod in agreement.
"Cleaning the school? Why do we have to do it?" Phantom rolled his eyes, grimacing. “Yuck. The school has janitors. Yuck. Let them do the cleaning instead. Yuck.”
Luminous shook his head. "Deal with it, thief. Maybe this would teach you some humility." He smirked, deflecting all of Phantom’s glares. Just as they were about to fight yet again, Shade came between them.
"Enough. We don't need a bigger mess and a larger grave to pull ourselves out from." Shade chided the two, and they huffed at each other. Evan laughed nervously, before heading to the giant pile of dust in the middle of the corridor. He bent down to clean it when a bunch of boys appeared out of nowhere.
"Let us clean it,” said one, pulling out a broom.
"But, Nineheart says to...." Evan started, only to be cut off again.
"Don't worry. We'll take care of it. Just don't hurt us,” said the other, getting to work sweeping the dust away then ran away as soon as they were done. Turning to the others behind him, he tilted his head in confusion. The rest simply shrugged.
“...Let’s move on.” Shade gestured towards the next level, and they hurried along. Evan spotted another bit of dust, running forward to clean it. The others followed suit. But they were stopped when a bunch of girls appeared out of nowhere. Again.
“We’ll clean it for you.” One girl said, as she started to clean.
“So you are the Fateful Transfer Student? Kuhuhuhu, don’t you forget about me,” Another girl smiled slyly, before the girls disappeared. Huh? Evan looked even more confused, while the rest were trying to make sense of the phenomenon.
“Phantom, did you ask them to help us out?” Luminous’ suspicions were immediately on the thief, who shook his head.
“No way! I wouldn’t subject such pretty girls to cleaning up after me, unless they are my maids.”
“Did you hire them as your maids?”
“Wh-Why you!” Mercedes parted the two incensed idiots, before sighing. Aran shook her head, and moved to the rooftop. There, they saw Shade had already gone up the moment the girls appeared, crouched down and stroking a cat. He looked up and waved.
Even with all their quizzical looks, Shade looked barely perturbed by the strangled meowing the cat was making. “It’s Lily,” he explained, pointing to the cat’s grey and white fur. “See, it looks just like her hair.”
The cat ran towards them, and looked up. “I got everything from Shade,” she said, dismissing their incredulous gaping as amazement. “Well, you got what you deserved. The dust and dirt are from the monsters in there. Just kill those in the Dust Zone over there, will you?” Lily pointed to a blue zone, where the Heroes could see magic rippling. Nodding, they entered the Zone.
They exited soon after, bloody, bleeding and extremely satisfied. Tossing everyone mana potions, Phantom got to healing everyone. Tired, everyone sat around on the roof, chugging mana potions while waiting for Mir to turn into a dog again.
“I’m sorry. It takes a while to change him back,” Evan apologized as Mir returned to his dog form.
Lily coughed. “Anyway. Those monsters you just fought. Let’s call them Dusties. They were the ones that caused the dust and dirt to accumulate in the school. They are apparently formed from the evil desires of the people around.”
“Who would even have such evil desires?” asked Mercedes, glancing at the staircase door.
“The students,” continued the cat simply. “The large ones, like the one you fought yesterday, are stronger versions of Dusties. We’ll call that Troublemakers. When an evil desire is strong enough, a Troublemaker would form from these desires.”
Evan frowned, tapping his chin. “Francis showed me an image the other day. It was of black stuff falling from the sky. Do you think…?” Lily nodded. As they were discussing, they heard footsteps.
“Hmm? What are you doing on our turf?” Oh, a familiar voice to all of them, but not one they wanted to see. Not three they wanted to see either.
“You sound like a thug, Hawkeye.” Mihile sighed.
“Oh. It’s the Transfer Students.” Eckhart pointed out, raising an eyebrow at them.
“Hey! Okay, fine. Isn’t he Evan though? From the first year?” Hawkeye pointed at Evan. “Hey, didn’t you beat up the kid in the backyard with just one finger?”
“No, it was one toe.” Mihile corrected Hawkeye. Evan pointed at himself and looked back at the rest, who seemed a little surprised as well. The rumors turned into that?!
“No, it was his sheer presence.” Eckhart called out, causing all the Heroes to stare at him in shock. “See, they probably got into another fight again, look at their clothes.”
What?! Shade and the girls immediately directed their attention to Mir, who ‘barked’ at them. Phantom and Luminous? They nodded. “I agree,” they spoke simultaneously. The students looked taken aback.
Hawkeye chuckled, before turning to Evan. “Say, kid. How about joining the Taekwondo Club? Girls like strong men.”
“I say join the Kendo Club, it instils discipline and focus,” came Mihile’s retort. Just in case Hawkeye felt like stealing new recruits again, which he clearly was.
“No, join the Underground Fight Club. You would fit right in.” Eckhart put in his own opinion. Hawkeye turned and pouted at both of them.
“Hey, get in line! I got to him first!” The three guys were starting to move towards Evan. Poor Evan, he turned back the rest and mouthed, “Help” before he looked as if he was tearing up. The Heroes saw menacing people, trying to kidnap their little Dragon Master, holding out their grabby hands. Evan was yanked behind them immediately, Phantom and Luminous standing in front of him like bodyguards. Aran had a hand on Evan, while Mercedes was standing next to him. Shade was behind, staring at the rest.
“Woah, you guys sure are close.” Hawkeye held up two hands, as if he was surrendering. Evan smiled nervously, shaking off Aran’s hand and squeezing through Phantom and Luminous.
“It’s alright. I don’t mind joining, actually. It’s just that I really don’t have the time.” He smiled apologetically to the three of them, who sighed.
“Tch, you’re as boring as Mihile!” Hawkeye grinned. The rest of the Heroes relaxed visibly.
Mihile huffed. “Studies are important as well,” he shot back. “Although, I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at. He has more than enough help as it is.” He waved a hand to the elder ‘students’, who smiled sheepishly.
“So what are you doing up here anyway? All of you?” Hawkeye looked at them questioningly. Shade sighed. He explained everything again to the three again, with Mihile chuckling away.
“Seems like you got marked by Nineheart. Good luck to you,” he chuckled. Hawkeye laughed, before holding out his phone.
“Here, have our number. You seem like a good bunch. Give us a call whenever you change your mind.” They inputted the phone numbers, while the Heroes processed what Mihile had said. A sense of doom overcame them. Marked by Nineheart? This could not be good.
Once done, the three of them waved. “See you!”
The Heroes hurried down the stairs into the reading room, taking a turn midway to change into cleaner uniforms, then immediately rushing to Nineheart. Evan smiled brightly.
“We did it! No more dust!” Evan cheered, but Nineheart looked at them disapprovingly.
“Except you didn’t do it, not on your own,” Nineheart muttered, closing his book.
Evan looked shocked, and the Heroes came to his defense.
“Yeah, sure, we had help, but we didn’t ask-” Aran tried to defend Evan, but was cut off by Nineheart.
“Nonsense. You must have bullied others into helping you. I said I would be keeping a close eye on you, didn’t I?” Nineheart glared at them, and the Heroes gulped. Nineheart misunderstood what he saw, that was for sure. Aran looked extremely irritated for being accused for doing what she didn’t do, but she couldn’t say anything. Mercedes wanted to call him out for it, but he continued before she could say anything else.
“You can keep up with your lies, if you want. Just know that I will be keeping a close eye on you. All of you. See where the web of lies gets you to.” Nineheart was finished, turning away and opening his book. The Heroes stood there, shocked. Mercedes was the first to retort.
“Well, believe what you see, but not what you hear. Let’s go.” Mercedes strode out of the room, and the others followed suit. Luminous’ grumbling could be heard from all the students he walked past.
Finally, when classes are over, the Heroes met up again on the first floor. They could hear Evan talking to Francis.
“How about a meeting after school with us ‘otakus’? I’m sure you’ve got nothing after school, Evan.” Francis was saying. Evan shook his head, hugging Mir.
“Sorry. I got to meet Cygnus.”
“C-Cygnus? B-But...how? How did you get time with Cygnus of all people? You devilish fiend, Evan…”
“No, no, it’s nothing like what you are thinking.” laughed Evan. “I’m just new here, so she wanted to bring me around.” Putting Mir on the floor and getting up to leave, he looked up to see the rest of the Heroes gathered outside his classroom to fetch him. They nodded and made their way towards the front gate.
There, they saw the chauffeur looking around frantically.
“You there! Have you seen Miss Cygnus? Where could she be? Oh.. she has an important dinner to attend,” The chauffeur looked very worried, as he looked around, “You don’t have anything to do with this, right?”
Luminous frowned. Taking out his phone while the others entertained the chauffeur, he called Cygnus. Cygnus picked up soon after, her sweet voice coming in through the device.
“Hello? Is this Luminous?”
“Oh, is something wrong?”
“Your…. there’s a man out here looking for you.”
Her tinkling laugh floated through the phone. “Oh yes, my chauffeur was at the door. So I snuck out at the back. I’m currently outside the school, could you meet me there instead?”
Luminous sighed deeply, very irritated. He waved to the others to go, mouthing ‘Cygnus’ as he exited the school. The others hurried after him. Turning around at the corner, they saw Cygnus waving to them. “Psst! Over here! My chauffeur is looking for me? Ah, I’m taking a break today. I’ll return to him later when I’m done!” She smiled at the group, before taking Evan’s hand.
“Come on now, you DO want to see the city right? I can show you around! There’s a stall downtown that serves really good food.” Cygnus seemed rather cheerful, extremely happy even. Evan smiled and nodded, while the other Heroes couldn’t bring it upon themselves to remind Cygnus and Evan what was going on. The scene was too cute, Cygnus holding onto Evan as they moved across the city.
Along the way, they ran into Irina and Oz. Oz called out to the large group of people.
“Cygnus! Evan! The rest of you too! I didn’t think you would be here! Anyway, what are you doing here?”
“Ah. I’m giving them a tour around the city! Oh, what are you doing?” Cygnus smiled.
“It looks more like they are giving you a tour.” Irena sighed, amused.
“Getting some rice skewers! They are really good. Here, I’ll treat you today!” Oz skipped up to the stand cheerily, only for her smile to fall flat the moment she pulled out her wallet. “Oh… I don’t have money…”
Cygnus smiled, brightening up Oz’s depressed frown. “Don’t worry. I’ll treat you today!” The little heir walked up to the Auntie, holding up a tiny book. “Ten rice skewers, please! Do you accept personal checks?”
The Auntie stared at her strangely, before pushing back the checkbook.
“What are you talking about? Of course I don’t.” The Auntie smiled kindly at Cygnus, who looked devastated. Evan looked disappointed, while Oz shook her head.
“Don’t worry about it, Cygnus. We’ll come back another time.” Oz smiled, but the disappointed look on her face said otherwise, despite trying to hide it. Aran sighed, slumping over at the prospect of no food. Mercedes didn’t seem to mind, as with Luminous. Shade did not seem particularly interested, not about food. Without a word, Phantom walked up and patted Evan on the head.
“I’ll treat you. Don’t worry.” With that, he walked forward to the Auntie.
“Ten rice skewers, please.” He flashed a charming smile. The Auntie smiled and blushed a little at his incoming charm. She handed him ten rice skewers, and he held up the mesos for her to collect, not batting an eye at her confused expression when she got foreign money. Walking back to the girls, he gave a bow to Cygnus, earning an eyeroll from Luminous and Irena. Oz just giggled, while Evan smiled, used to Phantom’s antics. Phantom grinned and presented the girls with their rice skewers. Evan snuck one away in his pocket for Mir, who was grateful that Phantom had decided to get one for him. Once they had their rice skewers, they all took a big bite.
The first timers were not used to the sudden flavour hitting their tongues. The Heroes let out a breath of fire, while Cygnus coughed. Oz laughed at their faces after that.
“Spicy, isn’t it! It’s really good too!” She giggled, while Irena looked on, shaking her head with a small smile.
“Sorry you had to treat us, Phantom. Next time, we’ll repay you.” Irena smiled. Cygnus, who had only taken a small bite, smiled, despite her red face.
“It’s really good! Next time, we should get more here.” She waved a hand in front of her mouth, and Irena laughed.
“That reminds me, you usually eat alone in the office, right? Why don’t you join us for lunch?” Irena invited Cygnus, who nodded, overjoyed.
“Thank you! I would!”
Oz grinned, and held up her phone. “Hey, guys! What’s your number? We can hang out again next time!”
Eventually, when everyone had finished exchanging phone numbers, Oz had a cheeky smile on her face. She eyed Cygnus holding onto Evan’s hand, and laughed.
“Are you guys like… you know…?” She giggled, and the rest of the Heroes had to cover their own mouths to stop giving Evan embarrassment.
“Oh, no! I’m just showing them around. It’s nothing like that.” Cygnus nodded, while Evan, who had not gotten it, nodded. Shade smiled at the naive Evan, it was almost like Freud back then. Though, not as innocent.
Irena hummed, smiling. “Really now, even after getting treated rice skewers from one of your ‘school tourists’?”
Cygnus nodded brightly. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“Then try the tarot card reading across town! It’s really good!” Oz suggested, pointing across the road to a tent. Nodding, the Heroes and Cygnus made their way over. As they walked down the bridge, a light blue hair caught their eye. Meep! All the Heroes froze, including Evan. Cygnus looked puzzled.
“Ahh, it’s nothing, E-Cygnus. L-let’s go.” Evan laughed nervously, tugging Cygnus over. The Heroes approached Nineheart warily, hoping that he wouldn’t notice them.
Too late. He turned and saw them. He looked genuinely surprised.
“Cygnus. Transfer Students. What an odd group. I didn’t expect to see you here.” He frowned, before shaking his head.
“I know what you are all thinking. What am I doing here? Merely satisfying my curiosity about fortune-telling. The fortune-teller here specializes in romance and friendship, though the credibility is rather low.” Nineheart shook his head, but Cygnus looked excited.
“Would you like to try, Evan? It sounds exciting!” Evan nodded, and the two headed towards the tent. There, Evan saw Cassandra. She seemed shocked, but quickly shushed Cygnus.
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.” Cygnus promised Cassandra, who then decided to give Cygnus a gift.
“I’ll tell a special fortune for you then.” Evan and Cygnus each took a card, and Cassandra frowned.
“Interesting. It seems that you were connected in a past life. You, Cygnus, an empress and Evan, you were a warrior in her world.” Cassandra chuckled, while Evan laughed, though it sounded a little fake. Mir grinned, and Evan shushed him. Cassandra continued. “Your lives are very connected.”
“Did you hear that, Evan? We are connected by our past lives! Maybe you re- Ah, never mind.” Cygnus smiled and hopped a little, and Evan nodded. Smiling, they returned to the group of Heroes.
Nineheart had questioned the Heroes of their activity, and he sighed. “What are you going to do now, Cygnus?”
“I’m going to show them the bus stop, and we are going to the park.”
“Do you know how to take a bus, Cygnus?”
“...Oh Nineheart, don’t worry. I have taken a bus before, I’m no longer a child!” Cygnus nodded, and the group made their way towards the bus stop. As they waited for the bus, Mercedes looked around and coughed. The air wasn’t as fresh as back in Elluel and Ellinia. In fact, everyone was coughing. Evan covered his mouth.
“It’s really stuffy…” Cygnus shook her head.
“Maybe the exhaust smoke from the cars are getting to you. Stand here, it isn’t so bad.” The Heroes shifted away from the bus stop, all of them waving in their faces. As they checked their UI, they were shocked. Poison?! Aran gulped.
“Maaaybe we should stay away from the bus stop till our ride comes.” She suggested, and the rest nodded quickly. Not even in Magatia was the smoke so dense.
Soon enough, the bus came. They all got on, expecting a rather smooth ride, like the airplanes and airships. Nope.
As soon as the bus started, everyone lurched forward. Luminous immediately dove for a pole, clinging onto it with two hands, his body brought close. Phantom was on the other side, using one hand to hook around the pole and also holding his body close to it, his other hand holding onto his cane that was supporting him. Shade grabbed the area above Phantom, catching his balance. Aran was leaning against a pole, completely unaffected by the bumpy ride. Mercedes was holding onto the same pole as Aran, desperately trying not to fall. The younger members of the group was having the time of their life as they slid up and down the bus. You could hear Evan and Cygnus having fun, while Mir sat on his bum and slid around like a kid bad at ice skating. After a while, Mercedes cautiously released the pole, and slid along with the other two, joining in the fun. Her movements were elegant, compared to the flailing of arms from Evan.
The boys continued to cling on. Phantom looked away embarrassed, while Luminous looked the other way. Shade sighed. Calling out to the three and the ‘dog’, he waved to the seats. “Please, take a seat.”
Cygnus looked confusedly at Shade. “But Eunwol, I thought we had to reserve a seat first.”
Shade sighed deeply. Why was he telling her about common sense in her world again?
When they finally got off the bus and into the park, they found Cygnus petting a brown dog. Elwin?!
“What a cute puppy! Aww,” she smiled. Elwin barked and ran around Cygnus. She laughed and giggled, playing with Elwin for a bit.
The Heroes grimaced. Luminous muttered under his breath, “Elwin, you sleazebag. You’re worse than Phantom.” Phantom shot him a glare.
“Hey. How are you insulting me with Elwin again?”
Cygnus looked up at Luminous. “Did you say something?” Luminous quickly shook his head, as Elwin shot a look at him.
“I’m sorry. Was I acting awkward? It is kind of my first time out too. Well, I really enjoyed my time with all of you, especially with Evan. It’s... a very different feeling. Thank you to you all for keeping me company today.” Cygnus bowed to them, and the rest immediately bowed back.
“It’s nothing, Cygnus!”
“D-don’t bow to us!”
Evan and Phantom waved their hands at Cygnus frantically, trying to get her to raise her head. She did, after a while, but frowned.
“Do you hear something?” Elwin started to bark, jumping onto Cygnus.
“Miss Cygnus!” The chauffeur had arrived.
Cygnus sighed, before turning around. “My chauffeur is here. I have to go now. Thank you again. See you!” They all waved to Cygnus as she left, hearing the chauffeur chide her about abandoning him. They sighed, and the limousine left. When she left, everyone turned their attention to Elwin.
“She’s kinda cute up close.”
“You did not just do that to Empress Cygnus.” Luminous was glaring at him with disapproval.
Elwin pouted and snorted. “I had to distract her somehow. Anyway, the Dusties are back. Normally, there’s too little, but when the numbers start to grow...You all gotta take em out. I’ll stay here to make sure no one gets near. Go!”
The Heroes groaned. More fighting. They entered the Dust Zone, only to meet face to face with a large crowd of Dusties. Evan sighed.
Aran yelled out a war cry and the Heroes charged into battle.
They exited the Zone after a long time, rubbing their injuries. Thankfully, they didn’t bleed too much in there. The crowd this time was slightly smaller, so they didn’t take too much damage. They returned to Elwin, holding onto health and mana potions. As they took a drink, Elwin nodded.
“Good. Oh yes, I wanted to tell you. I think someone is out to get Cygnus back in school. These ears can hear things, and they are rather creepy. It sounded something like...’You wench! Soon, this school will go down...’ and cue evil laughter.” Elwin shivered. Mir gave him a skeptical look, he hadn’t heard anything.
Mercedes folded her arms. “This sounds very bad. We should keep an eye out at all times. Especially on Cygnus. We have to ensure nothing bad comes out of it.” Everyone nodded, and they returned home to prepare for school the next day.
When they returned to school again, they splitted up. When class ended though, Evan got a call. Nineheart was calling him. What was wrong?
“Evan. I have no one to rely on this time, but I need your help. Come up to the roof, I'll tell you more there." Evan frowned, and immediately texted the rest of the Heroes. They needed to know where he was going, or things might get messy.
When Evan arrived, he was somewhat surprised to see the Cygnus Knights’ counterparts there along with Nineheart. He looked around in surprise, and Nineheart coughed.
"Today, we have gathered here to do a little investigating. Now, there has been a new rumor going around. Apparently, the Fateful Transfer Student has thick lips, and that Cygnus must kiss him in order to ensure the school’s safety. I for one do not believe in rumors, but something must be done." Nineheart was unsettled, and Evan knew why.
"But the previous rumor only had the Fateful Transfer Student taking over the school. Besides, the only one with thick lips is that first year that just transferred in before Evan and the rest”" Hawkeye exclaimed. Nineheart nodded.
"Alright. I need to see his student records. For that, we need to sneak into the staff room and take it. Someone with sticky fingers would be better Evan, do you mind if you..." Nineheart trailed off, looking at Evan, who frowned. Didn't Nineheart have access anyway?
"Because you are the most guilli- I mean, bravest of us all. Unless you have an alternative, we would like you to go get it." Evan shook his head. Of course not. But he knew who would.
"I'll ask Phantom. H-"
"No worries here, Nineheart. We heard everything." The group looked up to see Phantom perched on top of the shelter, shaking his legs. The rest of the Heroes stuck their heads out, waving to them. The students stood shocked as each one landed on the roof with a thump.
"I'll be back with those documents. Although... we don't really appreciate Evan being asked to do this sort of thing." He smiled, a dangerous smile playing on his lips, before walking down the stairs. Luminous groaned.
"Don't mind Phantom. Out of all of us, he's the one with the stickiest fingers. And that is an understatement."
In the staff room, Phantom didn't think he'll see Elwin again. In fact, he had almost tripped over the dog. Elwin barked and glared at the thief.
"What are you doing here?"
"Stealing some documents. Why?"
"Why would you…” Elwin sighed. Then again he was talking to a phantom thief. “Just in time, I guess. There's some Dusties over there in the Dust Zone, thank the Transcendents all the teachers have gone home for today. I barely managed to seal it. But I saw some Dusties run in there with some papers." Phantom rolled his eyes.
Flicking open his phone, he sent a message to Evan informing of the delay. With that, he adjusted his uniform and charged in.
Evan received the message, frowning. He gathered the Heroes quickly, as Nineheart gave orders to the students.
"Phantom needs our help. Seems like the Dusties beat him to the documents." Evan showed them the message. Shade looked back at the Nineheart, who appeared to be occupied at the moment. "Let's go before he notices us." Shade pushed everyone down the staircase, and they rushed down to the staffroom.
They entered the Dust Zone, hearing Phantom already taking down a group. He noticed them and waved, then proceeding to rip a document from a Dust and killing the said monster in one fluid motion. Waving the documents at the Heroes, he jumped and landed in front of them.
"Distract the Dusties while I nab the documents. I don't know how many there are, I'll just take all those with his name on it." Phantom pointed to the paper, with Bully's name typed on it. The rest agreed, and they spread out across the entire zone.
They took out the Dusties, just as Phantom picked up the final piece of paper. Holding onto a stack, he gave them a thumbs up. The rest of the Heroes started to heal themselves, as Phantom rushed up the roof.
Appearing before Nineheart, he dumped the documents in front of him. "Here you go! All the documents with his name on it, or anything else. All 80 pages!" said Phantom in his cheery voice. Nineheart seemed dumbfounded. His mouth opened and closed like a goldfish, causing Phantom to laugh.
He leaned forward, a sly smile on his face. "What's the matter, President? Cat got your tongue?"
Nineheart sputtered, before he glared at the master thief. "The document I was looking for is pertaining to his background, not his entire student record. We have to sift through this entire pile!"
Chuckling, Phantom straightened. "But I didn't know which was it, so I naturally took everything. Having an excess is better than a lack of, hmm?" Nineheart shook his head, confused, before he called Irena to help him go through the entire stack.
"This is his grades. No."
"This one here is his previous school. Not this."
"This here is the teacher's’ remarks. Not quite."
The rest of the Heroes returned soon after, ignoring Nineheart and Irena sorting through the papers. They instead went for Phantom, who had perched on the fence at the side of the roof, though he was facing inwards. Shade handed him some clothes. Phantom ran off with them, the vivid red bloodstain on his back visible to those behind. He returned later on without the dirty clothes.
Finally, Nineheart reached the bottom of the pile. By then, he had roped in the help of Mihile and Eckhart to expedite the process. “This is it. This details his background.” Phantom peered over his shoulders, scratching his head. “That’s the first paper I picked up.”
Mihile looked up at him, mildly amused. “That’s a little too much, don’t you think?”
Phantom shook his head. Eighty seemed like a normal amount, compared to hunting twenty of a rare item. It was hard. Mihile was slightly taken aback.
Nineheart suddenly got up. “This is it. So that is how it is. He is the son of the Chairwoman of the School Committee Board.” Phantom coughed, then laughed. He knew where this was going. If Queen Areda’s counterpart was near the top, what else would she go for other than more power?
Irena gathered the papers, staring at Nineheart. “So that would mean what? What does that have to do with anything about the rumor?”
Nineheart shook his head. “The Chairwoman isn’t who you think she is. She’s worse than you think. If I do recall, there was one time when she went to talk to Cygnus. I was just outside the door.” Nineheart frowned, as if trying to remember the incident. “She had talked to Cygnus for a little while, before she exited the office and spoke ill of Cygnus, calling her a cunning witch.” Nineheart looked rather worried, as he continued his explanation. “The Chairwoman had wanted to build a shopping complex here, and was determined to take down the school at all cost. Cygnus is her target.”
Nineheart started towards the door, beckoning to the others behind him. “Quickly, to the office! We’ve got to let her know!”
In the office, there was no one there. Nineheart looked around worriedly. “She was here a few minutes ago. Where could she have gone? Someone, call her quickly!”
Shade dug out his phone, clicking on Cygnus’ contact, while the other Heroes hovered near him, trying to get a listen in. Shade placed it on speaker mode when Cygnus picked up, to allow everyone else to hear her voice.
Cygnus’ voice was heard, though it was as if she was rather excited. “Hello? Eunwol? What is it? Is Evan asking for me? Please do tell him I’m on my way.” Her laughter could be heard.
Shade glanced at Evan, surprised. Evan shook his head, signifying denial. Shade turned back to his phone, trying to keep his voice calm. “Evan didn’t send you a message.”
Surprise could be heard. “Oh? I received a message to meet you urgently. It was sent under your name, Fateful Transfer Student. Oh, my phone has no more battery. I’ll talk to you at the meeting area, alright?” With that, the phone clicked, and the dial tone rang throughout the room. Shade shut it off and shoved the device into his pocket.
Silence. Where was Cygnus going? If it wasn’t Evan, who was she going to meet? The pieces fell into place, and the most devastating image was conjured from their minds.
Cygnus. Kissing Bully.
Everyone yelled out in shock. Disgust was rendered in its raw form on everyone’s face.
“Cygnus would rather kiss a dog!” exclaimed Oz.
“But with the rumors going around, she might just fall for it,” Irena interjected, shivering.
Nineheart was having none of that. “We need to find her immediately. Oz, Irena, search the school. Mihile, Eckhart and Hawkeye, search the area around the school. Evan, I need you and your group to search around town, including the more remote areas. You can take the bus..” Each person nodded, and everyone spreaded out.
At the bus stop, or some distance away from it, the Heroes split up. Shade went with Luminous to the more woody and humid area, while Mercedes and Aran went to the park with the fountain in it. Phantom and Evan were together going towards the yard Cygnus had brought them to the previous day. Once everyone had their coordinates, they got onto the bus and headed towards their destination.
When the bus finally reached Sunset Yard, Phantom practically jumped off the bus and rushed in. Evan struggled to catch up. Phantom was determined to ensure Cygnus never kissed Bully. It was disgusting, and he would never allow a relative of Aria of all people to be deceived into doing something that they were unwilling to do. It was almost like his duty.
They found Lily, pretty much pacing around with worry. She pointed a paw into the park. “In there! I saw Cygnus go over there, but now there is a lot of Dusties! They are blocking your way!”
Phantom wasn’t really happy, seeing that he was delayed. Being fashionably late was one thing, being late to stop a disaster was another. He got his card deck ready, hurrying Evan along. The pair rushed into battle, determination to stop Cygnus kissing another man fueling their morale.
They destroyed all the Dusties as fast as possible, rushing further into the park to find Cygnus. But when they got to the end, Cygnus was gone, only Bully and Areda was seen. Phantom growled, pointing his cane at Bully. “Where’s Cygnus? You have ten seconds to answer!”
Bully looked up at him with angry eyes, then bellowing in a loud voice, “Cygnus this, Cygnus that, I’m tired of this! I don’t even like Cygnus! I like, I like, I like someone else!” He turned to his mother, his fists balled up at his sides. “Mom, I want to be a normal person! I don’t want to be part of your plan any more.”
Areda looked rather irritated and taken aback, snarling at her son. “Good lord! How can you be so disappointing! You inherit my good looks and charms, and you want to waste it by being normal?”
“.... He has good looks?” asked a curiously confused Evan to Phantom. Too bad, the thief could only shrug in equal confusion. “If thick lips are a thing here, then maybe.”
Bully shook his head, glaring at his mother. “I know I have your looks, Mom, but they aren’t the entire world.”
Areda looked furious, yelling, “How dare you talk back to your own mother! I started from scratch to get up to this point, and this is the gratitude I get? You dare go against me, who had planned everything out in order to ensure the best?”
Bully quivered, but stood strong. “I don’t want to do this any more, Mom. Enough. Let me go! I’m leaving!” With that, he ran off, past Phantom, past Evan.
Areda looked crushed, then she looked furious. “I worked so hard on this. So close… to the end. I will get that school, no matter what!” Dark energy swirled around Areda. Phantom and Evan got ready to fight. The atmosphere was the same as before when the Troublemaker appeared from Bully. Sure enough, Areda collapsed and a Troublemaker appeared.
Lily called out, identifying the Troublemaker.”It’s the Greedy Troublemaker! Brought on by her greed and jealousy of Cygnus! Take it out, as soon as possible! I’ll handle the lightshow!” Phantom smirked.
Evan fiddled with his phone, while Phantom looked on. “Say, Evan. Are you calling them?”
Evan nodded quickly, sending a message to everyone else.
“Then they better get here quick. I for one am not losing the chance to actually beat Areda up.”
Evan looked up in confusion, only to see Phantom buffing himself. He called out to the master thief, wondering what he was going to do. “Phan-”
“Not going to lose the chance to actually do some damage. Hopefully there would be some things left for the rest of them to fight with!” Phantom called out cheerily, before jumping into battle. He landed in front of the Troublemaker, grinning widely.
He jumped back and let out a flurry of cards, striking the Troublemaker. “You have no idea how long I have waited to get a hit on Areda. Well, it isn’t exactly her, per say, but it would do. For now.” Phantom landed and casted Phantom Charge, surging forward and dragging the monster further into the park.
The monster waved its sleeves at him, and stacks of money flew towards Phantom. Phantom dodged out of the way easily, his luck giving him a leverage over the monster. He disappeared in a crowd of cards, appearing behind the Troublemaker and landing a few hits using Mille Aiguilles. He kept up his attack, the Troublemaker being knocked backwards each time. He jumped over the Troublemaker again, resuming his attack on the Troublemaker. The Troublemaker summoned forth stacks of money surrounding Phantom. Gritting his teeth, Phantom moved out of the way a moment too late. The stacks exploded, sending the Hero flying. Ouch. Phantom landed on his feet, wincing. No way was he going down to the Troublemaker, much less one from Areda’s counterpart.
He charged forward again, this time using Impeccable Memory and setting up a shield around him to ignore any damage. Magic surged around his cane and it took on a shape of a bow. Phantom held it up and shot the Troublemaker multiple times, as the Troublemaker’s sleeves formed a hammer form and slammed down on his shield. No damage to Phantom. Phantom laughed at the Troublemaker as it continued its useless attacks. Once the shield was gone, Phantom hopped back and used Penombre again, destroying a little of its defense.
He wasn’t expecting the sudden money bombs. They sent him flying again, and this time, the Troublemaker landed a hammer attack on him. Phantom didn’t hear anything crack, but it hurt. His clothes were tattered a little, and he could feel burns on his hands and legs. That would take a while to heal.
Time to finish this up. Phantom wobbled to his feet, positioning his cane to defend himself. Thief and monster faced each other. Phantom cockily beckoned the Troublemaker, who took the bait. It charged forward with a hammer attack again. Phantom laughed maniacally and charged forward, only to jump out of the way at the very last moment. He landed on the Troublemaker’s head and used Mille Aiguilles once more. Striking the Troublemaker on the head, it took out the last bit of health it had. The Troublemaker struggled, froze, and swirled into a black hole, before disappearing. Phantom landed on the floor, thoroughly satisfied.
The rest finally arrived to see Evan handing Phantom a potion.
Aran looked around wildly. “Where’s that Troublemaker?! I’ll make mincemeat out of it!”
Evan glanced up, and waved to them, before smiling a little sheepishly. “Phantom took it out long before you guys got here.”
“Whaaaaaaaaat!” Aran glared at Phantom, grabbing him by the collar. “Why didn’t you wait for us! I was planning to get some experience points from that fight! Aw, why did you have to hog all the experience?” Phantom laughed and shrugged.
Luminous folded his arms. “So like Phantom to steal all the experience points before anyone else got here.”
“You have to give it to him. The Troublemakers were tough, and he got out alright. Besides, the Troublemaker would have made more damage if he hadn’t taken it out. The speed of the vehicles here are rather slow compared to Camel Taxi, and that’s saying something.” Mercedes pointed out, somewhat amused at Luminous’ irritation.
Shade shrugged. “Can’t say we didn’t try to rush here.”
Pouting, Aran shook Phantom till he was dizzy. “Dibs on the next one, I tell you! These Dusties and Troublemakers give quite good experience points!” Everyone held up their hands, agreeing to Aran’s request. Phantom smiled and laughed. Meanwhile, Areda’s fainted body was ignored by the Heroes.
Evan soon got a call from Nineheart reporting that Cygnus had returned home, thankfully. They lugged the passed out Areda to the hospital, ignoring the moans of ‘taking over the school’ and ‘shopping mall’ from the deadweight. Dumping her at the first chance they got, the Heroes fled back into the Maple World.
“Seems like this time, a disaster was avoided. Well done to you.” Lily congratulated them.
Phantom laughed. “Seems like I did all the work this time, hmm? I say, you owe me something, right?”
“When Hell freezes over, petty thief.” Luminous shot a death glare.
Phantom leaned forward mockingly, his irritatingly smug smile still plastered on his face. “What was that, stuffypants? Did I hear ‘I’ll wash your ship for a month’? I’ll gladly take you up on that offer! So let’s see, when do you want to start?” Luminous felt his rage build up, and he removed his staff from his back.
No one was able to put in a word when the two were kicked out of the house by Elwin in order to prevent total destruction.