Chapter 1 Intermission
It was a week before the Heroes came back to Elwin. Blinking at him as Elwin started to fuss about their absence, Aran shrugged. “Couldn’t help it. We were in the Temple of Time. You know how time goes by in that area. Not to mention Akarium, and we also went back to Momijigaoka to help Hayato and Kanna there.”
Elwin was almost pulling his hair out when Aran finished. “Temple of Time?! No wonder you were gone for so long! Anyway, Lily managed to manipulate your attendance, but don’t you come back here a week late! Hurry up, school’s starting!”
The Heroes were pushed into the room. They shot puzzled looks behind them, but hurriedly changed into their school uniforms and rushed to school. It really had been too long, for they were lost for a bit at the front gate. Finally remembering their classes, the Heroes parted. Entering their classes, each wondered why Elwin seemed rather panicked when there was no one in class. Mercedes and Aran got straight to discussing battle tactics, while Evan pulled out a book about Onyx Dragons and resumed his research. Phantom was using the newest trick he had learnt for the phone, which was to use this ‘internet’ to find out about previous jewels. Shade was sleeping on his desk while Luminous was hard at work studying and revising his knowledge about magic. Half an hour passed, and even Aran had fallen asleep. The Heroes wondered what was going on.
Francis suddenly burst into the classroom, shocking Evan who had been feeding Mir. “Evan! That’s where you were! I’ve been looking all over for you! There’s assembly, come on, Nineheart is waiting!” Evan could barely put in a word when he was yanked out of his seat by Francis and dragged to the assembly area.
Phantom almost dropped his phone when Hawkeye slammed the door open. Shade immediately shot up and jumped out of the way, landing on the floor on his belly. Luminous had flipped the book of his table and ducked underneath, before peeking out and glaring at the chuckling thief. Hawkeye looked out of breath, and he started to yell. “Oi! Why are you guys still here! Come on, it’s time for assembly! Let’s go!” With that, he dragged all three guys out and rushed off.
At least the girls didn’t have such a rude shock. Irena had knocked on the door, before coming in. “Mercedes? Aran? Didn’t you hear? It’s time for assembly. Let’s go.” Mercedes closed her book and placed it away, shaking Aran awake. What was assembly? The only other assembly Mercedes knew was the assembly of Maple Warriors, or the Maple Alliance. Why was there an assembly here? She hurried off, with Aran dizzily trying to follow the elf.
In the assembly, Nineheart was staring disapprovingly at the latecomers. “Do you not remember we have assemblies around this time? But anyway, better late than never. I will give you a brief summary of the current assembly, since you were not here earlier to hear the announcement.” Nineheart didn’t look too happy. The Heroes were just confused, what announcement? The Maple Admin wasn’t here to make one. Nineheart continued, “Today we are showcasing our clubs. For now, we are having a trial period of a week, so as to let you get used to it. You are suppose to choose your clubs that you wish to take part in.” He explained. The confused looks of the Heroes only had Nineheart pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance.
“Take a look around. If you find anything that you are interested in, or wish to learn about, or even enjoy doing, you can submit a form to try out the club for the next week.” The Heroes brightened up immediately, understanding the words ‘interested’ and ‘enjoy doing’. They rushed off to find the clubs of their liking, wondering what was in stall for them. Meanwhile, Nineheart leaned against the wall, rubbing his temples. Cygnus had suggested this. Why did she care so much about these Transfer Students?
Mercedes was quick to settle. She chose the Archery Club, knowing she would be able to fit right in. But something else seemed to be hindering her progress.
“No crossbows, Mercedes.” Irena smiled kindly, pushing Mercedes’ bowguns back to her.
“Why not? It shoots arrows as well, I do not see the difference.” Mercedes was stubborn, she didn’t want to hurt her fingers using a bow.
“It’s against the rules. The Archery Club only uses practice bows.” Irena sighed, shrugging. She pointed to the stack of practice bows. “Look, the crossbows are neat and everything, but really, maybe you should stick to using the bows for now.” Mercedes conceded, though she did look miffed as she took an arrow and bow. No wait. Irena was pretty sure she saw one arrow, but Mercedes shot three, that pierced into all three targets.
“You should get moving targets.” Mercedes suggested as she filled out a form Irena gave her. The Archery Club Captain was flabbergasted. Moving targets?!
Evan had headed straight for the area with the most books, finding an Oz buried underneath among other members. Pulling Oz out from the pile, he looked up her. “What’s all this?”
Oz was happy. Extremely happy. The President of the Mystery Book Club handed Evan a book. “Oh, it’s all mystery books! Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, all the famous detectives! Our club holds regular mystery events, where we have to solve a mystery before the time runs out! It’s exciting, right?” Evan flipped the book a little. Mir barked, and Evan crouched down.
“I know, Mir. It’s just that it sounds really exciting. Different from the normal quests, don’t you think?” Evan inquired the little black dog, who turned his head.
“I don’t know, Master. Mysteries makes me think of the Black Wings.” The ‘dog’ growled, bitter about their trap from their early days. Evan smiled, patting Mir sympathetically.
He flipped open the book, speed reading the story hidden in its pages. “Hmm, it seems rather interesting… Oh! I know who the murderer is!” Mir looked up and started to jump on Evan, trying his hardest to find out what Evan meant. When both ‘dog’ and master figured it out, they flipped to the end of the book to find out that they were wrong. Why?! Evan frowned, reading the book again. It appeared that he missed a clue, as did Mir.
His mind was whirling with new knowledge, and his curiosity got the better of him. Looking up at Oz, he smiled sweetly. “This is rather fun. Oz, do you think you could teach me how to get better at this? I don’t understand where I went wrong.”
Oz nodded, her side ponytail bouncing up and down. “Sure thing, Evan! All you have to do is to fill in this form with your name on it!” Evan took a pen from Oz and scribbled down his name.
Aran on the other hand, was a little more troublesome. She had gone from Dance (“What’s with all this prancing around? I rather watching penguins slide on their stomach.”) to Infocomm Club (“Huh? Newfangled Internet whatisthis...”) and even to Track and Field (“Move faster, porky! Man, watching you all run makes me wanna chase after you guys.”). Aran had finally plonked herself on the ground, grumbling. There was nothing that was suitable for her and Maha, not to mention most of those that barely attracted her attention are filled with guys, with a ‘no girls allowed unless you are a manager’ rule.
Maybe you aren’t cut out for this sort of thing, Idiot Master.
“Shush, Maha. I just don’t get so much of these things. Hmph. No girls allowed? I’ll show them!” Aran growled, folding her arms. Aran could see hand-to-hand combat, but she dealt with a weapon, not knuckles. Leave that to Shade. She grumbled a little more, before her eyes fell onto a sword. Sure, it was a wooden one, but a sword nonetheless. Getting up, she walked over to the weapon and picked it up. It wasn’t too heavy, not like Maha. Waving it around a little, Aran grinned.
She was just getting used to the sword when a yell could be heard. She looked up to see a guy standing there. “Uh, can I have my sword back? I kind of need this for a demonstration.” Aran glared at him, before her gaze returned to the sword. Tossing it from hand to hand, she grinned at the guy.
She gripped the handle with one hand, and pointed the sword at the owner. “What sort of owner leaves their partner lying around? At least take good care of it. Anyway, what sort of club are you in?” The guy looked somewhat confused. He grabbed his sword, trying to tug it away from Aran, but her grip remained steady.
The guy gave up after a while. “Wow, you have a tight grip. I’m from the Kendo Club. Not that it matters to you, our captain doesn’t usually allow girls into the group due to the fact that they aren’t serious.”
Aran remembered previously, Mihile had spoke about letting Evan join the Kendo Club. Was he the captain? She grinned, poking the guy in the chest. “Take me to your captain, big guy.” The guy looked somewhat irritated and weirded out, but led her straight to, well, who else but Mihile. Aran felt her smile go wider and wider. Now, someone she really wanted to spar with. She ignored the guy that was asking for his sword, instead pointing it at the surprised Mihile.
He looked even more puzzled, before shaking his head. “I don’t spar with new recruits, Aran. Maybe next time. If you care to join, that is.”
Aran frowned. “Spar. I know how to use a sword. Come on, don’t tell you are scared of being beaten by a girl?” She taunted the student, knowing full well the pride of the Dawn Warrior was in this person in front of her. Sure enough, Mihile took up the challenge. He took his kendo sword and put on his helmet. Signalling to the recruit that had brought her here, he had him bring Aran armor.
Aran took one look at it and kicked it aside.
“It has worser stats that this uniform gives me. Plus, it looks really ugly.” Aran complained, before her fierce gaze fixed on Mihile. He shivered, unsure if Aran always had such a dangerous look in her eyes. “Let’s begin, Captain.” She placed both hands on the kendo sword. She had a handicap, since Maha was still on her back. Well, a even bigger challenge for her.
Mihile charged forward to attack Aran, who frowned and stopped, using one hand to wield the sword and block his attack. Each time he tried to land one hit on Aran, she blocked it with the sword. With one hand. After a while, Mihile stopped and removed his helmet. “What’s wrong? You are maintaining a defensive tactic, even though I gave you so many openings. Do you know how to even attack?” Mihile was skeptical, why would Aran just keep defending?
Aran tossed the sword in the air and caught it with one hand, the other on her hip. “That’s because you are going easy on me.”
Mihile blinked. “How would you know?”
“That’s because you have so many openings. Come on! I’m not going to lose to someone like you! If you go easy on me, what’s the point of sparring? Come at me with your best shot, Captain Mihile!” Aran positioned herself to fight, her gaze darkening once more. “Or are you that scared of a girl?”
Mihile took the bait. He charged forward, but Aran could tell he was taking it a lot more seriously. Now this was going to be fun. She defended, struggling to find an opening. Unlike earlier, there were almost none. Aran could hear the club members cheering for Mihile, to ‘take down that arrogant girl’, while squeals from other girls came as ‘You can do it, Mihile! She can’t take you down!”. This irked Aran. She did not like being compared to a guy, of all things. She was rejected from the army because of her gender.
Her annoyed state made her careless, and Mihile struck a blow. Aran winced, but smiled. Mihile had expected Aran to flinch, but when she didn’t, he withdrew his sword and tried to go in for another hit. No can do. Aran finally spotted an opening. Mihile had his arms raised in the air, leaving his abdomen wide open. It was now or never. Aran bent forward, pulled the sword back and took a swing. The sword struck the armor with a loud sound, then silence. A second ticked by, and Mihile flew across the sparring area, into the crowd.
Aran whistled a low whistle. “Wow. Didn’t think that you were that light. If you are out already, that is kinda too early. Whatcha’ say, one more time?” Glares were shot her way as the girls helped Mihile up. Mihile shook off the hands and removed the helmet, clutching to his stomach.
He was in awe. “N-not really, Aran. It really hurts. You have incredible strength, though I wonder where you learnt how to fight like that.” Aran laughed, tossing the sword back to the dumbstruck member. “Learnt it from the best of the best. But really, is that the best you can do? If that’s it, then you are seriously in need of someone to help you.”
Mihile shook his head in wonder. “M-maybe not. We aren’t supposed to kill anyone, anyway. Your blow, I do believe it can be enough to cause someone nausea if they were not wearing protection.”
“Eh. What’s this about new members? Hmm, they are all guys, aren’t they? Where are the girls?” Aran was flipping through the list of people, ignoring what Mihile had said, before stopping at a list of potential managers. She grimaced. Before Mihile could say anything, she scribbled her name down on the list of new members.
“Here. Have my name. See, even a girl can be stronger than a guy! Better take that as a lesson, Mihile!” Aran chuckled, handing Mihile a rice skewer. “Here ya go, this will make you feel better.” Mihile muttered a thanks and took a bite, before glaring at the laughing Aran with his mouth smoldering and grabbing his water bottle.
Phantom fared no better. He had split off from the group to check out the others. Band had not appealed to him in the least bit, despite the strong music they were playing. He just didn’t think he would appear charming while blowing on a tuba till his face was red. As he walked around, he heard someone calling him. Walking over, he spotted one of his classmates.
“Hey, Phantom! Over here!” The girl called out, and Phantom walked over. He remembered her name vaguely as Chang, or something like that. She was in front of a table of crafts, and he bent down to examine it. Jewelry of different kinds were scattered all over it. Phantom picked one up, eyeing it. Fake. Disappointed, he placed it down. “What’s all this?”
The girl smiled brightly. She had a thick pair of glasses on her nose. She took them off and wiped them, before returning her attention to Phantom. “These are makeshift jewelry! We here in the Art Club make accessories of sorts. I heard you really like jewels, so I thought these might catch your attention.”
Phantom eyed the little accessories, before shaking his head. “Ah, please. The only sparkle that catches my eye is the rose I see before me.” The girl blushed, while Phantom moved from the table to stand in front of an art piece. He had completely no idea what it was. Another girl peeked out from behind the art piece, and he flashed a smile. She squeaked and retreated.
“Are you the creator of this piece, miss? It is rather… intriguing. Tell me more about it.” Phantom held out a hand to the girl, who took it and smiled shyly. “It’s an abstract picture. I just used shapes with edges on them to make a face. Like Picasso.” Phantom smiled and nodded, as if he understood what she meant.
Who was Picasso anyway?
He drifted on, to see a blank canvas. Hmm? He stopped in front of it. The girl from earlier, Chang (Was it? Yes, it was.) seemed rather excited. “You can try drawing an image if you want. It’s more of an experiment than anything else.” Phantom stared at the blank piece, before asking Chang for some paints, and more canvases.
He started to paint. His memory served him rather well in this case. His strokes were careful and precise, and he changed colours often. Yellow. Blue. White. Phantom could close his eyes and do this in his sleep. But wait. he paused, before he had added in purple. No. He started to mix the colours, finishing with a dirty brown. Perfect. Phantom resumed his painting, smiling a little.
When the artwork was completed, he stood back. Collective gasps could be heard. He turned and bowed down, looking up to see Shade and a few other people. On his canvas, two people Shade knew very well were painted on it. Aria and Freud. They were drawn as if they were holding up Maple World, with Shinsoo’s wings wrapped around them. Their faces were peaceful, their eyes closed. Phantom had to use four canvases to finish the image.
“Wow.” Shade muttered, glancing at Phantom. Phantom had a serene smile on his face as he gazed at his artwork. “Hmm, not as what I imagined. But this will do for now.”
Chang grabbed Phantom’s hand. She seemed to be in awe, smiling away. “Phantom, you have to join the Art Club! This is beautiful! You have the talent to be a famous artist!” Phantom smiled and shook his head.
“Alas, that is not my fate. Painting is more of a getaway than anything else. I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. Perhaps next time, shall we?” With that, Phantom drifted off, leaving his painting behind.
And just like that, he was without a club again. He could hear the disappointment from the girls, but Phantom really did not want to spend all his time painting. It would get boring!
He came across Eckhart, who was standing there. He paused, before walking up to the student. “Eckhart. What club are you in? The Underground Fight Club, right?” Phantom remembered Eckhart speaking about it once, so why not now? Where was the booth anyway?
Eckhart eyed him, then shook his head. “You don’t talk about the Fight Club.”
“If you don’t talk about it, how do you know about it?”
“You just do.”
“Fine. I do then. Show me where this club is.”
“Yeah, yeah, just show it to me already.” Phantom grumbled. Eckhart stared at him for a moment, before bringing him to a staircase. Going down, Phantom was met with a ring. And by ring, he meant battle ring. Phantom stood there, wondering what was going on, when Eckhart pushed him in.
“Hey!” Phantom turned around, wanting to know what Eckhart was doing, when he realized that he had an opponent. He was huge, mean and ugly. Phantom tilted his head. “I’m supposed to fight you? Is this what the Fight Club is about?”
“Yeah, what about it, pipsqueak?” The burly guy bellowed, before charging in for Phantom. The thief smirked, and dodged out of the way. Twirling his cane, Phantom danced around his opponent before eliminating him by allowing him to trip over Phantom’s cane and fall out of the ring.
“Now this is fun."
Shade was just confused. The sight of everything overwhelmed him. Not to mention that Phantom's panting had stunned him a little. Not a lot of people recognize Aria, much less Freud, but they were all admiring it.He left the group quickly, Walking around, Shade didn't find anything that really attracted him. Most of the clubs seemed rather stressful, and the only relaxing one would have been Mystery Club, but even that was tiring for his mind. Shade did not want to solve mysteries after training. If he wanted a mind workout, he could just find Grendel and discuss with him how to combat Lucid's magic. But that's beside the point.
"Hey! Eunwol! Over here!" Shade looked up to see Hawkeye, dressed in clothes similar to those that Mu Gong wore. He walked over, wanting to know what Hawkeye wanted to say.
"Say, Eunwol. You know, I've seen you walking around looking real lost. So how about this, I'll show you my club, hmm? I bet it will be the best club you have ever experienced." Hawkeye gave him a thumbs up, before turning to his club. Shade could see so many people clad in the same outfit. A couple of girls were at the side, whispering. Hawkeye grinned and waved, but the girls immediately turned away. Patting Hawkeye, Shade smiled. He looked so crestfallen.
He poked Hawkeye in the shoulder, gesturing to the mat. "So what's your club?"
Hawkeye brightened up immediately. "It's Taekwondo! Hand to hand combat. Here, I'll show you." He demonstrated a few punches and kicks. Shade nodded, watching him. Hawkeye, who looked rather pleased, spared with another person. "Once you get the hang of it, it's muscle memory," he finished, looking smug. Shade smiled slightly. His fighting style was rather similar to Shade's back then. When Hawkeye's sparring partner stepped off, Shade took his place. "May I try? Just a short spar, I do believe I have tried your style before." Hawkeye stared at him for a moment, and grinned.
Handing him some bandages, Hawkeye gestured to his own hands. "Wear this. It would protect your hands. Just so you know, since you say you've tried this before, I'm not going easy on you!"
Shade agreed, wrapping the bandages around his hands. He got into a defensive position, mimicking Hawkeye. Hawkeye moved to attacked, swinging his fist at Shade. Shade reacted instinctively, deflecting his punch. Hawkeye immediately went for a kick, which Shade ducked. Taking the chance when Hawkeye was temporarily unbalanced, Shade darted around Hawkeye and slammed a fist into his chest. Hawkeye's surprised face twisted with pain. He flew back, knocking over a couple of bystanders. Unlike Aran, Shade had tried to hold back. But it was apparently powerful enough to send someone bowling over a few people.
"Ouch... man, you hit hard!" Hawkeye got up, rubbing his chest. Wincing in pain, he walked over to Shade, giving him a light punch on the shoulder. "You have potential, Eunwol, but you gotta learn how to control your strength!" Shade blinked at him, unwrapping the bandages around his hands.
He gave them back to Hawkeye, who took them and put them away. "Hawkeye. Is this Taekwondo helpful?"
Hawkeye returned his attention to Shade, nodding. "It helps me build these muscles, you know!" Shade smiled. Trust Hawkeye to come up with such an answer. "Taekwondo deals with speed," Hawkeye continued. Shade's eyes brightened. His attacks were faster than Aran's though not as fast. Perhaps Taekwondo was a form of fighting that most Pirates used back home.
"This club sounds really good, but I can't really stay in school. I'm sorry." Shade had heard what Nineheart had said earlier, and he knew he could not possibly stay for too long a time. Lily would flip.
Hawkeye groaned, then sighed. "Bummer. Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me! You can come anytime you want to join in, if you want" Shade smiled, nodding. So maybe sparring with someone else other than the Heroes would be entertaining.
Luminous stood at the side, grumbling. People had tried attracting him to their clubs, but he found it too troublesome in a lot of their activities. So he was now leaning against the wall, scowling away. Luminous was bored, he had wanted to take out his book to resume his study, but Elwin had once told him that others may try to read it if he was too careless, so he was no longer allowed to read it unless he was in vicinity of the others. He grumbled under his breath, and heard a cough.
Scowling, he turned to face the source, only to take a step away. "Nineheart," he greeted. The Student Council President nodded. "Luminous. You do not find anything interesting?" It sounded more like a statement than a question, so Luminous shrugged.
"Not really." He replied honestly. Nineheart brushed some hair aside, looking at his clipboard. "Then how would you like to see the Student Council?" Nineheart suggested.
"Student...Council? You mean the organization you are in charge of?" Luminous raised an eyebrow, folding his arms. What was Nineheart driving at?
Said person was now smiling. "The Student Council is not an organization persay. We are a group of students dedicated to be the medium between the teachers and students." He paused, and Luminous quickly nodded. "That is to say, we ensure the rules of the school are followed here in school, as well as ensuring the wellbeing of the students. The Student Council would ensure that students have a safe and enjoyable time in school." Nineheart explained further.
Luminous eyed him, absorbing the information. Keep up the rules? An image of Phantom flashed across his mind, and he grimaced. Wait. "Does breaking the rules also mean catching a thief?" Luminous inquired, his interest now captured.
Nineheart looked surprised, but answered nonetheless. "Yes. Thievery is frowned upon, especially among students." He wondered briefly what made Luminous think that.
Luminous smirked. Oh, the thief was in a bad situation now. With the Student Council, he could be caught easily. And with Nineheart in it, oh ho, he was definitely in trouble.
Nineheart took a piece of paper and a pen from his clipboard and handed it to Luminous. "If you are interested, you can write your name here." Luminous immediately grabbed the pen and scribbled down his name. If it helped, then the Student Council can be around to catch that damn thief. Nineheart looked somewhat satisfied as he took back the paper. Luminous handed back the pen.
"Oiiii, Luminous!" Aran came running up, smacking the 'squishy' mage on the back. Luminous fell forward, landing on the ground with a 'oof' while Nineheart had taken a step back. "Whatcha doing? The rest of us are already done, come on!" Behind her, was the other Heroes. Phantom looked a little beaten up, but he was satisfied. Mercedes looked thoughtful instead. Evan was clutching to a book,