Heroes: Into a New World

Chapter 3

With the test period finally over, many students were kicking back and relaxing. Well, not the Heroes. They were forced to undergo even more training, as commanded by Aran, who perceived not killing an enemy fast enough as ‘weak’. Being thrown against Hilla and Magnus countless times, as well as fighting Hilla’s army, the Heroes were extremely tired out. Hilla would flee at the last moment, as did Magnus, but when they were both in the same battlefield; both would tire each other out very quickly, and then leave the battlefield. It was bad enough that the Heroes had to fight them. But hearing their bickering all day long? Mercedes had proposed earplugs, but the idea was rejected when Luminous commented on being unable to hear Phantom at all, despite the Master Thief’s best efforts in yelling at the mage. It would suck if no one could hear anyone else, right?

When it was time for school, the Heroes dragged themselves into the building. Evan kept yawning over and over again. But what do they see?

Hilla and Magnus, both of them were yelling at students for some reason, and then pulling them away in the opposite direction.

Immediately, as if on cue, all the Heroes raised their hands and shoved a finger in their ears. Even Mir used his paws to cover his ears. Everyone had enough of their arguments. Once the students were led away, who else but Hawkeye to appear behind them? And Nineheart along with Mihile no less. They removed their fingers from their ears, staring at the students.

“Woah, did you see that? I was quaking in my pants.” Hawkeye shuddered. Mihile stared at him strangely. “You mean boots, Hawkeye.” Hawkeye shrugged, seemingly giving not a single shred of concern over his mistake. “Same difference. Say, you guys had better be careful too. If they catch you flirting with anyone, apparently, you will be punished as if it was an actual rule in school! Like, Mr. Magnus would get you to run laps, while Nurse Hilla makes you drink weird concoctions to ‘remove all intentions of romance’.” Hawkeye shivered. Phantom smirked, nudging Luminous. “Not like you need to care, eh, Lumibutt? You don’t have a girlfriend, can’t even get one even if it costs you your life.” Luminous glared at him, his eye flaring up. He elbowed Phantom in the ribs, shaking his head. “I think I would be safe. You on the other hand, slimy flirt, would get into trouble. No flirting or courting, remember?” Phantom rolled his eyes, huffing. “Like they can catch me!”

Evan yawned louder, pushing between the two. “Stop fighting… it’s too early for that.” Hawkeye let out a snicker. “Man, even Evan needs to tell you that. Besides, I don’t think any of you need to worry about that! Not like you have anyone eyeing you right now! Well, except Eunwol, I think...”

A glare from Mercedes and Aran silenced Hawkeye, to which he immediately hid behind Mihile.

“Ahaha… You are just being sensitive! P-please don’t kill me.” Hawkeye cowered behind Mihile, who suppressed his laughter. Aran folded her arms, huffing, while Mercedes flicked her hair, glaring coldly at Hawkeye. If looks could kill, Hawkeye was surely dead by now.

“Ahaha… By the way, can you believe in this day and age, romance isn’t allowed? Love, it’s such a beautiful noble emotion. Such emotions should be encouraged in growing teenagers like us! Aww that would mean I can’t meet anyone this week!”

“You don’t have a girlfriend anyway, Hawkeye. You don’t need to meet anyone.” Mihile put in helpfully. Hawkeye shook his head, wagging his finger at his shield against Aran. “Tsk, that’s harsh. Naver say naver, my good friend. You hurt me right in this area!” Hawkeye placed a hand across his heart, to which Mihile looked confused. “I didn’t touch there, though, Hawkeye. And it’s pronounced ‘never’, not ‘naver’.”

Hawkeye waved a hand at Mihile, ignoring him. “Anywaaaaay! I don’t like this one bit. If this continues, I’m going to graduate without a girlfriend!” He turned to face the students, a sneaky smile on his lips. “What do you say, how about we start a revolution in this school? Quickly, there’s too many ears trained on us! We need to go to somewhere private! To the roof!” He then grabbed Mihile by the sleeve, and Nineheart behind them as he passed, running up the stairs.

The Heroes stared after him. “I’m going to class. See you all after school…” Evan turned to go back into his classroom, leaving the group. The young child was too tired for any shenanigans today. Aran shook her head. “Meh. No romance? Anyone can live without that. Look at us! We can… oh. Sorry, Phantom. Didn’t mean to poke fun at you. I meant during our teenage years! What were we doing?” Phantom shook his head. Aran was a little stupid, but even she knew that bringing up Aria was equivalent to signing a death warrant. “It’s alright,” he muttered. Bringing up his dead love still stung, but Phantom was numb to the pain now. He had moved on. Mercedes stared after Hawkeye. “I’m going.” She spoke up suddenly. Everyone else face the Elven Queen. “What? M-Mercedes, is everything alright? You don’t look so good.” Aran waved a hand at Mercedes. Her expression was a little scary.

“Of course everything's not alright! Even in this peaceful world, everyone still must suffer through the cruelty of Hilla and Magnus!” Everyone looked confused, wondering where the Elven Queen was going with this. No one seemed injured or hurt, only banned from romance. Mercedes sighed, shaking her head. Of course these people wouldn’t understand at all, but living through 900 years with no king by her side, it had made her ever so lonely. “I meant not being able to pursue a love interest! That is what so cruel!” Aran stared incredulously at Mercedes, while Evan and Luminous looked as if Mercedes had sprouted a third arm. Mercedes continued, as if she was saddened by the fact there was no romance. “Imagine, the most passionate time of a person, lost and stolen away just because two coots don’t want to have romance. What a tragedy! To be refused to be held by a loved one, to be unable to express your feelings and gain that wonderful feeling of acceptance… It’s unforgivable!” Mercedes clenched her fist, as if she was angry. Everyone else at the side stared at her. Aran laughed. “So even the old lady wants some romance, huh?”

Mercedes flicked her hair, smirking. “I’m only 900 years old, Aran. That’s considered young. In fact, think about it and let it seep in through that thick skull. What if your own soulmate was in the same class as you, and no matter what you do, you can’t even approach him? Ah, it’s disappointing, it’s horrible, I can’t bear to think anymore!” Mercedes placed the back of her hand on her forehead. For a moment, there seemed to be a spotlight on her. When everyone blinked, it was gone, and only Mercedes was standing there, as if she was about to faint. Shade coughed, getting Mercedes’ attention. Aran smiled wryly. “In terms of Elven years, Mercedes! To us, you are still really, really old!” she said. Mercedes pouted, glaring at Aran.

“Ah. Yes, all of you didn’t get to experience the taste of young love. But no matter! I cannot let this crime go past! I will follow this revolution! Romance, something we are denied in Maple World, shall be expressed in many ways in this school! Come, follow me towards a world of love, romance, passion!” Mercedes followed after Hawkeye. Aran stared after her, before bursting into a fit of giggles. “Man, someone needs to get a boyfriend soon. Anyway. I don’t know about this romance stuff, so I’m going to class first. See ya later!” She ran off, up the stairs. Shade sighed. “I’ll be in class if you need me. Orchid asked to see me before class started. It seems that she requires something…” He walked off. Ever since that concert, Orchid would always text him at night, to which most of the time, he ignored it. After all, he couldn’t possibly answer his call while fighting Hilla or Magnus! He suffered badly for it, however, for his phone would explode with messages from Orchid. Orchid would yell at him over the phone. However, Shade would tolerate it for the moment, nodding and giving short replies. He didn’t want to make her any angrier. Shade went to class, leaving Luminous and Phantom.

“Romance, huh? I bet you are an expert in this sort of thing. Good luck, thief. I’ll be in class.” Luminous turned to leave, only to feel someone grab his sleeve. “Tsk, tsk, Lumibutt. I may be the best man to turn to for romance, but this most certainly is a challenging job. Unless.. You aren’t up for a challenge? Oh, poor Lumibutt, all alone forever, growing into an old man with no family but Lania. Oh wait, you are already an old man. However, not even a mother for the poor child? How cruel can life become?” Phantom was mocking Luminous. It seemed rather effective, for Luminous turned around and growled. “Fine! I’ll play along with this. I’ll prove to you I know a thing or two about romance.” He stormed up the staircase, and Phantom followed along, laughing.

When they got up there, Luminous frowned. “This is a strange group indeed.”

The ‘members’ of said revolution were Hawkeye, Francis, Nineheart, Mihile, Mercedes, Luminous and Phantom.

“This! This is a group of men who want to conquer love!” Hawkeye called out. Mercedes glared at him, folding her arms.

“Who are you calling a man, Hawkeye?” A sharp cry came from the back, where Mercedes stood, leaning against the wall. Mercedes was clearly a female, through and through. Though, she had seen some artwork from her fans as a male, but either way, both looked feminine enough. And she was very insulted at the fact Hawkeye called her a man.

Mihile laughed, patting Mercedes on the back. “Just play along. It gets pretty funny after a while.” He smiled sheepishly when Mercedes glared at him. “Really, it does,” he promised.

Francis sighed, nodding. “To get closer to Orchid, I’ll do anything!”

Luminous rolled his eyes, sighing deeply. “What did that stupid thief convince me into joining again?” He rubbed in between his eyes, as if nursing a headache. A small cough could be heard, and everyone turned to face the Student Council President, who looked extremely confused. “Why am I here again?”

Hawkeye ignored the question, continuing on his ‘grand speech’. “From now on, we shall be called the Shinsoo School Matchmakers!” He spread out his arms, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “I expect each and every one of you to fight for the right to love!”

The words clicked in the members’ heads. Shinsoo School Matchmakers…?

Phantom burst out laughing at the ridiculous name. Nineheart pressed his temples, grimacing. “Hawkeye. What is the point of this idiocy?” he snapped, a visible vein on his head.

Hawkeye shook his head. “The point is, Nineheart, to pair up the old bachelor Mr. Magnus and the school nurse, Ms. Hilla!” he exclaimed. “They are a pair of lonely people that prevent us from getting romance, so why not get them to fall in love with each other? It’s like killing two pigs with one stone!” Hawkeye explained.

“‘Kill two birds with one stone’, Hawkeye,” Mihile corrected him.

“A match made in Hell, I bet.” Phantom smirked, leaning against the railing. Luminous nodded next to him, before realizing what he was agreeing to and shaking his head instead. Mercedes seemed a little shocked at what the main purpose was, but recovered quickly. Now that she thought about it… Hilla and Magnus were always fighting. Be it betrayal or the taking over of Heliseum. The two of them fought like old spouses. How could she have not seen it before! Then maybe she could…

One look at the unamused expression on Phantom’s face and an extremely horrified one on Luminous, Mercedes chose to discard the idea quickly.

Hawkeye looked proud of himself for such a thought, unlike Mercedes. “It’s a brilliant plan! If the P.E. teacher and the school nurse are in love with each other, they can’t stop us from doing the same! I’m such a genius!” He appeared smug. But judging from the usual antics from the Captain of Lightning on Ereve, this plan… was doomed to failure.

Mihile was the first to call Hawkeye’s plan out, as per usual. “So you want to make them fall in love with each other. Hawkeye, we have a better chance of making Orchid fall in love with Francis.” Phantom nodded, smirking. “Even if we add in the possibility of her being in love with someone else, there’s still a better chance of us making Orchid fall head over heels with Francis.”

Francis appeared offended. “Don’t provoke the demon in me, or you would be sent to hell.” A dark chuckle escaped from his lips, but Mihile appeared unfazed.

“This is still not explaining my presence in this group.” Nineheart looked impatient. Yet, he was still ignored by everyone else.

Hawkeye, still ignoring Nineheart, grinned. “We are here to make the impossible possible! The Shinsoo School Matchmakers have their first mission, which is to find out what they think of each other. Off you go, agents!”

Mihile stared at Hawkeye. “Is this for real? I must be in a dream,” he muttered, rubbing his head. Nineheart was starting to look irritated. “Can someone please explain to me why I am here?”

“Agents? This foolish game has gone on long enough. A load of unnecessary trouble, if you ask me. I’m leavin-” Before Luminous could finish his sentence, Phantom slapped him on the arm, to which he flinched and glared. “Tsk, tsk, Lumi. You made a promise. Are you telling me you are going to chicken out? So the great Light Magician is actually a chicken, one incapable of even having a romance.” Luminous twitched.

“Oh, it is on, damn thief.” Luminous snarled, turning around and stalking off. Phantom shrugged, then he climbed over the railing and jumped down to the third floor, before Nineheart could see him. Mercedes tossed her hair behind her back. Hawkeye called out to the leaving Luminous. “I appoint you honorary matchmaker, Luminous! Quick, to the teachers’ office!” A response in the form of a grumble was shot back. Hawkeye smiled at Mercedes. “You are also an honorary member of the Matchmakers as well! Go see how Ms. Hilla feels about Mr. Magnus!” Mercedes saluted to Hawkeye, before hurrying down to the infirmary.

Luminous, meanwhile, slowly made his way down to the first floor. Why did he have to do this? Oh yes, because of that stupid idiotic no-gooder. That selfish imbecile actually managed to get him riled up enough to accept a dumb challenge. Luminous muttered curses under his breath. He blamed the presence of Eclipse in him. If it had been back then, before he had been tainted by the Black Mage, Luminous would have surely done better and ignored the stupid womanizer. And what was with the students and pushing everyone else to talking to the teachers and entering their office?! Luminous felt especially betrayed by Nineheart. Well, he never did go to get information by himself back in the Maple World, leaving stuff like that to Ten Boogies and his other Chief Knights. But he was very weak in battle, so he probably had a reason for not going. But still.

Luminous grumbled as he knocked on the door and entered the office, walking up to Magnus. Magnus raised an eyebrow at him. “Hey, kid. What are you doing here in the office?”

Luminous stared up at Magnus. He looked a lot like the Novan back in Heliseum. It was his counterpart, after all. Without his horn, tail, wings and armor, Magnus actually still looked rather intimidating. His eyes were the same, but something seemed different. Luminous guessed it was the lack of bloodlust. This person in front of him, he had something that the Novan betrayer didn’t have. Luminous couldn’t quite guess what it was.

Magnus cleared his throat, causing Luminous to jump. Oh. “I have a question for you.” Magnus frowned. “What question that is so important that it can’t wait for class?” There was a touch of genuine concern, to which Luminous flinched. It was definitely weird, seeing Magnus of all people staring at him with slight confusion and worry.

Okay. So what was the question again? He didn’t want to suffer the wrath of Magnus, of all people. He was done with fighting his counterpart.

“Why do you think the nurse is still single?” Well, if he wanted Magnus’ opinion on Hilla, might as well go for the romance option, right? To see if they are compatible, in any way. Which they are not. It was a suicide mission, he knew it.

Magnus scoffed at his question. “That is because she’s such a shrew. Wait, what am I saying to the student? You knucklehead, stop asking stupid questions and get back to class!” Magnus raised his voice, and Luminous quickly escaped. So Magnus thought Hilla was a shrew. Hmm. Luminous glanced at the clock on the wall, before hurrying up the stairs into his class. Shade waved to him as he entered. Luminous noticed Orchid right next to Shade, and stared at Shade, puzzled. Shade raised his arms helplessly; his eyebrows tilted downwards just a little bit.

In the infirmary, Mercedes knocked on the door and entered. Hilla was powdering her face. She looked up to see Mercedes, frowning. “Why hello there. You don’t look sick at all! Shouldn’t you be in class?”

Mercedes shook her head. Hilla leaned forward, squinting at her. “Goodness, I would hate to write you up for this.” Mercedes took a double take. Hilla actually looked concerned for her wellbeing. And a worried Hilla is one that Mercedes was not used to. The shamaness was cruel and merciless, while this nurse was kind of… cold, yes, but she still cared for others.

Great, now Mercedes was wishing she could stay here. But how could she shirk her own responsibilities?

And right now, she had better think of something fast.

“I… uh, I injured myself during P.E. lessons.” Mercedes bent down to point to an old battle wound on her leg, hoping the nurse wouldn’t ask questions.

Hilla’s expression darkened. “Yet another student was hurt during P.E. class! That barbaric teacher had better stop being so hard on his students and dumping them on me!” She got up and threw open the cupboard, bringing out a bottle of iodine and dragging Mercedes to the chair. She forced Mercedes to sit down, and began to apply iodine on said battle wound. She appeared to be much too angry to see that the wound had healed a long time ago. “Why can’t he teach gentle exercises like yoga? Someone needs to do something about this teacher. That man must be stopped!” Once she was done, a bandage was applied on. “Now off you go, Mercedes. Have a lovely day. If that teacher hurts you again, I’m reporting to the principal about this!”

Mercedes scrambled out of the infirmary. Hilla’s rage about Magnus was legendary. Did the shameness think the same way? Mercedes would never know. For now, she rushed up the stairs to meet up with Hawkeye and the rest. She did feel a little bad about this, but romance must prevail!

Back on the roof, after school, everyone was gathered. Hawkeye looked satisfied. “Alright, crew! Good job! I want each and every one of you to give me detailed reports!”

Francis, who seemed eager to report, immediately saluted. “Agent 1 reporting! According to Shinsoo Superstar Orchid, lightning strikes whenever the two come across each other!”

Mihile came up next. “Agent 2 re- oh do I really have to do this?” He seemed exasperated, annoyed even. “Anyway, it’s like a war zone during meetings because of those two.” A giggle could be heard from Mercedes, who slapped a hand over her mouth when everyone stared at her. If their arguing could be counted as war, what about the War Council between the Heroes? With Aran, Luminous and Phantom all mixed in, it was pretty much a mini world war. Mercedes refrained from looking towards said Light Magician and Master Thief, both of which were glaring at her.

Nineheart, who seemed somewhat appeased with whatever reason that Hawkeye must have given him, held out a piece of paper and spoke with a little hesitation. “… I happened to find out that the recorded number of incidents between the two is a total of 258 times, and property damage and class interruptions are only part of the damage they caused to the school. In just this year alone.”

It was Mercedes’ turn. “The nurse says the P.E. teacher is barbaric and unlikeable, which I can agree to.”

Luminous sighed. “The opinion from Magnus was that Hilla is a shrew,” he said.

Curious stares were casted their way, but nothing was said. The strange tone in their voices as they reported their findings seemed to go unnoticed.

Mihile sighed. “This is hopeless, Hawkeye. It sounds like they’ll kill each other if they were in the same room for even five minutes.” Hawkeye wagged a finger at Mihile, still grinning away. “No need to panic, agents! Just follow my lead! Phantom and me had gone through many plans while you all were away!”

“’Phantom and I’, Hawkeye!” Mihile corrected him. Hawkeye ignored the Class Monitor, waving his hand at the rest. “Follow me, crew!”

Mihile sighed. “Is it time to go home yet? Please tell me it is…” Nineheart put down his paper, his expression strangely calm. “I still don’t understand why I am here.”

Hawkeye continued, while Phantom smirked in the background. “People are conscious of what others say about them, even if one wasn’t interested in the other party. The more you expose someone to something, the greater the chance they’ll come around to liking it.” Hawkeye seemed pleased with himself, as he took a deep breath and continuing. “So their minds could change depending on how others think and say about them.”

Phantom nodded and continued. “So what we need to do, as planned by our dear Captain Hawkeye here, is to change the environment around them. Which is to say, spread a little rumors, hmm?” A card appeared in his hand, before disappearing, leaving behind a photograph. “Say, post a couple of photographs of them actually having a romance.” He flicked his wrist to reveal a couple of photographs. He flicked his wrist once more, and they disappeared. Something appeared in Mercedes’ pocket. She looked down to see one photo of them standing together.

They did look as if they were in love, true. How did Phantom get any of these moments? She looked up to see Luminous had one in his hands as well. “What in the name of Transcendents, Phantom.” Hawkeye took one look at Phantom’s over his shoulder, and laughed. “This is just what we needed! They actually look like they don’t hate each other! Well done, Phantom!” Luminous rolled his eyes. “Please do not inflate his ego further.”

Mercedes giggled. “I am pretty sure it can’t be inflated any more, Luminous.” Phantom just turned away. “Jealous of my photography skills? I learn from the best, so don’t worry, Lumibutt, I’ll teach you someday, if you ever want to learn from the great Master, that is.” Luminous cuffed him, growling. “Never,” he said.

Hawkeye smiled triumphantly. “Now go, my agents! Go spread some rumors and change the environment to suit one of our goals!” He dismissed the group, turning around and running down the stairs, as if to do his own job. Mihile followed suit, chasing after Hawkeye, while Nineheart stood back, flipping through some papers. Francis picked up his Orchid doll and rushed down as well. Phantom smirked at the last two, waving the photo in his hand. “Go on, aren’t you going to do your thing?” Mercedes smiled slyly at Phantom, before running down the stairs herself. Luminous rolled his eyes and walked down slowly, as if he was reluctant to do such a thing.

Mercedes, being faster than Luminous, arrived at the bulletin board and pinned the image there right smack in the middle. Luminous stopped at the hallway on the first floor and pasted it on the wall. Phantom snuck into the teachers’ office and pasted it on the wall where all the teachers could see the moment they walked in. He dusted his hands, feeling somewhat satisfied for the photos. He turned around to see Hawkeye, Francis, Mihile and Nineheart. Mercedes peeked in through the door, as did Luminous, as evident of the blue eye and white hair above Mercedes’ head.

“Agent Phantom, what are you doing here? Captain Hawkeye, Phantom has deserted his posts. He should be court martialled and sentenced to buying ice cream! I want strawberry!” Francis called out. Phantom sighed, and then shot a glare at Francis. Oh of all people, the doormat puppeteer. Of course it was him. Mihile raised a hand, speaking out loud, “I want vanilla. Oh yeah, did you take those pictures? They look really cozy together. I never thought I would see them in the same picture.” Phantom puffed his chest out, proud of his achievement. A loud audible slap was heard, and then muffled yelling. Nineheart turned his head slightly towards the door. Phantom smirked. “I took them while they were standing next to each other. I had guessed it was the best time, since they can’t fight and walk at the same time.” He pointed at the picture on the wall, explaining, “I had to get them in the same frame, they were fabricated in a way to catch them together. They are to spread rumors about these two in school.” Phantom turned back, grinning away. “After all, people are conscious of what others say about them.”

Nineheart coughed to get everyone’s attention. “That sounds plausible. However, posting advertisement without prior approval is against the school regulation.”

Hawkeye suddenly yelled out, covering Nineheart’s voice. “Good job, Phantom! You are an asset to our unit! Let’s move out!” With that, he rushed away. Mihile chased after him, Francis following Mihile, and Nineheart pressing his temples and yelling after them for running in the hallway. Phantom laughed. He slipped out of the room to see Mercedes helping up a trampled Luminous. He poked Luminous in the rib, causing Luminous to fall back down. One enraged yell later, and Luminous was chasing after Phantom, hot on his heels.

Back on the roof, Nineheart finally got everyone’s attention. He seemed a bit too calm for this, so none of the Heroes knew what was going on. Nineheart started to speak, “Rumors spread like wildfire – get a spark, fan the flames, and the whole thing goes up. However, we can’t start a full rumor right away. We need to create suspicious circumstances, sow the seeds, if you understand what I mean.” His gaze swept across the group, everyone nodding to his words. He continued, “For example. Both teachers can get a cold at the same time. But the weather is nice, and people would start to wonder why. So on, so forth.”

Hawkeye clapped a hand on Nineheart’s back, grinning while Nineheart sputtered. “That’s the tactician of the Shinsoo School Matchmakers for you!” Phantom covered his mouth, trying to hold back his laughter. Mercedes was giggling away, while Luminous turned around to hide his own amusement. So instead of being the tactician of the Cygnus Knights, he was the tactician of the Shinsoo School Matchmakers? Oh how the apple dropped far from the tree.

Nineheart coughed, while Hawkeye gave out orders. “Alright, our next mission is to infect them with a cold! Agent Francis and I will lure Ms Hilla out of the infirmary. Agent Mihile, keep watch and alert us before any enemy finds us. Agent Nineheart and Agent Luminous, you stay in the teacher's’ office! Agent Phantom and Agent Mercedes, go get the flu virus!” Once everyone had their orders, they saluted to Hawkeye and rushed off.

Hawkeye and Francis quickly lured Hilla out of the office, allowing Phantom and Mercedes to enter with no problems whatsoever. When they entered the infirmary, they were greeted by a bark. “Woof! What’s on schedule today, Heroes? Oh, it’s just you and Phantom, Mercedes.” Mercedes went over and patted the dog on the head. Phantom was opening drawer after drawer. “Have you seen any flu virus here? We need them,” he called out to the dog. Elwin blinked, a little shocked. “Flu virus? Sounds like a fun prank to me, if you want them. Unfortunately, some Dusties took them away. Hunt some of them and get the amount you need over there! I sealed them away.” Mercedes sighed. Of course the things they want are with the Dusties. Not to mention, which nurse keeps flu viruses in her office?!

Phantom patted Mercedes on the shoulder. Mercedes placed her hands on her hips, and the illusion was broken. Two cards flew back and Phantom caught them in his hands. They disappeared. Mercedes took out her bowguns and nodded. “Let’s get that virus.”

So why did the Dusties want flu viruses? The two of them would never know, as they killed and destroyed the Dusties. From their bodies out flew the few bottles. Phantom picked them all up, counting slowly. “How many bottles do we need?” Phantom yelled over to Mercedes. Mercedes shrugged, or shrugged to the best of her ability with her jumping and shooting at the Dusties, yelling back, “I don’t know!” Phantom just kept picking it up, until he had a total of eighty bottles. “Mercedes! We have enough to infect Aran with a slight cold!” he called out. The two of them rushed out, collapsing on the floor.

Elwin walked over, sniffing the bottles. “Wow. That’s a lot of flu viruses.” He took one big sniff, before he sneezed loudly. “Oh Transcendants! Get them away from me, they stink!” Phantom got up and dusted himself. Ah shoot. He looked at Mercedes, who was also pulling at her uniform. Grimacing, Elwin rushed off and returned with a new set of uniform. “Quickly now, it’s time to infect the two teachers! I think Hilla drinks from that mug over there, while Magnus always carries around a water bottle.”

Once the two of them were changed, they grabbed the bottles and snuck out, Mercedes stopping to dunk in one bottle of flu virus into the mug. This should be fine. They passed Mihile along the way, who then also escaped. Phantom hurried down to the teachers’ office, finding Magnus’ table, and then dunking the rest of the bottles into the bottle. This should be enough! If anything, the Magnus here was probably just as strong as the other!

He was about to leave when he got a phone call from Nineheart. He picked up the phone, “Already done, Tactician Nineheart.” Nineheart’s surprised voice came in from the other side, “That was fast. Mercedes is already with me. All we have to do now is to wait and see. Come to the hallway, let’s see if your labour bore any fruit.” Phantom clicked the phone off, before hurrying into the hallway, joining Nineheart and Mercedes. Luminous was there too. He whispered to the two of them, “How much did you give them?” Mercedes whispered, “One bottle for the old hag.” Phantom answered back as well, though it was in such a low voice Luminous strained to hear it, “Seventy-nine bottles for the big brute.”

A loud “WHAT?!” was heard, and the three of them turned to Nineheart with a finger on their lips. “You don’t want them to know we are here, Nineheart, please be quiet!” Mercedes quietly chastised Nineheart, who glared at Phantom. “Isn’t that a bit much?” Phantom shook his head.

“I think it’s just fine. Maybe a little bit more would have been alright.” Luminous spoke. Just as Nineheart was about to argue back, a door opened. Shoot! Everyone immediately peeked around the corner, watching the two of them. “They should have drunk the virus by now…” Nineheart muttered, sweating slightly. So he was nervous as well.

The two teachers were coughing and sneezing, stopping right in front of each other, still coughing and sneezing away. Nineheart smiled, while Phantom and Mercedes high-fived each other. Nineheart breathed a sigh of relief, turning to speak, “It worked. With this, and with the pictures, the rumors will snowball into something big.”

Luminous stared at Nineheart strangely. “Nineheart. You are surprisingly worked up over this. Are you…?” Nineheart immediately shook his head, an irritated expression appearing on his face. “No! I just want this over as quickly as possible, nothing else. Got it?” With that, he stalked off up the stairs. Luminous scratched his head, then he heard the giggles. He turned to see Phantom struggling to keep in his own amusement, while Mercedes was leaning against the wall.

Luminous huffed. “Come on now. Let’s hurry up and get this over with.”

The three of them moved up to the roof again, with Phantom and Mercedes finally over their bout of giggles. Hawkeye welcomed them, grinning.

“Nice job, agents! Thanks to you, our initial operation has been successful. Now the next step is… what’s the next step, Nineheart?” he asked. Nineheart glared at Hawkeye, then sighed. “Rumors are just rumors. They die away the moment the subject in question doesn’t respond. We need Nurse Hilla and Mr. Magnus to take action.” Hawkeye grinned. “I was just thinking of the same thing! So what’s the plan?”

Francis started to bounce on his feet, looking very excited. “Excuse me, Captain Hawkeye! I have the perfect plan for this!” Hawkeye pointed to Francis, grinning away. “Alright! Let’s hear it, Agent Francis!”

Francis stopped bouncing, then pulling out a piece of paper. “I read about this math trick on the internet that uses your name to see how compatible you are!” He showed the paper to everyone, looking quite happy. “A who what now?” Luminous took the paper and was holding it up to the light, tilting it this way and that. “I don’t get it.”

Francis snatched the paper back, flattening it on the floor. “See, you take the first two letters of your name, convert them to numbers, and find the difference! If the difference is the same as the difference in your ages, then you are a match! See, I did this for me and Orchid.”

Francis showed the paper again, displaying his name and Orchid’s. Hawkeye studied it, squinting. “Looks like a math problem to me.” Mihile was studying at the side, but even he didn’t know what it meant. He shrugged helplessly. Nineheart looked at the result, and shook his head. “Eleven years? You are Orchid are a year apart.”

Francis looked panicked. “N-No! It totally works! H-hold on…” He whipped out his phone, scrolling through it. Hawkeye rubbed the back of his neck, then he sighed. “Well, we’ll let Agent Francis is doing the dumb math problem, then report to Hilla and Magnus. You know, like his creepy letters and everything?” A visible shiver passed through everyone’s body. No need for a reminder. Hawkeye grinned, continuing to build on his plan. “They will have to team up to investigate! Agent Luminous, we need some chalk. Please check the teacher's’ office, thanks!” Luminous grumbled under his breath, marching off. Of course he had to do this.

Once in the teacher's’ office, he looked around the tables. A short bark alerted him to Elwin’s presence. “Luminous! What are you up to these days? I’m pretty bored.” He yawned as if to emphasise how bored he was. Luminous sighed. “Did you see chalk anywhere? I need to find them. “

Elwin scratched his ear, thinking. “I think some Dusties took them. I wonder if they are like Maple World chalk. Anyway, there were too many Dusties accumulating here, so I sealed them up again. Have fun!” Luminous slapped his forehead, groaning. His red eye flared up as he entered the Dust Zone. Elwin, sitting outside, could hear the loud sounds of Luminous’ spells. Shivering, he hid under a table. Luminous was extremely angry. Once he had gotten some sticks of chalk from the darn Dusties, he came out, smoking. His uniform was slightly singed, but otherwise okay. Elwin peeked out, before running over. “Oh! Chalk! Eh, they look exactly the same. So what are you going to do with them anyway?” Luminous shrugged. “Some kind of love spell. I’ll show you.”

Elwin took one look and was immediately lost, judging from his expression. “Looks like a math problem to me.” Luminous shrugged. “The children in this world really seem to be like these things. Pointless, if you ask me.” He consulted his phone, to reveal a message from Nineheart.

[XX/XX/2015, 2:30 P.M.]

Irena: What are you guys doing Aran and I are bored

Hawkeye: @Irena GUY STUFF

Mercedes: I am not a male. Hawkeye, can you not see my obvious gender?

Aran: lololololol seiorus Oz coem ovwr gwr buns

[XX/XX/2015, 3:56 P.M.]

Nineheart: Combination of the names Magnus and Hilla shows that Mahilga yields the highest probability. Once you have a chalk, write down the combined name on the blackboard in the classroom.

Luminous growled under his breath, putting away his phone. Elwin smiled and placed a paw on Luminous’ hand. “Well, if you are going to do it, then go do it right? Go to every blackboard in the level and write it down then!”

Luminous stared at Elwin for a moment. Then, he got up and walked out of the office. Elwin swore he saw Luminous’ red eye light up for a second.

Luminous entered the first year classroom, ignoring Evan’s greetings. Evan seemed surprised, wondering what was going on. Luminous picked up the chalk and scratched on the whiteboard, writing down the letters ‘M’, ‘A’, ‘H’ and ‘I’. Once he did that, he wrote down the numbers of the letters in the alphabets. ‘M’ was 13, ‘A’ was 1, ‘H’ was 8, ‘I’ was 10. He added 1 to 13, 8 to 10. 14 and 18. He subtracted 14 from 18, ending with 4. Luminous frowned. How did this make sense again? He wrote down the word ‘years’. They were four years apart, right? Luminous stood back, looking at his work. Then, he scribbled down ‘Mahilga’ at the side, before walking off. Evan looked a little worried, but his attention was on the scribbles. What…?

Luminous entered the second-year next. He walked up to the chalkboard, scribbling down the same thing. Shade looked up from his book, Orchid next to him. “Luminous? What are you doing?” he called out, but yet again, he was ignored. Luminous stormed out, muttering something under his breath. Shade sank back into his seat, confused and slightly wary.

Now in the third year, Luminous barely started writing when he felt a pair of arms wrap around him. “I got him, Irena! I caught Luminous!” Luminous could feel his bones creaking from the pressure, and choked. No air, no air! Irena quickly rushed over, patting Aran. “Luminous is choking! His face is turning blue!” Aran looked at Luminous’ face, then releasing him. Luminous landed on the ground with a thump. “Ouch… that hurt, Aran! Warn me next time!” Luminous growled at the warrior, who seemed to not care at all. “Not my fault you are all squishy.” Irena sighed, turning her attention to Luminous. “So, what are you boys doing?” Luminous got up, dusting himself. “Nothing,” he answered back, then scribbling on the board again. Irena folded her arms, skeptical. “I don’t think this means anything, you know.” Luminous just finished up and walked to the door. Aran stared at it. “A math problem? What’s this? Mahilga? Huh?” Irena looked equally puzzled. The two girls were left standing there, wondering what Luminous meant.

Meanwhile, Luminous’ phone rang. He picked it up, assuming it to be Hawkeye. “What?” he snapped. “Hello, Luminous?” Cygnus. Oops.

“Yes. What is it.” It sounded more like a statement than a question, but Cygnus continued.

“Oh, yes. I haven’t seen you all day. Not Hawkeye or Nineheart either. Not even Mihile or Phantom! I saw Mercedes just now, but she seemed to be in a hurry.” Luminous frowned, wondering what Cygnus was getting at.

“I see. Is there something wrong?” he asked.

A brief hesitation, then Cygnus continued, “I-I was just wondering, are you tired of me? Oz said I could be tiring after a while…” Luminous gulped. If he said something wrong, Phantom would murder him on the spot. If he told Cygnus, Hawkeye would murder him on the spot. There was no lesser evil in this case. He racked his head for an answer.

Well, the truth or nothing. “There are some secrets that I am unable to divulge at the moment. I am sorry.”

A sniffle could be heard on the other end. “I… I see! It’s true that there are some lines that friends cannot cross… Give me a call when you are all done? Oh Oz- WAH!” Cygnus’ phone was suddenly passed around, and Luminous gulped. Was Cygnus crying? He had better not mention this to Phantom later. He was so dead.

“Gimme that phone! HEY! What the heck are you guys doing?! Everyone is whispering about how you guys flock together as if you are up to no good! Being all suspicious and secretive! It’s rude! I pay attention when others talk about you! SO REVEAL YOUR SECRETS!!!” Oz’s loud voice came through the phone, to which Luminous had to hold it some distance away. His ears were ringing.Wait.

“That’s it. You gave me a good idea. Thank you, Oz.” With that, he quickly shut off the phone. Now that thief wouldn’t say he had no romance!

Now, all he had to do was to get positive feelings towards each other. But how? Luminous remembered that the thief would mention that in romance, the lovers usually had something in common. Luminous didn’t know Magnus or Hilla that well to know. There was someone who did, though.Luminous put away his phone, moving to leave. He rushed downstairs and into the teacher's’ office. “Mr. Stan!” He turned around and blinked at him. “What is it, Luminous?”

“What do Hilla and Magnus have in common?” Luminous asked, looking at the old man straight in the eye.

Stan stared at him, his expression unreadable. “You want something in common between the two of them? Nothing! They are like fire and ice and being four years apart doesn’t help at all.” He took a deep breath, like he had more to say. “They fight like cats and dogs, no matter who’s around. It doesn’t help that they are almost the same age.” Stan sighed deeply, as if troubled by the two of them. “Outside of the school, perhaps you should ask the security guard over there. They might be friendlier.”

Luminous nodded, then rushed out. Outside the school gate… oh! There it was. He walked to the old building, finding Ericsson standing outside in a security guard uniform. Luminous tapped him on the shoulder. The guard turned, and Luminous struggled to keep a straight face. This man in Orbis sent them to Chryse. Now, he was a security guard. What is wrong with this world? Luminous asked, “Is there anything in common between Hilla and Magnus?”

The guard regarded him warily, rubbing his beard. “Something in common? Well, they hate each other’s guts. And everything is opposite. Even their schedules are opposite. And outside of school? They try to run each other over in the parking lot.” Luminous suppressed a chuckle. It sounded amusing, watching as a grown man and woman arguing with each other, and one trying to run the other over.

“What about romance?” he pushed on. Ericsson seemed to give him a weird stare, though it was hard to see from his eyes that remained horizontal lines. “I’ll say zero percent. I don’t think they can even be in the same room without killing each other. Why don’t you ask the girls in your school?” Luminous muttered a curse before thanking Ericsson. He rushed back to school, wondering if Shade was still in school. If he was, that would mean Orchid too.

Lucky for him, Shade had not planned to leave the school until the rest were ready to go back. He was reading quietly in the back. Shade looked up briefly to see Luminous. He waved to him. Luminous walked over, panting.

“What were you doing this entire time, Luminous? Hawkeye doesn’t want to tell me anything.” Shade asked.

Luminous shook his head. “I’m looking for Orchid. I need to ask her something.”

Orchid looked up at Luminous, the same condescending expression on her face.

“What is it? Orchid is very busy,” she quickly said.

Busy? Yeah right, Luminous could see that she was just sticking to Shade. “Is there anything similar to Hilla and Magnus?” He forced himself to focus on Orchid, to ignore the suddenly coughing and hacking from Shade.

Orchid flicked her hair, arrogantly answering back, “Hilla? Magnus? Never heard of anyone with such names, why?”

Shade grabbed Luminous’ collar and dragged him down to his level. “You guys aren’t doing what I think…” Luminous just gave him an irritated look.

“Yes. We are doing just that. No, we aren’t going to do it back home. I refuse.” Shade released Luminous’ collar, breathing a sigh of relief.

“D-Do you need help? I’m bored,” he asked hopefully. Luminous shook his head. “We have everything covered. I just need to do this to win the bet with the stupid marigold.” Shade nodded, somewhat crestfallen. “Y-yes, of course. Text me when you are done, Evan and Aran are waiting for you three.” Luminous gave a curt nod, then hurried out.

He went up to the third level. His final try. It had to work! Luminous entered the classroom to see Irena and Aran doing homework, or trying to, at least. Aran was pretty much asleep. Irena looked up to see Luminous. “What’s up? Are you ready to tell us what’s going on?” Luminous nodded. Irena turned to Aran, whispering in her ear. Aran sat up immediately, her eyes bright. “Where? Where is that boar?” she yelled. When she noticed Luminous, she sank back down in her seat. Irena laughed, explaining to the confused Luminous. “Mercedes taught me how to wake her up in class.” Luminous sighed.

“…We are trying to match up Hilla and Magnus,” he squeaked, looking away, gritting his teeth. Silence.

Then a loud snort and a sigh.“You are trying to hook Hilla and Magnus? Are you trying to end the world? Or is that some kind of bonus to you?” Luminous glared at Aran, who was laughing away.“No. I would prefer if that bonus never occurs. It was Hawkeye’s idea.” Aran got up, wiping away the tears from her eyes.

“Oh Transcendants. That was funny. You’ll never do it, look at them! You know how it is like!” Aran collapsed into another bout of laughter. Luminous rolled his eyes.

Irena smiled and shook her head. “To be honest, I’m amused as well. Maybe you should stop and do something useful.”

“Or maybe you could try pairing Phantom up with yourself! Hilla and Magnus happening is like you and Phantom ever getting together!” Aran rolled over the floor in laughter Luminous twitched.

Irena sighed, shaking her head. “I’m not sure if this would help you, but the funny thing about men and women is that trying not to think about the other party makes you think about them more.” Luminous looked sceptical, one eyebrow raised. Irena nodded, as if emphasising it was true. “No matter how disinterested you are in the other party, if people start pushing you, they get in your head and you can’t get them out.” Luminous frowned. Was that true? Perhaps it was like the time when all the Heroes heard Freud was dead. Somehow, Luminous could not stop thinking about him. Perhaps, this was the key to getting Hilla and Magnus together.

Irena was still talking when Luminous returned his attention to her,“Because I…”

“So Irena has someone she likes?” Aran suddenly points out. Irena immediately clammed up, pressing her lips together. “No! I never said that! Anyway, you know what I was getting at right?” Luminous nodded, “Thank you. Perhaps this would clear up this extremely annoying mission within a shorter time.”

With that, he ran off. Down the stairs again, he went. It was almost evening; he had better hurry. Lucky for Luminous, Magnus was still in the teacher’s office. Magnus looked at him in surprise. “What do you need, kid? What are you doing running so fast?”

Luminous raised a hand to stop Magnus, while he regained his breathing. Once his breathing was settled, he looked up at the teacher. Magnus looked somewhat intimidated, but stood his ground.

“Mr. Magnus. Do you believe in coincidence?” Luminous started, while Magnus seemed slightly taken aback. Luminous attempted to appear sincere by moving closer to Magnus, but instead appeared more intimidating than anything else, especially when his red eye was glowing slightly.

Magnus answered back, “Huh? What are you asking now? Look, I really have to go home, I think I’m sick.” He coughed a few times, but Luminous ignored it.

Luminous twitched. Magnus looked uncomfortable. Luminous could see why the thief enjoyed poking fun at others. But no matter, he had to finish up. Luminous slowly took another step closer to Magnus, who retreated, looking more and more uncertain. “What are the chances that you and your soul mate are born in the same place, same time, even meeting in the same workplace, same country, in the same era among millions of other lives out there?” he blurted out. Magnus looked frightened now. He coughed more, still watching Luminous warily.

“What nonsense are you spouting about now? Are you trying to tell me you are a philosopher?” Magnus tried to stand his ground. But Luminous was on a roll now, he could not stop, he had to prove to the thief that he knew romance! Luminous took one more step over, to which Magnus started shifting back even further.

“Maybe it isn’t a coincidence. Maybe, there is a reason why you two are always in the same workplace, talking to each other. You two are always running into each other, despite your best efforts.” Luminous had to bite back a laugh at the end of this lie, his own instincts screaming at him to stop and think about what he was doing, while the Eclipse part of him was egging him on. Go on, intimidate Magnus more!

“Maybe it is fate, destiny.” That one line sounded so cheesy, Luminous swore it should have been Phantom who said it. The stupid thief had not rubbed off on him, did he?

Magnus repeated his words while moving backwards, looking more and more unsure of himself. “Fate..? Destiny…?” he muttered. Luminous took one step closer.

“That’s right. Fate and destiny….”

Magnus pushed Luminous away. “Stop! That’s it, you are getting detention. Quit creeping towards me like that! It’s making me uncomfortable! And I’m sick! Don’t come near me!” He was on the verge of breaking. Luminous had to finish this as fast as possible. If he delayed it any longer, Luminous might be the first to run away from this encounter.

Luminous stepped into Magnus’ personal space, glaring at him. He spoke softly, “Destiny, Mr. Magnus. You cannot resist your destiny. Who has fate conspired to pair you up with? Perhaps she is closer than you think… Work your brain!” He cried at the last part. Magnus flinched when Luminous raised his voice. Luminous paused. Perhaps that was enough. He had better leave now. But how? An idea slipped into his mind. Luminous cringed at the thought of it, but he didn’t have any other way.

“….And good bye.” With three simple words, Luminous turned tail and fled, ignoring Magnus’ cries for him to stop. Luminous kept going, running up the stairs. Once he was on the second floor, Luminous stopped, panting heavily. His heart was thumping nonstop. Even though this Magnus did not have horns or tail, getting up in his personal space was still pretty darn scary. He had not acknowledged his heart. Now, as he was thinking, Luminous wondered, why did he do such a thing? It was like he couldn’t stop moving at all. To be fair, he had a taste of what it was like to do what the thief usually did to him.

He almost died. He had followed the thief’s example for a moment before things went out of control.

Luminous was curled up like that at the staircase, and he felt a pat on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Mercedes. “Good job, Luminous. I saw what you were doing through the window. I must say, I never expected you to do such a thing! It was little out of character.” Mercedes laughed politely, taking a seat next to him.

Luminous looked away.“That imbecile was going to get me again, is he not?” Luminous sighed, irritated. If Mercedes saw, no doubt the marigold did too.

Speak of the devil. “On contrary, I must commend you for your efforts, Sparklybutt.” Oh, a new nickname.Luminous groaned.

“Not in the mood, you cretin. Leave me alone.” Phantom laughed, hooking an arm around Luminous and ruffling his hair. “Get off me!” Luminous pushed Phantom away.

Phantom smirked and got up close to him. “My my, is Luminous all spent from facing Magnus? Tsk tsk, you’ll never get romance if you are this quickly spent.” Luminous swatted at him, but Phantom danced out of reach.

Mercedes patted Luminous on the shoulder, getting up. “Don’t worry. I’ll take over for Hilla tomorrow. After all, women understand each other way better than you men. I’ll follow your example, though. We should go now, Aran’s been complaining about food while Evan needs to go back to get a reference book.” When Luminous did not move, she sighed and walked into the second-year classroom.

She exited with Shade, who was pushing Orchid away. “I have to go now, I’m sorry. Oh, Luminous? What happened?”ed.

Luminous shook his head, not wanting to show his face to anyone right now. He was too ashamed. “Oh… Okay then. Heeyup.” Luminous heard Shade mutter. Luminous felt two hands wrap around him and picked him up, tossing him over Shade’s shoulders. “Let’s go. This is better than Aran carrying you, right?” Luminous just curled up more. How bad could this day get? Evan was waiting on the bottom floor, and he too was confused as to what was going on with Luminous. The six of them returned back to the Maple World, though, not for training, since Luminous was out of commission.

After lunch, Mercedes got up to the infirmary. She had done her research the previous night, grabbing magazines about stars aligning and all that. Aran and Irena had wished her good luck, though Mercedes wasn’t sure if Aran was actually saying anything over her laughter. She knocked on the door, entering the room. “Nurse Hilla?”

Hilla looked up from her makeup mirror, smiling slightly. “Hello! Oh, it was you from earlier.” Mercedes nodded, walking up to Hilla.

Frowning, Hilla took out a bottle iodine from the nearby cupboard. “You were the one that got hurt earlier today, weren’t you? What happened? Did a second session of Physical Education lessons make you get hurt again?” Hilla looked well again, as if she was never sick in the first place. Perhaps she had given herself some medicine to cure herself of the flu virus.

Mercedes shook her head. “I think it was lunch this time. I ate too quickly, and now I have heartburn.”

Hilla looked at her sympathetically. “Oh no. Alright, here is the iodine. Put it where it hurts.” Mercedes took the bottle of iodine hesitantly. Was iodine some sort of miracle cure? When Hilla turned away, Mercedes quickly pocketed the bottle.

“Nurse Hilla? How old are you? I do believe you are a hun- I mean twenty-plus years old!” Mercedes laughed, trying to cover up her mistake.

Hilla blushed and smiled. “You flatter me, honestly! I’ll be thirty in a couple of years!” She laughed, taking out a pink sponge and patting it all over her face. “Oh, right. Here, take this antacid. I was just joking about the iodine, you can’t possibly drink iodine.” Mercedes took the pill warily, eyeing Hilla. So the iodine was a joke? Huh. So there was the same twisted humor. Mercedes squinted at Hilla. She knew what a thirty-year-old woman looked like, and Hilla was way beyond that age! What a liar!

Mercedes faked a smile, “I thought you were a student at first, you know? So does this make you the youngest teacher in school, then Mr. Magnus…”

Hilla looked away, powdering her face.“M-maybe,” she simply replied. Mercedes’ fingers twitched.

Hilla was feigning disinterest now! Time to get to the next plan!

Mercedes turned away, tossing her hair behind her, allowing it to flutter down. “You know… they say it’s really easy to find love at thirty. Mature enough to know what you want, young enough to enjoy it.” She let out a longing sigh, clapping her hands together. “Men and women are good when they are five years apart, and they are perfect wives and husbands when they are four years apart….” Mercedes started to mumble, and slowly, but surely, Hilla was approaching her from behind, straining to catch those lovely words.

Suddenly, Mercedes turned around, smiling widely. “Nothing! Hehe…” She took a few steps back from Hilla, as if to exit the room. She couldn’t stay here for long, after all. “The antacid seems to be helping. I had better get back to class; it’s almost time for the next lesson to start.”

Hilla nodded, looking stunned. “O-okay… Be careful…” she called out to Mercedes. Mercedes took another couple of steps back, a cheeky grin on her face.

Final phase! “Wait a minute, Mr. Magnus is four years older than you!” Mercedes exclaimed excitedly. Hilla looked shocked.

“I-is that so?”

Mercedes nodded, still smiling. She took a couple more steps backwards towards the exit, and then threw out yet another lie. “That’s so interesting! You know, my parents are four years apart, and they met when my mother was thirty. And my cousin is getting married to a man four years older than her!” Mercedes sighed dreamily, then walked backwards, already at the exit. “I have to go. Thanks again!” With that, she ran into her classroom, suppressing her laughter on the way there. She fell for it so bad! Aran, on the desk next to her, gave her a nudge.

“Tell me all about it later, once Akarium is done with his boring old lecture!” she whispered. Mercedes nodded while laughing, her body trembling slightly.

After class, Mercedes got a call from Mihile. She had stayed behind to tell Aran and Irena, and both had told her that it was a job well done. Hilla would have to believe her now! Her phone started to vibrate. Mercedes took it out of her pocket. “Hello? This is Mercedes speaking,” she chirped.

Aran and Irena’s ears pressed against Mercedes’ phone. “Hello? Mercedes? I’ve been looking for you. Where have you been? I didn’t see you during lunch, Hawkeye had called for a meeting. Luminous is curled up in a corner and refused to speak, while Phantom doesn’t want to speak for him.”

Mercedes giggled. “I was with Nurse Hilla. You see…”

Once she had explained everything to Mihile, his voice sounded really strange, as if he was talking about an unbelievable story. “Okay, so Luminous came up with this entire destiny fate thing and you came up with this four years apart thing? Where do you come up with all this junk? And the teachers believed in this crap? You really have a knack of lying.”

Mercedes laughed harder, shaking her head. “No, I think I learnt from the Master Liar himself, Phantom. These lies really sound crazy!” She could picture Mihile shaking his head at Luminous and Phantom.“I got it from a magazine in Cygnus’ office for the four years apart thing. We don’t have time to joke around, though. It’s time to solidify what we have been working on.”

Mihile’s only reply was a question when Mercedes cut off. “Solidify…?”

Mercedes put away her phone, waving to Irena and Aran, before rushing up to the roof. Phantom and Luminous (who was still hiding his face apparently) was waiting for her there, as with the rest of the group. from Mercedes’ expression, Phantom had guessed that it was a success..

“Okay! Since Mercedes says it’s time to finish this, let’s get down to business,” Phantom gathered the group. Mercedes rubbed her hands together. She took command for this part, giving out roles. “Do you all understand?” They saluted to Mercedes, nodding. “Yes ma’am!” Satisfied, Mercedes pointed to the staircase. “Then let’s move out!”

On the first floor, Mihile, Hawkeye, Nineheart and Francis were in position, looking as if they were just talking to each other. Hawkeye spotted Hilla walking down the hallway. Meanwhile, Mihile spotted Magnus coming down the other staircase. “Quick, get ready!” he whispered, and everyone nodded.

Once the two of them were close enough to hear, Mihile started. “Did you hear, Orchid never forgets the faces of people she meets?” Hawkeye nodded, leaning against the lockers, looking as ‘cool’ as possible.

“I did. She never forgets. At all.” Mihile nodded, but frowned. “But even she can’t remember Nurse Hilla’s or Mr. Magnus’ faces.” Hawkeye’s jaw dropped dramatically, and Francis behind him gasped.

“No way! That’s so weird!”

Nineheart seemed to agree, nodding slowly. “I suppose, in a way, it must be fate. Destiny, even...”

From the window just above the lockers on the first floor, Mercedes and Phantom watched as Hilla and Magnus walked past one another. When their targets were just about to leave, Hilla turned around, watching Magnus,then turned back and resumed walking. Magnus turned around then and glanced at Hilla, then walked off as well. Phantom and Mercedes gave each other high fives, grinning. Mission accomplished! The four actors watched excitedly, before huddling together.

Inside the school, they could hear Hawkeye yelling, “Did you see that?! They are aware of each other! Finally, some chemistry!” He jumped up and down, waving his hands about.

Mihile nodded, quite proud of the day’s work. “The act we put on really worked! Wow! ”

Meanwhile, Francis standing next to him muttered,. “Why wasn’t I given a single line…?”, and kicked at the ground. Nineheart groaned softly, rubbing his head. His brow was furrowed. Phantom swore that an extra crease had appeared on his head.

“I am never doing something like this again.” he muttered.

The group quickly hurried onto the roof. Mercedes bent down to Luminous to tell him what happened. He looked up, surprised. “It actually worked?” A single nod from Mercedes, and Luminous uncurled himself.

“I suppose… a good job done then.” Francis tugged at Nineheart’s sleeve, looking hopeful. “So what’s next, Nineheart?” he inquired.

Nineheart took out a notebook, flipping through it. “It is time for some accident to occur. According to some research, people fall in love easily with those whom they face danger together, because their bodies mistake the beating of the heart from nervousness as the signs of love.” Nineheart continued to flip through the book. He paused, looking up at the rest of them with a serious, yet unsure expression. “We need Mr. Magnus to go to the infirmary. The only question is how…”

Mihile shrugged. “It’s going to be tough. The only reason why he caught the flu for the first time was because of the flu virus we planted. He’s too healthy.”

Francis chuckled darkly, shoving a hand in his pocket. “I still have some laxatives from last time. I could…”

“We just have to knock him down!” Mercedes screams. She looked confident.

Phantom nodded beside her. “Only way to do it is to knock him down, right onto the floor. Probably a few injuries, nothing too major. Plus, we got plenty of practice to do this…” Phantom cracked his knuckles in front of Luminous, and for once in his life, Luminous appreciated Phantom’s mischievousness.

“We just need a few certain people with us…” she trailed off.

Phantom climbed up the railing, peeking over, ignoring Nineheart’s sputtering and yelling for him to get down. “He’s at the front gate! Quick!”

The three Heroes present ran down, Mercedes and Phantom stopping halfway to grab Aran and Shade respectively. Luminous bumped into Evan. He took one look at the dog beside Evan. His red eye immediately lit up, a dark grin on his face. He grabbed Evan, running outside to join the rest. “What’s going on?” Evan cried out. Mercedes pointed to Magnus at the school gate.

“Quickly!” Phantom rushed ahead, making a full stop in front of Mr. Magnus’s path.. “Mr. Magnus!”

Magnus stopped, scratching his head. “What is it?”

“I’m so sorry for this, but this is for your own good.” He gave a bow to Magnus, who looked more confused than annoyed.

“What do you mean?”

Meanwhile, as Phantom was speaking to Magnus, Mercedes ran over to Velderoth, the school jock. She made a request to Velderoth, who looked confused. “Get me three hundred footballs!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, in a voice hoarser than a goat’s. Just like his commander, he had no wings nor a tail and had the same dumbfound expression whenever a pretty girl walked up to him.

A couple of footballers came out, making a pyramid of balls behind Aran, Shade and Mir. A bush was covering Mir when the potion’s effect was removed by Evan. Evan looked worried. “Are you sure about this, Mercedes?” he asked worriedly.

The Elven queen nodded, patting Evan on the head. “Don’t you worry. Phantom will be back here soon to disguise Mir with his illusions, and we can remove the black and white footballs.” She turned to the gate. They were at the front door. The pyramid of soccer balls were on the grass, waiting to be kicked. She pointed at Magnus. “Ready! Aim! FIRE!”

Shade, Aran and Mir hit the soccer balls towards the teacher Magnus. Phantom jumped up and disappeared, appearing next to Mercedes near the front door. Mir shot the balls with his tail, usually missing his target, but occasionally hitting Magnus’s critical area. Aran was yelling like a five-year-old girl at her first theme park , while Shade aimed for the head. They had fought Magnus more than once, and they failed so badly. Anger, frustration and pure satisfaction lead them to hit the balls harder, faster, at speeds never before attempted by mankind. They cannot be stopped,.

Mercedes and Phantom could not look on. Shaking his head at Mir’s abysmal accuracy, Evan, of all people, casted an accuracy-boosting skill, on both Mir and Luminous. It wasn’t long before Mercedes joined in. She didn’t hit him as hard as Aran did, though not because of a lack of trying. Deciding what the heck, why not,Phantom transformed his cane into a hammer and whacked like there was no tomorrow.

By the time most of the balls had been used, the six Heroes were treating this as a game, all six of them participating, to see who could land the hardest hit on Magnus. They were having fun. Nineheart rushed down, grabbing Phantom by the shoulder. “Stop! I don’t approve of this, what are you doing?!” he yelled. Everyone ignored him, while Phantom turned to face Nineheart with a very serious expression.

“Try it.You will understand.”

In the next moment, Eckhart looked out of the window. His eyes widened. Nineheart was loading soccer balls onto a makeshift string shot, made out of Phantom’s cane and an extra one as well as some.. material as the string. Eckhart couldn’t make out what it was. He seemed to be yelling at Phantom to give him more soccer balls. Eckhart retreated to his seat quietly, choosing not to mention any of this to the rest.

Three hundred balls later, Magnus was still not down. In fact, he had not fallen down at all. He was standing, not a black eye to be seen. He was standing up straight, as if nothing had happened at all. Nineheart quickly escaped, leaving the six of them behind. The Heroes were left with a completely unscathed Magnus. Rather, he was furious. Evan hurriedly gave Mir the transformation potion.

Magnus stomped after them. There was literal smoke coming out of his head, his face turning red from anger. Evan guessed that he could cook a chicken egg on his head, judging from how angry he looked. Magnus waved his fist furiously. “Who kicked those balls?! You’ll spend the rest of your lives in detention! And detention consists of running a hundred laps around the schoolyard, while doing squats!” he yelled, his temper exploding. The six of them quickly ran away from Magnus, chortling with laughter, feeling more relaxed than they ever had in a long time.

Once in the school, they collapsed onto one another, their breath empty from all that laughter. Mercedes, who was leaning on a pile of Phantom and Luminous, sat up and wiped away her tears.

“That was actually very enjoyable. Too bad we can’t do it again!” Aran snorted, shoving away the boys she was stuck between. “You think we should do that to Magnus back in Heliseum?” Everyone froze, yelled “No!” and dissolving into laughter again and again.

Once everyone calmed down, they slowly got off the floor. Mercedes glanced at her ringing phone. Francis? “Hehe, foolish human, I-” he started.

Mercedes took a deep breath and replied, “I’m hanging up.”

Francis’ frantic voice immediately came through. “H-hey! Wait! Don’t cut me off like that!”

Mercedes sighed, replying, “Oh, so it was you, human? For a moment, I thought it was the Demon King.”

A dark chuckle comes from the other side. “Now that you know who I a-”

“Okay, good bye.”

“N-no! Alright, Captain Hawkeye wants your report, did you accomplish the mission?”

Mercedes peeked out the window to see Magnus storming around the front gate. “Not good. He’s too strong. We got three hundred balls launched with superhuman strength, and he’s still not down.”

Francis let out a nervous squeak. “S-superhuman strength? Ehehehe… I see! Now it’s time for my turn to shine! Come to the Science Lab on level three, I will show you the power of the dark side…”

Mercedes sighed. “Let’s go. Thanks a lot, the rest of you. Feeling better?” Everyone nodded. Phantom, Luminous and Mercedes hurried up to the third level

Along the way, Phantom checked his phone. Grinning, he sent a reply.

[XX/XX/2015, 3:14 P.M.]

Mihile: huehuehue I saw everything

Eckhart: lololol whatcha’ doin

Hawkeye: LOL omg soccer so fun

Phantom: ikr target practice very fun iron body magnus

Hawkeye: iron magnus omg

Phantom kept away his phone and hurried into the science lab after Luminous and Mercedes. They entered to see Francis collapsed on the floor, while Elwin was shaking him the best he could. He looked up to see the three of them.

“Oh thank Transcendants you are here! I didn’t do it! He tried to make some sort of love potion, but he ended up like this.” He pointed to the concoction on the table counter. “There was some sort of explosion and he passed out. Totally wasn’t me.” He ran over to the entrance of the Dust Zone, pointing inside. “We have to deal with the Dusties! They were agitated by the loud sound, so could you take care of them?” More loud groans from the three of them and they charged in.

The three of them easily took out the Dusties with ease, seeing that they were all trained in destroying large groups of monsters. As they fought, Mercedes frowned at the bottle of iodine. It was taking up space in her inventory.

She took it out. It was a cure, right? So drinking it should be good. Mercedes drank the entire bottle, expecting either her health or mana to be replenished. But she simply got poisoned. Mercedes spat out the liquid, staring at the bottle. “What the heck?!” she screamed. Phantom turned around and sighed. “That’s what you get for listening to Hilla,” he said.

Once they were out, the Heroes quickly healed up. It was an easy battle, other than that incident with Mercedes. However, the same could not be same for their clothes. They were torn, ragged, singed and stained green from the poison. They quickly changed. Lucky for them, Phantom’s maids were done mending the extra uniforms, and they quickly slipped them one, giving Elwin the destroyed ones they were wearing. It had become the norm for them, every time there was a battle, they would slip out of the destroyed clothes and put on a new one. Elwin was to transport the tattered pieces back to the Lumiere for mending. The brown dog peeked into the Zone. “I think they are all gone now. I think I might be allergic… A-ACHOO!” Elwin sneezed, rubbing his little dog nose. “The last thing we need is a Troublemaker.” He looked over Francis, quickly retreating behind the legs of Luminous. “He’s coming round! Woof!”

Sure enough, a soft groan was heard. Phantom bent down and poked him with his cane. “Hey. Wake up.”

Francis rolled over, mumbling, “Five more minutes, Mum… I don’t have to eat breakfast…”

Mercedes and Luminous grinned while Phantom felt a vein pulsed on his head. Grabbing his cane, he poked Francis in the ribs. Hard. “Wake up. I’m not your mom. Get up already!” Francis finally sat up to see a forced smile on Phantom’s face, with Mercedes and Luminous looking over his shoulder. “W-Why am I in the science lab? So you have discovered my hidden sanctum! I see that you have called me forth, humans! Are you aware of the price you must pay for summoning me, the Demon King? Bring me my sacrifice!” Francis cried out. He then chuckled deeply, speaking in a low voice, “Of course, here in my sanctum, my dark powers are-” Phantom slapped Francis on the back of his head, still smiling, though there was a shadow over his eyes. “Enough fun already, hmm, Francis? You said you knew how to knock Magnus out, so tell us. Don’t say black magic, I’m sure a certain someone would simply hate to use such a foul thing.” A sideway glance was shot at Luminous, who suddenly stood stock still.

Francis got up and dusted himself, sighing. “So harsh! I’ve already prepared it for you! Just make him drink this. It would make him faint, I assure you. Even a dragon stood no chance!” Phantom tilted his head, his expression suspicious. Mercedes took the bottle and took a sniff. Immediately, she recoiled. “Yuck. You take it, Phantom. You are the most accomplished liar.” Holding her nose, she took the bottle and handed it to him. Luminous pinched his nose as well, turning away. Phantom held it an arm’s length away from him. “That’s nonsense and you know it, Your Majesty. But fine.” Phantom ran out of the room with the bottle, down to the front gate.

“Mr. Magnus!” he called out to the teacher. Said teacher turned around and moved back, having casted his suspicion on Phantom. “You! What do you want know? You are pushing your luck kid, I know you planned that attack on me!” Phantom ran forward, stopping right in front of Magnus. He moved back some more. Phantom held up a bottle. “Look, Mr. Magnus. We have been giving you a really hard time.” Magnus moved more, snorting. “Glad you know, kid!”

Phantom gestured to the bottle. “So as a sign of gratitude for guiding us during our time in school, I got you this energy drink!” Magnus took the bait, walking closer and taking the bottle from Phantom’s hand. He looked at the bottle, grinning, not the least bit suspicious. “Hmph, at least there are some good students in this school. Thank you. Then…” He downed the entire bottle, to Phantom’s surprise. Phantom took a step back, a little worried. What did Francis put in that bottle? Magnus finished it, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He walked back to school, smiling.

Then he collapsed.

Phantom stared in wonder. “It worked instantly. Wow.” He ran over and started to drag the P.E. teacher to the infirmary, Luminous and Mercedes joining in to help haul him up the stairs.

In the infirmary, Hilla looked shocked when they dragged Magnus in. Once he was on the bed, Hilla placed an icepack on his head and turned to the three students. “My gosh! What happened to him? He looked like he could swallow concrete and be just fine…”

Mercedes quickly answered, “Heatstroke! The weather is really hot today, and he’s been out in the sun for so long, the poor thing!” Hilla seemed to agree with Mercedes. Phantom coughed, already at the door. “We really have to go, Nurse. I apologize, perhaps another time?” He smiled at Hilla while Mercedes ran out the door. Once he closed it, Luminous held up the lock. They quickly locked the door shut and bolted up the stairs onto the rooftop. Once on top, Mercedes grabbed the lever that Nineheart said controlled the circuits of the school. “Lights out!” she cried, pulling it down.

With that, the entire school became dark. The infirmary, especially, since the curtains were drawn.

They hurried over to Nineheart, who had his computer open. “Did you shut off all the lights?” Grunting from Luminous and the victorious look on Mercedes’s face answered his question. Phantom held up the key to Nineheart, before he threw it over the railing. “Oops! I lost the key in the courtyard! Whatever shall I do?” Phantom started to ‘cry’ over the lost key. Luminous grimaced. “So, are you sure this is going to work?”

Nineheart nodded, opening a screen on his laptop. “If you are dubious, then we can check the CCTV of the infirmary. The screen won’t turn off, even if the power supply is cut. It runs on the backup power.” He turned up the volume on his laptop, allowing them to hear faint noises in the infirmary. “We can at least hear them.”

They heard Hilla speaking in surprise. “Did the power go out? Oh no.” She sounded alright, not scared at all. However, someone surprising was crying in his own bed. Sounds of whimpering and sobbing could be heard. And the only other person in the infirmary was Magnus.

Mercedes giggled. The almighty Magnus was reduced to a whimpering pile in the dark? No wonder Heliseum was so bright! Mihile brought a finger to his lips, shushing Mercedes. They heard Hilla speaking. “Magnus?” More whimpering could be heard, and then shuffling. “What was that? Excuse me?”

“I’m scared! I’m scared senseless in the dark!” he cried out. Hawkeye and Phantom had to step back and laugh at the cry of the strong and ‘fearless’ P.E. teacher. Even Nineheart was smiling. Hilla, apparently irritated, walked over. “Oh, come on! It’s just a temporary blackout! The power will be back on soon before you know it.” It didn’t comfort Magnus, who continued to whimper from his position. Hilla yelled back, “Good God, stop making such a noise! I’m right here, stop being a baby!” A pause, then Magnus’ voice rang out, “H-Hilla?”

Hilla’s voice floated out, caring and kind, “Relax, I’ll take care of you. So stop crying already.”

Nineheart looked up to see Mercedes tearing up. “It’s so sweet!” Mercedes wiped away her tears with her handkerchief. “Romance is alive!”

Hawkeye laughed nervously, “Right… anyway, they are in the right mood! Now our enemies have been incapacitated.” He seemed extremely cheerful. He turned to Nineheart, who was shutting down his laptop. “So, Agent Nineheart, what did you say our next move was?”

Nineheart looked up, seemingly placated. “The proposal.”

Phantom fell over from where he was standing, while Luminous choked on saliva. Marriage?! They wanted Hilla and Magnus to get married?! Phantom crawled over to Mercedes. Alas, she was lost. Her eyes were shining and her face alit. It was too late. The resident shipper was currently dreaming up a marriage plan for the two of them.

Mihile cut in, at least one person was in reality. “Hold on. I think confession first, Nineheart. But seriously, this ridiculous plan actually worked?” He was extremely surprised that it even happened. Well, then again, Hawkeye’s ideas were usually too ridiculous to work back in the Maple World. Mercedes seemed somewhat depressed, but perked up right away. Nineheart nodded. “It is too early to say that. Most women do not want to be in a relationship with men unless they confess properly, even if the men have sent countless signals.” Phantom gulped, and slunk away. Not the way it happened with him and Aria, but he rather not tell.

Francis looked confused at Nineheart’s words. “But I proposed properly to Orchid… why didn’t she accept me?” Mihile frowned, thinking. “What is the proper proposal?”

Nineheart held up three fingers. “A proper proposal requires a private location, romantic music and a romantic event. First, an ideal location should be found.” Hawkeye clapped his hands together, grinning. “Alright, Agents! You heard our tactician! Agent Mihile and I will look around in school, while Agent Francis and Agent Nineheart check out the perimeter of the school.” He pointed at Mercedes, who was still dreaming. “Agent Mercedes, Agent Phantom, Agent Luminous! Check out the other parts of the city! We are almost there, let’s go, agents!” Everyone scattered, Mercedes dragging Luminous and Phantom along in her excitement.

There wasn’t much to do, however. Phantom was able to seek out the place very easily. He had chosen Fountain Park. Once they were there, Phantom took out his phone, calling Hawkeye. Luminous and Mercedes pressed their ears to the other side, straining to hear Hawkeye.

“This is Eagle, this is Eagle! Report your situation!” Hawkeye’s voice came. Phantom smirked. “This is Raven, I have with me Pigeon and Peacock! We are at Fountain Park, and we think it’s a suitable place for a romantic proposal. You should come here!” Hawkeye’s laughter was heard, and then his reply, “Outstanding, Agents! We’ll check out the area right now and set up for tomorrow! It’s the weekend! Move out, Agents!”

Phantom placed his phone down. Luminous and Mercedes stared at him.

“Pigeon?” Luminous glared at Phantom. Mercedes smiled and placed a hand on Phantom. “To call me Peacock, I’m flattered.” Phantom grinned. “Tsk, Mercedes, You know in the end, the dove and the raven are the most beautiful birds to me.”

Once they had scouted out the area and had Phantom texted the two of them under the guise of the other teachers, the entire group went home for the day, promising to meet up one hour early to help prepare.

The next day, they all arrived to see Nineheart and Hawkeye already getting ready. Everyone arrived just a bit later, but soon, everything was set up, from the speakers to the music to even the general atmosphere. Now, they just had to wait.

When Hilla and Magnus arrived, they stood there, waiting for a couple of minutes. “Aren’t we supposed to meet at Fountain Park for a teachers’ outing?” grumbled Hilla. Magnus sat down on the edge of the fountain, rubbing the back of his neck. “Think so. Maybe everyone’s too busy?” Hilla turned to study Magnus. She turned away in disgust, huffing. “Magnus, you are still in your gym clothes!” Magnus gave Hilla a onceover then retorted, irritated. “You are still in a white gown, Hilla.” They glared daggers at each other, before turning around to ignore the other. “Hmph. Never mind. Let’s not do this.” Magnus agreed, folding his arms. “I agree.”

Nineheart, hidden in the bushes, turned to face Francis. “Now!” he whispered. Francis fumbled with his phone. Hawkeye grinned. “Come on, Agent Francis! Play that sweet music!” Francis, having found the song, nodded. “Okay!” He pressed the screen on his phone. Mercedes and Phantom waited for soft, sweet, romantic music to play…

… And weird, rock music greeted them. Mihile frowned. “What sort of music is this?” Francis panicked, scrolling through his playlist again. “Wrong track, wrong track!” he whispered back to Mihile, pressing the screen again. “Again, do it again!” Francis was panicking. Luminous’ red eye lit up in annoyance, and he glared at Francis. Once the proper music started to play, everyone watched as the two teachers turned back to each other, coming closer, closer… they started to speak. Hawkeye jumped in the air, cheering as softly as he could. “Aww yeah! Nailed it!” Hawkeye grabbed everyone’s hands and started to shake them. Mihile peeked over the bushes, staring at them in wonder. “I still cannot believe this worked. Could it be they really…” Francis chuckled and sighed. “Now Orchid and I can finally date…” Phantom wanted to whisper, “Fat chance”, but he held his tongue. Nineheart got up from behind the bushes, stretching. “Finally I am free from your shenanigans.”

Mercedes sighed dreamily. “It finally happened .After all our hard work. Ah, romance…” Phantom smiled at the sight. He knew how good romance could be. Perhaps Magnus would be less harsh on the students now. He turned to give Luminous his due credit, but stopped short.

Luminous’ eyes were fixated on Magnus and Hilla. His eyes had gone large, his mouth curving into a genuine smile. Phantom blinked. So even Luminous had a different side to him. He tilted his hat, hiding his face, hiding his smile. Perhaps he should leave Sparkybutt be for now.

But alas, the moment was soon broken. A new voice joined the fray. Everyone in the bushes rushed to see what was going on.

Akarium. He walked up to the two of them, looking quite stern. “What are you doing here?”

Magnus looked up from his conversation with Hilla, frowning. “Akarium?” He looked shocked, irritated. Akarium pushed up his glasses, his disapproval apparent on his face. “I wonder what you two are doing here, alone… what a suspicious meeting, don’t you think?” Magnus shook his head.

“There was supposed to be a faculty outing here?” It came out like a question rather than a statement. Akarium stared at him, pushing up his glasses once more. “What outing? Wait, so the rumors of you two being romantically involved with each other are true?”

Hilla immediately denied it, raising her voice. “What?! With him?! I will never go out with a musclehead like him!” Magnus looked extremely offended by that remark. “That makes two of us! Who would want to go out with a witch slathered with makeup?!” The two of them started to argue again, storming off to another location.

Mihile groaned. “Argh! We were so close until a heckler arrived!” Hawkeye stood up, determined. “We can’t give up just yet! Agent Phantom, Agent Luminous, Agent Mercedes! Take care of the heckler! The rest of you, we are following Nurse Hilla and Mr. Magnus!” The students hurried off, leaving Mercedes, Phantom and Luminous to deal with Akarium, who fainted on the floor once Hilla and Magnus left.

The three of them ran out to meet Akarium, who had slumped on the ground. “No… this is unfair…” Phantom walked over, tilting his head this way and that. “I… I can’t be single forever… I tried so hard…” Suddenly, black started to swirl around Akarium. Phantom retreated, gritting his teeth. It couldn’t possibly be…

A Troublemaker appeared! Phantom hissed under his breath. “Where the heck are Elwin and Lily?! Come on, let’s get rid of it before-” Phantom didn’t get to finish his sentence when Mercedes stood in front of him. “I’ll take it on.” Phantom stared at the Elven Queen, before taking a step back. Mercedes was furious.

Mercedes raised her bowguns, loading them. “So, you think you can ruin a happy couple? I’ll show you the consequence!” She screamed, charging headfirst into the Troublemaker. “Unicorn Spike!” Mercedes cried out. A unicorn, summoned right next to her, charged into the Troublemaker. Mercedes jumped over the Troublemaker. From on top, she pointed her bowguns down. “Ishtar’s Ring!” Arrows flew out of her bowguns. The Troublemaker reared up, slamming the floating bones in the ground. Immediately, Mercedes jumped up, a moment too late, causing bones to appear from the ground and slammed into Mercedes. She coughed and flew back. Getting up, she summoned her Elemental Knight and returned to battle. She ran up close, and launched Spikes Royale, bringing down spears upon the Troublemaker. She was furious, angry that it was because of this Troublemaker her matchmaking had gone awry. It was this entire thing’s fault! Mercedes was furious enough to ignore the damage that it gave her. Each time she landed on the ground, she was hit by a bone.

Phantom had retreated, watching the Elven queen get her revenge. A movement appeared behind him. Phantom turned to see Luminous’ red eye alight with the largest flame, him grinning away like a maniac. “Ahahah… He ruined their happy moment… I wonder… would it be as painful as killing him?” Luminous took a step towards the battle, his hair turning blacker by the second. Phantom gulped. Eclipse was taking charge now.

Mercedes had been fighting, whittling down the health. It was almost dead! She pointed her bowguns at it. The last blow!

Stunning Strike!”


A large barrage of arrows slammed into the Troublemaker, and coupled with the large black and white sword that sliced it in half, it was no wonder it died. Phantom laughed nervously. Both of them were pretty scary when angry. The Troublemaker swirled and disappeared. Mercedes glared at Luminous, marching over. “…What took you so long?” Luminous, who still had the flame on his red eye, glowered at Mercedes. Phantom had to get him to cool off. “Oi! Sparkybutt! You won the bet!” Immediately Luminous turned to face him, a face of surprise and shock. His anger dissipated quickly. “Yeah, you won. So you do know a little bit of romance, huh? So I bet Lania’s getting a new mother soon~” Phantom teased. Luminous still seemed a little stunned that Phantom of all people admitted defeat.

Phantom walked over to the fainted Akarium, his expression growing slightly sad. “So his loneliness got the better of him this time, huh?” He wiped at his eyes a little. “Ah, I got something in my eye.” Mercedes moved over next to Phantom, placing a comforting hand on his back. Her anger was gone, taken out over the Troublemaker. Luminous soon joined them, standing over the fainted lonely teacher.

Footsteps could be heard. Phantom and Mercedes got up, turning to see the other students rushing over. Mercedes and Luminous were the first to rush up.

“Where is Hilla and Magnus?” Mercedes asked.

“Did they continue their moment?” Luminous snapped.

Hawkeye looked disappointed. Mihile just shook his head. “Sorry, guys. They found us, we blew it! It’s all my fault!” Hawkeye slumped, his usual confident stance no more. Mihile rubbed Hawkeye on the back, nodding. “I don’t disagree. Nurse Hilla would not have caught us if he wasn’t acting out. We were so close too.”

Nineheart let out a long dejected sigh, adjusting his outfit. “Good job and driving a wedge further in their relationship. I guess the no dating policy isn’t going anywhere for some time.” Francis was wailing at the side, “No! Orchid was waiting for me! Love, you cause nothing but pain!”

Mihile shrugged, turning to leave. “I’m heading back. I have homework to do. Although, I have to admit, this was fun. Well, I’m done with all this. Bye.” He quickly ran off. Hawkeye chased after him, calling out, “Agent Mihile! Don’t you dare desert your operation! Hey! Wait!” Francis watched as the two of them left. He let out a creepy giggle. “Suddenly I want to see her. I’ll go see her.” He hurried off, leaving the three of them with Nineheart. Nineheart just looked at Akarium and sighed. “I’m leaving as well.” He walked off, rubbing his temples. Another headache for the Student Council President, it seemed. Phantom commented that once again, a new crease was added to Nineheart’s forehead.

Meanwhile, Akarium was mumbling, “No… You can’t do this… you aren’t even old enough to date…” Phantom sighed. Mercedes looked as if she was on the verge of crying, while Luminous just plain looked devastated. Behind the fountain, Elwin ran out. He looked confused at the sight before him; Mercedes slumped on the floor, Luminous looking as if the world ended, Phantom just looking grim. “What happened when I wasn’t around?” Phantom shook his head. “Don’t. Ask.” He picked up Akarium and called Aran and Shade to transport the two of them away. When the two of them arrived, they shot questioning looks at Phantom, who merely walked away with the body.

Back in the Maple World, sure enough, Mercedes started to bawl the moment she set foot in her castle. Aran had to stay with her to comfort her. Meanwhile, Luminous had locked himself in his room, only to come out insisting that romance was for idiots and should not be pursued at all. Evan was extremely confused and worried, but he could not do a thing. Meanwhile, Phantom just stayed on his ship for the remainder of the day.

When they did go back to school, or well, Shade and Evan did for the next few days, they had a surprise waiting for them. Evan rushed back immediately. The Heroes had gathered in the Lumiere for another meeting before one with the Alliance, just after school, when Evan ran in. “Mercedes! Mercedes! It isn’t possible, but the no dating rule is actually really relaxed now! The only thing you can’t do is kiss or hug in public! It happened today!” Mercedes’ eyes lit up, and she started to cheer. So their plan worked after all! Luminous looked away, but everyone could see the victorious smirk on his face. Phantom tilted his hat.

“Maybe we should take a break after this. We are getting a little too attached. What do you say? A break to deal with the upcoming battle?” Everyone nodded, agreeing to the plan. After all, the Empress just had a vision, and a warning had come in from Nineheart. A great battle was coming, and they had to prepare for it.

Back in the dormitory, he went over the video again. The bright lights were everywhere, but not as bad as before. Good thing his camera didn’t break this time. Lucky for him, Hawkeye had not noticed he had not followed at all. Not to mention that the three of them did not notice him filming them while they were hunting for viruses, chalk and many more items. In his pocket was also stuffed with the clothes. Tattered, burnt clothes from their fights. He managed to snatch one away from the dog before he ran off. He shoved the clothes away into a drawer, locking it.

He might have appeared confused during this encounter, but make no mistake, he had been planning this all day. It was merely by luck that Hawkeye got three of them. He chuckled to himself, remembering the game they had earlier. It was very uncharacteristic of him, but it made him feel lighter. Though, he could see that their strength was unmatched by any other, even Mercedes and Luminous. And the battle with that curious monster was no exception. To think there was another, more violent side to Luminous. He leaned back on his chair, smiling slightly. With more evidence piled up against them, he just had to get one more thing.

Their weapons.

And he knew just the people to help him take it from them. All he had to do was to strengthen that rumor that was going around. The ghost room full of weapons. And the perfect person to give that out was…

He sighed and turned the laptop off. It was time for bed. And maybe, once a week was over, he could get his hands on the weapons and hand it to a scientist he knew. That man had been ever so curious about the lightshows. If there was anyone who could break open those weapons, it was him. He curled up in bed, a shifty smirk on his face.

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