Heroes: Into a New World

Chapter 3 Intermission

After that fiasco with the romance and everything, the Heroes were more than tired of school. Sure, they did enjoy spending time in school, but their other worries kept them from staying here forever. Not to mention the constant amount of fighting they had to do. Every single last of their time was either spent on homework, research projects, or rushing for exams. So when the fiasco with Hilla and Magnus occurred, that was the last straw. The Heroes wanted a break to do their own things. Other than Orchid’s concert with resulted in fighting Dusties, they had not been able to catch a break. So, they entered the cupboard and stored away their weapons. Everyone had left one of their own weapon in the cupboard, in order to hide the hole. They didn't have clothes to hang up there, for their uniforms were all being held on the Lumiere for mending.

That, and no one needed to bring home any particular weapon, and honestly, their inventory was starting to pile up again. So the Heroes left for a break.

For the week, no transfer student was seen, other than Bully. Mihile was the first to voice his concern during lunch on the roof. “Have any of you seen Phantom, Eunwol and Luminous?” he asked, wiping off the crumbs on his hands with tissue. Hawkeye and Eckhart shook their head.

“Now that you mention it, they didn't appear this week at all! I wonder why?” Hawkeye pointed out. Eckhart shrugged, putting on his headphones. Mihile frowned. “I’ve collected all their homework, but even I don't know where they stay.” Hawkeye laughed. “As expected of our Class Monitor! Though, I remember seeing them in the dorm? Wearing those fashion disasters of an outfit before Orchid’s concert last month.”

Eckhart frowned and took off his headphones. “Really? They never come down to the cafeteria.” Hawkeye’s eyes went wide. “No way?! They can survive without cooking or eating? We should really get them to try Mihile’s cooking then!” Mihile looked confused, while Eckhart shot a death glare at Hawkeye.

While Hawkeye was laughing away and Eckhart sighing, Mihile’s own mind wandered. Sure, he didn't spend much time with the transfer students, but in those short encounters, his opinion of them became different each time. Despite all their arguments, flaws, even clashing personalities, the transfer students seemed to click when there was something to do, a common goal. They could stay focus for long periods of time, even working out was no sweat to them. Luminous and Evan seemed to fall the fastest, though. But even then, their stamina was almost as good as his own. Aran was pretty much not even sweating when it came to Magnus’ class.

Mihile did want to know them more, not only because he was the Class Monitor, but also because they seemed so interesting. He wished they opened up more, though, for every time someone asked about their family, everyone would go silent, then Evan would speak up about his. What about the rest?

These unanswered questions burned at Mihile’s mind. It wasn't until the snapping of fingers and a good flick to his forehead did Mihile wake up from his thoughts. “Oi, Class Monitor, class is starting. Are you gonna sit here and eat or what?” Mihile quickly got to his feet, packing up his lunch box. The three students rushed down to class, back to where they could see three empty seats.

After class, Mihile went to the reading room. Sure enough, by some godly power, Nineheart was sitting there reading. Mihile never understood how fast Nineheart moved. He stood next to Nineheart, coughing softly. The Student Council President looked up, mildly irritated. “What is it, Mihile? You do not have club today, so you should be going back to the dorm for homework.” Mihile nodded, then shook his head. No, he was here to ask a question!

“Nineheart? Have you seen any of the transfer students? Like Eunwol, Phantom. And uh, where do they stay?” Nineheart stared at him for a minute, before opening up his computer. “They have a week of absence due to them having a family emergency. Said family emergency was apparently a secret, and an ‘invasion of privacy’ if we asked.” Nineheart turned his computer on while talking, pressing a few keys.

“I do not know where they stay, their student profiles have many blanks. How they were accepted I have yet to find out. However, there is a room that I know they were always going in. Second floor, the 6th room on the left.” Nineheart opened up a map to the room, pointing to one in particular. The empty room that no one stayed in. There was a name, but no such person in the room. Everyone always said there was a ghost in the room, and sometimes, during the night, light seemed to shine from inside the room. Some had entered the room, but then they found weapons of all sorts, ranging from polearms, to bowguns, to canes that were pretty heavy, to even large sticks with spikes connected in a circle. Weapons that could kill.

No one dared to enter, and every time a teacher or Nineheart tried to find these weapons, there no sign of them.

Just as Mihile opened his mouth to speak, the reading room door opened and Hawkeye, Oz and Eckhart walked in. “Nineheart! What’cha call us here for?” Hawkeye called out. One pinch from Oz made him shut up when everyone glared at him. Nineheart pressed his fingers against his temple. “Hawkeye, lower down your volume. This is the reading room.” Eckhart shot a questioning look at Mihile, who shook his head and shrugged.

Nineheart gestured to the seats around the table. “Sit down. I need all of you to do something for me. This room over here, as I have said many times before, I was unable to find any sort of weaponry.” He turned his computer around and pointed at the same room. Nineheart took out a key from his pocket and placed it on the table. “Your task is to go in there and take out the weapons. Bring them to my room, on the first floor. There should be no one inside. Oz, I hope you remember to bring your camera.” Eckhart reached out and took the key, pocketing it. Nineheart turned his attention to Mihile. “Go with them. I was planning it to be the three of them, but seeing that the transfer students have gone to their home a very long distance away from here, I think having more hands would be beneficial. Plus, you can give them the homework if you see them.”

With that, they were dismissed. Mihile adjusted his kendo stick on his back nervously. “Sneaking around? Why would Nineheart ask us to do this?” Hawkeye skipped ahead, whistling a tune. Eckhart answered, “The weaponry, I suppose? The rumor didn't start until the transfer students came in.” Oz nodded vigorously, chewing on her candy. “I saw one! It was large and had spikes! And there was another that looked like an ax but the handle was too long!” Mihile stared at them, and sighed. “Let’s go,” he said. The four of them entered the dorm and went up to the room.

They peeked into the room, looking to and fro. No one was in. Eckhart slipped in. “No one is hiding here. Come on in,” he called. Everyone went into the room, hunting here and there. Mihile placed the homework on the dresser. “Die you find anything?” he asked.

Hawkeye held up a cane from under the bed. “This is pretty light!” he cried, tossing to and fro. Eckhart opened a drawer, pulling out two bowguns. “These are…” he muttered. Oz yanked open the closet, revealing an empty space. Oz frowned. Was the closet this shallow? She knocked against it, hearing sounds of a hollow space. “Mihile! Help me! There's a secret compartment here!” she called.

Mihile came over, poking the back of the closet. He frowned. “How do I get this out?” he wondered. Mihile looked up and dow. He kicked the bottom of the fake wall as hard as he could. The bottom of it moved back, causing the top to shift, revealing a gap. Mihile and Oz grabbed the top and pulled it down.

Behind the wall, weapons of all sorts fell out.

Polearms, staffs, giant pokey things all fell out. Oz picked them all up. “Wow! Look at all of these! They are… they are pretty shiny!” she marveled. Hawkeye tried to pick up the polearm, but failed. “This is pretty darn heavy!” he complained.

“Are closets supposed to have holes in the back of them?” Eckhart asked. Mihile shook his head. “What a strange question Eckhart. What’s wrong?” Eckhart said nothing, point at the closet. They all followed his finger, their gaze falling into a hole. Around the hole, it was glowing slightly. They all stared at it.

Hawkeye scrambled in and shoved his hand through. “Hey look! I can go in!” he yelled, shoving his body in, then his head. Oz followed suit, much to the displeasure of Mihile. “Guys! We aren't supposed to do this! Come on, let’s get these back to Nineheart!” he cried. Eckhart stared at Mihile, who looked at him helplessly for help.

Eckhart shrugged and went in after them. Mihile glared at his classmate, following after. “Nineheart will kill us,” Mihile muttered. Oz and Hawkeye had wandered outside.

“Woah! Mushroom houses! Like in the storybooks!” Oz exclaimed. Hawkeye looked around, wide-eyed. “Oh my god, isn't that Mr. Stan over there? Let’s go the other way, Oz!” he whispered. Oz and Hawkeye turned and ran, slamming into someone.

“Ah, sorry. Oh, Cygnus Knights? What are you doing here? Didn't you go to fight the war?” A child, no older than twelve, grinned at them. He was holding onto a giant axe. “Didja forget something?” he asked. Oz looked confused. Hawkeye frowned. “War? What war? Is that a game or something?” he asked.

The kid looked horrified. “Ya know, the war up there on Phantom’s ship! Athena Pierce asked for the adventurers to help, but I just started, so I couldn't go. I'm too weak!” the kid cried out, gesturing at the sky. Everyone looked up at the clear blue sky. Mihile and Eckhart finally caught up, panting. “C-come on, let’s go back….” Mihile said. Eckhart nudged him, wiping away his sweat. The kid looked surprised.

“Ah, hurry then! Head back to Ereve!” the kid pointed towards the other side of town. “Take care!” the kid ran off, swinging his axe. Hawkeye stared after him. “He’s carrying a giant axe!” he cried.

Oz glared at Hawkeye, smacking him lightly on the arm. “Is that all you can think about? Did you hear? Phantom has a ship!” she pointed out. Hawkeye shrugged. “It could be a different Phantom. Anyway, let’s head over there!” said Hawkeye. He ran off with Oz, leaving Mihile and Eckhart to chase after them.

When they moved into a new area, the scenery suddenly changed. They were surrounded by giant bouncing orange mushrooms. Hawkeye marveled at it, while Oz gaped. “T-T-T-The mushrooms have faces!” she shrieked.

Indeed, the mushrooms were jumping around, with such happy expressions on their faces. When they seemed to have spotted Hawkeye, they seem to appear angry.

They jumped up high, and then landed with a loud thump. Hawkeye flew back, slamming into Mihile and Eckhart. The three of them toppled over. Hawkeye got up, cradling his arm. “Ow! That…. That mushroom hurt me!” His arm was bright red. Mihile pushed Hawkeye off him, scanning the area.

“Look. They are hitting those mushrooms,” Mihile pointed to a group of two at the far side of the area. One was wielding a bow and had a quiver of arrows, while the other was throwing stars at the mushrooms. The mushrooms, upon being hit, made a sound and fell over, disappearing into thin air. The one holding onto the bow picked up an orange mushroom cap and pocketed it.

Hawkeye rubbed his arm. Getting up, he got into his position. “So we just gotta hit them, right? No problem!” Hawkeye aimed a kick at the nearest mushroom, while Mihile took out his kendo sword, swinging it at the next mushroom.

Their attacks sank into the soft flesh of the mushrooms, before they bounced back. Hawkeye and Mihile looked horrified as the mushrooms jumped up again. They scrambled to their feet and screamed, running away from the hoard of mushrooms. More and more mushrooms were being added to the group. Eckhart and Oz had hidden away, fearful of the mushrooms. As they hid, Oz found a doll that resembled the mushroom on the floor. Picking it up, she tucked it into her pocket. Eckhart had been focusing on the chase. He spotted a gigantic version of the mushrooms joining the chase, and quietly whispered a prayer for Hawkeye and Mihile.

Hawkeye, who was faster than Mihile, was running towards a ledge. He climbed onto it, before turning around and sticking his hand out to Mihile. Mihile reached up to grab his hand, but was knocked down by a mushroom. He turned around, fearing the worst.

The last thing he saw was the white bottom of the giant mushroom as it landed on him.

“Mihile! No!” the three of them cried in unison. The hoard of mushrooms dissipated, to reveal one single mushroom, sighing in contentment. Under the mushroom, they could barely see Mihile.

Screaming in anger, Oz charged straight for the giant mushroom, slamming into its soft body. She kept pushing, her hands attempting to grab the mushroom. Eckhart came out as well, pushing against the mushroom that was twice their size. Hawkeye jumped down from the ledge and pulled on it. The giant mushroom turned and chased after them. The three hid in a bush, watching the giant mushroom bounce past, before rushing out back to Mihile.

Before the mushroom could attack them again, Hawkeye picked up Mihile and the three of them ran as fast away as possible. When they spotted a very large tree, Eckhart quickly climbed said tree, pulling Hawkeye and Oz along. Once they felt that they were in safe grounds, they placed Mihile down on the leaves.

Mihile was out, but came to after a while. He looked around confused, then frightened, muttering, “That wasn't a dream, was it?” When Eckhart confirmed his suspicion by shaking his head, Mihile brought his knees closer, shivering. “Mushrooms… mushrooms…” he kept saying. Oz pulled out the doll she picked up earlier, showing it to Mihile. Mihile froze, staring at it, before crawling away quickly, hiding behind Eckhart and Hawkeye. Their Class Monitor was officially traumatized.

“Hey, hey! Chief Knights! Cygnus Knights!” They ignored the call, until they felt someone tap them. Hawkeye looked up to see a creature with feathers all around looking down at them. “Chief Knights! Is the battle over already? How did it go? Where's Chief Knight Irena? And Tactician Nineheart?” the creature fired rapid questions at them. Eckhart immediately stood up, gesturing to Mihile. “We need to get him back. Can you please take us back?” The creature took one look at Mihile and gasped.

“Yes sir! Quickly, onto the boat sir!” The creature ushered them onto a higher branch and into a boat. Then, he jumped onto it and started to row.

The students wondered how the boat was defying gravity and physics. They didn't question the strange creature. Oz was fanning Mihile, who was still cowering at the front of the ship. It was a while before the creature spoke.

“So, Chief Knights, may I ask as to what happened to your armor?” the creature asked. The three conscious people jumped in surprise. Hawkeye almost fell off the ship, but clung to the railing tightly with one hand and the other planted on his head to prevent it from falling off. Oz kept fanning Mihile, her eyes kept on the blonde. Eckhart turned to answer, it appeared that no one could do that, since Hawkeye would come up with an extremely unbelievable lie, while Mihile would have plain out reveal they had no armor. “We… uh, didn't bring them along,” he replied quickly.

The strange creature frowned, looking at them. “I wonder how Nineheart allowed you off the ship, then. He doesn't usually let anyone in Ereve to look this sloppy,” the creature said. Eckhart remembered Nineheart standing at the gate every week, berating and scolding all those that came to school with sloppy uniforms. Eckhart looked down at his. Nineheart had allowed this, so…

“I suppose you could say Nineheart allowed us to wear this. It makes us blend in, to identify us with the rest,” he answered honestly. The creature nodded. “I see!” it cried, “A disguise! As expected of Nineheart to get you tk reveal your face, no one would know it’s you!” It squinted at Hawkeye and Oz, however, muttering, “Though I don't see how it disguises the rest of them…” Eckhart wondered what the creature meant by revealing his face, but chose not to question it.

The ship came to a stop. The creature hopped of the ship onto the grass, picking up Mihile (“Without his armor, he's pretty light!” it cried in wonder) and ran off. The other three chased after the creature. They stopped at a building, where another one of the strange creature was there. The first creature gave Mihile to the second strange thing and ran off. The second strange creature, who was larger and wider compared to the first, placed Mihile on the bed. It took out a purple bottle and emptied its contents into the shivering Mihile.

Mihile fell limp. The creature turned to the rest of them, frowning. “What made him become petrified? I have never seen him so scared ever since he went through Nineheart’s punishment all those years before.” The creature shook his head. A shiver ran down the spines of the students. Was Nineheart that harsh on Mihile, to the point he was traumatized? They looked at Mihile, who was sleeping peacefully on the bed. Hawkeye tugged at his collar, nervous.

“So… how long is he gonna sleep?” he asked. The creature looked surprise. “I thought you always knew, Captain Hawkeye. At best, he sleeps for an hour. At worst, he sleeps for… oh, knew it.” the creature saw Mihile suddenly sit up, clutching at his chest. He looked up to see all three of his classmates, breathing easily. “That… was a dream, right? Did one of my juniors hit me on the head too hard?

“But sir…” the creature spoke.

“Dude…” Eckhart began.

“You don't faint from their blows, they do from yours,” finished both of them at the same time. Eckhart recoiled and glared at the creature, who did not seem surprised. Oz giggled, whispering to Hawkeye, “We found another of Eckhart’s twins.”

Hawkeye burst out laughing. Mihile looked confused. “What are you two talking about?” he asked, looking from Eckhart to the creature. The sight before him appeared to have registered in his head, for he looked at the creature, frowning.

“Which costume party did you bring me to now?” he pointed at the creature. The creature frowned and knocked Mihile’s head. “... Was the medicine I gave him so strong that his memories were affected?” Mihile pushed the hand away. Eckhart immediately cut in, while Hawkeye and Oz covered Mihile’s mouth. “No. He had a direct blow to his head earlier, so he’s been blubbering a little,” Eckhart lied. The creature nodded, believing his words. “So that's why he was acting like that. Well, carry on, Chief Knights. Nineheart is talking to the Heroes at the moment, he’ll come down later.” The creature shooed the four of them out.

Mihile shook his head, pushing away Hawkeye and Oz. “Heroes? Who’s that? And why is that… person calling us Chief Knights?” Everyone shrugged back. “We've been called that for this entire time. You think these Heroes are some kind of awesome band with awesome but not wellknown music? Or some kind of classical orchestra?” Hawkeye asked. Oz shook her head. “I don't think so, Hawkeye. Maybe… a shop that sells really good food?”

Mihile frowned, taking his kendo stick from Oz and keeping it away. “They are called Heroes, right? Maybe they are a group of students that had the highest grades in school? Or a group of alumni having really good jobs right now,” he suggested. Eckhart sighed audibly. Trust Mihile to think like that.

They continued to walk around. Some children wearing armor passed them, saluting as they did. Others wielding sharp knuckles saluted as well. Sometimes, hidden people would appear out of nowhere, saluting at Eckhart, who backed away from them when he spotted their claws on their gloves glinting in the sunlight.

“Like Wolverine!” Hakwye commented.

They continued, until someone ran up on crutches. “Sir! I didn't know you were down already!” the man saluted to Mihile, who awkwardly saluted back. “Also, Nineheart says the paperwork is on your table, and the Empress requests that you finish it as soon as possible. She will be joining you while you work, while the others will work on rebuilding our resources…” The man kept going on and on. Mihile looked more and more confused. Oz finally cut in. “Say, he gotta go back to work! He’ll come back later! First of all, go and rest!” she cried. The man looked at her, frowning. He then nodded, slowly hobbling away after saluting once more.

Mihile shrugged at Oz. They continued to walk along the grassy area, feeling the wind. Oz sighed happily. “Irena would enjoy this!” she noted. Taking out her phone, Oz took a selfie with Hawkeye. Later on, they dragged Mihile and Eckhart into one more. Both of them did not turn out nice in the picture.

They continued to walk, finally arriving into a clearing. There were stairs next to a tree, which lead to nowhere. Oz and Hawkeye looked so confused, while Mihile and Eckhart both looked annoyed. They got down.

“As I said, Empress, it is alright not to accompany Mihile while he does his paperwork…”

They heard a familiar voice. They turned to see Nineheart dressed in weird white and blue robes, while Cygnus stood before him, smiling.

“She looks so mature,” Oz whispered. Indeed, the principal-slash-student looked childish and quite young, not quite like a stern lady. The Cygnus before them looked regal and commanding, her own dress dancing gracefully in the wind. There was a weird accessory behind her, as well as a gem in her hair.

“It is alright, Nineheart. I simply cannot let Mihile stay behind and do the paperwork while everyone else celebrates. After all, Hawkeye wants to surprise Mihile, does he not? I can make sure he stays,” she answered Nineheart, smiling brightly. Nineheart sighed deeply, as if giving up.

Hawkeye nudged Oz. “Something feels off. Nineheart doesn't speak like that, neither does Cygnus,” he whispered. Mihile, at the bottom of the stairs, hissed, “Guys! Let’s go! It still looks like day here, but it’s already 6! Curfew!” Upon hearing the time, the two at the top scrambled down and the four of them ran off.

“...? Chief Knights? Chief Knights! Chief Knights, report!”

They could heard Nineheart calling them. Hawkeye looked at Mihile, who shrugge. “We… got nothing to report. And that isn't Nineheart. Looks like him from behind, but let’s go,” Eckhart said. The four of them quickened their pace. Hawkeye glanced back and gulped. “Uh, guys? Was Nineheart ever good at P.E.? Because he's catching up pretty quickly, you know!” Everyone turned back to see Nineheart, who was red in the face, chasing after them.

They started to run faster, away from the Nineheart yelling at them to stop. Eckhart was at the front, Hawkeye close behind him. Oz was holding onto Hawkeye and running, while Mihile was struggling to catch up. They were panting, their legs were screaming at them to stop. This is worse than Magnus’ classes! They soon ran into a forest full of chicken heads bouncing around.

“Puts a whole new perspective on the term “headless chicken”,” Mihile said. They seemed to have lost Nineheart, but they kept running anyway.

Eckhart was running when he slammed into something hard. Hawkeye came next, ramming into Eckhart. Oz was flattened when Mihile crashed into her, and all five people tumbled. Eckhart pushed himself up, rubbing his nose. Glaring at the Mihile in front of him, he poked him lightly. “Don't stop suddenly, stupid!” he hissed. Mihile looked strangely at him. Hawkeye sat up behind Eckhart grumbling, “You know, you were pretty solid! But come on!” He pulled up Eckhart and Oz, holding out a hand to Mihile. Mihile took it and stood up, rubbing his head. “So why did Eckhart stop suddenly?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Eckhart held a hand out to Mihile, rubbing his nose. “Do you want to talk to Nineheart so much that you stopped?” he asked. Something cold gripped his hand, and he fell over when something pulled him. He almost slammed into something hard again had it not been for a pair of hands grabbing his shoulders. “Whoops! Almost into his armor there, don't wanna break you nose, would ya?” Eckhart was righted. “Thanks…” Eckhart muttered, rolling his shoulders. For some reason, Hawkeye’s grip was stronger than usual.

“Wow! He actually thanked me! Man, Mihile, this is a miracle! I don't believe it!” Hawkeye exclaimed. Eckhart turned to punch Hawkeye in the shoulder lightly when his punch was stopped by… gauntlets? They shone in the sunlight. He followed the gauntlets to see Mihile, frowning. “I don't know, Hawkeye. Eckhart… where's his armor?”

Eckhart pulled back immediately, stepping back. He turned to see Hawkeye, decked out in pirate gear, complete with a coat, hat and feather, shorts, tights and boots? Mihile was in yellow and grey armor, a sword by his side. Eckhart stared at them, backing away.

Where were his actual friends? He looked around wildly, backing away. There! Behind this armored Mihile and fashion disaster! They had spotted him, and pointed to a bush, running into it. Eckhart growled under his breath.

He continued to back away until he bumped into something soft. It was then he saw both Mihile’s and Hawkeye’s expression turned shocked. Hawkeye’s jaw dropped. “Two Eckharts?”

Eckhart jumped forward and turned to see… someone in a mask. This person cocked his head. “... Oh.”

Eckhart was now in the middle of a triangle. Gulping, he tugged at his collar. This was bad. The masked person removed his mask, revealing his own face. His own grey eyes studying himself. If this wasn't creepy, Eckhart didn't know what was.

“Wait up! Huh? What's going on?” Oz appeared in a red cape, on one side of himself. Irena landed from the sky, frowning. Eckhart was stuck in the middle. These weren't the people he knew.

“Aw! He looks so innocent! Why couldn't we get you like this, Eckhart?” Oz whined. Both Eckharts glared at her.

“I am not innocent,” Eckhart muttered.

“...Never,” his lookalike said.

Oz’s lookalike giggled. Irena’s lookalike sighed. Eckhart could hear his own heart pounding. He could hear the bushes rustling, not just from the wind, but from his friends escaping. Even now, they were moving. Taking a deep breath, Eckhart got into battle stance, facing his lookalike.

“Pfft, cute! He even knows how to fight! Aw man, Eckhart!” Hawkeye’s lookalike guffawed. Mihile’s lookalike sighed. “We don't have time for this, Knights. We have to go.”

This lookalike either studied Mihile really well, or was his stalker.

When his lookalike moved to put on his mask, Eckhart yelled out. Everyone looked shocked, which gave Eckhart the chance to run forward. His lookalike didn't have a chance to look up when Eckhart slammed into him, running past.

“... He got us good.”

“I agree,” Mihile nodded. Hawkeye looked quite creeped out. “You guys know you are praising Eckhart, right? So that makes Eckhart a narcissist?” If looks could kill, Hawkeye would be dead by now.

“Knights! Chief Knights!”

The Knights turned to see Nineheart catching up, panting heavily. Wiping his sweat, he saw the bunch of Knights no longer in the ridiculously sloppy outfit, but he spotted those that were wearing them running ahead.

Something clicked in Nineheart’s head. “Attack them, Knights! They might be spies for the Black Mage! There are four of them, Mihile, Eckhart, Hawkeye, Oz!”

Eckhart ran ahead, before he was joined by his friends. “Lucky! For a moment I thought you were a goner!” Hawkeye called out to him. Eckhart glared at him. Just as they increased the distance between the group, they heard someone yell. It sent shivers down their spines.

“Knights! Charge!”

They glanced back to see all five lookalikes run towards them. Mihile took the lead, like his lookalike. “Split up! Meet back when you have lost them!”

All four of them dashed into the forest, splitting up. Hawkeye swerved around a tree and towards the sea. Probably no one would see him! Plus, he was the best swimmer among his friends. Something flashed behind him, and then Hawkeye slammed into someone, dropping onto the sand. He looked up, gripping his hat.

“Oi, they really made me look like an idiot. Mm, feels awkward fighting myself. But hey!” His lookalike grinned down at him. Hawkeye felt his pulse speed up.

“I… I'm not an idiot! You look like someone ran through the alleyway full of clothes! Who wears shorts with tights! A complete fashion disaster! I bet the girls don't come running,” he huffed. Hawkeye pushed himself up. His lookalike looked shocked, and then annoyed. He opened his mouth to speak, when Hawkeye slammed a leg into his stomach and ran away. Just as Hawkeye thought he escaped, he heard a call, before Hawkeye felt something touch him and excruciating pain ran through his body. He saw lightning flash, then smelled something burnt. He fell to the sand, twitching. Last thing he saw was a pair of brown boots.

Oz kept running straight, deeper into the forest. She finally stopped, panting heavily. Wiping away her sweat, Oz turned around. Nothing. Breathing a sigh of relief, Oz turned to get to a safer place when her lookalike appeared out of nowhere. Oz screamed and fled in the opposite direction. Behind her, she was vaguely aware of projectiles being thrown. It was only when something hot passed her and landed on a tree branch did Oz realize what they were.

Her lookalike was flinging fire.

Oz kept running, adrenaline carrying her forward. The flames behind her was catching up, and soon, the entre forest around Oz was on fire. Oz was starting to cry, she was too scared. Branches were falling here and there, and the smoke was too thick for Oz to see. She stumbled around blindly, crying for help. When a branch fell kn front and behind her, effectively trapping her, Oz dropped to the ground and wailed. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks as she sat there and cried in fear. The heat was getting to her, she didn't like fire this big.

A cool wind blew across the forest, putting out the fire. Oz kept crying. A pair of arms wrapped around her, a familiar feeling that Oz knew. She didn't care that this wasn't Irena, that it was some lookalike, she wanted to get out of here. She clung to the Irena lookalike as she carried her back.

Eckhart had taken the high route, entering town and jumping over the obstacles. It helped that he could take out any obstacles along the way easily. No one seemed to know that he was a very good short ranger, choosing to tackle him head on. Needless to say, with a few dirty tricks, Eckhart cleared his path easily. He kept running, towards the boat. Once on, he could row away and around the area, picking up Mihile and the rest. He neared the boat, when he was plunged into darkness. Eckhart could feel something sweeping past him, hear the sounds of bats, feel them nipping at his exposed skin. He kept pushing around and feeling, but was feeling weaker and weaker. Eckhart kept running. He slammed into something hard. Dizzy, he backed away. The darkness was gone, revealing a tree. Eckhart had ran past the boat and into a tree. He turned to see his lookalike with his mask fixed. Eckhart panted, he was sweating a little bit too much. It was hot. He tugged at his collar, breathing heavily. He had to run. Eckhart charged towards his lookalike, pulling his arm back to hit. As he threw his punch, he felt something nip him on his neck. He fell down, dizzier than ever. His lookalike caught him easily, throwing him over his shoulder. Eckhart could make out a vague bat shape flying to land on his lookalike before darkness engulfed him once more.

Mihile ducked into some bushes. He had to get help. So far, he had avoided his own lookalike. He had seen Oz in the middle of the burning forest, terrified, before she was captured. Eckhart was bitten by bats and then weakened so much he fainted. Hawkeye was electrocuted. This was no joke. His friends could have been killed. Mihile felt angry that they would hurt his friends like that, but he was no good against these people. He would be easily taken down if he had recklessly entered the battle. Instead, he needed help. Nineheart would kill him if they failed and he didn't want to disappoint Nineheart by asking for help. The only way was…

Mihile took out his mobile. Yes! There was signal! He called Irena. He bit his fingers, wishing Irena would pick up.

“Hello? Mihile?”

Mihile breathed a sigh of relief. Good! “Irena! I need help! Call the police and lead them to the room! There's something really dangerous here and they need to know! Ask Nineheart if you have to! Please, they kidna- ARGH!” Mihile felt extreme pain on his head. He dropped the phone, screaming, before dropping to the ground when the swords appeared above his head once more, sstriking down on his head. Irena was calling out frantically. Irena heard the phone go dead. Gulping, she hurried down to fine Nineheart.

Chief Knight of Light Mihile had crushed the phone by accident. He had stepped on it when he came out. He looked down, frowning at the broken electronic. What was this? He held up the pieces, frowning. It was probably not important. He threw those pieces aside. Picking up the spy, he walked back to the prison, throwing him into the cell with his fellow spies. They were surprisingly weak. Once they were placed down, Mihile picked up the kendo stick. He examined the weapon. It looked rather used, but well kept. Placing it down next to his lookalike, Mihile walked away. Closing the prison door, he returned to do the paperwork.

When everyone came to, they saw Oz being pushed in, wiping away her tears and eating some candy. She sat down sniffing. Mihile looked around. Hawkeye looked frizzy, his hair that was not covered by his hair looked puffed. Eckhart had bite marks all over his face, hands and neck. Oz was chewing away slowly.

“Is everyone alright?” he asked. Everyone nodded. “They freaking hurt!” Hawkeye cried. He was rubbing his back, wincing. Eckhart refused to say anything, sulking away. Oz nodded quietly. Mihile looked around for his phone. No! It was gone! No one else had their phones as well. Oz, being surprisingly quiet, said that they were destroyed. Hawkeye whined, “I lost all those girls’ numbers! Hnnngh!”

Oz shrugged. “Nineheart said that he needed to investigate them. He’s been trying to unlock mine since I gave it to him,” she explained.

Mihile curled up, fearful. He prayed Irena had called the police and was on her way to save them.

After a while, Nineheart came in. Now they could see his face, which was vastly different. There was a monocle, and wrinkles that Nineheart at his age should not have. He brought them out to interrogate them.

Oz had been the first. When Nineheart asked about who she was, Oz kept saying her name and her age, although Nineheart didn't believe her. Finally, Nineheart snapped, yelling at her, wanting her to quit pretending. Oz cried. It took a good amount of sweets to placate her.

Hawkeye yelled at Nineheart for making Oz cry. Nineheart argued back that Oz was being uncooperative, and that he would go to any lengths to find out their purpose. Hawkeye called Nineheart a bastard, which resulted in swords stabbing themselves on his head. His hat did not suffer from holes.

Eckhart refused to say anything. Even when Nineheart tried to make him talk, Eckhart zipped up, sulking. He had lost a fight, a break in his record.

When questioned, Mihile told Nineheart everything, from his name, to his birthday, to his school and the entire day’s events, even about the task they had been given. He also explained what the phones are, and how they worked.

Nineheart didn't believe anything.

Back in the cell, Eckhart finally spoke, “...Hawkeye. is that an Afro curl I see?” He pointed to Hawkeye, who shrieked and tried to find it. But even with that joke, no one laughed. Eckhart kept scratching at his wounds, while Hawkeye was depressed in the corner. Oz kept sucking on sugar coated green balls. Mihile kept climbing up to window and looking outside.

“Irena is coming, I know it,” he muttered. Eckhart looked up at him. “Even if you did notify her, can she really beat those guys out there? They took us down easily. I don't know…” he said. Mihile kept looking outside. “She won't let us down. Irena has never let any of us down,” he said, determined. Oz nodded vigorously. “Yeah! We can't give up, not yet!” she cried. Eckhart and Hawkeye looked at the two, sighing. Hawkeye got up, adjusting his hat, grinning. “Yeah. We can't possibly lose now!” Eckhart smirked.

They heard a knock on the door. Mihile. pressed a finger to his lips. Creeping behind the door, he took out his kendo stick. Hawkeye darted to the other side, ready to land a blow. Eckhart peeked outside. “Nineheart and Irena,” he hissed. When the door opened, Mihile swung his kendo stIck, hitting Nineheart. Hawkeye kicked Irena into the room. Oz grabbed Nineheart and Irena, throwing them into the room.

Just as they were about to exit the room, they heard Nineheart call, “Wait! Don't to out now, there are guards at the front!” The four of them turned carefully, to see Nineheart with no monocle, Irena with a quiver of arrows. “You guys are okay!” she cried. It was their real friends. Oz started to blubber. She rushed forward and hugged Irena, crying. Irena patted her on the head.

“What did they do to you?! This is brutal!” she cried, looking at all of them. Nineheart got up with the help of Mihile, who looked ashamed. He pulled Mihile’s head down, examining the small lump on his head. Nineheart then looked up at Eckhart and his wounds. He grimaced. “I didn't expect this to happen. They were more experienced than I thought. Hurry.” Nineheart took out a couple of robes and hats. “Put these on,” he ordered. They quickly put on the robes, Hawkeye putting on the hat. Eckhart, Mihile and Oz pulled up the hood, hiding their faces. Nineheart opened the door, walking away. They passed by the knights, who saluted. Nineheart led them to the forest, towards town. They moved quickly, walking quickly but not running. They could not attract attention. They passed the Empress, silently, quietly.

It was a mistake. They had not expected that Nineheart’s lookalike was standing guard near this Empress. Nineheart’s own lookalike had spotted them the moment they entered the area.

“Chief Knights! The spies are escaping! Capture them!” he called out. The six of them froze. When wind started to blow, they began to run. Nineheart discarded his own robes, hearing swears from his own lookalike. Much as he liked the design, Nineheart could not help but wonder why his own lookalike wore such cumbersome clothes. But for now, he had to push the thought aside.

“Quick! To town that way! We have to go home!” he said, pointing ahead. Irena and the rest were running along. Sounds of a bow firing was heard, and Irena suddenly fell to the ground, crying. Mihile turned to see two arrows sticking out of Irena’s legs. They disappeared, leaving two bleeding holes in the calves if Irena’s legs. Dashing over, Mihile picked up Irena and followed the rest. Nineheart had come to a stop outside a portal. He stared hard at it for a moment, and then jumped into it. Everyone followed suit.. It apparently led straight home. The six of them hurried through, back into that wooden house. They jumped through the portal in the wardrobe. Turning around, Eckhart slammed the wardrobe’s door shut. They discarded the robes. Nineheart bent down, pulling out a bottle of red liquid. He made Mihile put Irena down He handed some to Eckhart, who washed his face, neck and hands, healing the bite marks all over his body.

He spilled some on the floor, but no one said anything. Nineheart took the remaining red liquid and poured it onto Irena’s legs. The holes closed up without a scar. “You okay?” Nineheart asked. Everyone else stared at her legs in amazement. Irena glared at them, and then nodded at Nineheart, getting up. She was limping a little, but was otherwise fine. Footsteps could be heard inside the wardrobe. They had to get out of here. Beckoning to them, Nineheart opened the door and fled, everyone else behind him. Mihile closed the door before running off to catch up, just as Evan stepped into the room. They heard a crash, then mild cursing. The six of them ran down the stairs.

They entered Nineheart’s room. Nineheart climbed on his bed, fiddling with something. He got down after a while, turning to the rest. Making the four of them sit on the floor, Nineheart proceeded to scold then harshly. “I only said take the weapons, not go through a portal!” he snapped. They hung their heads, ashamed. Oz held up a mushroom doll. “We got this.” She looked hopefully at Nineheart, whose glare did not soften.

Irena shook her head, sitting on a chair. “Nineheart, don't be too harsh. Thanks to that, we know of a whole different world beyond that room,” she said softly, “Not to mention, we have these clothes and a weapon that you ran off with before we even went through the portal. What, you said you needed to give it to someone for examination? No one will miss that.” Nineheart looked at Irena tiredly, and sighed.

He took the doll and the claw, putting it away under his table. “Fine. Nevertheless, you had accomplished much more than I expected,” Nineheart said. The four of them brightened, high fiving one another. Nineheart smiled fondly. “With that, we have more than enough evidence. This is a scientific discovery, this confirms the theory of different worlds,” Nineheart explained. Mihile cheered, while the other three looked blank.

“And I don't think you need to know of it.”

The six of them turned to face the window, where a white cat stood. It was licking its paws, eyeing them. “Good grief,” it said. Hawkeye’s jaw dropped again. Mihile pointed at the cat, looking extremely confused. Nineheart backed away from the window. “Shoot. I sh-” Before he could finish his sentence, the cat’s eyes glowed. A shockwave was sent out, knocking everyone out.

Lily sighed. The mushroom doll wasn't much, she could leave that there. She walked out the door. Her carelessness led to this. She had better be careful. It was only by pure luck she had chanced upon them leaving the room. If Evan had not fallen,, she would not have turned and spot the six of them running away. And she had made it in time to hear Nineheart calling this a “scientific discovery”. Elwin arrived later, holding onto Irena’s uniform. She transformed back and changed Irena. Elwin helped her to hift everyone back, apologizing to Lily for not taking care of the portal. Lily nodded, not scolding Elwin as harshly as before. They were, after all, both at fault.

When he woke up, it was dark. Why did he go to sleep so early? He got up, turning on the computer. A notification popped up. What was this? He didn't remember putting this here. Was it a virus? He clicked it, which brought him to a folder. He watched all of them. Something was off. The videos were familiar, but yet, his memory was very foggy. Something important, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. The videos were extremely well made, with special effects. He looked up, spotting a camera in his room. Did he set it up? It was certainly connected to his computer. Climbing onto his bed, he took down the camera and stopped the video. He played it back. His own voice, speaking unfamiliar words. The cat appearing, blasting and knocking everyone out. His head was hurting badly. He couldn't remember, but it felt like he knew it. But why? He glanced down, frowning.

A weird thing was pinned to his clothes. Taking it out, he found a spy camera, also hooked to his computer. He played the video on it, watching as the wearer went through the unoccupied room and into a brand new world, full or dragons and magic. How the user and Irena snuck onto the floating island, judging from the information they got from the oarsman. How they snuck into a dorm and snatched some clothes. How they got attacked by his own friends and reunited with them.

How Irena was hurt. How he discovered the portal, back home.

His headache intensified. Something was blocking him from remembering. But what?

A email notification came up. Opening it, he read it. As he did, his memory cleared. The spell was broken. The cat’s magic wasn't so powerful after all. Perhaps it was a good thing he set up his computer to help him. And that he had sent that sole weapon over. It was lucky. He had chosen to send a very old claw over. And the results were astonishing. The scientist was absolutely excited about it, and wanted to know more. He smiled to himself.

He had to break the spell on his friends.

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