06 | CONFLICT
A few days flew by in the hurry of assignments and new classes. The Errors were getting hold of the regime in the Academy. The only things that hadn’t really changed since day one were Eli’s constant zoning out and childish mannerisms… and Ryn.
Friday had come and Brielle had already gotten her friends to join the Errors for lunch, all in her attempt to make them feel more welcome. Although the Errors had told her it wasn’t necessary, Brielle had insisted. It was clear that Brielle’s friends had been subject to her insistence since they were full of artificial kindness towards the four, attempting to chat with the Errors even if both parties knew they weren’t clicking one bit. The only good side to that was the Errors getting to know more of their classmates. The Malay girl Sasha shared a conversation with Eli over their similar amber eyes. Eris managed to hold a conversation with science fanatic Bryan about their previous physics class. Em managed to speak to a girl with red hair named Liwen for a while without going all angsty, but it was partially because she was still in a high at the moment.
The Errors appeared and even felt normal for a brief moment—until a familiar voice rang out behind the Secondary 1.01 table.
“Hey everyone, mind if I join in the fun?”
Heads turned and looked up to see Ryn and her sidekicks. Chorused ’Hey Ryn’s left the mouths of the students of Class 1.01. They quickly looked back down and resumed eating, this time quiet with none of them speaking. They’re scared of this girl, Ethan thought, but why? She’s just a self-victimising brat trying to pick on people.
Ryn’s diamond smile faltered for just a moment—just enough for Eris to notice—before she regained her composure. “So, Brielle, you haven’t told me… how was City 002? You haven’t told me about your trip yet,” she initiated the conversation.
“Well, it was quite fun! You should certainly visit the city if you ever get the chance,” Brielle smiled back sweetly. The girl, however, pouted in response, “Well, you know my parents. I’ll never be able to get out of the city for an overseas trip unless a miracle occurs.”
“Why not?” Eli chirped curiously as Ethan gave him a death glare that screamed ‘do-not-speak-to-the-mean-girl’. Eli just smiled back sheepishly.
Ryn turned to Eli, her eyes tinted with a strange look, “Oh, you know, because my father’s the Prime Minister of the city. Quite difficult to get out of the country unless he’s free.”
The Errors exchanged shocked glances. Ryn was the Prime Minister, Mr Leland Yang’s daughter? Of course, Eris remained unfazed as usual as she responded in a calm, composed manner. “I see.” The Error did not fail to notice a slight flicker of what she best identified as uneasiness in Ryn. Eris deduced that Ryn was trying to strike fear in the Errors and make them subservient towards her, just like their fellow 1.01 classmates. But the fact that she had no emotions also meant she felt the same way towards Ryn as she did everyone else—blank, cold, nothingness.
“Huh, that would explain why you walk around this Academy behaving like you own it,” Em suggested snarkily. Ethan, Eli, and the rest of the students at the table gasped. “Em!”
Ryn narrowed her eyes, every shred of politeness long discarded in the trash as she stepped forward slowly and dangerously, like an animal stalking its prey. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah, you heard what I said, no? Unless you happen to have some hearing impairment going on?” Em responded with widened eyes as she continued to taunt Ryn—and God, it felt good. She felt satisfied, jabbing at Ryn and giving her a taste of what it felt like to be insulted and looked down upon.
Ryn smiled dangerously, “I assure you that I am completely healthy and normal. I was just confirming that you were spouting such insulting, hurtful words by mere assumptions. I thought that of all people, you and your fellow Errors would be aware of the consequences of such things. And don’t insult Ben and Cora.” Behind her, the sidekicks glared at the Errors. Em just smirked. The girl had lost sight of any limit there was with regard to the Prime Minister’s daughter, who she had such strong opinions about. After Ryn’s attempts to intimidate and insult them, she wasn’t going to hold back. Em was going to destroy her.
“Oh? Hurtful words? There are other things in this world that are capable of harming. Your tone when speaking, the looks you give someone, all these tiny things. You may not be saying anything outright, Ryn, because you’re a coward, but please, we are still perfectly capable of catching your so-called subtle cues!”
The entire cohort of secondary one students gasped as Em spat the words in Ryn’s face, astonished whispers and comments erupting amongst them—the cheek of Em to insult openly in this uncivilised manner! The girl’s eyes had long widened in pure shock as she stared at the Error pushing each and every one of her buttons. Em looked down at Ryn’s trembling fists, a low breathy chuckle at her lips. “Oh, you want to punch me, huh? You want to whack me? Go ahead. You wanted to start a fight, no? Go ahead, Ryn! This is your chance, this is why you came to our table! Come on! DO IT!”
The forest green marbles of Ryn’s eyes glowered like that of a feral, wild animal as her fists seemed to vibrate even more than a SmartGlass Mini. But she didn’t punch Em. She just stared her down, hissing through her clenched teeth.
“I’m not that uncivilised, Error. Neither am I stupid enough to get my hands dirtied by physical contact with your contaminated skin.”
That was when a blonde, angelic female stepped in hurriedly, placing a hand on Ryn’s shoulder, “Ryn, why don’t you go back to eat at the 1.20 table? There’s only ten more minutes of lunch break.” The girl glanced at Brielle icily just for a second before she forced a smile onto her face, “Maybe I will.”
As the trio walked away, Em and Brielle returned to their seats—but once they settled down, Em broke out into hysterical laughter. Brielle frowned, a disappointed look on her face. “Em, why did you do that? Why were you being so… awful to her? Were you trying to get her into trouble?”
“Yeah! Why, Emeline?” Liwen exclaimed, disappointment and a slight undertone of fear on her face. Em just grinned widely, in a manner that was mildly neurotic and terrifying. “Because I felt like it and she had it coming to her!”
“She didn’t say—”
“Her body language, her tone, she was trying to start something. So I gave her what she bloody wanted!” Em responded, “Come on, you guys, you have no reason to be terrified of a bully like her! Why are you all defending her? Because she’s Mr Yang’s daughter?”
“No matter what, the way you approached her and tried to create conflict wasn’t right,” Sasha said. “It’s not a matter of whether she is the Prime Minister’s daughter or not.”
“But it is,” Ethan grumbled as he began scooping up the remainder of the sauce for the chicken. Brielle’s eyes shimmered sadly as she spoke, “Please, Em, you’re better than this. Why are you behaving like this all of a sudden? The Em I knew yesterday wouldn’t have humiliated Ryn and attempted to start something.”
Em just leaned forward into Brielle’s face, widening her eyes in an eerie fashion, “Because I just want to see how far I can go before I send that snobbish, self-entitled bully over the edge. Because she tried to do it with us yesterday and I want to give her a taste of her own nasty, bitter medicine. Speaking of medicine, you know something, Evans? We have to sit through a stupid therapy session and eat those dumb pills that don’t freaking work because the government thinks we’re not worth the money spent on pills. Instead, all the money, all the resources, they go to you, you citizens who have everything! Because of people like Ryn, people like you, who only worry about grades and how you can fake politeness, we are left with nothing!”
Em stood up and stormed off after throwing her plate into the collection drawer under the table, leaving Brielle stunned in her seat, alongside the other normal students. “Oh, well, she finally snapped! Someone finally said it! I’m so proud of her,” Ethan did a slow clap, a sardonic smile on his face. He decided that maybe, mania-Em wasn’t all that annoying, especially when she was truly dishing out the facts.
“So… that’s what you really think about us?” Bryan asked with a look of disdain. “You think we’re sucking up your resources? The government gives your Correction Centre a generous sum of money every year, I don’t see why you would think that—”
“It’s not enough for everyone,” Eli piped up, signalling to Eris, who continued, “There are people with all kinds of conditions there. There are people with physical disabilities, mental conditions, or even people with a few combined. When you divide the money all out, there’s not nearly enough for everybody in there.”
“Well… that’s not our fault that you guys are, you know...” the student shrugged, not exactly sympathetic—and this lack of care and empathy just fueled Ethan’s rage up a notch. Em’s outburst hadn’t really helped his anger either.
“Errors?” Ethan hissed, his fist clenching under the table as the other hand brusquely shoved the cutlery and the tray into the drawer.
“Yeah.” Brielle turned to Bryan and back to Ethan, anxious as she sensed the tension between the two boys increasing, unsure of who she should appease in order to ameliorate the situation. “But that isn’t our fault either...” Eli whimpered under his breath. We’re unlucky, that’s true, but it’s not like we could control anything, he thought.
“Elijah, I never meant that, I just said—”
“Eli, Ethan, are you guys are done with your food?” A monotonous voice raised a question. The boys turned to Eris quizzically as they looked down at their trays. It was pretty obvious that every grain of brown rice had been scraped off—so why would someone of such logical thinking ask a stupid question? “Uh, yeah?” Ethan raised an eyebrow, sounding annoyed as usual.
“Good. We should get going, come on,” Eris said as she shoved her tray down into the tray collection drawer. The boys began to follow suit, but not without giving the girl a bunch of very confused looks.
Eris stared back harder pointedly—and then she winked once.
Eli’s eyes widened even more. Firstly, winking was a very un-Eris thing to do. Eris didn’t wink, if she had something to say, she just said it without beating around the bush! Secondly, he didn’t know why she was winking. In that moment, Eli wondered if it was his childishness preventing him from catching a mature person’s cue, but Ethan’s weird look helped him realise he wasn’t alone. Ethan and Eli, however, still followed Eris’ instructions.
After they left, Eli finally done waving goodbye to their 1.01 classmates, Ethan confronted their fellow Error. “Okay, what was that weird wink about? Why did you try so hard to get us away from them—”
“There was going to be another fight at the table if I didn’t grab you guys and go. Plus,” Eris looked back at the secondary 1.01 table, “They seem pretty happy without us anyway.”
As the friendly chatter appeared to resume at the 1.01 table, Ethan grit his teeth. Eli frowned, slightly discouraged. He really did think he was bonding with the normal kids—
“Wait, Eris, where did Em go?”
Eris responded as her logical thinking process kicked in and she began to deduce the possibilities of Em’s location… and remembered a potential possibility of what Em was up to.
“I don’t know… but I might have an idea.”