Chapter 1: Eruna Ichinomiya, Part 1
The sun was beginning to set over the treetops, casting a goldish-red tint across the sky, aa tranquil silence filled the land…only to be broken by a sharp whistle that pierced through the stillness like a nail, a great explosion tearing a clean path through the trees.
As wood and dirt were splashed every which way, a young woman with long black hair was thrown from the dust cloud that had appeared between the trees, thrown across the forest floor like a ragdoll. The woman fell sideways and hit the ground with her shoulder – a loud crack rang out – and she rolled across the dirt until she stopped lying face down. Not long after, a pristine katana fell from the air and stabbed the ground several feet away.
Even though her body was raked with pain, the dark-haired woman shakily pushed herself to her hands and knees, her long hair hanging over her face like a dark curtain. But when she accidentally leaned on her left hand, a sharp pain flared up her arm. The woman bit down on her tongue to stop herself from crying out, clutching her shoulder with a shuddering gasp. Rivers of blood flowed down her arm, staining her tattered white clothing. Gritting her teeth, she looked down at the injury; deep grooves had been torn into her flesh all the way down to her forearm, which would no doubt lead to permanent scarring.
The dark-haired woman shook her head, forced herself to stand through the pain, and started to limp toward the katana. She reached out for the blade with her uninjured hand when a sharp whistle cut through the air once more and sent the katana flying further out of her reach. Grimacing, she turned as a man covered hiding in the shadow of the trees lowered his hand and walked closer toward you. He approached her so casually, hands tucked in his pocket, as if her were taking a leisurely stroll through the park.
Where anyone else would have ran at the sight of him, the woman stood strong and resolute. Even when he stopped a few feet in front of her and raised his hand to her face, the woman did not cower. She stared him down straight in the eye and said:
"What are you hoping to prove with this?"
The man seemed to pause for a moment, as if contemplating his answer. For a moment, she thought he looked remorseful…until….
"That they were right about me…."
A sharp whistle pierced the air once more and everything went black –
SERENITY ACADEMY: YEAR ONE
AFTERSCHOOL PARADISE ARC
EPISODE ONE: ERUNA ICHINOMIYA, PART 1
Spring time had arrived. A warm, soothing light glimmered through a sea of sakura trees as pink petals fluttered through the air…
It was here that Eruna Ichinomiya found herself summoned, her long orangish-pink hair tied in a bun by her favorite red bandanna, her lengthy sun-yellow scarf blowing in the gentle breeze. Her heart was pounding like a drum against her ribcage and it was only beating faster the closer she got to her destination. Because Eruna knew that she would be there….
She marched purposefully through the grove until she finally saw her, Eruna's beautiful and most cherished friend of many years, leaning against the sakura tree, playing with her fingers nervously as she waited for Eruna to arrive. Eruna took a deep, steadying breath before she finally gathered the courage to step forward. Her beloved friend looked up when she heard Eruna's footsteps and stood up straight, biting her lip nervously with a hand over her heart as if it would burst out of her chest.
"Sorry to call you out so suddenly," she said in a soft, timid voice, "but I can't hold it in any longer."
"Yuriko…," said Eruna murmured.
"I can't hold back my feelings for you any longer, Eruna-chan!" Yuriko declared.
Eruna nearly stumbled back, gasping in surprise, as Yuriko suddenly threw herself into Eruna's arms. And suddenly, it was as if the whole had faded away and they were the only two people left in existence. Once the initial shock had faded, a small smile graced Eruna's lips as she whispered in her ears:
"We can't do that here," she said, pulling away from Yuriko briefly before taking her hand into her own. "For the time being…." And then she started skipping merrily like an overeager child, pulling Yuriko behind her "Let's go to the nurse's office, where there's no one around!"
And together, Eruna and Yuriko skipped away, hand-in-hand, and lived happily ever after….
And if any of you even bought that for a second, you should feel sorry for yourselves.
Back in the realm of reality, Eruna Ichinomiya wasn't skipping through a grove of cherry blossom trees, but was leaning over her desk in the back of class, handheld gaming console in hand, staring at the screen with half-lidded eyes and a lecherous grin stretched from ear-to-ear, a small river of drool rolling down her chin. And "Yuriko" was just a 2D girl on her dating simulator. She was starting to giggling in a very creepy manner when she faintly heard someone calling her name.
"Hold on a second," said Eruna breathily. "We're doing a vision test with a love letter in the nurse's office right now…."
After being smacked over the head by all her teachers in her last three years of middle school, Eruna really should have seen that hard text book coming. But she didn't and the thick spine slammed into the back of her skull, throwing her face first into her desk. Eruna immediately bounced back up with a sharp yelp, throwing her hands up as if she was about to karate chop the attacker. But as she swerved around, she found it was only three of her classmates; the ones who could actually stand being around her and tolerated her perverted mentality. It almost made Eruna feel bad that she never learned their names in the three years she'd knowing them; she just referred to them by their hair color: dark, brunette, and blonde that is obviously a dye job to anyone who saw it.
"Hey, what's the big idea!" cried Eruna, rubbing the tender spot on her head. "That really huuurt!"
"You were making that creepy face again," said the dark-haired girl blankly, tucking her thick science text in her bag.
"My face isn't creepy!" Eruna retorted offensively. "My looks are nothing but that of a pure maiden!"
"There's nothing pure about you, Ichinomiya," said the dark-haired girl immediately.
"Now, now, be nice," said the brunette, stepping in between the two and holding her hands in a calming gesture.
"Hey, Eruna, since we're all about to graduate middle school soon," said the blonde, "we were talking about where we want to go after. You found a high school you like yet?"
"Nope, not at all," muttered Eruna, leaning forward on her desk with a heavy sigh. "But my mom has been bugging me about it ever since Golden Week."
"We were all thinking of applying to the same school," said the brunette. "It's the local high school. Maybe you'd like to apply, too. Then we'd be together."
"The uniforms there aren't cute," Eruna mumbled.
"That's your reason," said the blonde, a large sweatdrop running down her head.
"That's important!" yelled Eruna, suddenly gaining a second wind. "If I have to wear an ugly uniform, I might as well be a NEET!"
"There's something seriously wrong with your head, Ichinomiya," said the dark-haired girl, sighing exasperatedly. "Have you even thought about what career you wanna go into?"
"Hmm…," Eruna hummed thoughtfully with a finger on her chin. "Nah, not really. I guess I'll just be someone who watches Niconico all day. I'll look for a job like that."
"The world isn't kind enough to have a job like that!" the dark-haired girl snapped.
"Now I'm starting to worry about your future, Eruna-chan," said the blonde, chuckling anxiously.
Eruna let out a deep sigh as she leaned forward onto her desk once more, gazing out the window up to the cloudy blue sky while her friends went back to talk about their futures. A deep frown crossed her lips, and she stared up at empty space listlessly.
'This is so lame," Eruna thought. 'Isn't there anything fun to do? Day after day it's always the same old boring thing: I wake up, I go to school, I go home, I play video games, I go to sleep, and then I do the same thing over again. And it's not even like a Slice of Life manga filled with quirky characters doing funny shenanigans and cliché wacky misunderstands that lead to silly misadventures. It just so…normal. Normal's boring. Maybe I should get run over by a truck so I can be reincarnated into a fantasy world like all those stereotype animes that always bomb after the first three episodes…. Sigh…I just wish that something exciting would happen…just once….
When the final bell rang and everyone was asked to go home, Eruna wandered toward the local park instead; her mom was no doubt waiting to ambush Eruna about picking a high school already. She had seated herself at her favorite bench and played her dating simulator until dusk started to fall, painting the clouds with an orangish hue, but not even sweet little Yuriko could brighten her mood.
Every since her talk with her friends (whose names still escape her), she had been in an unusual bummed for some reason. Listening them talk about their future high schools and what careers they were pursuing with excited smiles on their faces…Eruna couldn't understand any of it. What was so fun about being an adult? About giving up these carefree days for endless hours of dull, monotonous labor? It wasn't that Eruna disliked having to grow up, but there just wasn't anything about this tedious, uninteresting that she had to look forward to….
Eruna finally had enough gaming and tucked her handheld away with a depressing sigh as she leaned her head back with her eyes shut, saying to herself:
"Why is life so boring…?"
"Wow, you must really be out of it, huh, Eruna-chan?"
Eruna eyes flew open and her head perked, quaintly familiar with the voice.
She looked to her right and stared up at a man only a couple years older than her as he suddenly marched over to her bench, and giving her what Eruna supposed was a dashing, princely smile. Eruna couldn't deny that he was a little handsome, though she would never say it out loud. His black-rimmed glasses did compliment his features while his messy silver hair made him look quite daring. Even his clothes looked like something out of a shounen manga with the long, ocean-blue coat instead of the blazer his school gave him. Any other girl would have swooned at being in close proximity of such a goodlooking man, but Eruna just gave him a beady, indifferent gaze.
"What are you doing here, Shigure?" asked Eruna monotonously. "I thought you were off at your fancy boarding school."
"I got permission to leave the campus just to see you, cutie," said Shigure with a flirtatious wink. Eruna gave him a quiet, disgusted look; Shigure instantly lost his cool and cried, "Don't make a face like that! Even if we're cousins, the law says we can marry!"
"Ugh, gross," Eruna groaned; Shigure fell backwards as if he had been shot in the heart.
That was another thing that should be mentioned – Eruna and Shigure are cousins by her mother's side of the family and he had a total cousin complex. A couscon?
"Well, what'd you really come here for?" asked Eruna, tilting her head back again
"I wasn't lying when I said I came to see you," said Shigure in a more serious tone. He stood up, dusted himself off, and took a seat on the bench with her. "I thought you probably hadn't decided on a school to apply to yet. And if that's the case, what about here?"
Shigure reached into his coat and pulled out a booklet. Eruna took it and the first thing that popped up at her was the title:
"Serenity Academy?" Eruna read aloud. "Isn't that the fancy specialty boarding school that you go to?"
Though she wasn't exactly eager at the idea of attending the same school as her gross cousin, Eruna had to admit that she was just a little curious as to what kind of place he went. He hardly ever talked about his school and even her aunt and uncle never said a word about it, almost like they were forced to keep it a secret. That was the first time Eruna had ever been interested in her cousin in any shape or form.
Eruna flipped the cover over to the first page and was greeted with a group photo of several students standing in front of what Eruna assumed was the Academy's front gates. The boys and girls wore crisp white shirts while the boys wore black pants with white stripes going down the side and the girls wore black skirts with red trims; they also appeared to wear ties that separated their years by color: red, green, and blue. But thing that stood out was that all the students were wearing blazers in seven different colors – red, blue, green, purple, black, pink, and white – and each of them had a different emblem on the left side of their chests. Okay, now Eruna was really curious.
"Hmm, their uniforms are pretty cute," said Eruna thoughtfully. "But why is everyone wearing different colors. Is it a fashion thing?"
"I…can't really explain that, at least not in public," said Shigure. "You'll find out more once you get in."
"Oh? Everyone lives in dorms?" mumble Eruna, flipping through the pages with increased interest. "It has tons of different clubs, and not all of them are culture clubs…. Specialized education toward the career of your choice…. Caters to all types…. Its famous for its alumni becoming scholars, scientists, and military leaders, huh?"
"As far as specialized schools go," said Shigure, "Serenity Academy is the number one specialized school in Asia. It has a unique system that separates it from normal schools, but like I said before, I can't explain it right here. Top secret and all that. I suppose you could say I'm pretty important, isn't that right, my darling," he added, shooting her another flirtatious wink.
Eruna read on, completely forgetting his existence.
"WHY?" Shigure cried, falling off the bench, waterfalls of tears running down his face. "How could you ignore me? Just a little is fine! If you'd show a little interest, it'd make me so happy!"
Eruna just blocked out his voice – a trick she learned from years of experience. But as she reached the midway point of the brochure, Eruna's heart skipped several beats as he eyes fell upon a gorgeous shot of the most beautiful woman Eruna had ever seen. A true Japanese beauty; her skin was white and smooth like a porcelain doll, free of any blemishes, her long black hair billowing behind her a single red braid dancing between the locks, and eyes were like glistening rubies that peered into Eruna's soul. She even managed to make the pink blazer that looked average on the other students look like runway material.
Eruna's mind danced away into her imagination, where she and this unrivaled beauty stood alone on a windy hillside, Eruna only able to stare at her from afar, as the woman gave her a smile that outshined the sun –
"Eruna-chan, you're drooling – " Shigure said, frowning in annoyance as he leaned in close to his love-struck cousin.
Eruna snapped out of her daydream and realized how close Shigure was. She kicked him under the chin out of instinct, but she was less concerned about her cousin writhing on the ground in pain and refocused her attention of the beauty in the brochure.
"An angel! She's such an angel!" cried Eruna with glee. "I can't believe a girl like her exists in this boring world!" However, a terrible thought occurred to her and Eruna shoved the picture in Shigure's face. "Hold up a minute! Models are usually used for these kinds of pictures, right? It's like a difference between the pictures and the real thing at a burger joint!"
"Burger? I want to eat a teriyaki burger," Shigure mumbled disoriented.
"You're not listening!" Eruna snapped, looking at the picture again as she started breathing hard like a perverted stalker.
"By the way, the girl in the picture is second-year Student Council Vice-President, Seisa Mikagura," said Shigure.
"Okay, okay, you go and buy your burger yourself. I want nugg – " said Eruna, waving her hand disinterestedly. It took a few seconds for her mind to catch up, but then Eruna suddenly leaned closer to her cousin with wide, round eyes. "Wait, what? Say that again!"
"I want to eat a teriyaki burger," said Shigure cluelessly.
"Not that part!" yelled Eruna, shaking her head wildly.
"I'm a pretty important guy, my darling," said Shigure, smiling and winking.
"You went back too far!" wailed Eruna, flailing around furiously.
"The girl in the picture is second-year Student Council Vice-President, Seisa Mikagura," said Shigure with a tone of disinterest.
"You mean she's real?" shouted Eruna joyfully. "All right, I've decided!"
"But I'm the only one that can marry my precious Eruna!" cried Shigure tearfully.
"Shut up, you pervert!" snapped Eruna, kicking him in the face again. "That wasn't what I was talking about! I'm going to apply to Serenity Academy! And you're going to help me pass!"
"Of course, anything for my darling," said Shigure with yet another wink and smile. Once again, Eruna blocked out his existence and walked away, clutching the picture of Seisa lovingly. "WHY?!"
Since then, Eruna had been working night and day to prepare for the upcoming entrance exams with the help of her overenthusiastic cousin. The next few days were a montage of training scenes: purging her earthly desires under a waterfall (she got a cold for three days), undergoing extreme meditation by a single handstand on tall rocks (she slipped and broke her nose), fighting grizzlies in the woods (the bear won), drinking raw eggs (she was admitted to the hospital for a week), and jogged up a flight of steps even though it really served no purpose. And now, after a month of extreme hardcore training, Eruna Ichinomiya realized –
"How is any of this supposed to help me?" Eruna shrieked.
"It really doesn't," said Shigure. "By the way, the entrance exams are tomorrow."
"CRAP!" cried Eruna.
And thus, the day had arrived –
Eruna woke up the next morning, practically leaping out of her bed and rushing out the door, stopping only to grab a quick breakfast burrito before taking the first bus to the next town over. When she got off, Eruna found herself standing outside the gated entrance of Sakuragaoka High School. According to Shigure, Serenity Academy was an international school and had exam sites all over the continent, meaning they needed to borrow other school campuses in exchange for large sums of donations. Any normal person would have questioned how a single school could afford all this, but Eruna's mind was focused solely on passing so she could meet her 'Angel'.
Eruna didn't think there would be many people taking the entrance exams since Serenity Academy was a very private school, so the scarf-wearing girl nearly stumbled over herself when she saw the sheer number of people cluttering the courtyard. There must have been only a couple hundred loitering the entrance; some of them were big and brawny, some were short and nerdy, others looked like a bunch of preppies, and a few looked like they had never had a shower a day in their lives. The only other thing that stood out was the small stage at the front doors, possibly where the proctors were going to explain the rules.
Eruna gulped loudly.
"So this is where the entrance exams are?" said Eruna, feeling a little nervous; a feel that she was unaccustomed to. "There sure are a lot of people…. But I'm sure it's fine. Everything that I've done to prepare for today's exams…" She repeated the montage of pointless exercises in her head and sweat dropped, "isn't really gonna help, I think. But I'm sure I'll be fine! Yep, I'll totally ace this!"
She marched across the grounds, weaving her way through the crowd to make her way towards the stage. Here and there she overheard some jock talking about how much they bench or a bunch of preppie girls tittering over something that Eruna couldn't care less about. It seemed like none of them were as concerned about the exam as she was; they all seemed to think they were already accepted and this exam was just wasting their time. So annoying, Eruna thought.
Once she managed to squeeze through a pair of particularly dumb-looking men, Eruna finally arrived at the stage. And she made it just in time, because an official-looking woman walked out of the building carrying a clipboard and walked up onto the stage; the crowd immediately went silent and looked her way. She wasn't really that cute, much to Eruna's disappointment. She had a very stoic expression underneath that mop of faded red hair tied back into a short ponytail and wire-rimmed glass over her cold, dead-fish eyes. She looked like the perfect picture of what Eruna imagined an adult: someone whose soul has been thoroughly crushed by the working industry.
The proctor readjusted her glasses, checked her clipboard once more, and then looked out into the crowd.
"Hello, everyone!" she shouted across the campus. "Can everyone see me okay? Can everyone hear me?"
"I can, Miss Kobayashi!" yelled an overexcited woman somewhere in the crowd.
"Tohru, please go home," groaned Miss Kobayashi while the crowd looked around mildly confused. "Anyway, for those of you who didn't hear, I am Miss Kobayashi. I teach computer science at Serenity Academy and I will be one of two teachers who will be overseeing your examinations.
"Now before we get started, I will be going over the contents of today's entrance exams as well as the rules you will need to follow. In a few minutes, we are going to open the doors into the school and you will all line up in four rows. There will people inside who will be waiting to register you in and hand you a card that will have your examination number – do not lose these, because you will need them to see your score at the end of the exams. Once you have a number, they will assign you to a classroom. You are to wait there patiently until the exams start.
"The entrance exams have been divided into two parts: a written exam and a fitness. You will be taking your written exams inside the school and you will have one hour to complete it. I don't think I have to tell anyone that cheating is strictly prohibited and anyone caught doing so will receive an instant failure. Do not think that we won't catch you, because we will. Next, we will move to the gymnasium for the fitness exams where we will test your strengths, speed, and coordination. I know most of you think you will be able to breeze by, but I feel you should know…the success rate of these exams is less than ten percent."
"LESS THAN TEN PERCENT!" Eruna shrieked frightfully, and she wasn't the only one. Suddenly, all those smug faces on everyone's faces turned nervous and many were chattering frantically.
"Serenity is a very prestigious school that only a select few can get in, so you should have expected that we would be very strict in the selection process," said Miss Kobayashi in a casual sort of way as she adjusted her glasses again. "I'm going to be upfront: only four or five of you are likely of passing. You probably don't want to hear it, but it's true. All I can say is 'Good luck', because the entrance exams start…now!"
On command, the school doors flew open and the crowd immediately surged inside; poor Eruna was swept away in the tide of anxious students.
Getting registered was simple enough, she received her card number (#117), and found her assigned room on the second floor without trouble. The classroom was jam packed and nearly every desked was occupied by tense-looking hopeful. They were all ominously quiet, as if talking would cause the whole class to explode. But oddly enough, Eruna didn't see any examiners. Weird, Eruna thought, maybe he doesn't show up until the test starts.
Eruna found a seat near the back next to the window, but just as she sat down, something really odd occurred. A quick gust of wind blew threw her hair even though none of the windows were opened and there were no fans on. But even weird, when she looked down at her desk, she spotted a sheet of paper lying face down in front of her that wasn't there a second ago.
"Nani?" yelped Eruna, looking bewildered in every direction. "Nani? Nani? Nani?"
"Attention all exam applicants!" Eruna perked up as Miss Kobayashi's voice came through the loudspeakers. "We will now begin the written portion of the exams! You have one hour to finish as much as you can! Your time starts…now!"
There was a chorus of shuffling papers, a short bout of silence, and then a symphony of scratching pencils. Eruna looked down at her own paper, taking a deep, calming breath.
"All right, Eruna, you've got this," Eruna told herself quietly. "Just write what you know and if you can't figure out something, come back to it later."
Eruna flipped the paper over and read:
1. Explain the concept of Personal Reality in quantum theory that allows one to bypass of the Uncertainty Principle with regards to the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.
2. Describe the sequence of events required to distort the laws of the microscopic world and how they contribute to changes in the macroscopic world.
3. Explain the contrast of Personal Reality and Holism. Use Gaia Theory as part of your answer.
Eruna hand was frozen, the pencil clattering on her desk. She started at the test paper unblinkingly as a shower of sweat rolled from her brow. It only got worse as her eyes traveled further down the page.
'Oh crap, this is bad!' Eruna screamed in her mind. 'I can't answer a single question!'
But while she couldn't even get past the first question, everyone else was jotting their answers without pause. Eruna leaned over her desk with her head in her hands, moaning quietly while biting her lip in silent panic.
'What am I going to do?' thought Eruna frantically. 'If I don't do something fast, I'm totally gonna bomb the test!... Maybe…maybe I could try to look at someone's – no, no, bad thoughts, Eruna!' She shook her head. 'You heard what she said. Anyone caught cheating will fail right away. But…there's no one watching us right now…. So…maybe I could just take a quick peek….'
But while Eruna was contemplating the idea of cheating, she noticed someone near the front that was shared a similar train in thought. One of the applicants, a big brawny guy who looked like he had muscles than brains, was trying to trying to peek at his neighbors' paper under the guise of cracking his stiff neck. He was leaning only slightly so that his movements were almost unnoticeable –
And the next thing Eruna knew, he was gone; completely vanished. The other applicants were quick to notice and started spinning around wildly in a panic. Eruna craned her head to see the missing applicant's seat and saw his exam paper with a rising sense of dread when she noticed the sheet was marked with a big, fat, red "F". And if she wasn't already shaking in her boots, Miss Kobayashi's voice called over the loudspeakers again to deliver a chilling announcement:
"Applicants #17, #21, #25, #36, and #37 from Group A have failed. Applicants # 51, #63, and #77 from Group B have failed. Applicant #109 from Group C has failed. Applicants #138 and #151 from Group D have failed. Applicants #166, #167, #179, and #190 from Group E have failed. Fifty minutes remain in the written exams. Remember, no cheating."
The class quickly put their heads down in unison and went back to writing their papers, but there was now a noticeable rush to finish. Eruna had no idea what she was going to do, so she just started writing down whatever gibberish she could think of; it was better than leaving the test blank.
'I'm totally going to fail this exam!' Eruna thought. 'But…that's okay, this is only a little setback. There's still the fitness exam, and I've always got top scores in P.E. If I do really well, I might still be able to pass! Yeah, I'm not out of this yet!'
When the bell rang signaling the end of the written exam, Eruna was last seen lying face flat on the desk, steam wafting from her overworked brain. She tried answering as best as she could, but every single question was university level or higher – way too big a hurdle for someone who's graduating middle school. Suffice to say, Eruna didn't imagine herself passing the written exams. But there's still the fitness exam, Eruna reminded herself. As long as she didn't completely bomb, there might still be a chance. Feeling a little more optimistic, Eruna rose from her seat and followed the remaining applicants to the school gym.
Eruna once again slithered her way to the front when they reached the gymnasium and got a first look at the course look laid out for them. The gym had been divided into five small testing stations each with an official-looking man carrying a clipboard. One station had to chalk lines on the floor, the one next to that had a lane that lead up to a large box filled with sand, the one after had a bunch of barbells and weightlifting equipment, the next one over had a four-lane running track, and the last one had a bin full of baseballs with a targeted mat on the wall. Eruna, who read a lot of sports manga, was starting to get a picture of what they were supposed to do.
Miss Kobayashi appeared from somewhere in the crowd and stood up front, readjusting her glasses again as she eyed her own clipboard.
"All right, everyone, settle down!" Miss Kobayashi called over the chatter of the applicants. "We'll be starting the fitness exams next, so pay attention! As you can already see, there are a bunch of testing stations where our protectors will be reviewing your physical abilities! Serenity boasts an importance of having a strong body on top of a strong mind! Your tests will be a thirty second side-to-side jump, the long jump, weight lifting, the fifty-meter dash, and pitching! When you have completed all five stations, you are free to roam around the campus until your scores have been evaluated!
"Does everyone still have their numbers? Applicants #1 through #40 will go to station A, #41 - #80 to Station B, and continuing in that order! Once you are finished with one station, please move clockwise towards the next station and wait your turn! When you have completed all five stations, you are free to roam around the campus until your scores have been evaluated! If anyone doesn't have any questions, please head to your stations!"
Since her testing number was #117, Eruna headed to the weight lifting station first.
Now Eruna was pretty good when it came to P.E., which surprised many of her classmates considering she spend most of her time playing dating simulators, but she had never been good when it came to lifting weights. She was more of a speed runner than a body builder. But she really needed to impress the protectors if she wanted to get into Serenity, so her plan was to fake it until she makes it…or until her body snapped in two.
They called the applicants one by one using their testing numbers and Eruna had to wait at least ten minutes before they finally got into the triple digits. Thankfully, most of them never seemed to have even held a dumbbell before or even remotely exercised at all, typically falling flat on their faces when they tried to lift the ten-pound weights. Eruna's prospects were looking a bit better, but there were also some applicants could lift five hundred pounds over their heads with one hand, so she wasn't feeling completely confident.
"Why do I always end up behind the monsters?" Eruna whined as the applicant put the weights away.
"#117!" the examiner called.
Eruna marched over to the weight equipment and examined it with a critical eye. She wasn't going to be able to lift as much as the last guy, but she at least could prove she show that she had some physical talent. So she walked over to the hundred-pound barbell, bended her knees, and took a deep breath.
Okay, Eruna, you got this, you got this," Eruna said to herself. She grunted with effort as she raised the barbell off the rack, held it shakily on her shoulder, and slowly raised it over her head. "I've got this, I've got this, I've got – I DON'T GOT THIS!"
The weight of the barbell caused her to topple sideways like a timbering tree, only barely throwing her hands out in time to stop herself from smacking her face in the floor. Unfortunately, the weight ended up falling on her examiner's foot. The official howled like an injured coyote, hopping up and down on his other foot. He was in too much pain to see where he was skipping until he fell over on the weight rack, sending all the barbells rolling at the other applicants. Eruna didn't see what happened next because she covered her eyes with her hands, but there was a distinguishable boom followed by the wailing of the ambulance.
While the paramedics carted off several applicants that unfortunately had to end their exams short, Eruna marched stiffly over to the next station, whistling innocently while trying not to meet anyone's eye. Her next test was the fifty-meter dash. It was a straightforward test: four people were called together and all of them would run to the opposite end of the track where their times would be marked down by the proctors. Eruna was feeling really confident in this one – she may have screwed up at weightlifting, but she was a strong runner.
The examiner called the next four applicants and Eruna bounced over to the starting line, feeling fairly confident in herself. Her opponents were a couple of fashionistas and a skinny nerd.
'These guys are totally out of their league,' thought Eruna, grinning. 'This is gonna be a walk in the park.'
"On your mark…get set…go!"
Eruna took off like a rocket, quite leaving her opponents in the dust. In under two seconds, she had already crossed the entire track and was just a few quick steps away from crossing the finish line. However, in Eruna's haste to get through the physical exam, she failed to realize that one of her shoelaces had come undone. Naturally, the orangette stepped on the lace, which tucked at her other foot just as she was about to reach the finish. Instead, Eruna sharply fell sideways out of the track and ended up bumping into the examiner from the weightlifting station, who had left his post to grab himself a cup of steaming hot coffee. Eruna bumped him hard in the shoulder, causing the examiner to spill the hot beverage all over his face, scream as his skin immediately began to blister.
Meanwhile, Eruna's opponents calmly walked over the finish line at a normal pace and the examiner wrote down their times.
"Well, this isn't going as well as I'd hoped," said Eruna, tuning out the burned examiner flailing on the floor. "But this is just a minor setback, that's all! I'm still in this!"
So, the weightlifting and the 50-meter dash didn't work out like, but there were still the remaining tests, Eruna thought optimistically. The next one was so simple that there was no possible way that Eruna could screw this up.
Examinees were all given a single baseball and asked to throw it at a mat painted with a target from fifty feet away – just a little short of the distance between a pitcher's mound and Homeplate. Depending on where they hit the target, the applicants would ben rated based on their speed as well as accuracy. Once again, the results of the applicants varied between each person with the majority rarely even being able to make it to the mat. After a observing a rather pathetic throw from the girl before her, the examiner called Eruna's number next and the scarf-wearing girl stepped up to the line enthusiastically.
"Okay, Eruna, this should be easy-peasy," Eruna said to herself, taking one of the balls from the bin. "You've watched plenty of sports anime before…. Okay, so I never made it past the first episode on any of them, but I still watched them! This is just like that, only in real life! Simple, right?"
But as Eruna quickly learned, baseball in anime wasn't the same as baseball in real life. She focused her eyes solely on the target in front of her, drawing an imaginary crosshair in her mind. She started to pull back her arm, lifting her front foot like all those pitchers on TV, lunged forward and shot the ball with all her strength…. The baseball landed nowhere near the mat. In fact, the ball slingshot straight towards the ceiling, bounding off the rafters, fell towards the weightlifting station, and bounced off the floor to nail the same weightlifting examiner under his chin, knocking him off his feet and into the weight rack again.
"WHY?" The examiner cried. "WHAT DID I EVER DO TO DESERVE THIS?"
"Sorry!" Eruna apologized.
The next one was pretty easy, Eruna thought, and there was no reason anyone should be able to get hurt…but the weightlifting examiner put on a football helmet and pads for good measure.
The idea was that applicants were supposed to bounce back and forth between two chalk outlines marked on the floor at a reasonable distance and the number of repetitions they did within thirty seconds would be counted toward their score. When Eruna arrived at the station, there was already a group in the middle of their session. Most of them were going all-out at the start, but the repeated motions quickly wore them out before the timer was halfway done. Others were going at an even pace, but Eruna couldn't help noticing that the proctor was frowning at those people in particular.
"Time!" shouted the examiner. "Next group, please!"
The next group stepped in to replace the previous bunch, some of whom were wheezing and holding their ribs. Eruna took her place at one of the designated zones, leaning forward against her knees, and talking a deep, calming breath. She needed to do well on this – she had already failed enough today.
"On my count!" the examiner called. "Three…two…one…start!"
Eruna bounced back and forth the very instant the words left his lips, noticeably much quicker than any of the other examinees, who were just starting to catch on. She knew it was probably a bad idea to go full force at the start after watching the previous group, but Eruna felt confident in her stamina. They were crossing the halfway mark when her fellow applicants were starting to pant and sweat, but Eruna didn't feel the least bit winded. She continued to jump between the lines without rest until –
"Time," said the examiner, and the applicants finally stopped, much to their relief. He looked at his clipboard for a moment then up at Eruna. "Twenty-two repetitions. Very impressive, #117. That's the best so far."
"Yatta!" Eruna cheered, pumping her fist in the air. "I didn't screw up for once!"
At the same time, the weightlighting examiner let out a relived sigh as her removed his helmet…right before he was beaned in the back of the head by another baseball.
"Sorry!" another applicant apologized.
Eruna's last test for the fitness exam was the long jump, and it was her last chance to impress the proctors. Except for the side-to-side jumps, Eruna had failed spectacularly on all of the trails and had developed a very bad relationship with the weightlifting examiner, who was glaring at her from across the gym wearing a new cast on his foot and an ice pack for his head while spreading burn cream on his face.
All test was required for this test was to run a short distance into a twenty-five-foot box filled with sand and jump as far as their can; where their feet hands would determine their final score. Despite its simplicity, Eruna knew there had to be some way that she was going to screw this up with her bad luck; she managed to do so three tests in a row. But there was no point in worrying about it now, Eruna thought as she waited patiently in line for her turn. Everyone before her did about average between the 15-17-foot range – there was very athletic boy who managed to jump nineteen feet, and set the bar for what Eruna had to beat if she wanted to impress the officials.
"Next person to the starting like," said the examiner.
Eruna marched up to the white line and crouched into a runner's stance, taking a breath and she zoned in on the track in front of her. She impatiently waiting for the proctor's signal and nearly took off before he brought his hand down, but Eruna controlled her impulses and held herself steady before she was finally given permission to run. Eruna sprinted with everything she had, feeling the muscles in her legs already starting to tense up as she approached the edge of the sandbox. She stomped her feet at the jumping point and leapt high into the air –
Or at least she would have if she hadn't clipped her shoe on the edge.
The scarf-wearing girl fell forward into the sandpit so fast that she didn't realize what happened until she started rolling uncontrollably across the box. She rolled out of the sandpit and started sliding across the gymnasium, headed straight for the weightlifting examiner who was taking a break on the bench. The poor proctor was trying to get a drink of water and relax after a stressful day when he saw the bane of his existence rolling in his direction, frowning.
"I should have stayed in law school," he bemoaned.
"The fitness examination is now over." Miss Kobayashi's voice declared over the loudspeakers. "At this time, we ask that you remain on campus and wait as we compile the results. The list of those who have been accepted will be posted on the bulletin board this afternoon. For those of you who haven't brought a lunch, food will be provided in the first-floor classrooms, but it's first come first serve. Thank you for your cooperation."
Two hundred applicants all over the school let out relieved sighs and stressed groans, knowing that the exams were finally over. There were some who felt confident in their standings and made their way to lunch with a spring in their step, and others were slumped over in varying states of anxiety and depression. Eruna was part of the latter category.
She didn't go down to lunch with the rest of the examinees, wanting to spend some time alone with her thoughts, and ended up in small room that was labeled for the "Light Music Club". Luckily enough, there was fancy cabinet with a bunch of fancy-looking tea sets and a five little boxes with cheesecake slices in them. Eruna took the strawberry cheesecake, figuring someone wouldn't mind sharing, although she did accidentally bump the cabinet and broke one of the tea sets – hope that wasn't expensive. She laid flat at the table made of desks, stabbing the cheesecake and stuffing her mouth in a very sloppy way.
"Whelp, this day can't get any worse," Eruna bemoaned, spraying cheesecake crumbs all over the table. "That written exam was way too hard and that fitness exam was horrible. It's like some author is writing a shitty fanfic about me trying to make me fail on purpose. If I already screwed up so badly in the exams, then aren't I definitely out? And if the outs pile up, then aren't I completely driven into a corner? In baseball terms, it's the bottom of the ninth with two outs and bases loaded! And I'm the batter, biding my time? Which means" – Eruna suddenly jumped up, looking strangely positive – "I still have a chance to hit a grand slam!"
"You're being way too optimistic," sand Miss Kobayashi as she entered the room, giving Eruna a blank stare.
"Huh? Does that mean it's the end of the game after all?" said Eruna tearfully. Miss Kobayashi sweatdropped – this girl was impossible to keep up with.
"We haven't tallied all the results yet, but it doesn't look good in your case," said Miss Kobayashi, flipping the pages on her clipboard. "Applicant #117: failed to get a single question right on their written exam and did subpar during the fitness exam. Quite honestly, you should fail right away." She looked up at Eruna, who was crying waterfalls, much to Miss Kobayashi's exasperation. "But…you're being called in for the third exam."
"There's a third exam?" Eruna perked surprisingly.
"It's not an exam that we publicize to the rest of the examinees," said Miss Kobayashi. "The first two exams are actually just set up to see which people are eligible. The third exam is what really determines whether or not you get in. If you manage to pass that one – "
"Then there's still a chance for me to get in?" Eruna shrieked happily, bouncing on her feet giddily. "I'll take it! What do I have do?"
"There is a forest behind the school," Miss Kobayashi explained. "You'll follow the dirt road to the old school building. There will be an instructor there to explain your final exam."
"Gotcha!" said Eruna with an eager salute. "I'll definitely pass this one with flying colors! Just you watch!"
Eruna didn't even wait for Miss Kobayashi to respond before she was out the door, bounding down the stairs four steps at a time. Miss Kobayashi stared out the open door, humming to herself.
"With her scores, she shouldn't have been eligible," Miss Kobayashi mumbled to herself. "She showed no signs of a Variation, either. But…she is a direct descendant of the Ichinomiya Clan's Main Branch, so she's bound to get some special treatment. But that's not going to matter if she doesn't do well in the final exam, especially considering the person giving it…."
Eruna full sprinted around the school to end up in the thickly dense forest behind the school, immediately finding the path as Miss Kobayashi instructed. The trees were so tightly packed together, their foliage practically blotted out all sunlight; it reminded Eruna eerily of those horror movies where the cute teenager girl got lost in the woods before getting eaten by zombie clown cannibals…. Okay, so that movie doesn't actually exist, but Eruna would totally watch it if it did.
She stepped over the thick roots of the trees and the fallen logs in her path. It was clear that no one had been back here for decades, probably not since the new school building was built. Eruna pushed her way through the wall of dense bushes until she found herself standing in a small clear in the middle of the woods. In the center was a rickety old wood building that was almost half the size of the main school and was as dilapidated as one would expect. The termite-infested walls were full of holes and the nearby trees were stretching their roots into the building itself. Every single window was shattered, leaving only sharp shard in the panes, and the old school sign was on the ground in faded paint, making the name illegible.
Eruna approached one of the windows and looked inside. There were still some old desks left inside the classrooms, though most of them were either chipped or rusted over.
"Wow, this place is like totally ancient," said Eruna, standing on her tiptoes for a better look. "They just up and left this place to rot. But it's kind cool in an old-fashioned sort of way.
"I quite like it myself. It reminds me of my first job as a teacher."
Eruna shrieked in surprise and backed away from the building, accidentally tripping over her feet and falling flat on her butt. She tilted her head and looked to the open doors of the building, spotting something moving out of the shadows. Something…wiggly. Eruna bounced herself back up to her feet, quickly dusting herself off as whatever was hiding slither out into the sunlight. When the strange creature finally came into full view…Eruna's jaw dropped dumbfoundedly.
"Uh…wha?" said Eruna slowly, tilting her head sideways strangely. "Um…who…what are you supposed to be?"
"Narufufufu," the creature laughed. "Surprised? I thought you would be – everyone is at first. But don't be scared, I'm not a bad guy. In fact, I am Serenity Academy's vice-principle. But you can call me Koro-sensei."
Serenity Academy Data Card
Serenity Academy: One of four specialized schools that oversees the education and growth of a secondary type of human called Variants. To the general public, Serenity Academy is an ordinary boarding school located in the heart of Hokkaido and has been lauded for teaching many famous scholars, scientists, and military leaders. The school has been known to accept students from all across the Asian continent, but has an excessively low acceptance rate, making it the most difficult school to get into.
It shares similarities to Miracle Academy in Europe, Hope Academy in Africa, and Faith Academy in America.
Chapter 2: Eruna Ichinomiya, Part 2
Eruna had always been called "abnormal" whether it was because of her unhealth habit of daydreaming about 2D girls, or because she was touched in the head in general. But Eruna started to believe it herself when a giant monster slithered out of the rotting doorway of the abandoned school building and she didn't scream…. Well, monster might not be the right word, especially with such a cartoonish face.
He was several feet taller than Eruna and had no human-like qualities about him, what with the spongy-yellow skin, the bulbous head that was disproportionate to his body, and the half-dozen feeler-like tentacles poking out of his robe. He clearly tried to make himself more human by wearing an academic's robe, but it was lost behind the impossibly wide, toothy grin and beady little eyes.
An entire minute passed without either party making a sound. Eruna just stared at the strange octopus monster without blinking and the creature just giggled amusingly.
"Narufufufu," the creature laughed. "Surprised? I thought you would be – everyone is at first. But don't be scared, I'm not a bad guy. In fact, I am Serenity Academy's vice-principle. But you can call me…Koro-sensei."
Koro-sensei had seen a lot of different reactions in all his years as a teacher. Men treated him with hostility, women ran away in disgust, and most of his own students looked at him with a mixture of awkwardness and uncertainty when they first met. There was even an unfortunate incident when one of his female students fainted on the spot, which led to a misunderstanding that result in spending several weeks in detention himself. So the last thing he would have expected from Eruna was -
"Whoa! A pee-colored octopus!" yelled Eruna fascinatedly.
"Pee-colored?" yelped Koro-sensei, shocked. "How dare you? I am clearly an aureolin-yellow!"
"You look like pee to me," said Eruna bluntly.
"Gurk!" Koro-sensei choked. He raised one of his tentacles to his mouth, coughing politely as he composed himself. "Right, anyway…. Welcome to your final exam, Miss Ichinomiya. From here, we will be conducting a special selection test to see if you are applicable for joining our academia. Before we begin, do you have any questions?" Eruna's hand shot up immediately, causinf Koro-sensei to stare suspiciously. "And no, my skin is not pee-colored."
"That's not what I was going to ask, sir," Eruna said politely
"Oh, then go ahead," said Koro-sensei cheerfully.
"Do you come with mayonnaise and aonori?" asked Eruna innocently.
"I'M NOT TAKOYAKI!" Koro-sensei shrieked with fright.
SERENITY ACADEMY: YEAR ONE
AFTERSCHOOL PARADISE ARC
EPISODE TWO: ERUNA ICHINOMIYA, PART 2
Eruna followed Koro-sensei inside the abandoned building, carefully watching her step as they entered one of the many dilapidated hallways. Dozens of floorboards were missing, making it nearly impossible to find a place to walk, while the rest were either eroded by weather or eaten away by termites. The walls were a murky greenish-brown color from extensive lack of cleaning, and heaps of trash and loose papers were littered throughout the corridor. All the classroom doors were left open, most of them having broken off their hinges, and a lot of school equipment that had been left behind had either rusted away or broken into an unrecognizable shape.
"We will now be conducting your final exam," said Koro-sensei, stopping suddenly in the middle of the hall and turning around. "Ready, Miss Ichinomiya.
"Ready, sir!" said Eruna with an eager salute. Then she tilted her head in a confused gesture. "Um…so what is the final exam, exactly? Miss Kobayashi didn't tell me."
"Well, that was kind of the point, Miss Ichinomiya," said Koro-sensei sagely. "We always keep the final exam a secret from everyone to reduce the chance of cheating. In the past, we used to gather all the people who were selected for the final exam and give them a chance to prepare, but then the applicants would question those who had finished and tamper with the results. The point of the final exam is to test an applicant's ability to ability to think on their feet and ready to react to any situation. It's about weighing your options and making critical decisions at any given moment. If you already know what's coming, then it defeats the purpose of the exam. That's why we started the individual testing. Do you understand, Miss Ichinomiya?"
"Not at all, sensei!" yelled Eruna confidently.
"Well, at least your honest about it," said Koro-sensei, sweat dropping.
"So what's the test about, sensei?" asked Eruna, bouncing on her feet excitedly. "Is it gonna be some super advance chosen one challenge, or a straight up no holds barred brawl?"
"Narufufufu, nothing like that, Miss Ichinomiya," Koro-sensei giggled, raising a tentacle. "We're going to be playing tag."
"Eh…," said Eruna slowly, blinking owlishly. A brief period of silence passed before, "TAG?! SERIOUSLY?! WHAT KIND OF TEST IT THAT?!"
"Narufufufu," Koro-sensei laughed again. "Believe me, Miss Ichinomiya, it's a lot harder than it sounds. This won't be just a simple game. You will be graded on your quick thinking, your reaction time, and your keen decision-making skills. If you pass, you can consider yourself an official student of our school."
"That's all there is to it?" said Eruna, grinning eagerly as she started stretching her legs. "This'll be a piece of cake. I'll have you know that when we were kids, I would always whoop Shigure's butt in tag. Mostly because I was always running away from that cuzcon weirdo."
"I think you'll find this game to be a little more challenging," said Koro-sensei with an amused tone. "The rules are simply: you, Miss Ichinomiya, will be playing the part of 'it' and it will be your task to tag me. All you have to do is touch me once – it would be on one of my tentacles, or the back of my head, or even an article of clothing. You don't even have to touch me completely – just one finger will be enough. Once you've successfully tagged me, the exam will be over."
"I've totally got this," said Eruna confidently, now stretching her arms. "I mean, how fast can one octopus be?"
"You'd be surprised."
Eruna stiffened in place. One second she was staring at Koro-sensei, but when she blinked, he was gone. Then she felt something slither onto her shoulder and the orangette leapt high into the air, spinning around and nearly fell through the rotten floor when she landed. Eruna's jaw subconsciously dropped when she realized that Koro-sensei had been standing right behind her. Eruna looked back at his previous spot and looked at the yellow octopus once more just to make sure she wasn't hallucinating.
"Holy cow! You can teleport?" Eruna gasped in awe.
"Narufufufu, not exactly, Miss Ichinomiya," said Koro-sensei, cackling wickedly. "My unique abilties don't just stop at my handsomely rugged good looks – "
"You mean you pee-colored skin?" said Eruna bluntly.
"IT'S NOT PEE-COLORED!" Koro-sensei snapped, momentarily going red in the face. He took a moment to compose himself. "As I was saying, beyond my NOT pee-colored skin, I also have a very useful ability of traveling up to speeds of mach twenty."
"MACH TWENTY!" Eruna shrieked. "How am I supposed to keep up with that! That's totally cheating!"
"Now now, calm down," said Koro-sensei, waving his tentacles. "In the spirit of fairness, I will be limiting myself to only mach one."
"That's still way too fast!" Eruna complained. "How am I supposed to tag you when you can move a hundred times faster than me? I mean, I'm good, but not that good!"
"Which is the point of this exam," said Koro-sensei knowledgably. "There's no conceivable way that you'll be able to catch me by normal means, so you'll have to think outside the box. This is where your quick judgment skills come into play. The playing area will be restricted to the inside of the school – one step outside is terms for immediate disqualification, so if you can trick me into going outside, that works too. Oh, and before I forget, we're on a bit of a schedule, so we're going to have to complete your exam in the next ten minutes."
"Oh, come on, seriously!" Eruna cried in frustration. "How am I supposed to finish a whole test in ten minutes?"
"They stretched five minutes into twelve episodes during the Namek arc," said Koro-sensei pointedly. "I think you'll do fine."
"Ugh, please don't bring that up again," Eruna groaned. "So much pointless filler."
"Those were dark times," said Koro-sensei, nodding his head solemnly. "Oh, by the way, your final exam started one minute ago."
"WHAT?!" Eruna screamed, her eyes bugging frantically. "Why are you just telling me this now!"
"I thought it'd be funny," said Koro-sensei, giggling. "Turns out I was right. Narufufufu – "
Eruna wasted no time lunging for Koro-sensei, but she was nowhere close to touching him as the yellow octopus casually sidestepped her outstretched hand, watching her stumble across the rotten floorboards trying not to fall through. The orangette spun around to face him, but Koro-sensei had already vanished out of sight.
"This is so not fair; how am I supposed to tag somebody that moves that fast?" Eruna whined. But then she slaps her cheeks and shakes her head. "No, don't think that way, Eruna! Remember what your goal is here! You're going to pass this exam and get into that school that you can start your own harem of cute girls with Seisa-chan as your queen!"
"You really need to sort out your priorities," Koro-sensei said to Eruna, sweat dropping as he popped up beside her.
Eruna's reflexes kicked in before her brain could catch up with the rest of her. She ground her feet to the floor, pivoted on her heels, and shot her hand out for his round, bulbous face. Eruna had only been inches away when Koro-sensei seemingly vanished into thin air once more. But Eruna's hand continued to follow through with its reach and ended up slamming into the wall, which immediately crumbled and allowed her whole arm to pass through. Eruna tugged at her arm to pry herself loose, but it was really jammed on the other side; she pressed her foot against it and tugged harder with little difference.
Meanwhile, Koro-sensei appeared beside her once more with a slight change in expression. His bulbous head now had a green and yellow striped patter as he cackled open-mouthed at her misfortune.
Narufufufu, you're gonna have to be quicker than that, Miss Ichinomiya!" Koro-sensei taunted her.
Eruna pressed both feet against the wall and finally ripped her hand feet just as Koro-sensei zipped away down the hall. She bounced around on her feet with uncertainty before she started to give chase.
"Get back here, you walking sushi special!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.
As she skidded around the corner of the hall, cracking a few floorboards under her feet, Eruna briefly spies a small cloud of dust billowing at the foot of the broken stairway, no doubt kicked up by Koro-sensei's passing. Eruna leaped up the stairs two at a time, nearly unbalancing herself when the board creaked ominously. She made it to the second floor without incident and scanned the hall in front of her. The upper level somehow seemed worse than the lower one. It had all the same structural issues, but there was a lot more holes in the floor and several gaps in the ceiling that shined a few brief flashes of sunlight through. Not to mention that mold that had started piling up in the corners or evidence that several woodland creatures had made their holes in the desks…and evidence that a lot of them had died there as well. Eruna gulped loudly, but pressed on.
Eruna sprinted down the hall, all while be conscious of where the loose floorboards were. She did a quick scan of the open classrooms as she passed, figuring the giant octopus had to be hiding in one of them. But even with the restriction limit, there were still so many places he could be.
"C'mon, c'mon, where could an eight-foot octopus even hide?" Eruna moaned. "Ugh, stupid Shigure for not telling me about this. When I get out of here, I'm gonna wring his neck!"
Meanwhile, Shigure Ninomya was waiting outside Sakuragaoka High's front gates waiting to hear the results of Eruna's exams when a powerful urge to sneeze came over him.
"Oh, my goodness," said Shigure, wiping his nose. "Someone must be talking about me. No doubt it could only be my beloved Eruna-chan! Surely it must be! For we are star-crossed lovers bound by the red thread of fate!"
The people on the street walked by and pretended not to see him.
Eruna must have gone around the entire second floor, poking her head in each classroom without even a hint of where Koro-sensei might be. She was starting to consider that maybe the octopus had snuck down to the first floor; given his speed, it seemed like a possibility. But as she was coming up to the last few rooms on the floor, she noticed something that looked strangely out of place. The very last door in the corridor was clean and undamaged, unlike the rest of the rooms in the old building; Eruna could hear the hum of florescent lights, which seemed odder since this building didn't look like it had any electricity.
The orangette looked up and down the hallway suspiciously, cautiously walking over on her tiptoes so the floorboards wouldn't creak. She stretched her hand, slowly curled her fingers around the handle, and then threw the door open with all her might, slamming it against the wall.
The inside of the classroom was remarkably spotless and even twinkling. Half a dozen rows of student's desks were neatly organized facing the larger teacher's desk up front. And standing in front of the chalkboard, wearing a spastic white wig and puffy mustache like a stereotypical Albert Einstein cosplay, was Koro-sensei. Eruna was at a loss for what to do, more because the scene was so strange than anything else. Before she could consider her next plan of attack, Koro-sensei swerve around and said, very sternly:
"Miss Ichinomiya, you are five minutes late for class! That's the third time this week! Do you have anything to say for yourself!"
"Buh – I – what happened was – what I mean to say is – " Eruna stuttered.
"This is starting to get out of hand, Miss Ichinomiya," said Koro-sensei strictly. "If this keeps up, then I will have no choice but to call your parents."
"I'm sorry, sensei!" yelled Eruna, suddenly bowing apologetically. "I will try to do better!"
"We will continue this conversation after class," said Koro-sensei. "Now please take your seat. Class has already started."
Eruna squeaked and immediately threw herself into the first seat she came up to in the back row, trying to make herself as unnoticeable as possible from the teacher's gaze, which was extremely difficult considering she was the only student in the entire class.
"All right, students, can I get your attention for a moment," said Koro-sensei. "Before we get started, I will be collecting your homework assignments from yesterday. Please pass them to the front.
"Homework?" Eruna gasped horrifically, her hands flying to her frizzled hair. "Oh crap, I forgot to do the homework!"
"Miss Ichinomiya, did I just hear you correctly?" asked Koro-sensei severely, slithering over to her desk and starting over her. "You didn't do the assignment? Even those I specifically said that we would be going over the material today?"
"I-I-I was gonna do it – really!" Eruna stammered. "But then I unlocked the secret level where you can spend the night in the nurse's office with Yuriko and – "
"Ooh, you mean the special cutscene that you can only unlock after you take the vision test with the love letter?" Koro-sensei jabbered excitedly, squeaking like a schoolgirl. But after a moment, he realized what he was doing and straightened himself up, coughing in his tentacle to regain some form of dignity. "What I meant to say was, that excuse is unacceptable, Miss Ichinomiya. You should have been doing your assignment, not playing video games."
"Sorry, sensei," Eruna mumbled, looking down apologetically.
"Be sure it doesn't happen again, Miss Ichinomiya," said Koro-sensei, slithering back up to the chalkboard. "Now, going back from the last lesson – "
The yellow octopus started to write on the chalkboard and Eruna tried to be a good student by paying attention. But then, a sudden burst of wind blew past, making Eruna flinch. When she opened her eyes again, there was a paper lying on her desk that hadn't been there a moment ago. Making sure that Koro-sensei wasn't watching, Eruna flipped the page over and immediately slapped her hand over her mouth to stop herself from laughing.
It was a very detailed caricature of Koro-sensei, only he was colored bright-pink and his head was shaped in the style of 1980s cartoon poop.
Eruna snorted through her nose and her shoulders began to shake from her contained laughter. She slapped the desk a couple of times to try to ease some of her amused energy. Unfortunately, her actions were immiedately caught by Koro-sensei, who swiverled around from his place at the chalkboard and suddenly zipped over to her desk.
"Is there something you wish to share with the class, Miss Ichinomiya?" asked Koro-sensei, swiftly snatching the paper out of her hand.
"No, sensei, wait, it's not what you think!" squeaked Eruna.
But Koro-sensei flipped the paper over and stared at the drawing. There was a moment of stunned silence….
"Miss Ichinomiya," Koro-sensei murmured lowly, holding up the picture. "Do you really think I look like this?"
Eruna didn't think it was a good idea to answer that question, especially when Koro-sensei morphed his head to look exactly like the drawing.
"I've had just about enough of your shenanigans, Miss Ichinomiya," Koro-sensei chided her, wadding up the picture and tossing it in the bin. "Go to the principle's office."
"No, sensei, wait, you gotta believe me, I was set up!" said Eruna frantically, flailing her arms exaggeratedly.
"Principle's office!" Koro-sensei thundered, pointing a tentacle to the door.
Eruna hanged her head dejectedly as she slowly rose from her seat, dragging her feet miserably up to the door and showed herself out. She closed the door behind her and trudged down the rotting hallway like a wounded puppy and turned the corner…and zipped back the way she came when she realized what she was doing. Eruna all but kicked the door down and looked around wildly, but Koro-sensei was nowhere to be seen, his wig and mustache disguise left neatly on the teacher's desk. Eruna threw up her arms and howled like an angry monster.
"That is worse than the time with those meddling kids," said Eruna. Humming thoughtfully, Eruna put her fist to her chin and started to pace the room. "Okay, relax, Eruna, there's still time – suspension of disbelief, remember? Think, think…. I can't catch him by just running after him; he's way too fast for that. Hmm…he seems like a perv, so maybe I could lure him with a dirty magazine…. But an innocent and pure maiden like me wouldn't have any of those. I know! I'll catch him by surprise! But…how do I do that…?"
Koro-sensei shuffled out into the middle of the eroded hallway, noting how eerily quiet it has been lately. The yellow octopus hummed suspiciously, rubbing his tentacle against his round chin.
"Hmm…I haven't seen Miss Ichinomiya around for a while," said Koro-sensei. He checked the watch on one of his tentacles. "There's still four minutes left to the exam. Has she given up and gone home? No, that seems unlikely given her type of personality. She's too straightforward to call it quits and she was so eager to get into the school, even if it was just to build a harem. So where could she be?"
As the vice-principle slithered cautiously down the seemingly deserted corridor, he remained blissfully unaware of prying eyes.
Eruna had taken refuge in the ceiling, tearing open one of the wood panels and crawling into the tiny space between it and the roof. She replaced the panel in its previous spot, but left it partially open so that she could see inside the hallway without it looking too out of place. Eruna was forced to press herself as flat as possible to see through the small opening, only barely glimpsing the traces of yellow along the edge. Koro-sensei was headed her way. Eruna quieted her breathing and tried to stop her heart from beating so fast, fearing the octopus might be able to hear it pounding against her ribcage.
Her plan was so simple a monkey could do it: hide in the ceiling, wait until he was underneath her, then swoop down and catch him from surprise. It's foolproof, Eruna thought to herself.
She was starting to see his shape through the gap, slinking closer to her trap. Just a few more feet….
"Oh, Miss Ichinomiya!" Koro-sensei called in a sing-song voice, which bounced off the walls. "Come on out! It's lunch time! I have a delirious Idol Special bento from Nandemo Bento!"
Eruna sharply slapped her mouth shut to keep herself from gasping. Nandemo Bento was her favorite lunch specialty restaurant and home of her favorite idol, Ichigo Hoshimiya. The Idol Special were lunches made specifically by Ichigo. They were more expensive than the main menu, but it was worth it. Eruna was almost tempted to reveal herself – Koro-sensei had obviously done some research on her.
"Ooh, look, a couple of cute high schools walking by," Koro-sensei continued, looking out the broken windows. "Wow, those skirts sure are short."
Eruna slammed her face down on the paneling, which was thankfully covered up by the sharp creaking of the floorboards beneath Koro-sensei's tentacles. Idol lunches and cute girls! This jerk was using her weaknesses against her. Her forehead was throbbing when she raised her head, but she bit her lip and stopped herself from making a sound. Just a little more….
"Oh, Miss Ichinomiya," Koro-sensei called out again, and through the gap, Eruna could see him holding up a handheld gaming system – her gaming system! "Yuriko is feeling very lonely. Won't you come out and see her? The poor girl misses you so!"
"That bastard," Eruna hissed quietly. "How dare he use my sweet Yuriko like that. Why I oughta – no, no, wait, calm down, Eruna, that's exactly what he wants. Just remember why you're doing this. Just think about Seisa-chan and your harem of cute girls. I'm sure Yuriko will understand…."
Eruna shut her mouth immediately when Koro-sensei fully came into view. He was directly underneath her – now washer chance!
"Gotcha!" Eruna screamed triumphantly ripping out the paneling and diving headlong at the octopus. She stretched her arm out ahead of her; her index finger was only a couple inches away from touching. But it was like time had slowed down – Koro-sensei turned his boulbous head her way, smiling like he always did, and nonchalantly stepped to the side out of Eruna's reach. The scarf-wearing girl gasped as she fell forward, hitting the rotten floor with her shoulder.
"Narufufufu, nice try, Miss Ichinomiya," Koro-sensei taunted, flashing green strips once more. "While I applaud your efforts, you're going to have to be a little more creative if you want to catch – "
Koro-sensei stiffened; Eruna let out a loud gasp. The rotten boards beneath Eruna cracked and gave away when she landed roughly on the floor with a sound like a gunshot. As Eruna started to fall through the hole that opened up in the floor, Koro-sensei snapped out of his stupor and tried to reach out for her. But for all his speed, he failed to notice one of the upended boards in his path, tripping him up and throwing him flat on his face. The vice-principle still tried to reach out for her, but Eruna had already disappeared to the floor below.
Eruna was only dimly away of what was happening around her; her mind was running a thousand miles a second as it usually did whenever she was scared. She had fallen into one of the abandoned classrooms littered with broken desks and rusted equipment. As she was falling to the floor, she had unconsciously turned her body, which put her on the path of one of the broken desks. She slammed the sharp corner with the back of her back, something that would kill most people. There was a sharp jolt of pain reverberating down her spine, making her skin tingle uncomfortably, and the world flashed white –
"WAAAH!" Eruna cried as she hit the floor on her back. Her hands immediately flew to the swelling on her head, rolling back and forth with muffled cries of pain. "Ow, ow, ow, ow! Oh, why me? What'd I do to deserve this!"
"Hmm…It doesn't look like you have it, ryui…."
Eruna pain immediately subsided as curiosity suddenly occupied her thoughts. That voice didn't sound like Koro-sensei – it was a little rough and…what the hell does 'ryui' mean?
The orangette got up to her knees and stared at the strange little creature that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, floating lazily over the desk that Eruna hit her head on. The creature looked like a white cat with brown paws and brown patterns on its face, but Eruna had never seen a cat with a fluffy purple tail or detached yellow wings on its back. Eruna crawled closer to the cat creature like a curious puppy, staring at it wide eyed as the…thing curled in the air.
"A direct descendant of the main Ichinomiya family." Okay, the cat creature was talking now. "You were even given special treatment to take this third exam even though your previous tests were so poor, but it's unfortunate, ryui. You just don't seem to have the Light. At least not yet, maybe. Still, to be fifteen years old already and not have the Light – there's a limit to how unfortunate someone can be, ryui – "
Then, without thought or reason, Eruna jabbed her fingers into the cat's eyes. The strange creature naturally cried and started flying around in loops, shouting obscurities directed at the girl who shamelessly hurt him.
"Ah, his eyes are his weakness," Eruna mumbled interestingly. "I see…."
"DON'T 'I SEE' ME, RYUI!" the cat screamed. "To commit such an outrage upon cute and lovely me! What a cruel child, ryui!"
"…I don't even know what you're supposed to be," said Eruna, sweatdropping. She gasped as another horrible thought occurred. "Wait! Don't tell me I died and this is hell!"
"WHY WOULD YOU THINK I'M HELL, RYUI!" snapped the cat creature. "But no, you aren't dead. You'll be able to tell if you pinch your cheeks, ryui." And, of course, Eruna grabbed his cheeks and pulled his surprisingly elastic face so far that they snapped back when she let go. "WHAT'S THE POINT OF PINCHING MY CHEEKS, RYUI? I FINALLY APPEAR TO HELP YOU UNLOCK YOUR ANCESTRAL POWERS AND THIS IS THE THANKS I GET, RYUI!"
"Wait, what?" gasped Eruna. "Powers? What powers?"
"The power of the Ichinomiya line, ryui," said the creature proudly. "I have guided may Ichinomiya for countless centuries to achieve their full potential, ryui. And now that I have finally awoken to meet you – "
"You have a weird beaming look on your face, so I'll call you Bimii!" Eruna announced happily with a playful wink.
"DON'T GO GIVING ME RANDOM NAMES, RYUI!" shrieked Bimii the flying cat, annoyed.
"Also, ending your sentences with 'ryui' doesn't really fit you," Eruna continued flippantly. "I think you should change it."
"Gurk!" Bimii chocked. "R…Really, fwuff? Does this fit me, fwuff?"
Eruna gave him a blank look; a cricket chirped somewhere in the distance.
"Maybe you should try 'ug'," Eruna mumbled, looking away.
"That seems very unique, ug!" said Bimii happily…until…. "NO, NO, NO! IT OBVIOUSLY COMES FROM THE WORD 'UGLY', UG!"
"Yeah, I don't really care," said Eruna, waving him off; Bimii was dumbstruck. "I was kinda in the middle of something. Speaking of which, where is – "
Right on cue, the classroom door was thrown off its hinges as Koro-sensei dashed inside with a panicky yelp. Eruna's eyes were spinning in their sockets as he zipped around her in circles, flailing his tentacles while his face turned an interesting shade of purple and his mouth moved for the first time. He was talking a mile a minute and Eruna could only barely make out what he was saying.
"Are you hurt, miss Ichinomiya? Did you break anything? Did you get cut? Tetanus? Do you need an injection? Is your head all right – well, physically all right? OH NO! Is that a bump on your head? Do you have a concussion? Do you need an ice pack? Should I go get Doctor Gorgon? How could I let this happen? I'M A FAILURE AS A TEACHER!"
Eruna slapped herself on the cheeks to stop herself from spinning as dizziness started to set in. The way that the octopus was acting, you would think that he was the one who got injured. But then again, Eruna supposed, Koro-sensei seemed like a much more compassionate and attentive teacher than any of the others that Eruna had before; they just expect her to break things and leave without a second glance.
As Koro-sensei zipped out of the room and came back too second later with a first-aid kit, a thought occurred to Eruna. Koro-sensei was gently bandaging her head, moving much slower than before so as not to disturb the bump. This was the closest she had been to him since the exam started and he was too focused on making her better to realize that he was leaving himself wide open. Call her underhanded if you will, but Eruna wasn't going to waste this chance to pass.
As the yellow octopus was finishing up her head, Eruna slowly raised her hand behind her back, not moving too quickly in case he saw anything. Her fingers were slowly brushing up against his robes; just a few more seconds and she could make contact. But just as she was about to press him, Koro-sensei suddenly vanished out 0of her reach. Eruna let out an exasperated sigh and looked to the doorway where Koro-sensei was waving one of his finger-tentacles like she was being a naughty child.
"Tsk, tsk, trying to sneak up on your poor teacher unaware, Miss Ichinomiya?" he said. "Well, I can't say I blame you for take advantage when the opportunity presented itself, but you'll have to work much harder than that if you want to get to me. Buuuut…there might not be enough time left. We've now reached the one-minute mark of your exam," he added, showing off his watch."
"What? It's already been nine minutes?" Eruna gasped, eyes bugging out.
"At this rate, it seems like you are doomed to fail," said Koro-sensei. "I'm sorry to say this, Miss Ichinomiya, but you're just not - "
Eruna couldn't explain why she did it – her mind was running frantically with the endless possibilities of failing – and threw herself at the yellow octopus halfway through his speech. Koro-sensei didn't react to it at first, no doubt believing he could easily sidestep her with his speed. But in his arrogance, Koro-sensei failed to realize that Eruna was suddenly moving much faster than normal, and in the blink of an eye, her hand was already centimeters from his face. Koro-sensei gasped as survival instincts suddenly kicked in at high gear. The yellow octopus dashed to the opposite end of the hallway at lightning speed, barely missing the tips of Eruna's fingers, and threw himself against the wall, holding his chest as he took several deep breaths. Eruna stopped herself on the spot, blinking with confusion apparent on her face, looking just as surprised as Koro-sensei was.
"NANI?!" Koro-sensei shrieked "What's going on all of a sudden? Did she awaken her Variation now? Now, that can't be right! The other exams showed no signs of any potential!"
"Whoa, what just happened?" asked Eruna, staring at her own hands like they were alien."
"Hmm…you still don't have the Light, but it seems you've awakened a small spark, ryui," said Bimii, floating up next to her. "It seems like you've awakened the Ichinomiya Clan's ability of Swift Wind, ryui."
"Swift Wind? What's that?" asked Eruna, tilting her head.
"Without overcomplicating it," said Bimii simply," it means you can now move superfast now, ryui."
"Really?" Eruna gasped hopefully. She swerved around toward Koro-sensei, who stiffened like a frightened animal. "Aw yeah, time for a little payback, sensei!"
Eruna pressed her heels into the floor and took off like a bullet leaving the chamber, blasting several rotten boards into splinters and making Bimii dodge them all in her wake. Koro-sensei shrieked like a frightened school girl and dashed off down the corridor, but Eruna turned the corner perfectly without stopping and was straight behind the yellow octopus, which earned yet another terrified shriek from Koro-sensei.
Eruna almost didn't realize it, but even though she was sprinting at top speed, she didn't feel the slightest bit winded. It was like her already high stamina had been super charged, like a cheat code that gave her infinite energy points! The whole world was spinning around her in a blur of lights and colors, but she could still tell where everything was. It felt like her feet weren't even touching the rotting floorboard and that she was just running on air. The adrenaline pumped vigorously through her veins, pounding in her ears as the wind blew through her hair, her scarf whipping behind her.
"This is…so amazing…," Eruna thought, a warmth spread in her chest. "My body feels lighter than air!"
Koro-sensei flew up the stairs to the second floor, possibly hoping that the rotting steps would hinder her, but Eruna once again surprised her when she disregarded the stairs entirely and ran up the side of the wall. The yellow octopus squeaked and zoomed down the corridor as Eruna flipped forward and resumed the chase. The vice-principle raced up and down, and back and forth along every hallway on both levels, pushing himself to the limits without breaking his promise of only going mach-1. But every time Koro-sensei would look over his shoulder, he would see that not only was Eruna keeping up with him, but she was slowly closing the gap inch by inch!
'How can this even be possible?' Koro-sensei thought, wailing in his head. 'Miss Kobayashi's data wasn't wrong, was it?'
Koro-sensei was sitting contently in the Sakuragaoka faculty lounge, sipping a cup of hot tea generously provided by the school teachers while he waited for the results of the written and physical exams. Though he knew that a lot of applicants were going to be upset, and even downright furious, Serenity Academy was a special school opened only to a certain kind of people. It's why he didn't go exposing himself to them with Miss Kobayashi – he could only imagine the panic a talking yellow octopus could cause.
As he took another sip, Miss Kobayashi walked in carry a small pile of manila folders.
"Hello, Kobayashi-sensei, good work today," Koro-sensei greeted.
"Thanks," said Miss Kobayashi tiredly. "Just got finished evaluating the exams. There are at least seventeen hopefuls in here. Now it's your turn to do the work."
She dropped the folded on the desk in front of Koro-sensei. The vice-principle reached for the first open and opened it to be greeted with a picture of Eruna giving the peace sign and winking cutely at the camera. Koro-sensei's beady eyes roamed over to the name and gave a delightful hum.
"Ooh, Eruna Ichinomiya," said Koro-sensei giddily. "She's the heir to the Ichinomiya Clan's Main Branch, right? The one that Shigure Ninomiya personally recommended? I can't wait to see what type of ability she has. Maybe she's an Esper-Type like her cousin."
"I'm afraid your going to be disappointed, sensei," said Miss Kobayashi, plopping down in the seat across from him. "I looked over her exams and she hasn't shown the slightest trace of Variation in her. I wouldn't even consider giving her the final exam, but she was personally recommended by a member of the student council, so I have to give her a chance."
"Maybe she's just a late bloomer," said Koro-sensei hopefully. "There's always a chance that she will have her Awakening in the middle of the exam."
"I wouldn't count on it," said Miss Kobayashi, reaching out for the file and flipping to another page. "On top of the exams, we also have students submit their medical information, claiming its for the student's health purposes. Dr. Gorgon personally checked Ichinomiya's medical records and she couldn't find any potential for Variation. She's just an ordinary high school girl. So keep that in mind when you evaluate her."
'That's what she said at least,' Koro-sensei thought wildly, stopping briefly before shooting backward, narrowly dodging Eruna's outstretched finger. 'She said that Miss Ichinomiya shouldn't have any potential for variation…. So what am I looking at?'
The yellow octopus couldn't help but notice that the gap between them was growing smaller and smaller by the second. Koro-sensei realized too late that this was because he had to pause for a half-second every time they turned a corner or took that stairs, but Eruna just kept sprinting the entire time without slowing down, using the walls to redirect herself and continue the chase. His saving grace, however, came when he looked at his watch and realized that there was only thirty seconds left in the exam. He made a noise of slight elation and focused on running again.
'Miss Ichinomiya might be fast, but at this pace, she'll never catch up to me in time,' Koro-sensei thought, feeling relieved. 'Sorry about this Miss Ichinomiya. You put up a good struggle, but you have to learn that you can't just brute force your way through things.'
Eruna must have noticed the relieved look on Koro-sensei's wide face, because she checked the time on her smartphone and let out a small 'eep!'
"I'm never gonna catch up to him in time!" Eruna mumbled to herself as they turned another corner on the second floor. "Even if I've gotten faster, I'm still not fast enough. I gotta figure out a way to make him come to me. But how can I - ?"
As they ran down the hall for what must have been the hundredth time, Eruna briefly noticed the large hole in the floorboard as she dashed over. It was the spot where she fell from her failed surprise attack and smacked her head on the desk that somehow let her see Bimii…. Then she remembered what happened after. The way that Koro-sensei had quickly rushed to her aid, leaving him momentarily vulnerable. A plan started to form in her head; Eruna grinned wickedly.
The speeding duo were reaching the end of the last corridor before they would reach the staircase again – if she was going to do it, now was her best chance. So while Koro-sensei briefly paused and started to change directions, Eruna planted her feet firmly on the floor and made one last desperate dive for the octopus. Koro-sensei noticed her at the last second and sidestepped out of the way, once again only narrowly avoiding a brush with her finger tips. The vice-principle was slithering back when he realized two things: He had been standing in front of a window and they were on the second floor.
Eruna was thrown bodily out of the building, shattering the already corroded sill and Koro-sensei watched, his face turned panic-purple, as the girl started freefalling headfirst into the ground.
"WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" Koro-sensei screamed at the top of his lungs.
The vice-principle completely disregarded his own rules and dashed outside the building at mach-20, vanishing out of the second floor and reappearing directly beneath Koro-sensei in a fraction of a second. He caught Eruna securely in his arms and used his other tentacles to slap away the shards of glass and splintered wood. Heaving a relieved sigh once the danger passed, he looked down at Eruna, who was blinking owlishly up at him.
"Miss Ichinomiya, are you all right?" yelped Koro-sensei worriedly. "You're not hurt, are you?"
"Oh, Koro-sensei…," said Eruna in a sing-song voice and a wicked grin. She poked the octopus in the cheek and said, "Tag, you're it."
Koro-sensei showed up yet another weird expression to Eruna. His skin had gone completely white and his face became unusually small. There was a moment of silence when the vice-principle didn't react. Eruna jumped out of his arms and waved her hand in front of his face, but he didn't respond….
"Er, sensei, are you all right?" asked Eruna in concern.
"I think you might have broken him, ryui" said Bimii, floating up to the pair.
"Bimii, where've you been?" asked Eruna, shooting him an exasperated look.
"How do you expect little ol' me to keep up with you speed freaks, ryui!" shouted Bimii, shaking his paws at her angrily. "And my name isn't Bimii, it's – "
"So…," Koro-sensei spoke up slowly, cutting in to the conversation. "You were never in any real danger? You were just playing a trick on me?"
"That's right!" said Eruna brightly, flashing him a peace sign. "I knew you'd save me if I was in danger, so I threw myself out the window and hoped for the best. Plus, you stepped outside the building, which means you automatically lose like you promised. Double victory!"
"DO YOU KNOW HOW SCARED I WAS JUST NOW?!" screeched Koro-sensei, his face bright-red with veins with throbbing veins. "I NEARLY HAD A HEART ATTACK! I COMMEND YOU FOR MANAGING TO OUTSMART ME, BUT YOU SHOULD SHOW A LITTLE MORE CONCERN FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY! DON'T GO DOING STUPID STUFF LIKE THAT AGAIN!"
"I can't really make that promise," Eruna said honestly.
"You really are a problem child, ryui," said Bimii, sweatdropping.
Koro-sensei let out an exasperated sigh, returning to his natural color, and said, "Despite the circumstance behind it, you did succeed in your task, Miss Ichinomiya. This concludes the final exam."
"So did I pass?" asked Eruna excitedly.
"You'll have to wait to see your results later," said Koro-sensei. "For now, I want you to go to the nurse's office to get yourself checked up. Tell Dr. Gorgon that I sent you."
Humming a happy little song under her breath, Eruna leisurely skipped along the dirt road through the trees back to the main school building, Bimii floating alongside her. As he watched them walk away, Koro-sensei tilted his head, a question mark popping up from his head.
"Was that a flying cat?" he asked no one.
Evening was finally starting to settle, casting a reddish-orange glow over the courtyard. All the applicants were gathered, many of them look relieved. It was over. The exams were finished. Now all that was left was to wait for the results.
The grounds were alive with chatter over the exams results; most of them felt confident they had succeeded while others expressed doubt and even contemplated running for the results were announced. Eruna almost felt bad for most of them as she sat down on the low wall of the garden bed, watching everyone interact. Most of them didn't know about the third exam, which meant the majority of them were bound to fail. But she was too worried about her own test results to feel any sympathy.
The entire time, Bimii was floating in between the crowd, looking back and forth as if searching for something, but sighed disappointedly and returned to Eruna's side, floating beside her. The scarf-wearing girl blinked at the cat-like creature and turned back to the crowd; none of them seemed too bothered to have Bimii flying around despite the strangeness of his appearance.
"You would think that a lot more people would be surprised to see a flying cat," Eruna said out loud.
"Normal people can't see or hear me, Ryui," Bimii explained. "Only people with special Gifts can notice me, ryui."
"So that means I'm special?" Eruna gasped happily.
"Well…you're certainly special in one aspect, ryui," said Bimii, looking away awkwardly.
Just then, the courtyard fell silent and everyone turned their heads in one direction. Eruna stood up to see why.
Miss Kobayashi was back on stage with her clipboard in hand, readjusting her glasses as she stared silently out into the crowd of anxious teenagers. The blank stare she gave them all was very unsettling.
"Thank you all for those who have made it this far!" she shouted so that everyone could hear. "We have finally finished the entrance exams! Now I know you'll expecting some word of encouragement, that you all tried your best and that's what really matters! And honestly, any other examiner would come up with a boldfaced lie and say that each and everyone one of you deserve to pass. But I'm not that type of person! Fact of the matter is, most of you were doomed to fail from the start, and the test results are proof of that! The only thing you can ask yourself is who failed the worst!"
"She really doesn't have a filter, does she, ryui?" said Bimii.
"There's a difference between being honest and just being mean," said Eruna.
"We have gone over the results of your exams!" Miss Kobayashi continued. She then pulled out six envelopes and held them up. "Only six of you have passed! When I call your number, please come up and grab your acceptance letter! Applicant #11!"
Someone to the left threw up their hands and practically tackled their way up to the stage. Several people groaned or shouted furiously, claiming that they must have cheated; guess they must be #1-10, Eruna thought.
The next person was much calmer than the last and gracefully walked up to the stage, accepted his letter, and walked away, despite the crowd glaring at his backside.
"Applicant # 97!"
The next one was sobbing openly as he shakily walked on stage and accepted his letter. He tried to hug Miss Kobayashi, but the bespectacled woman wasn't having any of it and kicked him off stage without a second glance.
This was it, Eruna thought. They were approaching the hundreds. It the next number was over 117, then that meant she had failed. Her whole body was tingling with anxiety – she could feel herself ready to burst –
Eruna froze up, first in anxiety, and then in shock. She had been hopeful, but she wasn't overly confident that she had passed. But now they had called her number, signaling that she had been accepted, but her legs wouldn't move. Thankfully Bimii, likely out of revernge for all the jabs Eruna dealt him earlier, kicked the girl in the back of the head and got her to stumble forward.
Eruna marched mechanically through the crowd, trying to ignore the number of angry glares shot her way, and walked on stage. Miss Kobayashi handed her the envelope without even bothering to see if it was the right person and went ahead to call out the fifth accepted student. Eruna hopped down and stared at the wax seal bearing the crescent moon that was possibly Serenity Academy's emblem. The scarf-wearing girl took a deep, clensing breath to calm her nerves, not even carring that Bimii was hovering over her shoulder.
She broke the seal and opened the envelope, read the leaf of paper inside with rising tension:
Dear, Miss Ichinomiya
We are pleased to inform you that you have been
accepted into Serenity Academy for the Gifted
A letter will be mailed to your place of residence
containing a list of necessary books and equipment
along with your school uniform and instructions on
how to download the school app to your phone.
First term begins April 16
. You are to arrive on
campus no later than 4 P.M.
"I…I can't believe it," Eruna muttered softly, clutching the acceptance letter for dear life. A wide smile began to stretch across her lip and, with renewed vigor, she threw her fists into the air and shouted at the top of her lungs, "I DID IT! I'M GOING TO SERENITY ACADEMY!"
It was little over an hour after the acceptance letters were passed where six new students looked forward to a brighter future while the rest either exploded in anger or drowned themselves in misery. Night had fallen, but Miss Kobayashi and Koro-sensei still had plenty of work left over. They borrowed the school's faculty lounge one last time as they filed through the paper work, or at least Koro-sensei was going through the papers at blinding speeds while Miss Kobayashi sent e-mails to the accepted students family detailing what they would need for school. As a former employee to a very demanding computer engineering company, Kobayashi was plenty used to working long nights, but these days were much more tolerable when you had your own person maid, even if she did have horns and a tail.,
"Thanks for dinner, Tohru," said Miss Kobayashi gratefully, handing the empty lunch box back to her maid, her eyes never wavering from the screen. "Got six applicants to pass this year. That's twice our standard rate. According to the e-mails from the other testing sites, it sounds like they've given out a larger number of acceptance letters this time around as well. If we add them all up, that makes a total of one hundred new students this year. That's our highest record yet. Impressive."
"The children grow wiser and stronger with each season that passes," said Koro-sensei sagely, sipping his coffee. "We should be proud that so many people are putting in such effort. The future of the world has never looked brighter."
"There is something that has me curious, sensei," said Miss Kobayashi, and Koro-sensei perked up. "That acceptance letter for Ichinomiya. All of her previous exams were remarkably poor, but you still decided to let her pass. Was her performance really that good?"
"If I'm being truthful, not even close," said Koro-sensei honestly. "Don't get me wrong, she's plenty capable, but there is a lot of room for improvement."
"Then why would you accept her if she didn't meet the criteria?" asked Miss Kobayashi curiously. Before Koro-sensei could answer, someone knocked on the door; Miss Kobayashi turned in her seat and yelled, "Come in!"
The door slid open, and a tall woman in a white lab coat entered the room. She was tall and lanky with a slightly pale complexion and very prominent shadows around her bright-yellow eyes, whether from a lack of sleep or natural causes is unknown. Her straw-blonde hair was arranged in a spiked style with two long strands framing her face and intertwined with each other, resting on her bountiful bosom.
"Good evening, Dr. Gorgon," Koro-sensei greeted her politely. "Thank you for all your hard work."
"I told you before, sensei, feel free to call me Medusa," said Medusa, crossing the room in two strides and holding out a clipboard. "I have the results of the blood work you wanted me to look at for that Ichinomiya girl."
"You asked Dr. Gorgon to give Ichinomiya an examination," Miss Kobayashi repeated, blinking owlishly. "Why? Is there something wrong with her?"
"That's just the thing – everything about her is perfectly normal, and I do mean everything," said Medusa, sounding slightly perplexed. "Koro-sensei gave me all of Ichinomiya's medical records and wanted to get a second opinion on the possibility that Ichinomiya might have potential Variation since he claimed to have witness her Awakening this afternoon…. But my results are the same as the other doctors'. Not a single trace of Variation. In her DNA."
"But that can't be right!" shouted Koro-sensei, jumping out of his seat. "I saw it myself! Miss Ichinomiya was fast enough to match my pace at Mach-1. There no other explanation for it."
"I'm just as baffled as you are," said Medusa earnestly. "I don't believe you are lying, which is why I did a thorough examination from every possible angle, despite the possibility that I could lose my medical license for it, by the way." She shot a dirty look at Koro-sensei, who flinched. "X-rays show no Linker Core, so the possibility of a mage is out. Her brainwaves and spiritual energy are normal, so she can't be an Esper or Medium. Blood work shows no evidence of Mutation, and her body has no enhancements and her clothes have no other function other than for warmth and modesty, so she can't be Augmented. It is in my professional opinion that Eruna Ichinomiya has no special features and is just a normal human girl."
"But she still how powers when you tested her this afternoon," Miss Kobayashi said the Koro-sensei. "If that's true, could she be a new type of Variant, or is it something else entirely."
"I think….we should make a call to the principle," said Koro-sensei solemnly. "I get the feeling this year is going to be a lot more exciting than usual."
Serenity Academy Data Card
The Ichinomiya Clan: One of the earliest Japanese Clans establish during the Asuka Period (518-710), the Ichinomiya Clan were once considered high nobility and among the Noble Family that served under the Emperor. But during the Edo Period, the Ichinomiya Clan lost power and fell into obscurity when the then-Clan Head, Miko Ichinomiya, decided to break ties with the Imperial Family. Miko became one of the Founders of Serenity Academy and established the barrier that protects those who called the Academy home. Eruna Ichinomiya is the 125th in line for clan succession.
The room was considerably dark where the only light was coming from the rays of the rising sun peaking over the mountains through the four long windows in the back. On one side of the room was a long row of bookshelves with texts neatly organized by date and alphabet, and the opposite wall was almost completely bare except for three gilded portraits, their occupants obscured by shadows. A large, clawed mahogany desk took up the entire space in the back, the surface covered in a variety of items from personal photos and important to documents to candy wrappers and small toys. And perched precariously on the edge was a small gilded plaque etched with the owner's name: "Principle Serenity".
The principle, who was covered in darkness because of the shadows cast by the highbacked chair, was flipping through a manila folder, studying the documents with as thoughtful hum. As they flipped to the last page, the principle perked up when a soft knock came from their door.
"Come in," the principle called, their voice high-pitched and feminine.
The door opened and Koro-sensei slowly slithered in, her wide, grinning face looking noticeably nervous as he entered. He shut the door behind him and approached the middle of the room, twisting with his fingers, looking very much like a child expecting a scolding their parent. The principle didn't say anything for a while as they examined the last page of the file. When she gently closed the folder, Koro-sensei flinched even though she hadn't slammed it or anything. The principle folded their hands on the desk and began to speak.
"Do you know why I called you here, Koro-sensei?" asked the principle. When Koro-sensei didn't answer, she continued. "I was going through all the files of our newest batch of students and I couldn't help noticing that one stood out from all the others. Can you guess which one it is?"
"Is it…Ichinomiya?" said Koro-sensei anxiously.
"That's right," said the principle calmly. "Even though her score was way below the acceptance rate, you still saw fit to let her pass." She started drumming her fingers on the desk; an action that made Koro-sensei start sweating. "I know she's the heir of the Ichinomiya Clan and was recommended by Ninomiya, but we can't play favorite, sensei. If she deserved to fail, then she should have – "
"You don't understand, Principle!" Koro-sensei suddenly shouted urgently. "It wasn't because I was paying favorites! Honestly! There's something…strange about Ichinomiya! That's why I let her pass! To figure out what it is! That's it, I swear!"
"Strange how?" asked the principle.
"For starters, the sudden appearance of her powers," said Koro-sensei. "I had Dr. Gorgon look over the results many times, but there is no indication that she should have any Variation. But I know what I saw during the exam. Miss Ichinomiya was able to keep pace with me – maybe even surpass – while I was in mach-1. The way it just appeared out of nowhere without warning was too great to ignore…. Come to think of it, her powers did pop up around the same time as that cat creature did. Maybe they're connected?"
"What cat creature?" asked the principle.
"Some talking, fuzzy little thing that turned up in the exams," said Koro-sensei, shrugging his shoulders. "Shaggy hair, big purple eyes, had little wings and a big purple tail. That sort of thing."
"The Guide appeared…," the Principle muttered softly, unheard by Koro-sensei. The principle hummed thoughtfully as they tapped the desk again, until…. "All right, I'll overlook this for now. But Ichinomiya better live up to the expectations set for her, or might have to start looking for a new vice-principle."
Koro-sensei squeaked like a frightened rabbit.
Just then, another knock came from the door.
"Come in," the principle called. The door opened and someone stepped inside, earning a wide smile from the principle. "Ah, good, you're still hear. I was hoping to talk to you about something before the school year started, Miss Mikagura."
SERENITY ACADEMY: YEAR ONE
AFTERSCHOOL PARADISE ARC
EPISODE THREE: WELCOME TO SERENITY ACADEMY
It had seemed like only yesterday that Eruna had gotten accepted into Serenity Academy, and now, before she realized it, she was in the heart of Hokkaido.
In truth, it had been little over a month since she met Bimii, awakened her special powers, and passed Koro-sensei's exam. In the day leading up to her departure, Eruna had kept herself fairly busy with packing essential items (video game consoles, her manga collection, toothpaste, etc.) and learning to adjust to her new powers on Bimii's insistence. Though she really only trained every other day, Eruna learned that she could run could run to the mountains one hundred miles south of her hometown and back in under five minutes, though she yet to full comprehend how to stop, as shown by the number of cuts and scraps she wore. Bimii assured her that she would learn better control over her speed with practice.
A week after the exam, Eruna received a package from Serenity Academy. Inside was a plane ticket, a list of books she would need, instructions on how to install the school app, and, most importantly, her school uniform. A crisp, white buttoned shirt, a short black skirt with red trimming, and an apple-red ribbon, signifying her status as a first year. Eruna put on her new uniform immediately and was simply ecstatic when she looked at herself in the mirror, but was curious why her uniform lacked a blazer. She had double-checked the brochure Shigure gave her and saw that everyone was, in fact, wearing a different colored blazer. Maybe they would give her one when she got to school, thought Eruna.
Finally, the day had come. She said her goodbyes to her parents and grandfather, practically bouncing with energy throughout the two-hour flight, and now stood outside the tiny airport on the outskirts of Asahigaoka, Hokkaido. Eruna took in the scenery of her new territory, not surprised to see an endless sea of grass stretched out as far as the eye could see, as to be expected of Hokkaido. Eruna took a deep, exaggerated breath, an excited noise bubbling up in her throat as she punched her first in the air.
"All right, we made it!" Eruna cheered. "Next stop: Serenity Academy. You excited for this, Bimii!"
Her only reply was a nauseating moan.
The orangette looked over at her fluffy-tailed companion, who was lying flat on her suitcase looking green in the face. Surprisingly enough, as Eruna learned firsthand, Bimii did not do well on airplanes and went through a lot of airsick bags, which concerned the flight attendants and asked Eruna if she needed to see a doctor; Bimii was invisible to normal people. This led to a lot of awkward questions, but Eruna was able to lie her way through it until they reached Hokkaido.
"Isn't it a little weird that a flying cat can get airsick?" Eruna asked Bimii.
"I don't trust that winged contraptions-ryui," Bimii groaned. "They're screaming metal deathtraps. I miss the old days when man used to travel by horse-ryui."
"Eh, you'll be fine," said Eruna flippantly.
"Students this way, please! All Serenity Academy students this way, over here!"
Eruna turned her head to the left, slightly remembering the owner of the voice. As she had anticipated, Miss Kobayashi was standing in front of a bus herding a large group of people around Eruna's age onboard, all of them wearing the same uniform as her. Eruna squeaked excitedly as she grabbed her luggage and quickly rushed over to join the line, nearly throwing off poor Bimii, who had sunk his claws into the suitcase with a surprised yelp. As the line moved up, Miss Kobayashi stopped the student for a moment to ask for their name and check them off her clipboard before letting them on the bus. When Eruna was next, Miss Kobayashi looked up from her clipboard and offered her a kind smile.
"Hey, Miss Ichinomiya, looks like you made it all right," said Miss Kobayashi. "Are you looking forward to seeing the academy?"
"Yes!" Eruna answered exuberantly. "This is the first time I've ever wanted to get to school so fast! I can't wait to see them…all the pretty girls for my harem…."
The orangette started laughing in a very creepy manner and was slightly drooling; Miss Kobayashi sweatdropped.
"O…kay…," said Miss Kobayashi awkwardly. "Well, hurry up and find a seat. We'll be leaving in a few minutes."
Eruna jumped onto the bus, leaping over the steps entirely, and stared down the narrow walkway crowded with teenagers, all of whom were talking happily with their seatmates. Eruna walked down the aisle slowly, rolling her luggage and Bimii behind her, searching for an open seat – there was a lot more people here than she had expected. She was almost in the back when –
"Hey, over here, we got an open seat."
Eruna's eyes wandered over to a raised hand in the left seats near the back, waving her down; she walked over quickly and was greeted by a pair of kind-faced girls.
The first thing that stood out to Eruna was that both of them had dark-tanned skin that wasn't common in Japan – they must be foreigners, Eruna thought. The girl sitting next to the window – the one that had waved her down – had ruby-red eyes and windswept, dirty-blonde hair was being kept in place by a black bandanna was an intricate golden pattern and a matching scarf. Her friend in the middle seat had wide blue eyes and exaggeratedly long purple held in a high ponytail by a golden band, pointed ears with gold hoop earrings, and a golden tiara on her brow.
Grinning, Eruna threw her luggage in the overhead (Bimii included) and plopped down in the open seat next to them.
"Thanks," she said gratefully.
"Not a problem," said the blonde.
"All right, is everyone on-board?" Miss Kobayashi asked, climbing into the bus herself and searching down the aisle. "Anyone missing? Need to make a pitstop before we go? No? All right, let's get this rustbucket moving."
With that, the bespectacled woman shut the doors and started the bus, which made a terrible grinding noise that caused the passengers to wince, the seats rumbling terribly underneath them; she wasn't kidding about this being a rustbucket, Eruna thought. Miss Kobayashi turned out onto the only stretch of road and the rumbling thankfully subsided as they glided smoothly down the country lane. Eruna stretched her neck to look around her seatmates, wanting to get a good look at the Hokkaido territory, but there was nothing interesting to look at – Just an endless sea of green and occasional patches of wheat and vegetable crops.
"My name's Shantae," the purple-haired girl said suddenly, making Eruna bounce in her seat. She smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I don't like it when it's too quiet – just used to Bolo or Rottytops causing all kinds of trouble. But, like I was saying, my name's Shantae. I'm from Sequin Land – that's in the Arabian Peninsula. And this is my friend, Alua – "
"Kat," the blonde interrupted. "I don't go by Alua anymore because…well, let's just say things are a little complicated back home. I'm from Hekseville in China."
"I'm Eruna – Eruna Ichinomiya," Eruna introduced herself. "I'm from, well, right here. Well, not right here, exactly, but I'm from Japan, if my name wasn't a dead giveaway, but it's kinda like…um…," Eruna stammered off, having quickly lost her train of thought. So, to hopefully make the conversation less awkward, she changed the subject. "So, you two are friends, huh? Even though you're from opposite sides of Asia? How'd you two meet each other?"
"Well, I was visiting Sequin Land a few months ago with my friend Lisa while she talked trade with the Sultana," said Kat, staring out the window nostalgically. "I had nothing to do all day, so I decided to go exploring in Scuttle Town. I ended up at the lighthouse and that's where I met Shantae."
"I live in the lighthouse," Shantae clarified. "I had never seen anyone dressed like her before, so I thought I'd be friendly and introduce myself. Unfortunately, that's when Risky Boots – "
"Some pirate girl with weird purple skin," Kat explained.
" – started attacking Scuttle Town again," Shantae continued with an exasperated sigh. "So I had to go fight her off – again – for the sixth time that week alone. But before I even had a chance to, Kat swooped in and kicked everyone's butt all on her own! It was soooo cool!" Kat giggled and blushed. "And we've been good friends ever since. We started writing letters to each other almost every week, and then when I found out that Kat was going to Serenity Academy, I thought I should try it myself."
"That's awesome," said Eruna, smiling. "Did you guys take the exam together?"
"Well, I had to take the exam," said Shantae. "Kat was accepted on recommendation because of her…unique situation back home."
Kat's smile quickly turned upside-down as if she was thinking of something very unpleasant. She muttered something under her breath that Shantae must have heard because the Arabian girl patted her shoulder sympathetically. Eruna considered asking what Kat's situation was (even if it was rude and invasive) when the bus suddenly bounced due to a pothole in the road. Her luggage up top rattled and something soft fell into Eruna's lap. It was Bimii, who actually looked greener than before they got on the bus.
"Airsick and carsick?" said Eruna with an annoyed groan. "For someone who's supposed to 'guide me to achieve my true potential', you sure are high-maintenance."
"Too…sick…to retort…ryui…," Bimii groaned.
"That is a weird cat," said Kat as she and Shantae craned their heads to look at it. "Is he yours?"
"Well, it's not like I want him," said Eruna, grimacing. "He's like an annoying little pest that keeps following me wherever I go."
"HEY!" Bimii snapped in a brief moment of relief.
"Hey, everybody, we're almost there!" Miss Kobayashi called from the front, effectively ending all conversation. "We'll be able to see it once in just once we get over this hill! Take a look!"
There was a flurry of movement as almost everyone pressed themselves against the windows for a better look. Eruna practically squashed Kat and Shantae as she leaned over (and dropped Bimii on the floor) as the bus reached the crest of the hill. That's when Eruna saw it, only a few short miles away, the place where she would be spending the next three years: Serenity Academy.
The school existed in the shadow of a small mountain surrounded by a long stretch of forest that looked like it had been cut out to make a perfect crescent moon. From a distance, it seemed like there were a few buildings hidden in the forest – Eruna could see at least six rooftops, but couldn't make out the rest. She could see a kind of stadium off to the right-hand side of the campus and a row of smaller buildings completely separate from the main one on the left. And from the gates, up the cobblestone walkway, and behind the fountain was school's main building; three floors tall and at least a mile wide, adorned with fluttering banner emblazoned with the school's emblem: the crescent moon.
All in all, Eruna could proudly say she didn't regret coming to this school.
"Cooool!" Shanate squeed gleefully. "Look at the size of this place! Is that an actual football stadium?"
"Look at all that open space," said Kat said in awe. "I bet I could get a lot of air around here."
"Bimii! Bimii! You gotta see this!" Eruna shouted, waving her companion over. "This place is so awesome!"
"I think I'll stay down here and die in peace, ryui" Bimii moaned, fighting back the urge to vomit."
In no time at all, they rolled up to the front gates of the school, which had a high archway with a golden crescent moon emblazoned at the top. Eruna remembered to grab Bimii off the floor, dangling him by his tail, as she grabbed her luggage and followed the rest of the new students exiting the bus. Once she stepped off behind Shantae, Eruna was suddenly aware of the hundreds of babbling voices overlapping one another excitedly and stared forward with starstruck eyes.
The long stretch of road leading to the main building was flooded with students both old and new. She saw second year students wearing blue ties and ribbons welcoming the freshmen who wore red neckwear like Eruna, but the thire years that wore green ribbons mostly stood with their own groups or moved on to the school. But what stood out for Eruna was that everyone from the second year or higher were wearing colorful blazers like the ones in the brochure while the freshmen lacked any. She looked at Kat and Shantae and only just now realized that they didn't have any jackets either.
"Hey, did either of you guys get one of those cool jackets?" Eruna asked them, pointing to a random second year.
"Come to think of it, no," said Shantae, cupping her cheek and tilting her head thoughtfully. "I know I saw the students wearing them in the pamphlets I got."
"It doesn't look like anyone from first year got one," said Kat, taking a quick look around. "Maybe it something we get later?"
"Aw, we'll figure it out later!" said Eruna, regaining her spunk immediately and wrapped her arms around theirs (and not at all caring that she was swinging Bimii around like a ragdoll). "C'mon, let's check it out!"
Shantae and Kat allowed themselves to be pulled by Eruna, smiling secretly behind her in amusement of their new friend. Her excitement was understandable - there was something about Serenity Academy that made it more unique and exciting than any normal high school. For starters, several students came from different nationalities like Kat and Shantae (though they all knew how to speak the same language for some reason, like some higher power did it intentionally so that everybody could understand). There was a short Russian girl with cold eyes and twin drill curls that was talking to a tall Japanese girl in a monotone, and brother and sister pair from India were holding hands as they skipped up the road.
As they walked by, Eruna had a chance to look at some of the jackets worn by the older students and noticed that all of them had different emblems on their left breasts depending on their color. A boy in a red blazer had a symbol that looked like a dragon head made of fire and a girl in a pink jacket had a sigil of a single feather with a curled tip. There was definitely something of an allegiance that came with the jackets. Maybe they were part of a club, Eruna thought.
Eruna, Shantae, and Kat were halfway up the road when they came across a small crowd gathering around something off to the side, most of them appearing to be freshmen. The three of them exchanged curious looks before they decided to join the crowd and fought their way to the front. They discovered that the reason everyone was so excited was because of a pair of second year students, both wearing the same black jackets with an emblem of three dog heads with red eyes. The smaller of the pair had short brown hair in a bowl cut and was fiddling with a camcorder while her partner, a tall girl with messy black hair and a single sweeping red highlight, was spinning a microphone between her fingers impatiently.
"Hurry up, Mako, we're starting to draw a crowd," said the taller girl.
"Just a second, Ryuko-chan…," said Mako the camerawoman, her tongue sticking out in concentration. There was a soft beep and she gave her partner and thumbs up. "Okay, Ryuko-chan! We're going live in three…two…one…."
"Hey, what up, Serenity Academy!" Ryuko shouted enthusiastically, twirling the microphone with a theatrical flair. "If you're watching, then you just turned in to VOCALOID, Serenity Academy's number one broadcasting network!"
"I thought we were the only broadcasting network," said Mako, tilting her head confused.
"We are, but you don't have to tell people that!" Ryuko hissed, covering her microphone. She straightened back up immediately and faced the camera again. "My name is Ryuko Matoi, recently made vice-president of VOCALOID and representative of Shadow Cerberus. You normally see me only handling radio, but Hatsune Miku-senpai graduated last summer, leaving me to take her place. While VOCALOID is sad to lose one of its best members, it's still our job to bring you the news just as Hatsune-senpai wanted. And with the spring season finally here, it's time to start fresh – freshmen, that is!
"As you can see behind me, there is a crowd of incoming freshmen ready to start the year," Ryuko continued, gesturing to the students behind her, who started shouting and cheering. "Cute, right? Well, this years' freshmen are nothing to sneeze at. According to my sources on the student council – "
"You mean your sister?" asked Mako innocently.
"Yes…my sister," Ryuko grumbled, leering at her friend. "According to her, the number of freshmen this year is the largest in school history. A whopping one hundred students even! That breaks the old record of eighty-six students from five years ago! With this many incoming students, everyone will be having high expectations for this years' freshmen. Will they be able to live up to the challenge? Let's interview one and find out!"
No doubt eager to be interviewed and make a good frist impression on the school, the freshman crowd started jumping, shouting, and raising their hands like overexcited children. Eruna and her friends were jostled back and both by the new students until they were forcefully pulled apart when Kat and Shantae were pulled back and Eruna was shoved to the front. While Ryuko paced around the crowd, tapping her chin thoughtfully as she looked them over, Eruna found herself squeezed between two very muscular men that were slowly suffocating her. She reached her hands though the gap in the crowd, blindly searching for an exit, when something wrapped around her fingers and sharply pulled her into the light. Eruna stumbled out of the crowd, flailing her arms like windmills to keep herself steady (which Bimii, who was still gripped in her hand, did not appreciate). She looked up and found herself faced with Ryuko Matoi, who was smirking while the crowd behind them moaned disappointedly.
"Let's ask this girl?" Ryuko said to the camera while shaking Eruna's hand. "Ryuko Matoi, VOCALOID. What's your name kid?"
"Er…Eruna Ichinomiya?" said Eruna slowly.
A sudden stillness fell over the grounds the moment the words left her lips. Suddenly, all the senior students who had been walking by stopped in place, staring at them from a distance, and then some of them started walking over with looks of interest. Now the crowd was twice as big as it was before with the inclusion of the senior students, all of whom were muttering excitedly, and some of them even pointed at Eruna like she was some kind of fascinating creature. Eruna didn't know why everyone was suddenly acting so weird, but she couldn't help noticing that Ryuko was grinning so wide like she had won the lottery."
"Oh ho! Did you hear that everybody?" Ryuko suddenly shouted into the camera. "Not only do we have the largest freshman class in history, but one of them is a celebrity! Eruna Ichinomiya – " Eruna nearly fell over when Ryuko rounded on her. "It's been centuries since the last Ichinomiya has set foot in this school. No doubt you decided to join in order to carry on your family's legacy, am I right?"
"Er, no, not really…," Eruna mumbled nervously. "I just wanted to meet Seisa – "
"So your plan is to join the families together again, huh?" Ryuko interrupted her. "That's a pretty ambitious goal, but I bet you've been planning this for a long time, huh? I mean, it can't be a coincidence that members from each of the Six Families just happened to be attending school at the same time. You've got some pretty big shoes to fill, considering your family's history – but I don't need to tell you that, do I? You know more about the Ichinomiya legacy better than anyone."
Eruna didn't know what to say to these claims, so she just nodded along and pretended she understood. Truthfully, Eruna didn't have the slightest clue what Ryuko was going on about. A lot of the older students seemed to be making a big deal about Eruna's family name; the crowd had grown even bigger when word spread that an Ichinomiya was on campus. Many were standing on their tiptoes just to catch a glimpse of her.
Eruna didn't see what was so exciting. Her family wasn't famous. Her dad was an accountant with a daughter complex that rivaled Shigure, her mother was a housewife whose pastime was nagging about Eruna's future, and her grandfather was a self-proclaimed pirate with very little to back up his claims and mostly contributed it to senility. And Shigure…ugh, she doesn't even want to think about him. As far as Eruna new, her family was normal…. So why were all these people so eager to see her?
She was spared from the rest of Ryuko's interview when a loud, electronic bell rang over the school and Koro-sensei's high-pitched voice called out across the campus.
"Narufufufu, we now ask that all students make their way to the auditorium for the school ceremony. I repeat, all students make their way to the auditorium. That is all."
"Well, that sucks," Ryuko mumbled as the crowd began to disperse. She flipped back around to the camera and said, "Well, we're gonna have to cut this short, but don't worry, you can count on VOCALOID to get the exclusive scoop on the hottest new topics that everyone's gonna be talking. Until next time, I'm Ryuko Matoi, and this has been VOCALOID, the first sound of the future! Later!"
"Aaaaaand…we're clear!" cheered Mako, closing the camcorder and giving a thumbs up. "That was great, Ryuko-chan!"
"Hey, Ichinomiya," aid Ryuko, grasping Eruna by the shoulder before she had a chance to walk away. "How 'bout you stop by the broadcasting club sometime? People are dying to hear all about the famous Ichinomiya. Though we'll probably do it over the radio – I'm only doing video until we find a replacement for Hatsune-senpai. Whaddya say?"
"Er…okay?" said Eruna, blinking."
"Great!" said Ryuko, grinning. "C'mon, Mako, let's get this to the editing nerds!"
"Right behind you, Ryuko!" shouted Mako cheerfully.
Eruna waved goodbye, feeling a little more lost than usual, and couldn't help noticing that most of the older students walking by were pointing at her and talking in low, excited tones.
"Huh, I figured I'd have to work harder to be popular," said Eruna.
As the crowd started to thin, Shantae and Kat finally managed to shove their way through the wave of students and made their way over to Eruna, goggling at her like she was some fascinating creature.
"You never told us you were famous," said Shantae, her mouth open in awe. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"That's because it was a secret," said Eruna, trying to act flippant despite her own cluelessness. "In fact, it was so secret that even I didn't know about it."
"So you didn't know anything about this?" asked Kat, tilting her head with a dumbfounded expression.
"If I did, it would have made middle school waaaaay more interesting," said Eruna, grimacing as she flashes back to those three short, unbearably boring years. "Seriously, I don't get why everyone is making such a big deal about it. I know my family has been around for a really, really, really, really long time, but I don't think we did anything famous."
Eruna blinked and followed the weak, groaning voice to her hand, completely forgetting that she was still holding the flying cat by his tail. She lifted him up so that he was level with her face; she could see the blood rushing to his head based on the sudden red tint around his face.
"What'd you say?" asked Eruna. "Do you know something about this, Bimii?"
"Put me…straight…so I…can think…ryui…," Bimii moaned. Eruna shrugged her shoulders and flipped the cat into the air by his tail, causing Bimii to cry out as he spun around. He rotated three times before he finally managed to correct himself in the air. He leered at Eruna, but she didn't seem to phased by it. "Thanks, I guess, ryui. Anyway, like I was saying, the Ichinomiya are a respected name at Serenity Academy. Miko Ichinomiya, your ancestor, was one of the six people who helped found Serenity Academy."
"Seriously?" Eruna gasped in awe, her eyes twinkling suddenly. "Does that mean I'm royalty? Do I get special meals and a dorm room all to myself? Do I get my own personal harem of pretty girls to play with?"
"What was that last part?" asked Kat uncomfortably.
"Don't go getting ahead of yourself, Ryui," said Bimii, curling up in the air. "It's been four hundred years since the last Ichinomiya set foot at this school, so don't expect any special privileges just because of your name, ryui. You're gonna have to work hard like everyone else, ryui." He turned to the main building with a nostalgic sigh. "Ah, it's been so long since I've seen this place, ryui. It's different than I remember, but I can still feel the same energy as when it was first made, ryui. You know, I was actually born here, ryui. That's when Miko – "
But when the flying cat looked over, Eruna, Shantae, and Kat had already joined the crowd following the rest of the school inside, purposely ignoring Bimii's longwinded story.
"LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY'RE TALKING TO YOU, RYUI!" Bimii fumed, shaking his paw furiously.
It didn't take long for them to find the auditorium – really, all they did was follow the flow of older students. The place was already packed with chattering students, their voices bouncing off the walls like a swarm of angry bees. Through whatever trick or magic Shantae had up her sleeve, the Arabian girl managed to find seats for the three of them together on the aisle near the middle. Just like it was outside, several people visibly turned their heads toward Eruna as she sat down between Shantae and Kat, then went back to talking with their friends in double time. Had work already spread about Eruna's family name?
"Wow, these people think you're a pretty big deal," said Kat, looking back and forth at the multitude of stares.
"They're probably just curious, ryui," said Bimii as he plopped on Eruna's head. "It's been centuries since the last Ichinomiya came to this school, back when Eruna-chan's ancestor founded it, ryui."
"Speaking of which, why didn't you ever tell me my great…whatever was super famous?" asked Eruna, pouting up at him.
"First off, you never asked, ryui," Bimii retorted with a blank stare. "Every time I brought up the subject about your family legacy, you tuned me out and started playing video games – " The flying cat stopped mid-sentence when a familiar beeping noise reach his ears. He looked down and saw Eruna once again playing with her handheld. "IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PAY ATTENTION, THEN WHY DID YOU ASK IN THE FIRST PLACE, RYUI?!"
"Uh…Eruna…don't you wanna know why people are making such a big deal about you?" asked Kat slowly, dumbfounded how distracted the girl got so quickly.
"Yeah, yeah, in a minute," said Eruna offhandedly, her eyes never wavering from the game. "I wanna unlock secret ending in the equipment shed first."
"Eruna, put that away, the ceremony is starting!" Shantae hissed urgently as the auditorium lights dimmed.
When Eruna still didn't look up, Bimii sighs irritably and leaned forward off pf her head, swatting the gaming system out of her hand and landing in Eruna's lap. The scarf-wearing girl blink as if she were released from a trance and only just became aware that the room was dark while the overhead lights flashed on stage.
The school faculty walked in a single file line across the stage, including Koro-sensei, who was in the middle of the back, and Miss Kobayashi, who was two spots away from the yellow octopus. She also saw the nurse from her examination – Dr. Gorgon, if she remembered correctly – being the last person to walk onstage with her hands tucked in her pocket like she had better things to do than welcome the new students. The rest of the staff was unknown to Eruna, but she assumed she would learn more about them once they started classes.
Koro-sensei slithered forward and the auditorium went stunningly silent as all eyes were on the yellow octopus. He pulled a microphone out from under his robe, tapped it a couple times to test the sound, and then spoke for his voice to be heard all around the auditorium.
"Can I have all your attention, please?" said Koro-sensei. "Can everyone see me? Can everyone hear me? Good. Welcoming to Serenity Academy, and to those of you returning, welcome back. At this time, I would like to introduce our esteemed principle, Theresa Apocalype."
The yellow octopus turned to the right as the crowd began to applaud; most of the older students stood up and clapped very loud and some of them were whooping excitedly. This surprised Eruna, since everyone hated the principle back in middle school. Eruna was forced to stand up and even lean against Kat for the better view of the stage as the principle walked on from the right side, exciting the crowd even further. But when she caught a glimpse of the principle, she honestly wasn't expecting what she saw.
The principle was small and young-looking – she didn't look a day over twelve – with long white hair tied up in a ponytail draped over her left shoulder. She wore a long, frilly white dress underneath a black coat with golden patterns around the skirt, a religious habit like the kind nuns wore, and a golden badge over her small chest shaped like an eye. Eruna's jaw dropped at the sight of her, as did Kat and Shanate's as they leaned closer.
"That's our principle?" said Shantae in disbelief. "But she's so tiny."
"I don't know," said Kat, humming thoughtfully. "I have a friend named Cece who's really small, but she is way stronger than she looks. Maybe the principle is like that, too."
"Aww, she's so tiny and adorable!" squeaked Eruna, a bit of drool slipping down her chin. "I just wanna go up there and squeeze her…."
"I will call the cops again, ryui," Bimii threatened.
Little Theresa accepted the microphone and Koro-sensei slithered back to fall in line with the rest of the staff. The tiny principle turned to the audience, smiling, and raised her hand to silence the crowd; the clapping stopped immediately and everyone sat back down; Eruna tumbled on top of Kat and Shantae before they crawled back to their seats. Theresa gazed around the auditorium, surveying the sea of students, took a deep breath, and spoke:
"Konichiwa! Ni Hao! Marhabaan! Privet! And Hallo!" She shouted with a gleeful twirl and shooting the audience with a cutesy wink and peace sign. The audience howled like a crowd of wild fans at an idol concert. "It's the world's cutest principle, Theresa Apocalypse! And welcome back to another fun-filled year at Serenity Academy!... Or at least that's what I want to say." She straightened up and her expression became tempered. "The fact of the matter is, while your time at this school can be a fun one, it will also be a challenge on your mind, your body, and your will. Now, I know some of you freshmen think I'm just exaggerating, but it's the truth. Each and every one of you was chosen because you all have one thing in common: you are different.
"People like us have gone by many names over the centuries: Angels, Demons, Aliens, Demi-Humans, Mutants, Metahumans, Witches and Wizards, and Variants. Everyone here has some special gift that makes them different from the rest of the world. Some of you were born with your gifts, some of you gained them by random chance, and others aren't even sure how you got them in the first place." Eruna thought Theresa was looking at her when she said that. "Many of you have already started using your talents to help others and have become heroes in your own community, which is a good first step in what I hope is a brighter future. But I look at all of you, and I see untapped potential.
"Serenity Academy was founded by the Six Families five hundred years ago as a sanctuary for Variants during a time when humanity was not as accepting of people who were different. They sought to teach young Variants how to control their abilities so that they could reintegrate with society and live out peaceful, normal lives. With their overwhelming powers, five of the Six Families toiled the Earth, toppled forests, and moved mountains to create a safe haven that started out as nothing but clay and stone. And as you can see, it's come a long way since then," she said, gesturing around the room. "And the last family, the Ichinomiya, blessed the school with their 'Light', creating the barrier that secretly surrounds the school, protecting all who call this school home.
"A lot has change since the founders passed. Though society is more accepting of our kind, we maintain the secrecy of our existence and tell everyone that Serenity Academy is just an ordinary boarding school. Some of you ask why, and…well, what would you do if you knew there was a school filled with superpowered weirdos? So the truth about our school must be kept a secret – I hope you freshmen remember that, because for the next three years, this school will be your home and Auntie Theresa is always watching," she added, pointing to her eyes and then to the audience as a warning gesture.
"This is the beginning of the rest of your lives. You have now taken your very first steps into a brand-new world – one filled with strangeness and intrigue Serenity Academy boasts an impressive legacy of students who have graduated and went on to accomplish many great things, and now you – " she pointed to the audience " – are about to become a part of that great legacy. I can't promise that all of you will succeed. By the end of this year, I imagine a few of you will be leaving us forever. We teachers will do everything in our power to see that you have the best opportunities available, but what you do with the knowledge you gain from these next three years is completely yours to decide. We look forward to see what you can do – good luck, everybody!"
Theresa lowered the microphone and bowed politely as the audience jumped up and started to applaud once again; a few of them were even whistling, which Eruna was almost sure was not for the longwinded speech. The small principle waved at the audience one last time and walked back in line with the rest of the teachers. She handed the mic off to Koro-sensei, who slither up the stage and waited until the audience calmed down again.
"A few quick words before we move on to the next portion of the welcoming ceremony," said Koro-sensei. "Firstly, I don't think I need to remind some of the older students, but be aware that no one is allowed to leave the campus without a permission slip signed by the teachers. Students will be allowed to wander over to the nearby town during certain weekends and holidays. The security team around the school will be watching the boarders diligently, so don't try anything – I'm talking to you, Miss Matoi."
"You haven't stopped me yet, squishy!" Ryuko Matoi called from the back row, causing many to laugh.
"Secondly," Koro-sensei continued, "all Faction Leaders are reminded to attend the Student Council meeting first thing in the morning to discuss the annual budget for their section. Make sure your account coincides with the number of members you currently have, discounting all the students who graduated. And finally, classes will start Monday morning at eight o'clock. That will give everyone three days to find their accommodations, unpack everything, and be prepared for when the school year starts. If you need anything, the Market Row is on the left side of the campus that should sell you all your basic needs for school. Now, I think that's everything, unless you have something you want to add, Principle Apocalypse?" he said, rounding to Theresa.
"No, I think that about covers it," said Theresa brightly, snatching the microphone back. "All right, I think that's enough bring speeches for one day. "Let's get moving to the part we're really been waiting for! Everyone head over to Serenity Stadium so that we can start…the Freshman Hazing!"
Every student from the second year up boomed with excited cheers and shouts, with barks of laughter mixed in between as they all jumped out of their seats and started flooding out of the auditorium. Almost half the teaching staff were just as excited as their students as they bounced off stage and joined the throng with Theresa leading the way. The freshmen class – Eruna and her friends included – remained in their seats looking at one another with mixtures of confusion and worry. They were all thinking the same thing:
"Uh…what's the Freshman Hazing?" asked Shantae asked her friends worriedly.
One change of scenery later, Eruna and her new friends found themselves standing in the middle of the on-campus playing field, Serenity Stadium. But instead of a football or soccer field like Eruna had been expected, there was a wide, square stage raised off the ground that looked an awful lot like those fighting stages during tournament sagas from that really old Shonen anime. At the front of the stadium was another wide stage like the ones used in idol concerts with a massive televisions screen covering the entire back wall – where did this school get the money to pay for all these over-the-top things, Eruna asked herself.
The entire freshmen class of one hundred students had been crammed on one side of the arena while the second and third years took their place in the stands, their roars of excitement bursting through the atmosphere. It was then that Eruna noticed that all the upperclassmen had huddled up in groups based on the color of their jackets, completely shading the stands in blocks of red, blue, pink, purple, black, and green. Near the top of the stands on Eruna's right side was private box where Eruna saw Principle Theresa and the other teachers seated comfortably, appearing just as eager for the show to begin as the students.
"Holy nevi, this is way more than what I was expecting on our first day," said Kat, noticeably biting her lips out of nerves. "Why do you think they asked us to be down here instead?"
"This is supposed to be the Freshman Hazing, right?" said Shantae, sweating slightly. "You don't think they're gonna do anything bad, do you?"
"Let them try!" Eruna shouted challengingly, fists on her hips. She didn't seem the least bit worried. "After what I went though in the entrance exam, I can take anything these guys can throw at me! So come on, give me your best shot! You wanted to see what an Ichinomiya can do? Well, now we're gonna show you, right, Bimii?" When her guide didn't answer, Eruna blinked and turned. "Bimii?"
But when she looked around, she realized that the flying feline was no longer by her side. Instead, he had taken refuge about the students wearing the pink jackets, all of whom were girls and were cooing at how soft his fur is.
"Good luck, Eruna-chan!" Bimii called out, waving his paw. "I'll be providing you with moral support…waaaaaaay over here, ryui!"
"YOU ROTTEN CAT!" Eruna snarled furiously. "HOW DARE YOU HOG ALL THE CUTE GIRLS FOR YOURSELF!"
"I think that's the least of our concerns right now," said Kat, sweatdropping.
There was a sudden upsurge of squeals and cheers (mostly from women) when a chorus of uplifting music filled the stadium and someone walked on to the stage. Eruna turned back around facing toward the stage again, and her face immediately fell with a miserable groan as she watched her cousin strut forward. Shigure Ninomiya was dressed the same as the last time Eruna saw him, but she quickly noticed the addition of the emblem on the left side of his chest – it looked like a mirror in the middle of a flower. The cousin-loving man whipped out a microphone with a theatrical flair and flashed an admittedly charming smile out to the audience.
"Thank you for waiting, ladies and gentlemen!" said Shigure dramatically. "And a bright and cheery welcome to our new freshmen. It's time to start the traditional First-Year Welcoming Festival, or as we like to call it, the Freshman Hazing! Your MC will be me, Leader of the Kappa Crown Faction, third-year Shigure Ninomiya!"
Eruna, Shanate, Kat, and many others had to slap their hands over their ears to block out the cacophony of girlish screams and the thunder of hundreds of feet stomping their feet overexcitedly, most of them coming from the pink section. Eruna peer at the crowd from the corner of her eyes; almost every girl in the audience was climbing over one another, practically ripping each other's hair out to get a better view of the stage, all of them fawning over Shigure like he was some kind of celebrity. Eruna was almost certain her jaw had dropped through the floor, dumbfounded. In the midst of the chaos, Eruna could pick out snatches of the girls' squeals:
"IT'S SHIGURE NINOMIYA FROM KAPPA CROWN!"
"OH MY GOD, HE'S SO COOL!"
"I LOVE YOU, NINOMIYA!"
"MARRY ME, SHIGURE-KUN!"
"Shigure is popular here?" said Eruna in disbelief. "What kind of messed up alternate universe did I end up in?"
"You know him, Eruna?" asked Shantae, rubbing her sore ears.
"Yeah, he's my cousin," Eruna said begrudgingly, like just saying the words left a bad taste in her mouth. "Though it's more like he's a perverted coz-con."
"What's a coz-con?" asked Kat strangely.
"It's like someone with sister complex, but the cousin version," said Eruna with an exasperated sigh, looking around at the crowd of screaming fangirls. "Those poor girls need more information about Shigure's true perverted nature…."
Like a dog being called by his master, Shigure suddenly perked up when Eruna barely muttered his name, stared out into the freshman crowd, and called out with an enthusiastic wave: "Eruna-chan! I found you in the midst of a few hundred people!"
"Ugh, that's so embarrassing," Eruna groaned as the crowd was now staring at her. "If there was a hole around, I'd want to bury him."
"Then he'd die," said Shantae blankly.
"And your point is…?" Eruna retorted equally dispassionate.
"Back to the topic at hand!" said Shigure when he noticed the principle was giving him an impatient look. "The Freshman Hazing is a time-honored tradition that goes back to the founding of the academy. Now, the name might sound scary, but it's actually a good opportunity for you freshmen. It's a chance to make a good first impression with your upperclassmen and help solidify your place in Serenity Academy's Faction System. What is the Faction System you might ask…well, that's an explanation for another day.
"The rules are simple: all incoming freshmen are to work together to battle one of the upperclassmen, typically a Faction Leader or a member of the Elite Class. You free to use your abilities and any items you might have brought to help in battle. Here is no penalty for falling off the stage, so feel free to get back up if you are able. And just for the record, hitting a person in their…sensitive parts, is against the rules and just plain bad sportsmanship. The Freshman Hazing ends when all the freshmen are down, or, if you're lucky enough, you manage to make your upperclassman surrender."
"One hundred of us against one of them?" Kat summarized with a cocky grin. "I think they might be underestimating us."
"We totally got this in the bag," said Eruna confidently.
"Now, let's bring out the challenger!" Shigure announced.
All eyes turned to the farthest end of the stadium, to a single tunnel entryway. The crowd fell into a hushed silence, everyone waiting on bated breath to see who had been picked. If you listened closely enough, you could hear the soft clap of boots slapping the pavement.
And then…she appeared.
Out of the darkness, she stepped into the sunlight with a regal flair. Her long, silky black hair billowing in her wake, a single red braid dancing around her cheeks, her hot-pink jacket pulled tightly against her chest. The once silent crowd broke out in hushed murmured and awed expressions as the woman crossed the small field of grass and gracefully walked up the flight of stairs to stand opposite of the freshmen. Eruna had to stand on her tiptoes and look over the shoulders of a dozen people for a better look at who they were up against. And when she caught sight of the opponent's face, her mouth fell open in a quiet gasp.
Eruna knew her – she was the whole reason for being in Serenity Academy….
"Please welcome the Leader of the Angel Feather Faction, and Student Council Vice-President," said Shigure dramatically, "Seisa Mikagura!"
Serenity Academy Data Card
Profile: Eruna Ichinomiya
Affiliation: Serenity Academy, Ichinomiya Clan
Variation Type: Unknown
Variation: The Light
- Running speed up to Mach-1
- Inherited from the Ichinomiya Legacy
- Any future potential abilities are unknown
- Knowledge: 1
- Physical Ability: 6
- Attack: 6
- Defense: 2
- Stamina: 7
- Growth Expectation: 10
- Unpredictability: 10
- Heir of the Ichinomiya Clan
- Lacks any understandable thought process (Should be considered dangerous)
- Wishes to marry all the cute girls in the world
Not a whole lot of action here, but not every chapter is going to have a bunch of fight scene. This chapter was focused primarily on setting up the world that Eruna and her friends are going to be staying in for the rest of the series – more will be revealed as time goes on. It was also to introduce a bit of the history and lore about the school.
And a Happy New Years to all who have supported me this year, and I hope you continue to do so next year.
Until next time, please read and review.
"You want me to fight in the Freshman Hazing?" asked Seisa with a surprised gasp. "Do you think that's okay?"
It was the day before the new students were set to arrive. Seisa Mikagura, being a second-year student, lead of a Faction, and Student Council Vice-President, had come to the school several days in advance to prepare for the welcoming party when she had been summoned by Principle Theresa. She passed Koro-sensei as he was leaving the principal's office – the yellow octopus looked white in the face; an emotion she knew was the result of a threatened pay cut. The Japanese beauty hadn't even taken two steps towards Theresa's desk when the tiny principle outright blurted out that she would be leading the new students in the Freshman Hazing.
"What's there to think about?" hummed Theresa happily. "The only real requirement is that you need to be a Faction leader. Other than that, you're also on the student council, your grades are among the highest in the whole school, your combat scores are unmatched by your peers – you would already be in the Elite Class if all the spot weren't filled. I can't think of anyone who would be better suited than you."
"Well, when you put it that way," said Seisa, smiling after a moment. "I humbling accept this opportunity. It will be such an honor to take up the same position as my mentor when she conducted my Freshman Hazing last year."
"Ah, speaking of mentors," Theresa said as if she were just realizing something. "You signed up for the Mentorship Program last year, right?"
"That's right," said Seisa, nodding proudly. "I hope that I can give someone else the same guidance that my mentor gave to me when I was a first-year student. And…considering that there are more first-years than there are second-years, we're going to need all the help we can get," she added with a nervous chuckle, scratching her cheek awkwardly.
"well, if you're still thinking about being a mentor when the Hazing is over," said Theresa, resting her chin on her folded hands, "I have someone here that I would like to recommend."
Theresa reached over to grab one of the files in her stack without looking, trying to act cool like those guys in anime…and ends up knocking the whole thing on the floor instead. Theresa squeaked fretfully, practically throwing herself on to her hands and knees while frantically collecting all the scattered papers that had fallen out; Seisa visibly sweatdropped and wisely chose to not say anything. She waited a few minutes for the principle's frantic searching before Theresa hopped back into her chair, panting wildly, her habit askew, the files settled in a disorganized clutter on the desk. Principle Theresa cleared her throat and calmly handed the file to Seisa, obviously trying to pretend that the whole thing didn't happen. Seisa opened the file and looked over it with a thoughtful hum.
The student's picture was what caught her eye first; she was in the middle of what looked like a very powerful sneeze, somewhat distorting her facial features and making her bright-orange hair and yellow scarf flying – Seisa made an uncertain noise as she stared at it. Next were her entrance exam grades. She was below average- exceedingly below average – her scores were so low that she shouldn't have been anywhere close to being accepted. And then there was the questionnaire: this girl wanted to come to Serenity Academy because she thought the uniforms were cute and wanted to build a harem of pretty girls. Just when Seisa was starting to question the principle's reasoning for accepting a student so far below acceptable, her dark eyes rolled over the file name and when wide with a shocked gasp.
"Ichinomiya?" Seisa murmured softly. "As if the Six Families Ichinomiya – one of the founding members Ichinomiya?"
"That's right," Theresa confirmed. "Her grades are admittedly low, but there is potential buried in there…somewhere. At least that's why Koro-sensei has told me. I can't say for sure, but I think Miss Ichinomiya has only recently awakened her family's special abilities, or more like, only just learned how to scratch the surface. She'll be woefully unprepared when she gets here. Someone with your learned experience might be able to push her in the right direction."
"There hasn't been an Ichinomiya in the Academy since…," Seisa began.
"Since the founder was here," Theresa concluded. "The other five Families have gone to this school for generations, but the Ichinomiyas strangely separated after they finished building it. Eruna is the first generation in five hundred years to be accepted here. That's why I think you would be best suited for raising her while she is attending school here. Plus, they say that the Ichinomiya Clan's 'Light' in the perfect opposite to the Mikagura's 'Darkness'. Who knows? This might end up being a mutually beneficial relationship."
Seisa looked back at the sneezing photo thoughtfully. Eruna Ichinomiya, huh…?
SERENITY ACADEMY: YEAR ONE
AFTERSCHOOL PARADISE ARC
EPISODE FOUR: THE FRESHMAN HAZING
Eruna was almost sure that her jaw had dropped so far that it reached the earth's core. There was no way this was happening – she must be fantasizing. There was no way that she was meeting Seisa Mikagura on her first day, let alone about to engage in very physical combat.
The scarf-wearing girl could feel the droll leaking out already. Seisa was just as gorgeous in real life than she was in the brochure; maybe even more so. That long curtain of silky smooth, ebony hair that glistened in the sunlight (or maybe in her imagination), that single rebellious red braid that billowed in the wind (again, probably in Eruna's imagination), that perfect Venusian face like it had been sculptured by a renaissance artist, those long, creamy thig –
"Uh, Eruna, you're monologuing out loud," said Shantae uncomfortably.
Eruna blinked and straightened up, looking around as Shantae made her aware that she was speaking her thoughts aloud. Several people were looking at her with uneasy grimaces, a few had taken a few paces away from the orangette, but a couple peoplen were nodding their heads in agreement. Eruna looked back at forth at her friends; Shantae let out a nervous chuckle, but Kat outright looked at her in both disgust and exasperation. Eruna calmly wiped the drool from her chin with her sleeve and straightened her back with her hands on her hip, acting composed.
"I not ashamed," said Eruna proudly.
"Kyaa! Even drooly Eruna-chan is adorable!" Shigure Ninomiya gushed from the stage. "It's a wonderful day for Eruna-chan! We should call this day 'Eruna-chan Day' and make it a holiday just for the two of us! I want it to be a day where I go one a date with Eruna-chan every year! What do you think, Eruna-chan?"
The audience broke out in fits of laughter, somehow believing that Shigure was telling a joke at a freshman's expense, but Eruna knew better; he was being one hundred percent serious. Eruna hanged her head with an annoyed sigh…right before she zipped across the fighting ring, jumped off sat the edge, flew towards the center stage, and dropped down on Shigure with a flying kick to the face. Her cuz-con cousin hit the stage floor with his glasses crack and his right cheek swollen like a balloon, but was still grinning widely, much to Eruna's continued ire.
"Eruna-chan, you shouldn't show your love in such extreme ways…," Shigure moaned.
Eruna fumed as the crowd laughs even harder, likely believing this was part of some comedy sketch. Why couldn't they see that Shigure was just a stinking prevent with a cousin complex, thought Eruna. The scarf-wearing girl hopped off the stage with a huff (Shigure instantly jumped to his feet and waved her goodbye like it was nothing), and stomped her way around the fighting ring with the other Freshmen looked on in amusement. Eruna climbed the small flight of stairs up to the arena and started to walk back over to join Kat and Shantae when someone called out to her –
"You're Eruna Ichinomiya?"
Eruna paused in mid-step, craning her head to the left in surprise, only just realizing that she was walking past Seisa Mikagura! The scarf-wearing girl bounced around to face her, mouth hanging open in a wide smile, her eyes sparkling with glee to see her beautiful angel in the flesh…. But Seisa looked at Eruna with a sideways glance, her ruby-red eyes slacked into an apathetic expression; one would say it was a look of cold indifference. For some reason, despite her cheer, Eruna felt like someone had dropped ice in her stomach.
"Yep, that's me!" shouted Eruna ecstatically, pushing down the uncomfortable feeling. "First-year, Eruna Ichinomiya! Please take care of me, Seisa-senpai!"
"Are you ready?" said Seisa softly.
"I'll admit, I was a little nervous when I signed up for this," said Eruna cheerfully, not at all worried despite herself, "but as flying yellow octopus-sensei, I'm ready to take this school by storm!"
"That's not what I meant," said Seisa coolly, drawing a confused mutter from Eruna. "Are you ready to be destroyed? That's what I was asking." She turned her gaze to the herd of Freshmen, all of whom were watching the exchange intently. "Are all of you prepared to lose? You shouldn't have entered this arena with thoughts of winning. That is impossible for people as small and insignificant as you. I will crush you like the insects you are."
Naturally, the freshman class didn't like that. Many of the first-years (the men, predictably) were up in arms, shouting profanity back at Seisa, though the dark-haired beauty simply turned her head away, sweeping her hair over her shoulders as if she couldn't be bothered by their comments. Eruna, though surprised by how cold her angel was acting, couldn't help noticing the sudden shift in the audience's mood. All eyes were gazing down at the freshman class with predatory eye like a frenzy of sharks swarming their prey from all side. The upperclassmen clearly thought Seisa was capable of carrying out the threat and not just talking smack.
And for some reason, somewhere in the back of Eruna's brain, the orangette felt a thrill of excitement running down her spine. Eruna took one loud step forward, which caused Seisa to swivel around – there was a split second where Eruna thought she looked surprised before it vanished.
"Don't go counting me out just yet," Eruna declared, raising her fist with a wide, almost maddening grin. "Unfortunately, I don't prepare for negative things. I'll surprise you!"
Something flickered in Seisa's eyes for the briefest of moments – Eruna probably only saw it because of her power – before her expression hardened and the dark-haired beauty took a step back. She held out her hands parallel to her waists, her eyes traveling between Eruna and the freshman class, a heavy sigh leaving her lips.
"The match will start in just a minute!" shouted Shigure, pulling everyone's attention toward the stage. "Just a quick reminder from last chapter: This is a free-for-all battle between Seisa Mikagura and the entire freshman class! You have free use of all of your abilities as long as you don't use them to kill or hit anyone below the belt! There is no out-of-bounds and there is no time limit, so feel free to get back up when you need to! The match will end when one side has been completely defeated!
"Is everybody ready?" Shigure called out. The freshmen replied in scattered agreements. "The Freshman Hazing starts in three…two…one…START!"
Eruna dashed backwards with a quick burst of her powers, sliding towards the edge of the arena and creating a sizable distance between her and Seisa; the Student Council Vice-President was obviously strong based on the way everyone was looking to her. But at the same time, the rest of her Freshman classmates surged forward in a unified charge, many screaming their own battle cries. Some first-years pulled out weapons like a golden bow or a giant black sword covered in dirt; some people coated their hands in flames, or propelled themselves with miniature hurricanes at their feet; Eruna thought she saw a little girl in white bring her tentacle-like hair to life and attack from a distance.
"You think you can look down on us, you stupid brat!" roared a spiky-haired boy in the front of the pack with miniature explosions going off on his arms. "I don't give a damn who you are! I'm gonna beat you till your black and blue!"
Though not as violently detailed as him, the rest of the freshmen voiced their shared sentiment as they swarmed on Seisa from all sides. The dark-haired beauty didn't respond to the threat; her head was hanging so that the shadow of her hairline concealed her eyes. Eruna watched apprehensively as the band of first-years lunged at Seisa with the intention of burying her under their combined might. But when she looked back Seisa, the dark-haired beauty made no visible effort of defending herself. Her head was lolling slightly, her lips hanging partial open…and an animated bubble inflated and deflated from her left nostril.
"She's sleeping!" Eruna shouted aloud in shock and awe.
The freshman class hit the ground all at one in a classic face fault gag.
"Are you (BEEP)ing serious?" snapped the spiky-haired boy, picking himself up.
"No way, she couldn't have just fallen asleep like that?" shouted Kat dumbfoundedly.
"No, it's true, look at her!" said white-haired girl in pigtails. She walked up to Seisa and pulled back her bangs, revealing that her eyes were indeed closed. "Yeah, she's definitely sleeping! She's even got a snot bubble and everything!"
"She can't just fall asleep in the middle of a fight!" shouted the gray-haired boy swinging the giant sword. "C'mon, that's not fair! I can't fight a defenseless opponent! That's not cool!"
"So what're we supposed to do?" asked Shantae, looking around uncertainly. "Should we wake her up? Maybe she had stressful day of working for the student council and got tired. Or maybe she's got narcolepsy."
"Maybe we should just wait until she wakes up," suggested a boy with shaggy green hair. "I mean, there's no time limit, so we could just – "
"Goddamnit, Deku, shut the hell up!" howled the spiky-haired boy, making the kid called 'Deku' yelp and bounce away. "Why are we even talking about this? We're supposed to be fighting her, right? Well, she's completely defenseless! We should just kick her ass and get it over with!"
"Hey, I get that doing it your way would be a lot easier," said a boy with pink hair, leering at the man seriously, "but attacking someone who can't protect themselves isn't right.
"Who gives a shit about what's right?" the spiky-haired boy snapped. "The only thing that matters is winning. Now get out of my way!"
"Kacchan, wait!" 'Deku' cried, but he was too late.
The spiky-haired boy swung his arm around at Seisa's sleeping face, sparks crackling in his open palm before they ignited into a massive explosion. Almost all of the freshmen were thrown on their butts by the explosive shockwave; Eruna and several more physically fit first-years staggered for a moment, but remained upright; the upperclassmen in the stands seemed largely unaffected despite the strong backdraft that assaulted their faces.
Eruna watched the thick plume of black smoke rise toward the sky when several bodies were thrown out of the haze and tossed her way. The scarf-wearing girl squeaked and jumped out of the way as each one either flew over her head and landed outside the ring or smacked off the floor near her feet and then slid off. When the last of them had fallen out, Eruna peeked over the edge and inspected the bodies, which she quickly figured out were at least seven or eight first-years whose eyes were glazed over and were covered from head-to-toe in soot. Seemed like 'Kacchan' had been overzealous in his attack and knocked out several freshmen in the process; an action that the green-haired boy was quick to reprimand.
"Kacchan, you need to be more careful," shouted ' Deku', "you're going to get people hurt if you go all-out like that!" However, the green-haired boy was met with still silence instead of the retort like he was expecting, much to his confusion. "Kacchan…?"
Within seconds, the black smoke slowly started to dissipate. The freshmen who weren't knocked out in the blast moved into defensive positions as shadows started to form in the haze, one taller than the other. The boy called 'Kacchan' was the first to appear as the clouds parted, on his knees with his head lolled back, his mouth hanging open in a silent scream, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head, having lost consciousness. Seisa emerged next when the last of the haze vanished, clutching the front of 'Kacchan's' shirt as the only thing that was holding him up. But probably the most startling point of this scene wasn't the fact that 'Kacchan' had been knocked out, but that Seisa didn't have a single speck of soot on her pristine uniform, as if 'Kacchan's' explosion hadn't touched her at all.
Seisa, her eyes wide awake in an emotionless gaze, dropped 'Kacchan' on the ground like the worn-out doll.
"Nice try," Seisa said taciturnly. "Too bad."
'Kacchan' had barely hit the floor when a surge of green lightning shot across the arena. The boy called 'Deku' had closed the distance in the blink of an eye, his body radiating with emerald electricity, hovering behind Seisa with his right leg pulled back, his teeth gritted with anger. Seisa didn't seem to act like she had noticed.
"Shoot Style: St. Louis Smash!" roared 'Deku'.
'Deku' shot his leg around in a wide sweeping kick faster than whip aimed or the side of Seisa's head. But before the blow could connect, Seisa's right arm shot up and intercepted the kick with her forearm. A powerful shockwave burst forth on contact, forcing most of the freshmen to bring their arms defensively over their faces. Through the gap in her arms, Eruna saw 'Deku' trying to force all his weight behind his kick and was visibly struggling, but Seisa was calm and serene through the entire exchange, not showing the slightest bit of strain.
Seisa turned her hand and latched on to 'Deku's' ankle, catching the green-haired boy off-guard as she suddenly pulled him around as if he were a loaf of bread. The dark-haired beauty slammed 'Deku' on the ground, bouncing him hard off the stone tile, and smacked him in the face with an open palm strike. The green-haired boy collapsed immediately with a broken nose and his eyes glazed over with an instant knockout.
Seisa shook her hand lightly – maybe she did feel some sting in the attack – when she suddenly tilted her head back, narrowly dodging Eruna's fist as she came surging in from the side. The orangette grounded her feet to stop herself and flipped around to face Seisa, who regarded her with a curious quirk of her brow.
"What is everyone standing around for?" Eruna shouted, turning her head to address the other first-years. "Attacking her one at a time is never going to work – don't you guys watch anime? At least if we attack her all at once, we have a real chance of actually hitting her!"
"That didn't work out in the Madara fight," said Shantae pointedly.
Eruna ran a hand down her face, groaning, and said, "Just get her!"
The first-years glanced at once another thoughtfully for a moment, shrugged their shoulders, and, with another war cry, they charged Seisa with their combined force. Seisa's burgundy eyes narrowed slightly, humming under her breath, her eyes locked firmly on Eruna….
Over a dozen first-years jumped at once toward Seisa from all sides, their arms outstretched reaching for her. But Seisa, still unnervingly calm, twirled swiftly and shot out her right foot into a swinging kick. Though the strike was nowhere close to hitting anyone, some mysterious force slammed into the charging students like a speeding truck, flinging them wildly out of the arena and lying facedown in the grass, all of them unconscious before they even hit the ground. Another first-year swung at her from the right side, but Seisa simply slapped the back of his hand, redirecting his fist to punch another freshman before she drove her knee into his stomach, dropping him. Another freshman tried attacking from behind, but the raven-haired beauty thrust her elbow backwards to slam him in the forehead, then shot her fist ahead to knock out another charging student in front of her, before performing a spinning side kick to another coming in from the left.
The boy with the giant sword howled like a wild animal as he leapt overhead of Seisa, using the blinding light of the sun to his advantage, and swung his massive weapon on top of her. But Seisa effortlessly sidestepped the black sword, allowing it to dig into the stone floor, then quickly dashed forward to meet him up close. Unlike the other freshmen, Seisa had to use multiple strikes to the chest because of the boy's massive muscles, but a finishing uppercut to the chin finally dropped on his back unconscious. At the same time, a boy riding a miniature hurricane glided above Seisa and performed a complicated technique that turned the air into a solid arrow, launching them at the upperclassman. As expected, Seisa not only stopped the attack before it could land, but she snatched it out of the air and flicked it back before they realized what happened. The wind-powered first-year took the arrow directly to the chest, his whirlwind canceling out and dropping him on the hard arena floor, knocked out.
"Holy crap, she's kicking out asses!" one first-year cried fearfully.
"Don't quit; we still have the numbers advantage!" another shouted.
"Pin her down! Don't give her an inch!" screamed a girl in the back.
"It's pointless," Seisa murmured coolly.
More freshmen charged in on Seisa in greater numbers, but the battle was becoming more one-sided with each minute that passed as Seisa, almost effortlessly, knocked out the first-years one after the other while remaining untouched herself. Even Shantae, who had tried sneaking an attack from beneath Seisa under the cover of the other first-years, couldn't find an opening. The Arabian girl twirled her head around and snapped her long ponytail like a whip, but Seisa caught Shantae's hair inches from connecting without even looking. The dark-haired upperclassman tugged at Shantae's hair, pulling her forward to collide with another freshman charging at Seisa from the front. The two of them stumbled, but managed to catch themselves, only for Seisa to kick Shantae in the back and send them both flying into the stands. The upperclassmen in the audience moved out of the way almost reflexively as Shantae and the other freshman slammed hard into the seats, apparently unconscious when one of the students went to inspect them.
Eruna threw herself back into the fight as Seisa flipped another freshman over her shoulder and kicked his lights out. The raven-haired beauty very briefly caught a glance of Eruna's blurred figure and leaned backwards to narrowly dodge the punch aimed for her chin. Seisa tried reaching for Eruna as she flew by, but Eruna grounded her feet and kicked off with another burst of speed, dashing to the other end of the arena. Seisa proved that she was in a completely different league from them; Eruna couldn't give her a chance to grab her even for a moment –
"Shiny Arc/Fire Dragon Roar!"
Seisa straightened up in surprise when she heard two thunderous voices – one boy and one girl – shouting from opposite directions.
On her left side, there was a brunette Japanese girl pulling at the string of a golden bow, drawing an arrow of solid light. On her right side, a muscular boy with wild pink hair was building a fire in his mouth, the flames spilling over his lips uncontrollably. Both released them together; the Japanese girl let the arrowhead fly, creating a shuddering shockwave in its wake, and the pink-haired boy unleashed a current of devastating flames in between the other students. If it had been Eruna, she would have been flailing around in a panic when surrounded by two powerful attacks. Which is why the orangette was stunned by how…calm Seisa was.
Seisa started to twirl slowly on her left foot, stretching her arms out with a serene expression. When both attacks closed in on her, Seisa held her hand out to each of them…and physically grabbed them out of the air. The dark-haired upperclassman continued to spin in place, her pace growing faster and faster with each rotation; the fire and light gradually mingled together until they formed a ring of both elements around her body. Suddenly, Seisa stopped, staring down the first-years with an impassive gaze, and clapped her hands together, the noise echoing across the stadium. The ring of fire and light burst outwards like a pulse in every direction, throwing the majority of the freshmen out of the arena, including the fire-breather and the girl with the golden bow. Several students, Eruna included, managed to duck under the pulse in time, but it became apparent how damaging the technique had been, as they only had little more than a dozen first-years still able to fight.
"Holy crap…we can't beat her!" Eruna heard one terrified freshman say.
"You think it's too late to go back home-de gesso!" the girl with the tentacle hair cried.
"C'mon, guys, we had a couple of setbacks," said Eruna optimistically, "but we can still – "
"Getting their hopes up will only hurt then worse when they fall.
Eruna tensed up; a cascade of sweat dripped from her brow. She turned her head, mechanically, around and stared up at the unfeeling gaze of her senior. Seisa was beyond gorgeous and Eruna would still fantasize about her after today, but the way she was looking at her right now – like she was little more than a bug to be squashed – made her super scary. Seisa tapped her index finger on Eruna's forehead, making the orangette go cross-eyed looking at it.
"You've barely learned how to tap into your 'Light'," Seisa muttered with a thoughtful expression. "You have so much to learn…maybe the principle was right…."
Eruna opened her mouth to ask what she was talking about and how she knew about the 'Light' (Bimii used this term a lot back home), but she was interrupted when a raging battle cry broke out. Both Seisa and Eruna (Seisa's finger was still on her forehead) looked toward the sky, witnessing something fast and bright dropping their way. From a distance, the outline of the figure looked like Kat, but her skin was a transparent shade of red and visible glowing vein spread out inside. Eruna couldn't confirm it was Kat until she called out:
"Eruna, out of the way!"
Eruna snapped out of her stupor, quickly slapped Seisa's hand away, and backflipped to a safe distance. Kat thrust her leg out as she was approaching the upperclassman, but Seisa nonchalantly raised her hand and blocked the kick with her forearm; another shockwave exploded on contact. Kat was noticeably gritting her teeth, somehow struggling to push forward as she floated over Seisa, who was staring up at the Gravity Shift with a look of apathy. Seisa started to move her hand, which prompted Kat to sharply throw up her open palm at the upperclassman's face. In that moment, an explainable pressure suddenly dropped on Seisa that caused the dark-haired beauty to drop her arm to her side and made her knees buckle slightly. Seisa was still on her feet, but her once expressionless face was showing sign of strain, a deep grimace on her lips as her entire body shuddered while holding back the Gravity Shifter's foot.
"Eruna, hurry, now's our chance!" Kat called out desperately.
Eruna didn't try to think of how Kat was doing what she was doing – all she knew was that Seisa was vulnerable for the first time since the match started.
The scarf-wearing girl flipped forward to build up momentum and dashed back across the field, closing the distance in less than a second. Eruna planted her feet firmly on the ground directly in front of Seisa to stop herself, her fist winding up at her side, the air pressure building as she swung around. Seisa couldn't move her other hand because of the gravity pressure and the other was holding back Kat's foot. She's wide open, Eruna thought gleefully, this was their chance. They finally gonna –
"Killing Art…," Seisa muttered softly under her breath.
Eruna couldn't describe what happened next. One moment she was inches away from burying her knuckles into Seisa's cheek, and then the next…nothing….
It was complete sensory deprivation: her eyes saw nothing but darkness, her ears were muted, her tongue was silent, she couldn't smell the crisp country air, she couldn't even feel her own skin. It was like her entire being had been completely wiped away. Only a few second passed, but it felt like it stretched for all of eternity. Her mind was racing, but her thoughts were nonexistent; she was taking quick, heaving breaths, but she couldn't breathe. Blind panic was starting to settle in; she was starting to lose all sense of herself –
And then, just as quickly as it came, the darkness vanished, and Eruna was thrust into the light. The orangette blinked as the sun almost blinded her, tingling her skin with warmth, her senses sharply returning one after the other. The thunderous roar of the crowd brought Eruna's attention back to reality suddenly remembering why she was hear.
Eruna didn't remember how she had fallen to her knees, but she felt unexplainably drained, unable to find any strength to even move her fingers. Her eyes wandered over to Seisa, who was still standing tall and brushing off her jacket, and then over to Kat, who was lying facedown on the floor, unmoving. She wasn't the only one either, Eruna realized as her gaze wandered. Everyone from the freshman class was knocked out cold, even the ones that hadn't participated in the initial attack. It was like something had just swooped in and collectively beaten all the first-years at one time, except for Eruna.
Eruna heard the clacking of footsteps approaching her and looked back to Seisa, who had walked over to the scarf-wearing girl, her face still betraying no sign of emotion.
"I told you," she said coolly. "Getting their hopes up in the face of certain defeat will only hurt them more than the actual fight. Next time…don't make promises you can't keep."
With that, she turned on her heel and walked away.
"Wasn't that an amazing performance, everyone!" shouted Shigure enthusiastically; Eruna honestly forgot he was there. "Our beloved first-years put up a valiant effort and even pushed Seisa-san to use her famous Killing Art technique! Let's give them a round of applause as we welcome them to the new year!"
Eruna would normally soak up the crowd's praise and admiration like a sponge, but her mind was still reeling from the fight. It was nothing like she had expected – Seisa was nothing like she expected….
Meanwhile, amid the crowd of students wearing green jackets, two men sat in the front row leaning against the railing. The short of them had wild brunette hair that covered his left eye contained by a panther-printed hat complete with pointed ears and the older man had messy blonde hair with a hardened gaze that gave him the appearance of a delinquent, though he had splatters of paint plastered on his cheeks. Though they wore the green jackets with the same emblem (it looked like a dancing fairy), the boy wearing the hat had a silver badge pinned to his right breast and the older man wore one in gold.
"Ara, ara, Seisa-san doesn't know how to hold back," said the boy in the hat with an amused smile. "She picked up a really bad habit from her mentor. Hope the kids don't get discouraged because of this. Hate to see any of them quite before they had a chance to join our faction, right, Leader."
The older man offered no reply, his hardened gaze locked on Eruna, who was still kneeling helplessly on the floor.
The Freshman Hazing had ended and by the time everyone had regained consciousness, the sun was already beginning to descend behind the mountain, casting a reddish-orange glow over the campus. All the freshman had been invited to a welcoming banquet in the spacious cafeteria, but Eruna, for once, didn't feel like being in the middle of a crowd. So instead, she found an isolated spot on the side of the school. It looked like the area was used by the Gardening Club based on the small plots of dirt in front of her; she doubted anyone would come around these parts this late in the afternoon.
Eruna hanged her head and let out a heavy sigh.
"Well, that didn't go as well as I'd hoped," said Eruna. "Guess I can forget about making Seisa-senpai the leader for my harem of cute girls…."
"That's what you're getting depressed about-ryui? You have it way too easy-ryui."
The orangette snapped her head up, suddenly realizing that her so-called Guide was floating inches away from her face.
"Ah! Back up before I catch your ugliness!" Eruna screamed, swiftly grabbing Bimii by the collar and throwing him into the dirt plot.
"UGH! You ungrateful little…," Bimii said in annoyance. He took a deep breath, shook the dirt out of his fur, and floated just out of Eruna's reach. "It's too bad about the results, but it's not like you to get depressed over that-ryui."
"You just don't get it," Eruna groaned irritably, throwing her head back. "Did you see the way Seisa-senpai looked at me? She totally hates me now…."
Eruna perked up and looked sideways as another voice joined the conversation. At the last second, Eruna saw something flying straight at her and instinctively threw her hands up, her sharp reflexes snagging the item before it could get close. She turned the item around in her hand and found herself holding a carton of –
"Milk?" Eruna muttered questionably.
Eruna turned back to the direction the item came from and looked up with an inquisitive gaze as the paint-splattered man from the green jacketed Faction casually strolled up to her, nonchalantly sipping his own milk carton.
"Hey, are you hiding here crying?" he said casually. "It's way too early in the year to be moping like that."
"Uh…who're you?" Eruna asked curiously.
"Kyoma Kuzuryu, third-year, Sylph Breath Faction," he said shortly. "What're you getting depressed over? You weren't the only first-year that failed. You did fine for your first time, so don't feel too bad."
"Is…that what this is for?" asked Eruna, holding up the milk carton. "Are you trying to cheer me up…?" Kuzuryu didn't reply, only looking away briefly, sipping his own carton. "Um…Kuzuryu-senpai…." She suddenly jumped up to her feet, holding the milk carton out with a hopeful expression. "I don't really like drinking milk, so can I exchange it for a different drink?"
"EH?!" Bimii and Kuzuryu gapped dumbfoundedly.
"By the way, I'm someone who mainly likes expensive drinks! Tee-hee!" Eruna added with a cutesy wink. "If possible, I'd like something that costs at least three hundred yen! Just kidding!"
"You little…!" Kuzuryu muttered furiously, his fist clenched in anger.
He ripped the milk carton out of Eruna's hands, stabbed the straw inside with great fury, and down the entire carton in several gulps before spinning around to address the first-year.
"YOU KNOW WHAT?! MILK HAS LOT OF NUTRIENTS FOR STRONG BONES AND HEALTHY TEETH! IT'S GOOD FOR YOU, DAMN IT!"
He then threw the carton as hard as he could…straight into the nearby recycling bin.
"Wow, he recycles," Eruna said in awe. "That's how you know he's a good person."
"His words are rough, but he's really only saying good things-ryui," said Bimii, sweatdropping.
"Look," Kuzuryu spoke up. "If you're worried about the things Seisa said, don't be. It's just a side effect of her power."
"Side effects?" Eruna repeated.
"Seisa's 'Darkness' is a powerful Variation, but it's controlled by her emotions," Kuzuryu explained. "She has to close off her heart every time she uses it so that it doesn't run out of control, but she also has a habit of saying things before she thinks, which is why the always come off as rude. Don't worry about it. Next time you see Seisa, She'll be in a better mood."
"Hmm…I guess that makes me feel a little better," said Eruna hummed thoughtfully, before a smile finally grew back on her lips. "All right! Next time I see Seisa-senpai, I'm gonna become friends with her and make her the leader of my harem!"
"Why don't you just stick with the 'friends' part-ryui," said Bimii exasperatedly. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. "Oh, Eruna, I just remembered-ryui. Aren't you supposed to go to the first-year dorms about now-ryui?"
"Oh, that's right!" Eruna said excitedly. "I'm supposed to meet my new roommates!" She began to walk away, but stopped and waved back at Kuzuryu. "Thanks for the help, endearing, paint-covered Yankee, or Enoyan for short!"
"Hey, don't go calling me something weird!" Kuzuryu snapped, but Eruna had already disappeared around the corner.
The school's main building had four floors and it appeared that the top two were used for first-year student housing. The third floor was exclusively for girls, the boys got the top floor, they were told very specifically by a fierce-looking redheaded teacher that there were not allowed to cross into each other's floors or the consequences would be…disastrous. Eruna asked where the upperclassmen stayed and learned that they all lived at the six buildings inside the forest - weird, Eruna thought.
Eruna's bag had already been taken to her dormitory when they arrived, so now all she needed to do was find her room. The girl's housemother, Eruna was pleased to find out, was Miss Kobayashi, though it seemed like she really only did the paperwork around the dorms and left the other chores like cleaning to a dragon-tailed woman named Tohru. Eruna followed the bespectacled woman down the long hallway while she looked over her clipboard, flipping through the pages with a soft hum. Finally, they stopped in front of a door labeled with a small bronze plaque: 121
"All right, this is for you," said Miss Kobayashi as she dug into her pocket and handed off a key to Eruna. "Your roommates are already inside. Just remember to follow the dorm rules: no boys allowed on this floor, no littering, no loud noises, no setting things on fire, no opening portals into other dimensions, no bringing the dead back to life, no gum – "
"What's wrong with gum?" asked Eruna curiously.
"There was an incident back in 86," said Miss Kobayashi, grimacing at the memory. "Let's just say we had a lot of students sleeping in the gym for a few months. And finally, no one is allowed to leave the dorms after ten o'clock. You can hang out in the dorms until curfew at eleven. You got that?"
"Loud and clear, ma'am!" said Eruna with an enthusiastic salute.
"Good," Miss Kobayashi nodded. "Now if you excuse me…."
Miss Kobayashi walked back down the hall to help the next student find the room while Eruna turned to the door leading to her room, feeling giddy. She inserted the key, paused for dramatic tension, then practically threw herself inside.
The dorm room wasn't that big – it was about the same size as Eruna's bedroom back home, only cleaner. The right side of the room had three sets of study desks, one for each other them, with three matching dressers in the back underneath the wide windows, which gave them an excellent view of the forest and Serenity Mountain. The floor was linoleum like the hallways, but someone had thrown over an oversized red carpet that took up the entire space in the middle with a short table and some floor pillows. On the left side were three bunkbeds stacked on top of each other, and Eruna spotted two familiar faces arguing over who should get the top bunk.
"I'm a Gravity Shifter, so it's obvious that I should get the top," Kat complained.
"I live at the top of a lighthouse, so I can't sleep without a higher altitude," Shantae retorted. "Besides, from what Raven told me, you like being the bottom."
"Bla – guh – wha – what are you two telling each other?" Kat sputtered, her face burning bright-red.
"Kat, Shantae!" Eruna yelled jubilantly, throwing her hands in the air. "You guys are my roommates?"
Th arguing pair stopped and looked around, breaking out in wide smiles when they saw Eruna. Shantae squealed in excitement and Kat dashed over to give Eruna a great, big hug, lifting her off the ground with ease and almost breaking her spine in the process. Thankfully, she set her down almost immediately.
"Oh my djinn, I can't believe we're rooming together," said Shantae, clapping her hands happily.
"It's almost like some fanfiction writer purposely set up our meeting on the bus so that we'd end together," said Kat jokingly.
Eruna shot a knowing smirk to the reader.
"This is so awesome," said Eruna, turning cheerfully back to them. "I get to live together with my new best friends and I got to meet Seisa-senpai on my first day here. How could it get any better than this?"
Meanwhile, Principle Theresa was sitting alone in her office, leaning back ion her comfy leather chair as she watched the video playing on her tablet. It was a video of the Freshman Hazing earlier today thankfully recorded by Ryuko and Mako from VOCALOID, who were kind enough to give her a copy before they edited it for tomorrow's broadcast. The principle laughed at some of the more ridiculous moments like when the squid-girl wrapped herself up in her tentacles when Seisa got too close, making her look like a squishy blue ball. But she had been paying particular attention to a certain few students who showed great potential, especially Kat and Eruna during the final moments of the fight.
"This year's Hazing turned out even better than I could have hoped," said Theresa optimistically. "Despite most of them being wiped out early on, a few of them managed to get in some good hits. They even forced Seisa to use her Killing Art technique. She wouldn't have done that if she hadn't been desperate. This year's crop may be the best one yet."
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" Theresa called, shutting off the video. She was pleased to see that it was Seisa walking through her doors. "Ah, Seisa-chan, what a nice surprise. I don't suppose you've reconsidered my suggestion."
"I will admit, Ichinomiya did catch me off-guard earlier," said Seisa dutifully, her hands folded in front of her. "But she is wild, unpredictable, does not appear to have any form of stratagem; she's just going with the flow and reacting to whatever happens next. On top of that, she's loud, thickheaded, unintentionally rude, overly optimistic to the point of naivety, and she hasn't even scratched the surface on her true potential. All in all, she is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most ill-suited person for a school like this."
"And…?" Theresa said slowly, fighting back the urge to smile.
"And…I accept," said Seisa, an eager smile on her lips. "I look forward to being Ichinomiya's mentor."
Serenity Academy Data Card
Profile: Seisa Mikagura
Affiliation: Serenity Academy, Student council, Mikagura Clan
Faction: Angel Feather
Variation Type: Mystic
- Subcategory technique: Killing Art
- Controlled by emotions
- Inherited from the Mikagura Legacy
- Full capabilities are largely unknown
- Knowledge: 9
- Physical Ability: 1
- Attack: 10
- Defense: 10
- Stamina: 0
- Speed: 4
- Growth Expectation: 0
- Unpredictability: 10
- Heir of the Mikagura Clan
- Student Council Vice-President
- Ranked #6 in student rankings
- Winner of Miss Serenity Pageant
Hopefully this quenches you're thirst for blood (or at least a few action scenes). The Freshman Hazing took a little longer to write down because I wanted to show the wide gap between Seisa's power and the first years, but without making her outright put everyone down in the first minute. I wanted to have everyone contribute in some way, showing how they were struggling and displaying the variety of people who will introduced later on in the story. And to provide an explanation early on why Seisa goes from being friendly to cold and heartless at certain times without making her seem like a jerk.
Until next time, please read and review.
Chapter 5: Learning Experiences
A catchy beat of your choosing chimed from your computer as the words "VOCALOID – Serenity Academy's #1 (and only) news network" flashed across the screen in great, bold letters. The title card fades out and Ryuko Matoi was seen sitting behind a desk with the VOCALOID sign hanging on the wall behind her. The resident delinquent was picking her teeth with her fingernails, staring intently at some reflective surface off camera with an irritable scowl.
"I swear there's a piece of corn stuck between my teeth," grumbled Ryuko. "Which is really weird, because I don't eat anything healthy."
"Psst, Ryuko-chan, we're live," Mako hissed off-screen.
Ryuko paused, her eyes flashing towards the camera when realization struck her. Very slowly and carefully, Ryuko sat up straight, and shuffled the papers her desk in very business-like manner. The delinquent cleared her throat and said, with an enthusiastic tone:
"Hey, what's up Serenity Academy! If you're just waking up, then wipe that crud out of your eyes, because you're watching VOCALOID, the school's number one (and only) broadcasting network! For those of you who don't know already – and seriously, what wouldn't you? I'm f-ing famous! – I'm Ryuko Matoi, recently instated vice-president of VOCALOID and temporary newscaster. Normally, you would see Miku-Senpai sitting in this seat, but since she graduated last summer, the job has officially fallen to me. Which brings us to our first announcement – "
The screen slides sideways so that Ryuko was sitting on the far right and a small window appeared in the corner. Inside the window was a dark outline of someone who appeared to be holding a microphone.
"VOCALOID is currently holding auditions this weekend for our team's next anchor," Ryuko announced. "If you or anyone you know is interested in joining, feel free to drop by our studio in Room 2-J. Participation will earn you class credit and extra points added to your ranking. If you have any questions, please visit our Faculty Advisor, Miss Kobayashi."
The window changes, this time showing a montage of fast-paced videos. The first video showed Katsuki Bakugo throwing an explosion in Seisa Mikagura's face, then Izuku Midoriya flying behind Seisa with a sweeping kick, and then showed the muscular swinging a giant rusted sword while his friend created a tornado. These were all events of the Freshmen Hazing that took place recently, though it seemed VOCALOID decided to cut out the parts where Seisa handed them their asses in an instant. The video passed on the image of Kat in her transparent form pinning Seisa into place with a power aerial kick while Eruna Ichinomiya swooped in from behind with her fist clenched at her sit.
"Yesterday was the annual Freshmen Hazing ceremony," said Ryuko, gesturing to the window, "a chance for the new students to impress their upperclassmen for when Rush Week starts in May. This year's challenger was Seisa Mikagura, leader of the Angel Feathers and number six in the student rankings. It was almost a complete landslide of a battle, but there were a few freshmen that stood out, namely Kat from Hekseville and the infamous Eruna Ichinomiya."
As she said their names, two photographs of Kat and Eruna appeared in the corner window. Kat was leaning sideways with a playful wink and peace sign, but Eruna looked like she had been caught by surprise, her eyes bulging while she was halfway through stuffing an entire Italian sub in her mouth.
"Kat came the closest to landing a solid hit on Seisa Mikagura – a feat that even most upperclassman struggle with," said Ryuko. "According to our sources, Kat's power is the ability to shift the direction of gravity and even increase it, an ability similar to the number two ranked student in the Elite Class. Rumors are spreading that several Factions including the Dragon Flame and Cerberus Shadow are looking to scout Kat for Rush Week. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that EVERYONE wants to get in on the Ichinomiya action. As a descendent of the founding families, there is a lot of expectations for Ichinomiya and every faction is looking to recruit, but apparently none more than Kappa Crow's leader, Shigure Ninomiya, who, according to Kappa Crown's Deputy Leader, had written over one hundred love poems for her.
"When asked how she feels about the coming year, Ichinomiya said, and I quote, 'Do you know where the bathroom is?'"
The window changed again, this time displaying an overhead shot of the long building near the main school building.
"And finally, today is the first Saturday before the year starts, and you know what that means," said Ryuko, grinning amusingly. "It's the Market Row's annual Back-to-School Sale. Prices are down by at least fifty percent or more for this weekend only. If you haven't gotten all your school things, or if you just want to add that new White Rose Combat Skirt to your battle costume, head on over to the Market Row located on the western side of campus. The sale will only last Saturday and Sunday, so don't miss out.
"And that about does it for the morning announcements," said Ryuko. "Until next time, I'm Ryuko Matoi, and this has been VOCALOID, the first sound of the future! Later! ...Okay, seriously, someone get me some floss, because this is starting to irritate me!" Ryuko shouted to the side, pointing to her teeth.
"Ryuko-chan, we're still on," Mako whispered.
Ryuko snapped her head back, glaring at the camera, before reaching over the desk to grab the lens and the screen turned fuzzy.
SERENITY ACADEMY: YEAR ONE
AFTERSCHOOL PARADISE ARC
EPISODE FIVE: LEARNING EXPERIENCES
How was it that no matter how many times she closed the curtain, there always seemed to be the single annoying ray of morning light that hit her directly in the face. Back in middle school, Eruna figured this was just Gods way of punishing her for playing dating sims instead of doing her homework. The orangette mumbled sleepily, refusing to open her eyes and giving the sun the satisfaction of know it had beaten her. She clutched her scarf – yes, she wore it everywhere, even to bed – and turned over to escape the light's ray. But with her mind slow to wake from its state of drowsiness, Eruna had forgotten one crucial thing:
She was on the second bunk.
"WHAH!" Eruna yelped before she introduced her face to the floor.
As Eruna lay motionless on the floor – mostly out of embarrassment – she heard the shuffling of sheet above her; her roommates were awake now. she flipped around on her back as Shantae thankfully stepped over Eruna with a soft 'Good morning' moments before Kat hopped down from the top bunk. The Gravity Shift snorted while offering her hand to Eruna, pulling the scarf-wearing girl up to her feet.
"Maybe you should reconsider taking the middle bunk," said Kat joking. "For you, it's a concussion waiting to happen."
"After all the trouble I went through to get you two to agree on where everyone sleeps?" said Eruna, giving her roommate the stink eye. "It's all right anyway. Okaa-san always said I have a thick head."
"I don't think she meant that as a compliment," said Kat, sweatdropping.
"Hey, has anyone seen my hairband?" Shantae called from the other side of the room. "I know I put it on my desk last night."
"Did you check in Dusty's bed?" Kat replied. "He likes to take shiny things."
Eruna listened to Shantae shuffle across the room while Kat moved to the dresser to pick out her clothes for the day (which were honestly the same clothes she wore every day). Eruna stifled a yawn, blinking sleepily as she scanned their shared dorm room.
Besides arguing who would get the top bunk, Eruna and her new friends had spent the entire night decorating their room with personal effects to make it homelier. Naturally, the only bookshelf was filled with Eruna's manga collection while only a couple leather bound books belonged to Shantae. Kat had brought a couple of succulent plants, which she placed on top of her dresser next to the mosaic patterned curtains that she also brought from Hekseville. Shantae's dresser was almost completely covered in haircare production to the point of obsession, having watched the Arabian girl spend forty minutes brushing and conditioning her long ponytail before they went to bed. Their shared closet was most filled with Kat and Shantae's things since Eruna never saw the value of having too many clothes, though some of the outfits they had were real eyecatchers (including a sexy dancer's uniform that belonged to Shantae, which hardly left anything to the imagination). And tucked away in the corner of the room was a small wicker basket cat bed for Dusty, who did in fact have Shantae's hairband.
When Eruna saw Dusty for the first-time last night, she had thought he was a giant rat and kicked him out the window. It took nearly twenty minutes to find him again when Kat explained that Dusty was her 'Guardian', which was apparently the source of her gravity powers. Eruna didn't really get it, but she had to admit that a cat made out of stars was pretty cool. Way cooler than Bimii at least.
The starry kitten mewled indignantly as Shantae took back her golden hairpiece, slowly crawled out of his bed, stretching, before leaping onto Kat's shoulders when she Gravity Shifter closed her dresser.
"You shouldn't take things that aren't yours, Dusty," Kat scolded her pet lightly. "Remember when you stole Syd's wine…which was actually pretty funny, so I forgive you for that."
"C'mon, hurry up, you guys," Shantae said impatiently by the door. "Let's get our showers and head down to breakfast so we can check out the sale today. I wanna see if any of the stores are stocked up on Mega Shampoo."
"What is it with you and your hair fetish?" said Eruna blankly.
"Well, sorry if not all of us can control gravity or run at the speed of sound!" Shantae snapped irritably.
"Okay, okay, simmer down," said Kat, stepping between the two with a peaceful gesture. "Let's just get through the morning and then we can head down to the Market Row together. The whole school is probably gonna be there because of the sale."
"Hey, maybe Seisa-senpai will be there," Eruna chirped optimistically.
When Eruna, Kat, and Shantae had walked down the hallway and into the shower room, they found they weren't the only ones who had gotten up this early in the morning. Practically every other girl on their floor was crowding the room, their chatting bouncing off the walls like a swarm of angry bees. They were forced to wait ten minutes leaning against the tiled wall before a few stalls became available. But even when they entered the showers, Eruna couldn't help but noticing that there was a shower head where it should have been, but there were no knobs – just a weird rectangular screen on the wall. Thankfully, Shantae had the sense to ask one of their classmates how the showers work instead of leaving them to fumble on their own. One girl with a long side-ponytail – Nano-something or other, Eruna couldn't remember – showed them how to do it. She took Shantae's school provided smartphone, held it up to the screen, then with a soft beep, the hot water started pouring from the faucet.
"Seems like a really weird way to take a shower, don't you think?" said Kat as she and Eruna followed the example.
"Apparently the whole school is automated the same way," said Shantae, who Eruna noticed was spending more time washing her hair than the rest of her body. "I heard one of the upperclassmen at dinner last night that it's a recent thing. Supposedly, the Principal installed them to make sure that the limitations were being enforced."
"What limitations?" asked Eruna.
Almost as if it had heard her, the shower head in Eruna's stall suddenly stopped flowing just as the orangette started lathering the conditioner in her hair. Eruna blinked at the faucet with a dumbfounded gaze. She retrieved her phone again and held it to the screen on the wall, but there was still no water. She tried it again and there was still a lack of moisture. After two more tries, Eruna had resorted to swiping her phone like a grocery store scanner, but the blasted showerhead refused to relinquish her desired hot water!
"Oy, what gives?" Eruna complained, throwing her hands in the air. "Is the stupid thing broken or something?"
Kat leaned around from her stall into Eruna's with a curious glance. Like the good friend she was, Kat moved over to Eruna's stall and pressed her own smartphone against the black screen. The Gravity Shifter sputtered in surprise when the faucet splashed her in the face, causing the dark-skinned freshman to stumble backward out of the stall – the shower head stopped the moment she stepped out and just before Eruna could get back under the water.
"Looks like it's working fine to me," said Kat, wiping her face.
"Then how come I can't get it to work?" Eruna growled, holding her phone to the scanner again with no change. At that moment, Eruna noticed Miss Kobayashi walking into the shower room with her own towel and a set of cloths – guess the housemother had to share the facilities with her students, Eruna thought. "Excuse me! Miss Kobayashi! I think this stupid shower is broken!"
"Huh?" Miss Kobayashi mumbled, looking around drowsily; she wasn't a morning person. "Wha…whaddya mean?"
"This dumb shower won't turn on for me," Eruna grumbled, gesturing her thumb at the shower head. "It works fine for Kat and everyone else, but it keeps turning off on me."
"Uh…oh, right, you're that Ichinomiya girl, right?" said Miss Kobayashi, stifling a loud yawn behind her hand. "This principal warned me about you. Sorry to say, but current ranking gives you a restricted amount of time that you can spend bathing. You're only allowed five minutes in the shower every morning and evening between certain times. The showers are set to automatically turn off when you've reached your limit or if you're outside your scheduled time. Guess I should have warned you. My bad."
"What?!" Eruna cried, now fruitlessly swiping her phone in a blind panic. "But I'm a girl! Even if I'm the way I am, I'm still a teenage girl! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!"
With the showers being a no-go and pretty much everyone refusing to share one with her (her first day, and she already has a reputation!), Eruna had been reduced to finishing her hair in the sink. It was very painful on her neck and it cramped up halfway through, making her hit her head on the faucet. Kat and Shantae were kind enough not to laugh at her, but the way their lips quivers made it obvious that they were fighting back the urge. Eruna just wanted to put it behind her and focus on the most important task in front of her: breakfast.
They followed the crowd down to the first floor, turned the corner, and walked to the very end of the long hallway into the cafeteria. Since Eruna hadn't been to the welcome dinner last night like everyone else, it was her first time seeing it. The space was almost ridiculously large and took up an entire two floors with a grand staircase leading up to the second level. There were several dozen square tables, dressed in table clothes with Chinese textures, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows covered the opposite side of the cafeteria, which opened up to a great view of the mountains and led to the outdoor seating. The whole thing looked more like a fancy restaurant than a school cafeteria.
Everyone was lining up at the long counter in the back where several men and women dressed like professional chefs were running around in the open kitchen. Just like with the showers, there was a black screen on one end of the counter where the students would swipe their phones and then receive a ticket, though the tickets themselves were a little confusing to Eruna. When Kat swiped her phone, her ticket had a large "68-C", but when Shantae did it, hers was marked as "94-D", and, weirdest of all, Eruna got a ticket marked "215-H". These make no sense, Eruna thought.
One-by-one the students would patiently walk along the counter until the came up to the big, burly man with a thick handlebar mustache and handed them their ticket. The man would only glance at the ticket before handing their food, even though the student never made a verbal order. They line thankfully shrank fast and Eruna group made it to the front in what seemed like no time at all. Kat gave her ticket first, only having a few seconds to wait before the burly chef slammed down a plate of the fluffiest pancakes Eruna had ever seen.
"Oh my Creators, they're so soft…," said Kat happily, gently poking at the flapjacks.
Next, it was Shantae's turn. The half-genie had barely handed over her ticket before the burly man slammed a plate of omurice in front of her, a little genie lamp drawn on it in ketchup.
"Wow, good service and artistic detailing," said Shantae impressively.
Eruna was practically salivating – they both looked so good!
The scarf-wearing girl practically skipped when it was her turn and handed her ticket with a wide smile. The buff chef took accepted the ticket, but unlike how he reacted with Kat and Shantae, he had a long pause. He looked between the paper and Eruna, almost like he didn't believe what he was saying, and turned around with a small, noncommittal grunt. Eruna rubbed her hands in anticipation when the burly man turned around and presented her with…a single block of tofu.
Eruna's grin was still plastered on her face, but mostly out of disbelief and shock. She looked up at the burly man, hoping he just made some kind of mistake and would get her real breakfast. But the beefy chef just crossed his arms and glared down at her, his mustache seemingly curling in on itself.
"Um…is that it?" Eruna asked meekly. The chef grunted agitatedly. "Uh, er…maybe I could go back there and – "
The burly man grunted even louder, flexing his muscles so that Eruna could actually see the bulging veins. She decided to cut her losses, picked up her tofu, and scurried away at super speed.
The scarf-wearing girl hanged her head as she crossed the obscenely large cafeteria and dropped into an open seat across from Kat and Shantae, both of whom looked like they were taking literal bites out of heaven. Eruna wasn't discreet about slamming her forehead on the table, making the plates clatter, but did manage to pull her roommates out of their food-induced trances. They first stared at their normally boisterous friend, Shantae opening her mouth to the start of the expected question, until Eruna blindly pointed out her meager breakfast. That earned a raised from the blonde Gravity Shifter.
"Wait, that's it?" asked Kat. "That's all they're giving you?"
"Yeah…," Eruna bemoaned.
"You try asking if they had anything else?" suggested Shantae.
"I was about to!" Eruna cried, lifted her head up with animated tears in her eyes. "But that guy was so big and scary! I thought he was gonna turn me into a pretzel! This school sucks!" She emphasized with another forehead slam. "First they only give me five minutes of shower time and now they give me a crappy breakfast! Why does everyone hate me so much!"
"Now, now, let's not jump to conclusions," said Shantae soothingly. "There's probably an explanation for all of it."
"Yeah, we can figure it out after we check out the sale," Kat offered, taking a dramatic bite of her pancakes. "Everything's half off today. Maybe you could buy yourself some snacks and dinner foods while we're over there. You've got money, right?"
"Okaa-san gave me five thousand yen in case of emergencies," mumbled Eruna.
"Well, this sounds like an emergency to me," said Kat nonchalantly. "Just use that to get some real food and then we'll talk to the principal about your problems. After all, you are the descendant of one of the school's founders, that's got to get you, like, automatic special treatment or something, right?"
"Yeah…yeah, you're right," said Eruna, slowly gaining confidence as she rose in her seat with a smile. "Hey, you guys mind sharing – "
"No!" Kat and Shantae said simultaneously, taking big bites out of their breakfast to emphasize their point.
Eruna grumbled darkly under her breath, stabbing her own tofu square harder than necessary and eating the whole thing in one bite.
They were none to surprised to find Market Row completely packed by the time they made it to the east side of campus. Though, in Eruna's opinion, Market Row didn't seem like the right name for it – in truth, it was just a long building with eight open stores, four on each side, all of them no bigger than a standard classroom. The scarf-wearing girl just shrugged it off and followed behind Kat and Shantae.
The Freshman Trio decided to wander around the building for a bit, viewing the stores from a distance at first so that they wouldn't be swamped by the surging crowds. It seemed like each store had its own business that was specifically different from the others. One of the stores they passed was called "Requip" that worked exclusively in selling clothes like the new White Rose Combat Skirts that were practically being torn off the racks by fashion-hunger women. Another shop they passed dealt in selling and repairing electronics like smartphones and laptop. And at the very end of the first side was a small pharmacy that also seemed to double as an apothecary, selling a lot of unusual things that didn't look very medicinal at first glance.
Eruna and her roommates walked around to the other side of the building where Kat and Shantae talked about buy Eruna's school supplies that she doubtlessly forgot to bring from the stationary store when the scarf-wearing girl's stomach made a loud growling noise. The orangette groaned, leaning forward and holding herself with a grimace. She was sooooo starving! And that crappy piece of tofu didn't help anything either, being all stupid, and bland, and stupid, and tasteless, and stupid! Did she mention it was stupid?
Kat and Shantae looked taken back by how loud her stomach was being; Shantae looked mildly impressed.
"Wow, and I thought Bolo had problems," said Shantae.
"It's your fault for not sharing!" Eruna complained; her legs were very wobbly, threatening to buckle. "God, I'm HUNGRY! I need something to eat before I end up doing something you're both gonna regret!"
"Somehow, I don't think she's kidding," said Kat, backing away nervously from the crazy-eyed orangette. She swiveled her head around urgently, looking for something, then suddenly pointed and said, "Wait, Eruna, look over there! A convenience store!"
Indeed, there was a small convenience store at the very end of the row, next to the music store. It was the least crowded given that most students were using the sale to purchase some of the more expensive things, which meant there were fewer people in the way when Eruna sprinted to the store at the speed of sound (and making Kat's hair stick up from the gust of wind she created).
The man behind the counter – a third-year student from the looks of him – was thrown backwards in surprise when Eruna zipped by and started grabbing everything her hands could reach. Chocolate, potato chips, instant ramen, bags of nuts, tons of candy products, some pocky, and lots of juice (but she didn't touch the milk – Kuzuryu would be so disappointed in her). Kat and Shantae had just made it to the store entrance, panting from the quick run they just did, and the clerk barely got back up before Eruna returned to the counter and slammed her purchases down, throwing him back again.
"Ring me up!" Eruna shouted cheerfully.
The clerk slowly got back up again, eyeing the orangette wearily, then cast his eye onto the pile of assorted junk foods she collected. Perhaps pile wasn't the right word for it – a small mountain, more likely. The clerk shook his head, muttering under his breath ("Freshmen…"), and started scanning the items reluctantly. Eruna was grinning from ear-to-ear when Kat and Shantae joined her, staring at the pile with raised brows.
"Well, at least you won't be going hungry for the next year," said Shantae.
"A year?" said Kat, blinking. "Raven and I used to pack away more than this in half an hour."
"…You Gravity Shifters are impressive in more ways than one," said Shantae, grimacing at the though of a slender woman like Kat eating an entire feast in a short period of time. "But in all seriousness, don't you think this is a little much, Eruna? You shouldn't go blowing your entire five thousand yen on – "
"Your total comes to five hundred," said the clerk, having finished scanning and bagging all the items.
"You've gotta be kidding me," said Shantae in disbelief.
"Even with the sale, that is unrealistically cheap," Kat commented.
"Who cares!" Eruna cheered, pumping her fists into the air. "That means I came buy all this stuff without even putting a dent into my wallet! Yatta! Maybe I should buy something else. You think they sell dating sims in one of these stores?"
"How 'bout you just pay for this stuff first," said the clerk impatiently.
"Oh, right, sorry," said Eruna, giggling sheepishly.
The scarf-wearing girl reaches inside her pocket and retrieves the five-thousand-yen bill straight away; she doesn't have a wallet because she typically spent any money she received right away on games and junk food, which makes it a miracle that the bill was even still there. When she hands it off to the clerk, the senior student looks at her with a strange expression. He stared at the bill with his brow raised like he had never seen anything like it before, then turned his gaze up to Eruna, who was still grinning eagerly. With an annoyed sigh, the clerk shook his head and said:
"You Freshmen didn't read the student handbook, did you? We don't accept physical money on campus."
"What? That doesn't make any sense?" said Shantae, tilting her head. "Why wouldn't you accept cash."
"Oh, believe me, I would like to take that money off your hands," said the clerk, looking back at the yen with a longing look in his eyes, "but the students here come from all parts of Asia, which means they have their own types of currency to bring with them: yen, rupees, yuan, rubles, bhat, pesos, won, gravity ore – it's all too much to keep track of. So we just use a point system instead."
"And um…where do we get some uh…points?" Eruna asked nervous, feeling a familiar sense of dread run swell in her stomach.
"It's part of your weekly allowance," said the clerk exasperatedly, like he was trying to teach a grown man that two plus two equaled four. "Look, just put your phone on the scanner and see how many points you have. I can think of twenty different things I could be spending my time on that doesn't involving explaining basic math to a bunch of freshmen."
"Getting a better attitude should be the first thing on that list," Kat muttered to Shantae.
Eruna was hesitant to pull out her phone again, remembering how terrible her luck had been with the device since she woke up this morning. With a contained moan of anxiety, Eruna shaking laid her smartphone facedown on the scanner. The orangette and the clerk turned their heads together toward the small register as it displayed her point total:
An unsettling silence fell over the counter, even though the market was unnecessarily noisy outside. Eruna slowly turned her face back around at the same time as the clerk, who was giving Eruna a serious case of the stink eye. The scarf-wearing students shot a sharp glance down at her bagged purchases and then shot them back up; the clerk mirrored the motions and seemed to know what she was thinking. The two of them stood motionless on opposite sides of the counter….
Eruna suddenly shot forward, making a desperate bid for the bags, but the store clerk used some type of power that summoned glowing orange chains out of the counter to restrict her arms and more chains appeared out of the floor to bind her legs. Eruna flailed like a fish on dry land, fruitlessly fighting against the magic chains while the store clerk nonchalantly picked up the bags and set them down behind the counter out of Eruna's reach; the Heir of the Ichinomiya Clan moaned pathetically.
And the whole time, Kat and Shantae were watching the whole spectacle with a bag of chips and some salt pretzels they had already purchased with their own points.
"Now you're just being cruel!" Eruna complained to her roommates, then turned pleadingly back to the clerk. "C'mon, man, give me a break! I've had the worst morning in forever! First, I only get five minutes in the showers and have to wash my hair in the sink, and then I get a crappy piece of tofu for breakfast! And now I'm being pinned down by some jackass whose life is obviously not going anywhere when I just wanted a snack!"
"You probably should have kept that last part to yourself," said Shantae, sweatdropping.
"Oh, I thought I heard a familiar wailing in this direction."
Everyone paused and looked over as two people entered the store. Eruna automatically recognized Kuzuryu in his bright-green jacket with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, paint splattered on his cheeks, and a carton of milk in hand. He gave Eruna a look of indifference to Eruna's situation as he lightly sipped his nutritious beverage. Coming behind him, and making Eruna's heart soar, was Seisa, looking as prim and proper as when they last met, though with a noticeable soft smile curling on her lips. She has a beautiful smile, Eruna thought –
"Seisa-senpai! Enoyan-senpai!" Eruna cried.
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO CALL ME WEIRD NICKNAMES!" Kuzuryu snapped; Seisa giggled playfully behind her hands.
Fifteen minutes later, after Eruna explained her situation (and after Shantae corrected her when she overexaggerated), Eruna, Shantae, and Kat were joined by Seisa and Kuzuryu sitting around the water fountain in the school courtyard. Eruna's small mountain of snack foods were piled up on the ledge, but was steadily becoming smaller and smaller as the scarf-wearing girl went through them like a ravenous beast. Kat made the mistake of trying to sneak a piece of chocolate from the pile, but Eruna sharply bit down on her thumb and forced her roommate to retreat. That was her punishment for not sharing, Eruna thought. But eating all this junk food made Eruna thirsty, and as much as she would have loved to down the gallons of juice she had initially picked out, she instead had to settle with –
"Ugh, milk," Eruna complained, stabbing the carton with the straw. "I wanted juice…."
"Stop complaining," said Kuzuryu dryly, draining his own carton. "You should be thankful I was nice enough to buy all this with my points."
"Not like you didn't have plenty to spend," said Seisa with a playful smirk. "Being the ninth ranked student means you have plenty of points to throw around, most of which you just spend of cheap paints and art supplies."
"Like you're one to talk, Miss Sixth Ranked Student," said Kuzuryu lightly.
"So I take it that your first day here has been less than spectacular, Eruna," Seisa ignored the jab from her senpai and turned to the freshman. "Kuzuryu-san and I were sitting up on the second floor when we heard you complaining during breakfast, and then we find you chains to the student store."
"It's been one bad thing after another," said Eruna, hanging her head with a groan. "All these bad things keep happening to me, but nothing every happens to Kat and Shantae. They get regular showers, good food, and they have points on their phones. Why do they get special treatment while I get treated like dirt! It's not fair!" Eruna whined, stomping her feet like a child throwing a tantrum.
"Now that you mention it," said Shantae, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. "It is weird how everything is different between us. I mean, I'm pretty such Kat has more points than me, but I don't get why Eruna has zero."
"Have you tried checking your rankings?" Kuzuryu suggested.
"Our…rankings?" asked Kat, tilted her head, confused.
"Yes, your student rankings," Seisa informed. "Everyone student in Serenity Academy is assigned a ranking based on their academic and battle performance. With a ranking comes special privileges like longer showers, better meals, higher allowances, free passes from certain classes, and the like. The higher your rank is, the more benefits you receive. But on the opposite side of the spectrum, lower-ranked students can actually lose certain privileges, as Eruna has already demonstrated." Eruna hanged her head again with a groan.
"That seems a little harsh, don't you think?" said Shantae.
"From a certain perspective it does seem a little unfair," said Seisa, nodding. "The system was implemented when Principal Theresa took over some twenty years ago, but since then, most of the school's alumni have gone on to live successful lives. The ranking system encourages lower ranked students to work harder for better privileges and keeps the higher rank students on their toes so that they don't get bumped down. People can be properly motivated when they have incentive."
"How do we get our ranks?" Shantae asked curiously.
"You should have gotten them already based on your scores in the entrance exam," said Kuzuryu, poking his straw through another milk carton. "You should have read all this in your student handbook."
"You mean those little books that came with our uniforms?" said Kat. "We didn't read those."
"Why not?" asked Kuzuryu.
Eruna, Shantae, and Kat looked at one another, they turned their eyes to the clouds as the world warped around them into a flashback –
Shantae was kneeling next to the bookshelf in their dorm room trying to fit as many of her books as she could between Eruna's manga – the girl's super speed allowed her to claim the space before anyone could think to try. The half-genie threw her shoulder into one of the books Uncle Mimic gave her, sliding it in between the volumes of Yuri Hime, when she heard a soft scratching sound. Having known Kat for at least a year before they came to Serenity Academy, Shantae was equally acquainted with her star-patterned Guardian, Dusty, as well as his habit for sinking his claws into almost every surface. So when she looked down and spotted the feline clawing at her only of Genie Magic for Dummies, Shantae shook her head and shoved him away.
"Dusty, no, don't do that, I need this," said Shantae, stiff-arming the cat to keep him back. The Arabian dancer looked around, her hair whipping behind her, and noticed the student handbook lying on the ground next to her. "Here, you can have this. It's not like I'm going to need it for anything important."
She tossed the manual at the Guardian, who leapt up in the air the snatch it and mercilessly tore it to shreds by the time he landed on his paws.
Meanwhile, Kat was humming a delightful tune under her breath as she rearranged the collection of succulent plants on her dresser. Back in her house in Hekseville (which was really just a sewer pipe sticking out of the lowest part of town) succulent plants were the only vegetation that could survive her living arrangements. Sure, being a hero meant she could have gotten a better place any time she wanted, but she liked her sewer pipe – it was her first home, it was private (except for the occasional fanboy), and she didn't have to pay rent or water bills. She would water each plant and tell them about her day, which was a relief whenever she had a terrible afternoon that usually involved Aujean blaming her for something.
She was rearranging the potted plants to where she liked them, lining them up alphabetically by their names (yes, she had names for them), when something scurried out of the corner of her eye. She glanced to the window and spotted the tiniest of spiders crawling along the glass. The Gravity Shifter looks around for a tissue or a paper to use, but couldn't find any. That's when her eyes fell onto her student handbook and picked it up. Kat narrowed her eyes on the spider with keen focus as she pulled the handbook back…then smashed it through the window with unnecessary force, flinging it towards the mountain where it crashing into the side with a deafening BOOM!
"…Got it!" said Kat brightly before returning to her plants.
And while her roommates were destroying their handbooks in their own ways, Eruna hopped into her bed, got comfortable, and actually started reading it!
"Guess I should look over this so I don't get surprised by anything tomorrow," Eruna said to herself.
But the scarf-wearing girl had only just started skimming the first page when a tear in the fabric of reality ripped open in the middle of their dorm room. Eruna looked up from her handbook with a quirked brow; Kat and Shantae only briefly glanced at it out of the corner of their eyes before resuming their tasks, as if interdimensional portals popping in their rooms was a daily occurrence. Out of the tear came an animated supervillain that looked like he had walked out of an American 70s cartoon.
"Yes! I have done it!" The cartoon villain shouted dramatically with his fists in the air. "I, Lord Murder Death King Sr., have opened a once-in-a-lifetime, impossible to accomplish ever again, rip in the fabric of reality that has transported me out of my prison outside the realm of time and space! Now there is nothing that can stop me from ruling the world!"
Eruna blinked up at the supervillain…and then threw her handbook at his head. The cartoon villain wailed and stumbled as the pages stuck to his face, falling backwards into the portal with an overdramatic "NOOOOOOOOOO!" and the portal closed behind him. An awkward pause of silence filled the room; Eruna looked between Kat and Shantae inquisitively.
"So we're really not going to talk about what just happened?" asked Eruna.
"That was just the authors failed attempt at making a humorous moment while answering Kuzuryu's question through a flashback," said Shantae.
"Eh, good point," said Eruna, shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly.
"Wait, you actually said that last night?" asked Kuzuryu, his expression looked like he was creeped out. "Are you psychic or something?"
"It was a really weird night," Kat admitted.
"Getting back to the topic at hand," said Seisa, her lips curled up in amusement. "If you haven't read your handbooks, then that explains why you don't know about the ranking system. And I take it none of you have seen your ranks yet?"
"How do we find out?" asked Shantae.
"The rankings are on the school app," said Kuzuryu, holding out his hand to the half-genie. "Here, let me show you…."
Shantae pulled out her smartphone (it looked like it had never been used before) and handed it off to Kuzuryu. As the paint-splattered senior fiddled with the device, Eruna, Kat, and Shantae leaned over his shoulder curiously, much to Kuzuryu's silent annoyance. He found the school app marked on the top right corner of the screen marked with a crescent moon and it opened up to the school's homepage; Eruna only now realized that this was the first time she had actually seen the app used as she spend most her time playing games on her phone. On the right of the school announcements, there was a column of links to the rest of the site, but Eruna couldn't read any of them before Kuzuryu pressed the button labeled "Student Rankings". A long list of names popped up before the screen started automatically scrolling down - number whizzing past in a blur – until it stopped somewhere in the mid-90s. There, highlighted in bright-blue letters, was Shantae's name next to a great, bold "94".
"And that's how you do it," said Kuzuryu, tossing the phone back. "You're actually doing pretty good. You're in the top one hundred on your first day."
"Oh, wow, I had no idea I was doing that good," said Shantae in awe. She turned to her roommates and asked, "What're your ranks?"
Eruna and Kat immediately whipped out their own phones and tapping into the school app, eager to find their rankings. Kat was the first to find her, a few seconds sooner than it had taken Shantae.
"Sixty-eight?" Kat said amazingly. "Oh my Creators, that's awesome! No wonder my first day has been so great. How 'bout you, Eruna? What'd you get?"
When Eruna didn't answer right away, Kat and Shantae turned their bodies around toward their scarf-wearing roommate, who had gained a noticeable sweat on her brow, her left eye twitching sporadically. Everyone gathered around leaned over Eruna's shoulder and simultaneously winced as the ranking board scrolled past the one hundred-fifty mark and was still going. It took nearly ten more seconds before the list finally stopped and the app highlighted Eruna's name and number. Predictably, Eruna hopped up to her feet and screeched:
"215 OUT OF 217! I'M PRACTICALLY AT THE BOTTOM!"
"Wow…," Kuzuryu mumbled, sounding genuinely in awe. "You usually don't get that kind of a ranking unless you flunked out on your first year. You must have really done poorly on your entrance exam to get that kind of a score from the get-go."
"This isn't permanent, right?" Eruna asked pleadingly to Seisa. "There's got to be something I can do to change this, isn't there? I'm not gonna be eating tofu for the rest of the year, right?"
"Well, generally, your ranks are determined based on your combined academic and physical scores," said Seisa, keeping a serene expression despite Eruna's panic. "As long as you attend all your classes and do well on your homework and exams, you ranking should gradually improve overtime. But given the circumstances…," she glanced at Eruna's phone once more, "waiting patiently might not cut it if you don't want to be eating bland food for the rest of your school career."
"Isn't there something that Eruna can do to get a better rank right away?" asked Kat in concern.
"Use the Battle System," Kuzuryu suggested, sipping on his third carton of milk. The trio of Freshmen rounded on his with curious expressions. "Mikagura already said it: a student's ranks are decided from both academic and physical scores. The physical part is the battle system, where students fight each other in games to test their skills. It's part of how we improve our Variations. If you win a fight against a higher ranked student, you get a bunch of points that can help you climb the ladder fast. The greater the rank difference, the greater the reward."
"That's perfect!" Eruna cheered. "How do I get into this Battle System thingy?"
"You just go to the request board on the school app," answered Seisa. "May I see your phone for a moment?"
Eruna hands it off and watches Seisa back out of the student rankings to the homepage. Just two spaces below, she taps a link labeled "Request Board". The links sends them to something that resembles an online forum with over several dozen tabs marked with student names and rankings on one side and a pair of green and red buttons marked "Accept" or "Decline". Eruna makes an "Ooooh" noise as she leans in close, taking back her phone from Seisa as she scrolled down the page.
"Students regularly make battle requests online looking to acquire quick points themselves," Seisa explained, though Eruna didn't look like she was listening. "Most of the requests you see now are from the upperclassmen, but first-year students should start making their own requests soon once school starts. Each request tells you the name of the person as well as their ranking so that you have a better idea of what you're going up against. I would suggest start with a lower ranked request first – "
"Done!" Eruna cheerfully as her phone made a sharp Ding! She had accepted a request.
"Or you could just ignore me – that's good, too," said Seisa, shaking her head exasperatedly.
Eruna opened her mouth to respond when her smartphone dinged again, showing that she received a text message.
"It's from the other guy," Eruna said excitedly. "He says he's available for a round right now! He's waiting in the…calligraphy club room? Where's that?"
"Second floor, east hallway, third door on the right," said Kuzuryu, crushing his empty milk carton and reaching for his forth. "But I would suggest you – she's already gone, isn't she?"
"Yep," said Kat, popping her lips on the 'p' as she looked down at the spinning milk carton where her roommate once stood. "I wonder if it's possible for someone to be too free-spirited."
Shantae shook her head with an amused smile and looked back at their seniors, when she noticed the furrowed look on Seisa's brow.
"What's wrong, Seisa?" she asked. "You look worried."
"Maybe a little," said Seisa, frowning. "Eruna's meeting her challenger in the calligraphy club, right?" Kat and Shantae nodded. "Well, there's only one person who I know that would be sitting in the calligraphy club at this time of day, especially before the school year started."
"Yeah, it's probably her," Kuzuryu agreed, staring off into space. "I tried to warn her, but Eruna might be more than a little out of her depth."
"You think Eruna's gonna lose?" asked Shantae.
"I don't want to put it past her that Eruna might be clever enough to pull out a victory," said Seisa, "but I saw her skills firsthand during the Hazing and she'll be at a disadvantage."
"Well, maybe she can ask Bimii for advice," Kat suggested. "He supposed to be like Eruna's guide or something, right? Maybe he knows a trick or two that could help?"
"Yeah, that's a good idea," said Shantae hopefully. But as she and the Gravity Shifter looked around the courtyard, they realized for the first time since they woke up that something – or someone – was missing. "Hey, where's Perry – I mean, Bimii?"
Principal Theresa leaned sat comfortably in her office chair, which was raised to its highest setting, resting her elbows on the surface of her desk with her hands folded under her chin, gazing thoughtfully at the creature floating in front of her. She had seen a lot of strange things in her remarkably long life from her "grandfather's" laboratory to her time in the military, but seeing a…less than handsome cat-thing with cherub wings was definitely near the top of her list. The creature dubbed Bimii by one of her students hovered near the portraits, gazing longingly at one picture in particular.
"It was nice of you to invite me to your office, Principal Apocalypse, ryui," Bimii said respectfully, though his eyes never wavered from the portrait. "It's been ages since I've been in here, ryui."
"Five hundred years, if I'm recalling correctly," said Theresa calmly.
"Yeah, that should be about right," said Bimii nostalgically. "Time has really flown by, hasn't it, ryui? I remember it as if it was only yesterday when Ichinomiya and Mikagura created me, ryui. I was actually born in the forest behind this school, you know, ryui."
"To serve as a Guide for the Ichinomiya Clan in the generations that would follow," said Theresa, leaning back in her chair. "And yet, surprisingly enough, this is the first time you've actually shown yourself since the Ichinomiya Founder had passed. Which brings me to why I called you into my office."
Bimii looked away from the portrait for the first time and noticed the principal giving him a hardened stared that made the cat-like creature shiver.
"Why are you really here, Bimii?"
Serenity Academy Data Card
Ranking System: Serenity Academy runs on a unique ranking system that was implemented by Theresa Apocalypse when she was promoted to principal. Rankings are determined based a student's academic scores combined with their total number of points collected from the Battle System. The system acts on an incentive-based mindset that actively encourages students to perform their very best and to be rewarded for their hard work. Such rewards include better meals, better living conditions, a weekly allowance, free passes from certain classes, and permission to leave campus. The system has been the subject of much controversy, described as unlawfully severe on struggling students, but Serenity Academy has produced some of the most successful alumni in the continent as a result.