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No Turning Back

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      Alice academy is a well-known prestigious school that houses all the geniuses in the country. They only take in chosen people, the best of the best, and now—

      “Rachel!” Bam screams, dragging his feet to the school’s gate. Several people close in near the racket, some yelling congratulatory noises, clapping their hands, but Bam paid them no heed. Familiar lemon locks came into view, and Bam desperately ushered the crowd aside, blinking as sweat glided to his eyelids. “Rachel!”

      This is dreadful—no, he doesn’t like this, not at all. Rachel is his best friend for years, had been his companion in the orphanage when no parent would ever come to take him in, when everyone else had given up on him— Rachel stayed. But now she’s going to abandon him, set out to study in an academy that seemed too far, up to a point that there’ll be chances he’s not going to see her for weeks, or maybe even for months. Bam isn’t sure he can even take it. He had always known Rachel has talent, if her above-average intelligence is anything to go by. But does she have to be necessarily taken away? How come Rachel had agreed to it?

      Rachel halts, drawing her head back from the entrance of the car and sees Bam —weary and distraught, staring expectantly at her, always at her, as if there’s no one else in the world but Rachel. She clutches her chest as she calls out, “Bam!”

      At the sound of his name, Bam quickens his pace and races where she is. He held her hands, tears forming around the side of his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me anything?! I just found out a while ago!” 

      “Bam…” she mutters, trying to drown out the whispers around their surroundings in her head. “If I have told you sooner, you wouldn’t have let me go.”

      Bam retracted back his hands, clenching them to his sides. “So you’re really going to… go.” He couldn’t help it; he sobbed.

      Ignoring the ‘Is he her boyfriend?’ ‘Wow, now that’s a drama,’ ‘How adorable’ in the background, Rachel placatingly lifts her hand to reach for his cheeks, softly wiping the tears away. “It’s not like we’re not going to see each other again. I’m going to send you letters.”

      He looks up, hopeful for once. “Promise?”

      She nods eagerly, giving him a grin. “Promise.”

      He momentarily brightened up, and pulled her in a hug, giving a light squeeze before letting go. “I’ll miss you.”

      “I’ll miss you too.”

      “I want to follow you.”

      She shook her head. “You can’t. They only take special people there, Bam.”

      He bit his bottom lip. Lamenting, for once, why he can’t be special too. He didn’t know the barrier between special people and those are not is this strong until Rachel was pulled away from him. The academy only takes geniuses, and now they acknowledge Rachel as one too. Already connected with elementary, middle, and high schools, arranged for Rachel to study until her final years as a student. All those facts are a little too overwhelming to swallow at once.

      Bam finally steps back, parting a little distance between them. Another sob. “I understand.” 

      She gave him a pat on the head, a sincere smile, before sitting on the backseat of the car. They drove away, and soon, the crown began to dissipate, their attention diverted back to their own businesses.

      For a long moment, Bam stood where she was once been, gaping at the lost track of the car, until the sun dips down the horizon, that Bam finally decided to go home, albeit with a heavy heart.

 

 

      Six months. That’s right, six months.

      “There are really no letters?!” Bam shouts, half pleading and half demanding as if the possibility of his whole-life best friend forgetting to send any mail at all is nonexistent.

      Enryu runs a hand through his hair, averting his gaze. “Maybe Rachel had gotten lazy?” He immediately regretted his choice of words.

      Bam collapses to the ground, almost comedically, as Enryu watches wordlessly, simply patting his head in an attempt to soothe him.

 

 

      Spring fluttered away quickly as cold, quiet autumn embraced the small village Bam lives in. Bam is now worried sick. Mr. Enryu’s silent head pats and reassuring smiles did nothing to ease his anxiety. Something bad could be happening with Rachel while he’s here, sitting in the middle of the classroom, listening to the nonchalant beat of rain against the windows, the teacher’s voice sounding somber in the background. 

      To say he's worried is an understatement of the day. They grew up together, two children robbed of many things, and being orphans was only one of the hundreds of things they shared. Never make a promise you cannot keep, she used to say. And she hasn’t. Sent. A. letter. For the past long dull months. 

 

      “Bam is looking sadder each day.”

      “Well, Rachel’s gone so now he’s all alone.”

      “Are they dating anyway?”

      “I hope not. Bam’s too cute for her.”

      “Hey, tone down, he’s going to hear you!”

      Bam continues wiping the board, his head too blank to even try to listen to whatever they’re saying. Rachel’s special, Rachel had left. She had gone to a place where he can’t follow her anymore.

       “Why not try to take an exam?” 

      Bam flinches, jumping from his spot. Sunwoo Nare stood a couple of footsteps from him, innocently grinning.

      “If you miss her that much, and honestly, you look like you’re going to be a walking zombie by the time this year ends, so why don’t you give it a try? Go visit her school and apply or something. If you like a girl that much, then a boy should do whatever he can to get her, don’t you think?” 

      Bam blinks and blinks again. He took a long moment to process the words. He opens his mouth, and the words died in his throat, too overwhelmed to speak. Heart pounding his chest, he asks, “I can do that?”

      She shrugs. “I dunno. I’ve only heard of the academy picking them up, none of the cases where the student offers himself. There should be some cases, I suppose.” 

      Bam takes a deep breath. Then another. “I should try, then.” He has to, special be damned.

      Nare’s face lit up. “I like guys like you. Rachel is very lucky. Well, invite me to your wedding when the time comes, ‘kay?” She gives him a light tap on the shoulder, before pacing toward the door, bag on her shoulder.

      “Uh no, we’re not like that—”

      “See you! I hope you get in!”

      “Yes… thank you!” 

      He didn’t notice it, but he has been actually smiling the whole time. The first real smile he showed after months without her.

 

      Reverend Enryu didn’t agree. In fact, he was completely against it. 

      “No,” he says, and that was it, his tone had edged threateningly close to anger as if he couldn’t believe that Bam would even ask such a thing. 

      So Bam took the train, because why not. To keep things short, after the whole please-and-no exchange with Mr. Enryu, Bam had finally decided to sneak out. Keeping one small backpack behind him, filled with bread and clothes that would probably last him for two days at most, he had stealthily tip-toed out of the house, bringing with him the money he had saved for months (right after Rachel’s departure) just to prepare for this event.

      And Bam had successfully traveled from their small village in the countryside all the way to the city, where Alice Academy was renowned to be.

      Ordinary people can’t get in, but Bam will keep on trying, even from banging the gates with his forehead to cleaning their bathrooms from the day in and out, just so he can see Rachel. Just one glance, so that he can confirm she's safe, and Bam will be satisfied. Although trying to enroll will always be a primary option. 

 

      The city was, well, more overwhelming than he thought. Towering skyscrapers of different forms and shapes are dug deep beneath the ground, of heights almost reaching the clouds. And goodness, there are a lot of people! Most of them even dress very formally, and their faces are drawn up forward, or sometimes in their phones, and everything was such a new and strange sight to see, especially for Bam who grew up most of his life in his peaceful quiet village. The air was a little too heavy to breathe though, but that’s the last of his worries. 

      After a long pause of admiring the city’s landscape, getting distracted with the noise and scents, falling victim to street vendors and pondering over the large television built in the sides, Bam eventually rode a taxi, telling the driver to drop him by the Alice Academy, excitement in his veins.

      When they reach near the walls of the academy, Bam literally had his jaw drop. The canopy of trees covered the view just beyond the walls, and even then, they had to take several minutes to finally reach the gates. The academy alone can fit his whole village, probably even more. 

      A high gate loomed before him. A very high one, so Bam took a deep breath and—

      Err… what was he supposed to do? Where does he go from here? Should he knock? This is the most elite academy in the whole country, only those ‘gifted’ people can enter. But for Rachel, maybe willpower alone could— 

      “He~yo, kiddo!” Someone singsonged from behind. When Bam turns, two middle-aged man came sauntering over him. “What are you doing here, all by yourself?”

 

      Yuri is very pleased. First, those nasty higher-ups finally let her take a breather and allow her to stroll outside! Seriously, why is it even considered a big deal? It’s not like she’s going to escape and abandon her job just like that. Geez, those old geezers really tend to worry a lot. How annoying of them. She wishes she could just shut them up with her fist, flush their corpses down the toilet and let the problem deal with itself. 

      “My lady!” Evan, her ever-loyal butler totters after her, carrying heavy shopping bags on both arms. “Please walk faster! The principal said for two hours! We’re fifteen minutes late already!” He looks over the contents of the bags, a restraining annoyance in his expression, “Seriously, why would you even buy yourself—”

      His face collided to his master’s back, who abruptly stops in the middle of their track. 

      “Uhm, Milady?” he asks, peering over her, only to discover a new look on her face. He follows her gaze. Two suspicious guys stood before the gate, dragging an innocent-looking boy with them. He frowns. “Those two…”

      “Really? There’s a prep school I can take to enter the school?” He heard the boy asks them, and Evan momentarily slaps his forehead. God, it’s those kinds of people again. 

      “Yep! Without a doubt, you’d be accepted after you take it. And you’re cute too, so we’re going to take you in!” The other guy says, and the boy nods, taking their hands without hesitation. 

      “How unfortunate,” Evan mutters to himself, settling down the shopping bags. “Milady, please let me handle this—”

      When Evan glances again, Yuri is no longer on his side. Instead, she had bolted to where those guys at the speed of a cheetah, a gust of wind in his side.

      “My lady?!” 

      “Hello boys,” Yuri grins, and uh oh, Evan doesn’t like that grin. So many things had been ruined because of that grin. Literally. “Just where do you think you’re bringing the boy?” She punches her palm, cracking her neck. 

      “Haa?” One of them says, scooting an eyebrow. “Just who the heck are you—”

      He was abruptly plummeted backward. Yuri smiles, giving a light blow to her fist that had delivered the attack .”Wrong answer.”

      “My lady!” Evan shouts. As much as he likes those kidnappers to get trampled on, if someone finds out about this, Evan will be punished badly. Err, he's worried about Yuri too. Probably. Point is, she can’t just throw around her alice recklessly like that! Just as Evan was weighing his options, another individual was fiercely blown away. The two piled on the ground and Yuri smirks, seemingly satisfied at her own handiwork.

      Sparing no hesitation, Evan grabs a bottle from his pocket and promptly sprayed them over the bleeding victims.

      “Oh,” Yuri notes, “Are you healing them so I can punch them over and over again? Sounds good, alright, I’m coming again—”

      “No, that’s not it!” Quickly, Evan used his body to shield those poor duo, though in his inner mind, it probably serves them right. “Look at the poor boy, he’s terrified of you!” 

      Hearing those words, Yuri was immediately snapped back from her murderous intent, finding herself locking eyes with narrowed golden irises. Being a subject of her gaze, the boy flinched back, but the wall behind him gave him nowhere else to go. Yuri lifts an eyebrow. “Oi kid, I heard you want to enter the academy?”

      Bam shakily straightened up, glimpsing over the unconscious men who held him earlier. “Uh, w-who are you?”

      “I’m Ha Yuri Jahad. You could say I’m one of the guardians of this academy.”

      “You mean one of the security guards—”

      “Don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking!” Yuri delivered a kick to the back of his neck and the smaller man promptly drops unconscious on the ground. She straightens her necktie, then beamed at Bam. “Where was I again? Right, give up. You’re not gifted, you wouldn’t be able to enter. There’s no prep school here, so go home.”

      “I can’t!” Bam stubbornly spat back. “I have to see Rachel!”

      “Rachel? Is that your girlfriend?” A finger slid under his chin, lifting his head up to level them. “Hm, you’re cute, but oh well, that’s not enough to make me consider—” Something nudges her ankle, apparently groaning. “Evan? You’re still alive?”

      “M-My lady,” he stutters, slowly getting up, “There’s something weird about that boy.” 

 

       Okay, the city is weird and dangerous. Those are the things Enryu used to tell him about, and Bam, in all his younger years, should have really paid close attention to those important words.

      There are two dead men before him— uh, they’re still twitching, thank goodness, so still alive then. A woman with wild strength and an even wilder look on her face and a small man with a big backpack on his back.

      “Are you sure? Maybe you’re weakened?”

      “No! I can actually do it on you—”

      “You’re still peeping in my thoughts?!”

      “N-No, that’s not what I meant. Nrg, please just listen to me for once—”

      “Uhuh, what did you see then? It’s not like I like this boy or anything!”

      “That’s not what I—Arg! I didn’t even find out about that!”

      Why are still talking in each other’s ears when they’re basically shouting? Bam can clearly hear them even from here. Adults are confusing, Rachel had been right about that all along.

      Their voices then turn soft, perhaps realizing themselves, but their gestures are still visible. The taller woman arches an eyebrow, then she glances at Bam, who shrinks when she examines him deeply. The white-haired man nods, and the next moment, the raven-haired woman was next to him, pulling his wrist along.

      “Kid, I think there’s a possibility for you to be enrolled.” She grins, and Bam blinks. He blinks again, until the woman got impatient and just drags him to the gate of the academy, her pace too fast for him to catch up, as the silver-haired man panickingly scurried after her.

 

 

      Soon after, the looming gates opened, and he was welcomed to a seemingly endless stone carpet, lined up with street lamps on both sides, and Bam thinks, Oh, so this is the academy Rachel went in

 

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      Rak jolts out of his seat, knees bumping under the table, promptly yanking it. The motion surprises the other student in his side, who unwillingly lifts his head off the desk, locks of silvery-blue hair spilling down the delicate shoulders. 

      Aguero groans. “Can you shut the hell up for once?”

      “Something,” Rak winces, "Had disrupted my radar.”

      “Haa?” Aguero’s face morphed into visible confusion, “What are you babbling about— Oi, gator, where are you going?!”

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      Mr. Enryu, I''m going to be gone for a while but don't worry! I'll return as soon as I can! I will try to enroll in Alice Academy. I'm really sorry for leaving without telling you. I'm prepared for any kind of punishment. 

      Please wish me luck.

Love, Bam.

 

      Vermillion eyes darkened. Fear and regret erupted in his gaze before anger took over.

      You all better take care of him. Or else, I'll wreck that blasted school again.