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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.

 

Chapter Text

      “Sit there and wait for us. We’re going to report things over about your enrollment. Behave, alright?” Evan tells him, ending the sentence with an assuring thumbs up.

      Although still a little suspicious, especially about the whole encounter with Yuri, Bam has no choice but to politely nod, moving his gaze from him to look around the room they moved him in to act less uncomfortable. Intricately designed curtains draped over the windows, flourished in the low glow from the sunlight. There are smooth carvings in the wall and marble columns. Paintings on the other spacious side of the room that seemed to be reserved for viewing. This seems like a drawing-room of a noble, if anything.

      He’s really going to enroll in the academy Rachel is in. He can’t believe what kind of reality he’s even in. 

      Yuri stares at him for a moment, then says, “Ah kid, here.”

      A flash of something dark and thin was tossed to his face. Bam nimbly caught it.

      “That’s Black March. If anyone creepy barges in here and bothers you, feel free to stab them with that, alright?” she explains with a wink.

      “Wha-what?”

      “Princess!” Evan stiffened, “You shouldn’t throw around national treasures like that! You’ll be in big trouble if the higher-ups find out about this!”

      Yuri pressed both palms over her ears in an attempt to shut his ranting and marches back, ignoring the trotting butler after her. 

      As the door was shut closed, Bam averts his gaze to the thing Yuri called Black March. It was long, roughly meter of length, smooth and black as obsidian. He unsheathed it, revealing a relatively sharp needle-like object, gold bold letters that read as ‘Black March’ are carved on the hilt. He curiously prodded the tip and yelped back when it pricked him. Bam frowned, and distractedly suck the blood out of the small tear in his skin. 

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      “A prospective student?”

      "Yes, I believe he is a kid with very interesting alice." Yuri smiles. Curtains are drawn up before her, covering the person she's talking to, but lights made his silhouette visible so that she knows she's not talking to some kind of ghost. 

      "I see... If it's from the princess then he must be trustworthy." A pause. Yuri stretches her fingers as she patiently waited. "And what alice would that be?"

      Yuri's smile deepened. A draw of breath. And she tells him.

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      The possibility of enrolling to this academy and meeting Rachel soon was floating in his head when a knock on the door interrupted his line of thoughts, and soon after, a voice followed. 

      "I'm coming in!" The voice singsonged, offering no rejection for his entrance, sounding lighthearted yet deep enough to distinguish as a male's. The door swings open, closed off again, and a man curiously saunters in. He was showered in different shades of yellow, though his dress is mostly milky white. His hair was in a different shade from Rachel's daffodil, it was darker and a sheen turns visible as the man walks closer into the light. Canary locks were tied in a fixed bun behind his head, a sharp cowlick over the right side of his face. A somewhat lazy smile tugs the corner of his lips, and his deep lemon eyes are inquisitively fixed in Bam. 

      "Hm," His gaze flickered to the Black March Bam is clutching, his look considering. "You must be the new student the princess is recommending?"

      "Uh." He honestly does not know. Who is the princess anyway? Was it Yuri? Honestly, she doesn’t look princess-y. Erasing such offensive thoughts in his mind, Bam politely nods. “I-I suppose.”

      “I’m Yu Hansung, a teacher in the junior high branch. What’s your alice then?”

      “Huh?”

      “Alice,” the man repeated. His smile was pressuring. Bam felt like he was deprived of a fact in life he supposedly should have. “You’re required to have that to be enrolled.”

      Err, Bam has no idea what that even means. He grins sheepishly. “…Actually—”

      He basically tells him almost everything.


 

      “Oh, so came here looking for your best friend, who hadn’t write to you for months. You were then brought by two people, the other one beating two people almost to death. And now you don’t even know what your alice is, what this academy even is, and now you’re just stuck here…?” Hansung summarized. For some reason, he ended up being a consultant.

      Bam nodded slowly. 

      Yu Hansung slightly arches his neck to the side, looking thoughtful. “About Princess Yuri, I wouldn’t say you could trust her, but logically speaking, she saved you. Those men you encountered in the gate are ruffians who are most likely involved with child trafficking. Surely you’ve heard of them? They’re very popular these days,” he explained, sipping his cup of coffee which had manifested out of nowhere. “Her alice is enhanced strength. The man with him, Evan Edrok, has mind-reading alice.”

      “Alice…” Bam echoed, eyes narrowing. “Like superpowers and stuff?”

      “Yes,” he took another sip. “Mine would be reflect and amplification. There are varying Alices in the academy. From the usual ones like teleportation, barrier, voice pheromone, to the rare ones that would even sound like a joke.”

      “W-Wait!” That was a lot to take in. They’re in the twenty-first century! Are those really possible? If those are then Rachel would have an alice too… And then, what would that have been?

      “Do you not believe me?” Hansung has a dangerous glint in his eyes, even while keeping his smile intact. “Are those kinds of things really sound surreal?”

      With his heart beating soundly against his head, Bam subconsciously reaches for his necklace. Mr. Enryu gave it to him several years ago. A small diamond-shaped pendant, gleaming vibrantly like blood. He told Bam it acts like some kind of protection. Or a lucky charm, perhaps. “It’s just hard to believe…” He looks up at the man, looking hopeful. “If that was true, what is my alice then?”

      “I have no idea. The princess probably knows.” Hansung shrugs. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it, but you do look familiar, have we met before?”

      Bam stares back. Surely, the man’s face is new. It doesn’t ring any familiarity. “I don’t think so, sir.”

      “I see. I just thought we—”

      In the middle of their discussion, the door was loudly blown open, and Bam instinctively jumped to his side, and not long after, the door flew that way and crashed to the mirror-stand.

      “I’m back!” A familiar willful voice yelled across the room.

      “Cheerful as always, your highness,” Hansung quietly remarked as Yuri strides in between them, flapping a cloth out of its fold and flaunts it before Bam.

      “Hey Bam, this will certainly look cute on you! Whaddya think?” 

      “Eh?” Taking a proper look, he was presented with a male school uniform. A black long-sleeved vest with blue outlines, a single button on the waistline. A button-up white shirt was underneath with navy blue ribbon around the neckline. The pants were tartan-designed and shaded of royal blue. “It looks… nice?” Bam manages to say, glancing back at her tentatively. 

      “Try it!” Yuri paces behind him and seized his shoulders, pushing him towards somewhere across the room. “Go on, you should change!”

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      Bam stares back at his reflection meekly. The uniform, for some reason, had fitted him just right.

      “It suits you…!” Yuri praises then she pauses. “Err, what was your name again?”

      “The Twenty-fifth Bam,” he answers.

      “Right, that was a weird name. Anyway, Bam— Can I call you that?” He nods. “Your entrance is approved!”

      Evan and Hansung applauded in the background.

      “Still, you have to take a test during your one week trial and if you pass, you will be officially enrolled!”

      Another applause from Evan and Hansung with an added monotone cheer of ‘Yeyy!’ 

      “So what do you think? Think you can do it?” 

      Bam nodded profusely, affording no hesitation. “Yes!”

      “That’s the spirit!” Yuri nonchalantly slaps him on the back. Bam thought he’d choke blood. “Oi Hansung, you called for Junior high representatives already, didn’t you?”

      “Of course, they should be on their way.”

      As if on cue, someone knocks on the open door to make known of their presence. Two students enter the room. One was a boy with a stubble haircut and the other; a light-blue haired boy Bam almost mistook for a girl, an obvious heavy frown on his face.

      “Excuse us, we’re the representatives of the junior school division. How can we help you?” The light brown-haired boy introduces courteously. He looks to be around Bam’s age. Actually, the two of them do.

      “Mr. Khun, that’s quite a messy hair you have,” Hansung remarked playfully.

      The bluehead clicks his tongue, his expression annoyed. “I’m going to beat up that gator later.” When he notices Yuri, his posture immediately straightened, a surprised look on his face. 

      “This is Bam, he’s a prospective student. Do get along well with him.” There’s a demanding tone at the end of Yuri’s sentence. The two representatives flinch and nodded immediately.

      “Y-Yes, ma’am! Hello, Bam. I’m the Junior high class representative. Just call me Isu. Pleased to meet you!” Isu bowed down, and Bam went into a panic.

      “Uh— Pleased to meet you too! Please call me Bam!” 

      Sharp blue eyes bore into Bam. For some reason, Bam found himself forcing a smile. The bluehead returns the smile. “Khun Aguero Agnes. You can call me Khun. Welcome to the academy,” Khun addressed formally. He offered a hand, Bam took it.

      “Thank you.” 

      “Now,” Hansung stood up, hands clasped behind him. “Let’s head to the classroom, shall we?”


 

      Uhh, what exactly is he seeing right now?!

      The chairs are floating, someone is levitating, and is that a real sword? Why is there such a thing here? Well, Bam has Yuri’s Black March but that was relatively harmless compared to what’s going on before him. And will anyone explain to him the moving giant foot pounding on the walls?! He smells smoke. Fire? Is something on fire?

      “Bam, please don’t freak out! They’re normal, I promise,” Isu assures, but Bam is already having nightmares about this. What is about here that spells out normal?! Is this even a classroom, or did he land himself in another dimension?! 

      “Who is that?” 

      Bam instantly jumped back. What the heck— a girl suddenly appeared in front of him! Out of thin air!

      “Endorsi, please don’t scare the new student!” Isu’s tone is now begging.

      “Ha? Are you ordering me?”

      “No, I said ‘please’!” 

      “A new student?” Someone perks up. It was the same student almost clad in white wielding a dangerous looking sword. “He looks weak. Not interested.”

      “Can everyone shut up?” someone shouts. It was the girl floating on the air, wrapped in a pink blanket and dozing off.

      “Ehwa, you set your chair on fire again!” A girl yells, her hair identically blue as Khun’s. From her fingertips, a stream of water abruptly pours out.

      “Damn you! This is my favorite uniform!” A yellow-haired boy complained loudly, running around the room with his back on fire.

      “Everyone —Uh, please, quiet?” Isu pleads to them, but no one listened. Bam is starting to feel bad for him.

      “SettleDown.”

      The room suddenly turned cold, the temperature alarmingly decreasing. Everyone abruptly quieted down. Bam shivers.

      “Listen to what Isu has to say,” Khun tells them, authority in his voice. “Or do you want an ice rink—”

      “It’s you!” 

      Bam gasped and backs away as an inhumane creature came face-to-face to him. It was frighteningly large, towering to almost double his size. Its skin is a dark shade of brown, sturdy and muscular. In his eyes, the part where should be white was instead black, and there's a strong burning fire etched in those crimson irises as they focused on Bam. 

      “What did you do turtle, huh? Why was a portion of my echolocation erased?!”

      “H-Huh?!” 

      “Oi, gator.” The large being quickly leaps back as an ice shard flew close to his face. “First you ruin my hair, and now you’re interrupting me. You’re really getting into my nerves, don’t you know that?”

      As Khun raises his head, a malicious smile appears on his face. 

      “Khun, Rak, please calm down, you’re not supposed to contribute into the mess too—” Isu tries to mend the situation, but inevitably fails.

       Rak had already drawn his weapon forward, running after Khun. “Don’t get in my way, turtle!”

      “Ha, that’s a death wish!”

      “A.A, please warm the room back!” someone pleads, but Bam had been too confused, scared, and bewildered to even keep track of everything.

      “Beta, you’re quaking the room! Get rid of that foot at once!”

      “Candy, that looks sweet, can I have some?”

      Bam scans the room, his mind in disarray, and as he turns his face to the corner—

      Bam froze. He finally spotted her.

      The noises die down around him, focusing on one single person across the room. A yellow hoody on her head, sitting quietly on the back, a notebook on her desk. Bam immediately knew it was her. And no one else.

      “…Rachel?” His heartbeat picked up and echoed in his ears.

      She lifts her head and their gazes instantly locked. A gap between her lips, her yellow eyes dimming, she sprung up from her seat, and immediately, she was before Bam, looking like she had seen a ghost. “You… Why are you here, Bam?”

      Bam opens his mouth to tell her why, how he arrived here, everyone he had met, but someone cuts him in.

      “That’s it.”

      A strong wave of force-field crashes everyone back. Well, almost everyone. Bam stood right where he was, who blinks in confusion. The blond adult that appeared out of nowhere regards Bam for a moment, before switching his gaze back to the unruly class. “Rowdy as always. This class is.”

      The new person walked next to Bam, placing a hand on top of his shoulder.

      “We have a new student today. His name is The Twenty-fifth Bam. I was told that if he befriends everyone here in a week, then he’ll be officially enrolled,” the man explains —a teacher, Bam supposes, as he played indifferently on the students sprawled on the ground, painfully struck by his alice. “I hope everyone will try to get along. Did everyone get that?” 

      No one answered.

      “I said, Did everyone get that?”

      “Yes sir!” they sang in unison. Even Bam breathed a sigh of relief.

      “That’s good. Mr. Bam, I’m Lero Ro. Physics Teacher. Now everyone, get back on your seats. The lesson will start.” 

      Everyone hurriedly pulled themselves off the floor and dashes to their places, almost stumbling in fear. One student raises his hand. Bam recognizes him to be the whitehaired swordsman from earlier. “Can I ask a question about the student?”

      “No.”

      There are waves of complaints but Sir Lero Ro silence them all with a peeved glare. He tours his gaze around and pointed a finger on the back of the classroom, which also happens to be on the opposite column from Rachel’s. “Mr. Bam, you can sit there.”

      Bam meekly nods, shuffling towards the corner. Plenty of eyes followed him. 

      His new seatmate raised a languid arm. “Hello again, Bam.”

      It was Khun. Bam immediately brightened. “Ah, Khun!” On the other side of the blunette, the alligator-like being sat, its predatory eyes fixed on Bam. He gawked. Rak, was it? Why did he suddenly shrink? Is it even him?

      The brunette promptly looks away. He should ask questions later, no matter how everything in this academy is new and surprising. As Bam sat next to Khun, he realizes he’s still holding on to the Black March.

      Yikes.

      He forgot to hand it over to Yuri before they parted. Maybe he could see her after class dismissal and return the weapon.

      “What’s that?” Khun asks, biting back a yawn, shooting a curious stare. “That looks kinda important.”

      “Um, it’s named, ‘Black March’ I think,” he answers offhandedly, turning away briskly that he failed to catch the widening of two cobalt orbs after him, narrowing unnaturally. 

      The student in front of him turns his head around and scoots closer. The white-haired swordsman again, though his sword is no longer visible. “Your name sounds retarded. Were your parents drunk when they named you?”

      The student beside him nudged him by the elbow, frowning at his rude remark, who wore the same shade of silver hair as him but cropped shorter. “Hoaquin, leave him alone.”

      The boy—Hoaquin—huffs before turning back. But Bam clearly heard their following murmurs.

      “But Vicente, what if he doesn’t really have an alice? That’s disgusting. Why is he even here?”

      “I don’t really care. Just keep quiet. Sir Lero Ro might notice you and I don’t want to be dragged down with you.”

      “Tsk. I'm seeing your book open under the table.”

      "Shh."

      Bam just kept his eyes fleeting to where Rachel is, who never returned his look ever since the class started. 


 

      The moment Mr. Lero Ro exists the classroom, Bam got up his seat, ready to head where Rachel is when a girl blocked his path. She had long orange hair, olive skin, and vibrant blue eyes. A prying frown was visible in her features. Bam fell silent.

      "...Angel," he heard Khun says, presumably informing Bam her name.

      “Your alice, what is it?” she demands, crossing her arms over her chest. Her pupils were oddly small, Bam remarked in his mind. Two other students hover near her, their eyes uncomfortably set on Bam. 

      “I… don’t know,” he confessed.

      Everyone’s gaze darted to Bam, even those who had been distracted within their seats, centered their attention in him. Bam drew a breath, held it, and unconsciously step back. There was a moment of silence, then a wave of whispers blanketed the room. He tried to glance past Angel to catch Rachel’s figure, but several more students blocked. 

      “What?!” someone shouts. His tone reminds Bam of the time he stubbornly refutes Mr. Enryu’s unshakeable disagreement in regards to his enrollment to the academy, and Bam was met with a solid yell, sharp in its edges and frighteningly painful as if he had touched a forbidden spell. “How can that be possible?!”

      He heard a frivolous laugh. From the corner of his eyes, Hoaquin had whipped his head around, silver eyes scanning the scene before landing on Bam. He smirks. “That’s ridiculous. Your alice is probably too weird or dirty that you’re so embarrassed to show it.” His eyes glint unkindly. “You think so too, right, Vicente?”

      “Brother, please don’t associate with me. I’m aiming for the Best Student Award this year, so if you don’t mind…” his twin brother trailed off, offering a half-hearted smile.

      “Wha—?!”

      “Only one way to find out!” A voice rang out. All the alarms set off in Bam’s head, and a shadow was cast on the ground he’s on. He hauls his head up—

      A giant green foot?!

      “Hey, that’s my prey—!” The gator screamed, but he was too late.

      Bam's heart plummeted down his chest, and he braced himself for the pain, the force of the monstrous thing colliding to him but— But none came.

      The noise seemingly halted.

      “A.A?” someone squawks

      “Careful, Beta” a chilly voice drawls, “You might rethink about harming the new guy.”

      That didn’t explain anything. When Bam looks up again, something that seems like a glass had surfaced above him and had received the gigantic foot instead, apparently shielding him from the impact. Still, it had cracked under the pressure. 

      Khun, with all eyes on him, shrugged nonchalantly. “I have a better idea,” he tells them. His smile widened. “What if we play dodgeball instead? Wouldn’t that be more fun?”

      

 

( “Um, everyone? I’m here, your History Teacher, Sir Pan?! Will anyone listen to me? Ah, why are you leaving the classroom?!)


 

      “The rules are pretty simple,” Khun begins, bouncing the ball on the ground. It echoed dully across the four walls of the court. “Don’t get hit, hit to score. Don’t leave the boundary. If the opposing team catches the ball before it hits the ground, the throwing player will be eliminated. Lastly, the use of alices shall only be allowed when attempting to catch the ball directly. If caught cheating, the player will be eliminated right off the bat.” He caught the ball between his palms. He grinned darkly. “And we’re going to use the academy’s special made dodgeballs.”