Story Title: Trials of a Dreamless
Chapter Title: Escapism
Chapter 5 Quick Peek: She caught it with some ease and in her hand was a trinket— a sapphire gem wrapped with spiraled metal.
Disclaimer: This is the only chapter wherein I won’t change the title. The title creatively summons up the whole chapter— or at least Ailia’s state of consciousness for the duration of the chapter. Escapism occurs at a sub-conscious level in Ailia’s case because her escapism tendencies aren’t blatantly shown.
There was a skirmish at one of the hallways of ASA. Misunderstandings and conflicts were common happenings in ASA that people didn’t bother much about them. If people did become interested, the issue would have to have either characteristics— concerns the dream diary OR a student who isn’t normally explosive explodes. Most watched fights concern the former, so it has somewhat become the norm. However, it was still a sight for students because bits of information can be attained from such a fight— information that can make or break a person.
As Teito walked through the hall, he noticed the number of people were too many for a normal fight. Heck, the hallway was too congested that going to the next floor just to get across was a better choice. He had opted to do that instead when he was dragged into the bulk of people by a strong person. He wanted to avoid finding out what was going on, but whoever had pulled him in was saying otherwise. A quick look and Teito was sure that Haru had dragged him into the mass of people. He was annoyed by the force she exerted, but at the same time, the strength she showcased at that brief moment was extremely scary.
“Open up!” Haru’s voice boomed through the crowd.
Even with the thunderous call Haru made, it wasn’t heeded. A few people managed to give some space, but the majority opted to keep the circle tight. Whatever fight was happening in the middle, Haru was certain it was a huge fuss. Normally, she’d have a grasp of the situation, manipulating the crowd to her wishes, but not this time. The two struggled to reach the center of it all and their efforts bore fruit. It took them a while to catch their breath, but not long enough to be startled by a body crashing against the metal lockers.
“Give up?” A high-pitched voice spoke. The tall girl who spoke had her right hand propped by her waist. Behind her were two other girl with smirks on their faces. The common look among the three was sinister. It was like they were out for revenge.
Teito and Haru knew who had been thrown towards the lockers too well. Even when the girl’s head hung low, the two knew who the girl was from the hair color. Not a lot of people had a hair color mixture of black and dark brown. It was an anomaly in their country, so it basically showed the person’s uniqueness. However, that didn’t explain why the girl had gotten herself in such a skirmish. What happened that caused Ailia to be lashed out at?
The smirk that formed didn’t help in answering the question. No— it brought up more reasons to lask out. Where was Ailia getting the strength to start fights in school grounds? There was a trickle of blood at the corner of Ailia’s mouth, which she simply wiped away with no worries— as if blood was nothing.
“Just getting started.”
Ailia looked the group of girls with new found determination. So that was the buzz among the student body— how diplomatic Ailia turned into a beast. The simple reply sent the hallway a buzz with people amazed by the tenacity shown. To Teito, it wasn’t new because she showed it during missions— new was where it was occurring.
“You bitch. You’re a Dreamless— know your place.” The goons of the tall girl said.
“So? I may be a Dreamless, but you have no right to degrade and harass us. I’m sure you didn’t bother to do it to us seniors because we have superiority over you. However, you have no right to degrade the other Dreamless— no matter how much of a slut he or she is.”
Teito heard the hint— slut. He looked around the circle to see Mae being comforted by her friends. From the looks of it, Mae had received quite a beating too, but that was confirmed even more when her left arm slung over a friend’s shoulder. When he looked at Mae’s left leg, it was lifted up— probably a sprain. The scenario laid out perfectly in his mind— Mae was injured, but Ailia had managed to catch the suspect in the act. Ailia would’ve talked it out, but it seemed like it was a futile effort. Now here was Ailia, being all heroic.
The tall girl was about to lash out a kick at Ailia when the girl’s underlings restrained the girl. The tall girl was about to shout at her underlings to let her go when the girl saw Haru’s glare. She gulped at the sight of the glare. Getting a glare from the school council’s chairman was never good. People knew that whoever received such a glare would get a terrible punishment— a punishment meant to scar a person.
“I want everyone not involved in this fight to disperse in the next 3 seconds.” Haru’s voice shouted out to make sure every student who circled around the fight left. “3… 2… 1…” The hallway became deserted of spectators with the main characters of the fight still within range.
“Fila, bring Mae to the clinic to have her sprain treated. Aris, Arca & Amy, I will be seeing you at the student council room to discuss your misdemeanor today.”
“How about Ailia then?!” Aris exclaimed.
“The physical state you placed her in is enough to prevent her from working decently for a week. That’s enough punishment for her.” Haru pointed out.
As Haru began the short reprimand, Teito decided to help Ailia return to her two feet. “Let me help you.” When his hand came in contact with her arm, Ailia simply shrugged it off without a care in the word.
“I’m fine. I don’t need your sympathy.” She struggled to get up and limped off.
Honestly, she didn’t need his sympathy. He had hurt her from that event a few weeks ago. She never saw it coming considering that he had given her a kiss last month. Was that a kiss of sympathy? A grandeur way of showing how much he cared for her, but just as a friend. She thought she had a chance, but apparently it was just a kiss. A kiss that meant nothing to him. It wasn’t just the event last week— she might as well include the week when he was being snob to her. What had she done? She had no clue, but she was certain that she was infuriated at his actions. She didn’t want to see his face nor communicate with him. But no matter how infuriated she felt, she couldn’t quickly give up on him— how could she if they had been together for a year before. Blasted first loves— making everything simple complicated.
“What did you do?”
A perplexed Haru confronted Teito. The hallway had returned to normal except for the dented locker. She had seen the scene unfold— how Ailia shrugged off help from the guy she had an interest in. Hell, Haru was sure it wasn’t even a simple interest. Teito leaned against the wall— making sure he didn’t lean against the dilapidated locker. He looked away from Haru’s eyes and stared off at a distance.
“I don’t know.”
Teito simply replied to Haru. He honestly had no clue what he had done— if he had done anything to have Ailia rage at him. He recalled the events that had transpired within the past month. He was sure that he and Ailia separated during Christmas break on a good note. Hell, he gave her a quick kiss. Maybe that was it? Probably not since she didn’t demand answers from him the moment he returned from vacation. What had he done during the first few weeks of January.
Teito had known Yin for a while. They became friends in his last year in ASA. She was a focused person who still knew how to have fun. She was a pleasure to converse with and their conversations were just about anything under the sun. That’s why when his roommate pushed him into asking Yin to prom, he didn’t mind.
Everything had gone smoothly from planning to execution. The precursor gifts had been given and now was the time to ask. Time to ask the question. He hoped it’d be a yes, so he wouldn’t look like a complete fool.
“Sure. Why not.” Yin smiled at him. She gave him a friendly hug.
Teito felt a wave of relief rush over him when he spotted Ailia walk along the hallway. She looked off in his opinion— he couldn’t pinpoint what.
Suddenly, Yin tapped Teito’s shoulder breaking his train of thought. Speak of the devil— the person he was thinking of appeared right at the moment. Coincidence?
“It’s color apricot, the dress. just so you know.” Yin quickly said. Teito acknowledge the information with a nod and she walked off.
“Yin is your prom date?” Haru looked at Teito. “No wonder Ailia is mad.” She scoffed.
“How is that connected?” Teito was bewildered. He was looking for an answer— all he got was Haru rolling her eyes before walking off. Girls are so confusing.
“You still like him. That’s why you’re angry.” Train pointed out to the confused female in front of him.
“I’m trying to move on, so shut up.” Ailia muttered.
“Yeah, like you didn’t say that how many months ago?” Train mocked earning himself a glare from Ailia.
“I just haven’t found the right guy to crush on yet.”
“Uhuh…” Train raised an eyebrow on her.
“You will eat those words at some point this month.” Ailia said bitterly.
Mumbles engulfed the briefing room. All the Dreamless team members were present, so the case must be big. Ailia, now free from college exams, pretended to be occupied with her phone. She was attempting to give the illusion that she was waiting for an important text or call when in fact she wasn’t. No— she wanted to avoid being approached by Teito. A few days have passed since the locker incident that caused a buzz, but she still didn’t want to confront Teito yet. She needed to forget and move on.
“Gather around people.” Chief Dalv announced as he entered the room.
Along with him was a girl in her late twenties. Her hair flowed down effortlessly with a shiny glow at it. However, she was holding nothing. Not a notebook or a folder— nothing. Who was this woman with Chief Dalv?
“Everyone, this is Chief Aine. She is the head of the Diary Forces.” Chief Dalv introduced to the group.
“Good afternoon everyone.” She said formally.
“Chief Aine handles all Diary users who are in the business of crime fighting. She’s the reason why we only have to handle ASA-Academy City cases.”
“No need to continue further, Chief Dalv. I’m sure your students aren’t one for idle talk, so I’ll get straight to the point.” The sudden change in sweet formal tone to a serious one raised the hairs of the Dreamless team. Chief Aine explained why she had appeared before them.
“There have been an increase in disappearance cases of Dream Diary users.” She brought out her comb, which doubled as what looked like her diary. “Now, we’d usually classify them as missing person cases, but this is different because there’s a commonality among the missing people. All of them are level 6 power users.”
The room became dead silent with all eyes directed at Ailia— the only level 6 in the room. Ailia didn’t like the attention, but the attention was the least of her worries. Level 6 disappearances? Was this woman saying that she wasn’t safe anywhere? The information frightened her down to the core, but she wasn’t going to show it. No— not her true feelings. She was a strong person and showing the frightened side of her would cause worry within the team. She didn’t want that.
“Now we’d handle this ourselves, but with 10 disappearances and rising, we’ll need all the help we can get.” Chief Aine concluded.
“Therefore, everyone of us will be on guard for suspicious people and happenings. Got it?” Chief Dalv finished.
“Sir yes sir.” The group said in unison.
As the younger members of the Dreamless team shuffled out of the room, Ailia stayed behind— her feet glued to the floor. She knew she had to walk out with the other to make it seem like everything was fine, but she didn’t. She was terrified beyond comparison and had no clue how to handle it.
“Ailia.” Chief Dalv placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re one of the strongest level 6 people I know and for certain, you won’t go down without a fight. Believe in yourself.” Ailia simply nodded, but she couldn’t respond with a verbal acknowledgement. Even with comforting words to boost self-esteem, it wasn’t much when faced with the information.
A week has passed since the meeting and a week & a half since the locker incident, but Ailia still wasn’t willing to confront Teito. Well, she hadn’t accepted the asking because she hoped it would be her. If he didn’t ask her in time, she would’ve asked him instead. Not that it matters anymore- it’s not as if she can change the wheels of fate. That is why she put up little resistance when she was sent as a candidate for the annual ASA System Week.
It’s not the event that she cringed at upon hearing, but who’d be going with her. She was ecstatic that she’d be going with Ai and Touko along with three other guys and 4 juniors, but it’s the guys in the set that bothered her. Yes, she’d have to spend her week with Teito’s company. Well, it might not be much of a problem because Salazar would be there to distract him— along with Koko.
Koko— she’d rather see Teito than Koko at that moment. The two of them, Koko and her, had gotten into a rather silent argument. Koko knew she was mad at him except he had no idea why. Well, it’s not like Ailia could voice out her issue to him considering it involved a third party. Ah yes, third parties— added variables that destroy the lovely equation. What was she going to do? Well, she was going to have fun. That’s how it was— she wouldn’t let Teito & Koko stop her.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me in charge.” Yoshii said in disbelief.
With the week long inactivity of Ailia and Teito, Yoshii had no escape with seniority. Usually, Ailia headed the group in case Chief Dalv was out of service (which was rarely, but one never knows), so Yoshii never had the power of authority. However, it now dawned upon him how much Ailia has to go through each day to keep consistent work flow.
“Each day, you’ll have to collate the minor & major cases that occurred in one day and send it to Train and Chief Dalv. If the lower years ask why you’re in charge, tell them you’re the only senior left. If Mae complains, tell her I’m going to castrate her if she won’t acknowledge you. Finally, never— I repeat— never bother Mae at the late hours of the night. Got it?” Ailia summarized the vital reminders.
“Any other things I should worry about?” Yoshii worried.
“A lot, but nothing too major. You’ll be able to wing it.” Ailia winked at him.
“And you have Chyse to help you out.” Teito pointed at the direction of an eager Chyse.
“Hopefully…….” Yoshii’s voice trailed.
Ever since the Dreamless Tournament, Ailia had been wary of the gadgets she’d get hold of. Not only was she constantly searching for that second part of her, but also looking at her other diary. She had passed all the universities she applied for in Atria— fulfilling her father’s wishes. When the results came out, her Dream Diary didn’t even faze. I kept on telling her to apply for a school outside the country. Well, at least that was one Dream Diary sub-goal that matched her father’s wishes.
However, it still bothered her that she hadn’t made contact with her other Dream Diary gadget. It was a mystery what the second object was or if it actually existed. Maybe her so-called voice pheromone was a fluke— considering it only worked once. Moreover, if she did have a second dream, would it coincide with her other dream? Dream diaries are difficult to handle— more so that she might have two. That meant double the work to make sure she didn’t “kill” herself.
That’s how she zoned herself out on the trip going to ASA System Week. Ten, in total, represented the campus Academy City. The campus in Academy City was considered the “main” campus because it was built first and it was centered in the Academic hub of Atria. Academy City wasn’t a place sprawling with businesses, but rather schools ranging from pre-school to college. It was common to see students walking around in their uniform.
Academy City was isolated from other cities— conveniently located in the middle of two rivers. The only way to enter Academy City was through the underground tunnel, which was also the only way out. It wasn’t the best location to place the Academic hub of Atria, but it was the most isolated part of Atria at that time. The city of Ventria was the nearest city to Atria, which was the location for the ASA System Week. The downside was that the trip going there was more than an hour.
The trip would’ve been noisy if she hadn’t plugged her ears quickly with earphones. Salazar, Teito and Koko were the ones creating the noise among the seniors, but the juniors also had a world of their own. Ailia let the music from her earphones engulf her and put her in a trance. It’ll be an hour plus until they’d reach the destination, so she was free to drift off into the dream world. However, the view outside the window enticed her more. Seeing the beautiful scenery outside made her think about how a simple life could be nice. How a life with powers would be— probably relaxing.
She started to wonder how she would adjust to the accommodations they’d arrive to. They’ve been warned that they wouldn’t be roommates with their campus-mates. Ailia sincerely hoped that she’d get someone who loves to talk. She wished for a lot of new experiences and hopefully, new friends— she needed to make up for friendships about to be lost.
Ailia was breathless— literally. With the events that transpired for that day, Ailia had no escape from exhaustion.
Upon their arrival, they had lunch, but the participants weren’t allowed to go to their respective rooms. All the bags were placed in one room until the time they were allowed to check-in. Like all events consisting of strangers meeting for the first time, the all too famous ice breaker was done. Well, it was quite better than the usual human bingo because they were separated into groups right away.
Ailia was the only Academy City representative in her cluster— then again, it’s not like the other participants will know. They were asked to fall into two lines and face each other. It was a simple introduce yourself by saying one’s name and campus, but there was a follow-up question for each round. It was an amusing way to learn a random fact about a person. She found it convenient when she matched up with one guy.
“For this round, the question is, “What is one talent that you keep secret from most people?”” The emcee said.
Ailia looked at the guy in front of her. He was tall, but maybe not as tall as Ryu— a friend of hers back at Academy City. He had wonderful eyes, which had quickly caught her attention. It was weird though— they were just staring at each other for a few seconds.
“Hi.” Ailia started. She had the most awkward way of starting a conversation— or at least returning back to earth.
“Hi.” The guy replied.
The silence amidst the noisy surroundings was unconventional that it managed to make Ailia laugh. She was probably making a fool out of herself by laughing all of a sudden, but no— the guy was also laughing. Incredible— someone who had about the same wavelength as her in thinking— maybe for that one moment.
“My name is Ailia from Academy City campus.” She outstretched her hand for a shake. The guy responded by shaking it.
“I’m JS from the Peristalia campus.” He replied before ending the shake.
“Is JS an acronym for your full name?” Ailia inquired.
“Yep. Julian Sine— that’s my full name without the other portions of it.”
“Sine like the trigonometry concept?” Ailia clarified, which JS responded with a nod.
“Dancing.” He brought up. “That’s the answer to the question.”
“Seriously?” Ailia was filled with amazement. “I was going to answer the same thing.”
The two looked at each other before laughing again. It was as if they were on the same wavelength— a feat Ailia never thought of achieving during the ASA System Week. Then again, it might be a fluke.
That was probably the highlight of her whole day— besides the strenuous team building activities. With the conclusion of activities, the participants were given the remainder of the night to relax. Ailia was currently standing in front of the door leading to her room— in her right hand was the handle of her bag. She wondered who she had as a roommate— what campus she was from and how was her personality. She was anxious beyond measure— it was now or never. While she may have preferred the latter, that’d result to her having no room to stay in. That would suck greatly.
Ailia was greeted by the smell of tangerines when she opened the door. In front of her was a girl unpacking a few items from the luggage. The girl had wavy chestnut-colored hair that was styled in the form of pigtails. The ends of her hair landed right at the girl’s mid-back. She was humming an unfamiliar tune, but the melody was catchy enough to get Ailia’s attention.
Coming out of the bathroom was another girl with hair characteristics contrasting that of the first. This girl had short strawberry blond hair with bangs covering a part of her right eye. It was this girl that spotted Ailia at the door right away.
“You’re the other girl?” The girl asked in a rather dark tone. Ailia was taken back a bit by the tone, but responded with simply a nod. “Great. I get stuck with an overjoyed person and an eccentric looking one.” The girl sighed and plopped herself on the bed.
“Now, now… Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The chestnut-haired girl told off with a relatively happy tone. She turned around to face Ailia— the girl had a huge grin plastered upon her face. So that’s what the other girl was saying as overjoyed. “I’m Mikan from Axon Campus. I hope we can be great friends… um… what’s your name?”
At the corner of her eye, Ailia noticed the other girl roll her eyes in annoyance. Ailia held the chuckle she wanted to let out in— she would’ve done exactly the same thing if Lia was in bubbly mode. “I’m Ailia from Academy City Campus.”
When Ailia had mentioned Academy City, she noticed the eyes of the other girl flicker with interest. However, that interest was quickly covered by the negative demeanor that the girl emitted at the start of their encounter. That short moment of interest made Ailia wonder if prodding into that girl’s life would be worth it.
“You haven’t said your name yet.” Mikan brought up.
“Mei. Peristalia Campus.” The girl said nonchalantly. At least her negative demeanor had toned down by a small bit.
The mention of Peristalia Campus sent a wave of interest within Ailia. Since Mei was from Peristalia Campus, that must mean she knew JS. Maybe, if she’d get close to Mei within the remaining 4 days, she might find out more about SJ. At the same time, she might find out Mei’s interest with Academy City. It was killing two birds with one stone— simply perfect.
Opening ceremonies were always a drag— no matter what kind. Sure, the emcee could be bubbly and happy, but opening ceremonies took up too much time— so did closing ceremonies too. Ailia found it a drag to simply sit and listen to the speeches not catered to the amusement factor of the student participants. She was fiddling with the lines of her earphones. To her right was an Academy City junior, who was busy talking to his other friends. To her left was Touko, who had a bird on her hand. It seemed to like Touko, so it didn’t bother to leave her clutches.
“Thank You Dr. Sta Ana. I’m sure you’re all bored and zoned out right now, am I right? The emcee said and true enough, only dead air replied to her. “Figured as much. Therefore, we’ll officially begin the ASA System Week We’ve divided you into your respective power clusters, so there’ll be facilitator in each cluster that’ll manage your group for the duration of the week. So what are you waiting for, move!”
Ailia gave Touko a pat on the shoulder before she stood up. If she was right, she was the only one in Academy City Campus in the elemental manipulation group. She was certain Teito and Ai would be in the same group— considering they give life to inanimate objects. They give it life in the sense that they can control the items they give life to. Touko was in the pheromone-related cluster with a junior if she was right. Finally, Salazar was with Koko and they were at the other end of the room— far from her line of vision.
When she had located her cluster, a bunch of people were already there. They weren’t a lot like the other clusters— Ailia wondered why, just to be answered by her facilitator. Apparently, each participant’s power is unique with regards to those who attended the ASA System Week. There are a few items that are classified under elemental manipulation— inanimate object manipulation was on a different level. She heard the chair beside her move and was surprised to see JS. She raised her left eyebrow to show her curiosity, which was replied at with a smile coming from JS.
“I guess that’s everyone.” The facilitator of the cluster said. “I’m PJ and I’m your facilitator. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other, so I do appreciate if you tell me when you’re sick of my face. If you do, it gives me great pleasure to grind your face against the wall. Next, there’s the end of the week presentation per cluster, so I suggest you start thinking of a presentation now. God knows what you might plan— just don’t tarnish my name.”
The group simply looked at each other with wonder.
The second day wasn’t as tiring as the first— albeit there were less strenuous activities today; however, that didn’t stop Ailia from dropping on her assigned bed the moment she entered the room. She was the first to arrive, so the room was rather quiet. She let her thoughts drift and that allowed her to create an optimum atmosphere for relaxation. She was aware that someone was entering the room, but she didn’t bother to find out who. She’d figure it out through the voice, but none was heard.
She opened one eye to check who it was and saw Mei removing items from her bag. Ailia stood up from her bed to make her presence known even if she’d be surely scoffed off by Mei. Mei glanced at her for a while before returning to fixing the bag. The room was deadly quiet and had an awkward air to it. Ailia wanted to ask her about JS, but what would that imply?
“Ailia right?” Mei spoke with some hesitation. Ailia was slightly taken aback by the conversation starter— she had the impression that Mei was antisocial. However, even with the shock, she still nodded in reply eliciting a sigh of relief from Mei. “Sorry for sounding like a total bitch last night. I have problems dealing with overly happy people.”
Ailia chuckled. “I got to agree with you on that.” Mei simply smiled in reply. The awkward air that had engulfed them dissipated with a mere sorry.
“Ailia, do you happen to know a guy named Salazar?”
“Yeah.” Ailia quickly replied. “He’s a close friend of mine. He’s actually here representing the Academy City campus.”
Mei’s mouth dropped open, but covered up the expression in a jiffy. Ailia raised an eyebrow- she was filled with skepticism. Something was up between her and Salazar. Now the question was- who to prod now.
Ailia was about to bring up the question about JS when the two girls heard the unlocking of the door. The door burst open with Mikan jumping in, cheerfully saying good evenings to the two of them. Mei’s inquisitive mood was quickled transformed to that of annoyance.
“There’s this really cute guy that a lot of girl participants are fawning over. I think he’s from Peristalia.” Mikan brought up.
Ailia heard a ‘here we go again’ coming from Mei. It was a softly heard comment toned down to make sure Mikan wouldn’t ask further questions. Ailia gazed at Mei with a questioning eye, who mouthed the word later.
“Anyway, I just came here to get my jacket. It’s quite cold outside and I don’t want to freeze on my way to the dining hall. Have you guys eaten by the way?” Mikan asked. Mei and Ailia shook their heads, which prompted Mikan to continue. “You should eat. I’ll be going ahead. See you later.”
Mikan pulled out the folded jacket from the top of her bag before leaving the room. Once she was out, Mei gave out a sigh of relief to which Ailia found amusing. Ailia found the lengths Mei went to avoid Mikan’s cheeriness rather amusing.
“Finally, she’s gone. Back to my story telling, how is he?” Mei inquired.
“You mean Salazar?” Ailia assumed. Mei nodded in reply. “He’s okay. One of the smartest guys in Academy City.”
“I see.” Mei’s voice trailed, but the long pronunciation of see hinted something. “Love life-wise?”
That phrase made Ailia think for a while. Who was Mei and what connection does she have with Salazar that she’s able to bring up the words love and life right away?
“I’m sorry. I think the question I brought up startled you. Let’s go to dinner, shall we? We can talk about that another time.” Mei quickly took Aila’s arm and pulled Ailia off the bed.
“You know, for someone who gave a cold first impression, you’re rather pushy and inquisitive.” Ailia pointed out.
“Like I said, I don’t like overly cheery girls and you’re not like that. Therefore, I’m able to bring down a part of me.” Mei shared as she waited for Ailia to change into slippers before they both left the room.
The dining hall was packed with people that Ailia and Mei had difficulty locating a place to sit down and eat. After getting through a crowd of girls, Mei spotted a vacant table and quickly tugged Ailia towards the table. Mei placed her plate on the table before looking at whose table she managed to have found.
“Hi Mei.” The voice called out, which made Mei cringe.
“So you’re the reason I had to go through a cluster of girls, Sine.” Mei complained.
“And you’ll help me shoo them away.” He concluded. She glared at JS before proceeding to glare at the crowd of girls. One connection with Mei’s eyes and the girls dispersed. JS chuckled. “Thanks Mei. You’re a lifesaver.”
“At times I wonder why I’m your best friend.” Mei sighed. She realized that she had dragged Ailia with her. Ailia was just looking at JS who was also looking back at Ailia. Mei coughed. “JS, this is Ailia- my roommate. Ailia, this is JS- the bringer of mayhem.”
“We’ve met.” JS and Ailia simultaneously said. Mei threw a questioning look at them. JS continued, “We’re in the same cluster.”
Mei’s mouth made an ‘o’ shape. Ailia took a seat beside Mei, but right across JS. Ailia and JS were conscious of each other’s presence that Mei found it fishy. It wasn’t the awkward aura she felt, but one of lingering.
“Were you told that our cluster would be having a meeting after dinner?” JS asked.
“Nope. Thanks for telling me though.” Ailia smiled. Mei’s eyes continued to shift between the two parties until Ailia spoke up. “Mei, that’s Salazar.” Ailia pointed at a tall guy two tables away from them.
“Mei. No.” JS’s voice dripped with demand. It was like he was scolding Mei. “I thought you were over him.”
Over him? Ailia glanced at Salazar who was chatting away with the other Academy City people. So Salazar had a love-like connection with Mei— the question of love life made complete sense now. She looked at Mei who was currently glaring daggers at JS.
“I tried to admit we wouldn’t see each other. Never thought this would happen, so maybe it’s okay for me to hope that we might be able to talk and sort things out.” She hopefully smiled. JS simply sighed and returned to eating.
Ailia, wanting to know more, decided to get the details through the other party— Salazar. She texted Salazar that the two of them had to talk— not necessarily that night, but tomorrow morning would be quite pleasant.
The next day, Ailia spent her breakfast with Salazar talking about Mei. It was a short discussion about who Mei was, how they were connected and what kind of relationship got developed. Salazar was Ailia’s close friend from first year— one she’d run to in order to rant from time to time. She attained juicy information from the boy— all circling around the idea that they had some mutual understanding about their feelings. Salazar knew that Mei was a participant, but he wasn’t gutsy enough to approach her. Ailia simply chuckled at the statement and said she was willing to act as a bridge between him and Mei— a much needed support.
ASA System week was halfway through and day 3 was designated for power sharing— along with dreams. The dream sharing portion was one of intense risk, but during the 5 years of having the ASA System Week, no major incident has happened. At that moment, the EM cluster conveniently relocated themselves to the main hall. The chances of them finishing the sharing session early was relatively high, so the group decided to use the excess time for performance practice.
“My dream is to be a pastry chef.” A sandy brown haired girl shared. “I like eating pastries, so I guess my sub-conscious dream does match up with what I actually want.”
“That’s wonderful!” Sir PJ exclaimed. He turned to Ailia’s direction. “You’re the last one for today— my dear.”
“I don’t know where to begin…” Ailia’s voice trailed. The group looked at her intently— she sincerely hoped she wasn’t the last in the discussion, but here she was now. The gazes made her feel squirmy and conscious, but a simple nudge from the guy beside jolted her back to normal— at least at that moment. “I manipulate electromagnetic waves— basically electricity or lightning. I think of it as a child of fire & air. What else…”
“How about your level?” The facilitator brought up.
Ailia gulped. Great— level… She didn’t want to blurt it out. It was a number difficult to attain, but at the same time, it held so much prestige that the amount it gave could shut down a person. “L-level 6.” Ailia stuttered and the mumbles that followed gave away that the group heard her. She wondered what would happen— would they praise her or would the envy her? The group was neutral in response, which Ailia was grateful for. They simply acknowledged that she had great potential.
“So what’s your dream then?” The girl who shared right before her asked.
“Well, my diary says that I’d end up being a performing artist, but it’s rather conflicting to my interest. I like the sciences and well, the arts is at the opposite of it. It’s quite tough.” Ailia easily shared. She was so used to such conflict that she knew how to answer it while avoiding further questioning. Hey, such a tactic worked 75% of the time— that was an actual statistic.
“I have to agree with you on that. I hope you’ll put your level 6 power to good use— who knows what may happen if you don’t take care of it.” Sir PJ said. “With that, I believe we’re done. I think we have time to practice. Rin, take the floor.”
The smallest girl in their group stood up and requested they all head for the stage. Even for her petite stature, she had the booming voice to command a platoon. She reviewed their plan for the performance— a dance interpretation. Not all of them were adept in dancing, but they had a duo who they were sure would make a mind blowing performance— hopefully. So much hope was needed to pull off a great performance considering that the ones leading were Ailia and JS.
The three Academy City boy seniors were walking towards the dormitory. They were the only ones who stuck together among the seniors since Touko, Ai & Ailia seemed to be off somewhere else. While the whereabouts of Touko & Ai were distinguishable, Ailia’s wasn’t. It puzzled them to no end that to save their sanity, they just left her alone— it was probably the best for her, in Salazar’s opinion. With the pent up rage Ailia has towards Koko, it’d be best they don’t run into her. However, for Teito, it was another story.
Teito was simply curious where Ailia spent her time. It’s not like he bothered anymore with taking care of her— it seemed like she didn’t need it anyway. Yes, the fact that Ailia shrugged his help off during the locker incident left a deep mark. He was still clueless about what he had done to make her infuriated with him. He was at a stand still whether he should return to caring or not.
“Hey Touko, have you seen Ailia?” Salazar brought up.
Teito’s train of thought shattered with the appearance of Touko with them. They were heading opposite Touko, who had made a friend just after day one.
“For once, I did.” She pointed at a pathway to her right. “She headed there with some guy.”
“What guy?” Teito & Koko woke up from their ignorant slumber.
“So the rumors are true.” Salazar concluded.
“What rumors?! Why don’t I–” Teito heard a cough and corrected himself. “Why don’t we know this?!” Teito was vexed.
“You can go ahead Touko. I’ll explain these “rumors” to them.” Touko nodded and walked off with her friend, who had a smirk on her face. It was probably from laughing at the scene that unfolded in front of the girl. Salazar decided to do some ground control. “Hope you’ve calmed down because this is a rather long story.”
With so many event that have happened in the past three days, Teito was at a blur with his emotions. He was supposed to feel some kind of positive emotion because he had a chance to go into such an event. However, the events that circulated Ailia brought his emotional high down. He was taken aback by the fact that she was hanging out with a guy for most of the event. Was there something going on between the two? A connection? He highly doubted that assumption considering Ailia wasn’t planning to hook herself up anymore that year. That single fact sent a wave of relief for Teito, who, for some reason, didn’t want to see his friend endanger herself in love again. He had hoped Yoshii was the last guy— then again, it may not have happened if he hadn’t left her.
What made it a serious problem was that the two were rather intimate when the trio caught them the day before. Okay, most people wouldn’t call it intimate considering the boy and Ailia were dancing together. However, it had so many jumps and catches that the trust they had in each other was vivid. It was like their minds were in sync— anticipating the move the other would make and flawlessly executing the reaction.
Teito felt inferior. Did he ever have such a connection with Ailia? He sought his mind for the answer and all that came up were 3rd year memories— bittersweet memories. He mentally cursed the heavens for remembering such events in the past. He had moved on from it— he was incredibly sure. Hey, he did ask another person to prom— a person he might have a chance with.
The groupings for that day were by campus, so he was able to watch Ailia, who was directly in front him. She was typing away as the speaker dragged on and on about success. The talk wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t interesting enough to get Teito’s attention. Hell, he spotted Ailia slipping in and out of the dream zone. Maybe that’s why she was on her music player— to ensure she wouldn’t drift into a territory that’d cause problem if she were caught.
“Who is Ailia messaging?” Koko inquired.
Salazar & Teito looked at him incredulously. The two boys knew about the strike Ailia was holding against Koko and Koko didn’t even bother to fix it. However, Koko still had some ounce of care that he was inquiring— except why is inquiring about who Ailia was texting?
“You have a mind reading power. Go put it into use.” Salazar whispered.
“I did. Her thoughts are disjointed. Is she messaging two people?”
Teito peeked at the music player. The inbox was shown and two names were quickly visible— Train’s and the guy’s. Now that he thought about it, the trio never found out the name of the guy. Well, Teito didn’t know the guy’s name and more so, Koko. Salazar might know something considering out of the three of them, Salazar had the most conversations with students from the other campus.
“We never got his name.” Teito pointed out.
“JS.” Salazar quickly replied. “I found out his name through an old friend of mine.”
“You mean the fling you can’t forget…” Koko implied, which earned Koko an elbow to the stomach.
It was the last day of the ASA System Week— a day for final goodbyes and attainment of contact details. However, it wasn’t completely goodbye yet because the closing program featured the different performances by clusters. By demand of the program organizers, the EM cluster’s presentation was the last— then again, it was the cluster who worked overtime for the presentation.
“Thank you Pheromone cluster for your wonderful literal interpretation of the Circle of Life.” The host said. A couple of animals left the stage along with the performers. “And for our final performance, we have the EM Cluster!” There was an applause from the audience, but only three people came out— for setting up. “It looks like we’ll have to wait for a while since they are setting up.”
Touko made her way back to her seat with the other Academy City Campus people. The only seat open was that by the aisle and beside Teito. She was never close to Teito, but that was the only seat vacant— seeing as Ailia marked her seat by leaving her bag. Touko hoped everything would go as planned for Ailia— no injuries.
The song begun. There was a band playing along with a DJ for synthesizing portions of the song. It started with a tribal opening and two people coming from the audience. They scurried over to the stage and at the precise moment of the song, the water and fire they manipulated crashed to form steam. The song became upbeat and out came another EM student— JS. The three “boys” of Ailia watched intently. JS was dancing on his own while a singer, at the side of the stage, sung. The two people who came from the audience danced with JS. The dance was slightly in sync with a few mishaps here and there, but it was a spectacle because it involved a few of kicks. However, the Academy City seniors never expected what would happen next.
The song abruptly stopped, but when the girl started singing again— at the precise moment when the song gained strength and loudness— Ailia jumped into JS’s arms from below the stage. She was lifted into the air as she stretched out as if trying to kick someone. The chorus was filled with so much energy, throws and catches. It was so tribal and crude, but the movements were in sync that such crudity made the dance spectacular.
Everything else went smoothly for the remainder of the performance. The verses’ portion was toned down in energy, in comparison to the moves in the chorus. The chorus’ portion didn’t fail to amaze the audience; it kept all the viewers at the edge of their seats— literally. The worry was etched blatantly on the faces of the Academy City seniors.
Luckily, nothing alarming happened. Touko and Ai gave a big sigh of relief, but it couldn’t compare to the wave of relief that Teito felt. During the duration of the dance, Teito was heavily gripping on the rolled paper, which only tightened with every throw Ailia had to do. But that wasn’t the only thing that tightened. With each inch that the faces of Ailia and JS got closer, the tighter his heart felt. The contact the two had was radiating; whenever the two looked at each other, sparks could be seen flying. It was surreal— how could two people develop such a bond quickly?
Last minute goodbyes were heard all over the room. As each campus waited for its respective buses to arrive, the students continued bidding the friends they’ve made farewell. The pushing of buttons here & there and the rings from different phones mixed to form a symphony that represented the friendships formed.
Ailia was taking last minute photos with her roommates. She had grown quite attached to them— they make great entertainment with the constant retorts they made to each other. She spent five days in a bedroom filled with fire and ice, but it was still wonderful. Mei & Mikan have come to terms about the stark contrast of their personalities, which made Ailia a wee too happy. Before Mikan left Mei & Ailia, because her campus’ bus arrived, she shared a certain information with Ailia.
“I’m sorry for not having told you this Ailia. I found out when I laid eyes on you right away, but I’ve been wondering whether I should tell you.” Mikan had an apologetic look in her eyes.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Ailia was confused beyond measure. What was Mikan trying to tell her?
“You have a special gift. You not only have one, but two.” Mikan heard the bus honk its horn signaling Mikan to end her conversation. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. My power to detect abilities is quite uncontrollable.” Mikan sped off after saying that sentence.
“Well that was… different.” Mei said the last word in an unsure manner.
Ailia nodded in reply. “I never found out your power.”
“It’s quite ironic actually.” JS suddenly appeared beside Ailia, which startled her. “She has a happiness pheromone, which contrasts her cold attitude towards most people.”
“No wonder she attracts happy people!” Ailia exclaimed and at that precise moment, JS received a whack to the back of his head.
“Thanks a lot, JS. Now she has the entire context of my power totally wrong.” Mei berated as JS tried to massage the pain away. Mei confronted Ailia with an annoyed look. “I have a pheromone that makes people happy, so I’ve been the go-to person for depressed students in Peristalia. It’s quite a hassle actually.”
“But she does her job well.” JS added.
“Looks like it.” Ailia eyed Mei, which made JS laugh.
Mei shifted her eyes back and forth between the two. They laughed together so often that Mei started getting suspicious. She could acknowledge the duos understanding as a perfect match. Well, for something that developed in 5 days, it was unimaginable in Mei’s opinion. She remembered that her camera had just enough memory left for one picture. Should she waste it on this one moment? She could probably use it as evidence when either of the two denied having a possibility of being in a relationship with one another. She quickly snapped a photo of the two— though not in the most optimum quality. Then it hit her— JS still had an unrequited love for a friend of theirs.
“Ailia, we’re going.” Ai called out from the entrance way.
This broke off the conversation Ailia was having with JS, which in Mei’s point of view, looked like sad news for JS. Ailia said goodbye to JS with a matching high-five before quickly tackling Mei into a hug— an act Mei never expected.
“I’m going to miss you Mei.” Ailia sniffed. Mei pat Ailia’s head— she was going to miss Ailia too. “Let’s keep contact with each other. You too, JS.” Ailia added when she released Mei from her arms. The two Peristalia students nodded in agreement with a smile on their faces.
As Ailia walked away, JS called her out. She turned around and saw an item flying towards her. She caught it with some ease and in her hand was a trinket— a sapphire gem wrapped with spiraled metal. JS said that he had forgotten to give it to her as a parting gift and that it was made out of a metal that doesn’t corrode. She smiled and shouted a final thanks before exiting the doorway.
As she made her way up the bus, she felt warmth coming from her left hand— the hand she held the trinket in. Could it be?
Everyone else was crunching in on the last minute shopping whether it was the main item of the outfit or some little twinkle that would complete the outfit. Ailia would rather be shopping at that moment— than finalizing papers for the schools she applied abroad. She had received a letter that her outstanding marks in the ITSPE had guaranteed her a spot in that certain school she dreamt of entering. Well, it was her dad’s dream that she study abroad, but it somehow carried over to her. What pushed her even further was the trinket that hung snugly on a chain around her neck.
She never expected to find her diary in such a form. It was so vulnerable as opposed to her music player. A trinket can be latched and grabbed at any moment, so she took great care of it. A simple cling would be heard whenever a new task was assigned to her— as opposed to her other diary which simply vibrated. The task completed signal was also different for both diaries, but at least those were more noticeable. She thought she’d have some problem with having two dreams, but it seemed like her diaries were in sync with each other. It was as if the task one had to offer was connected to the other.
Suddenly, Ailia felt a shiver down her spine.
“Welcome juniors and seniors to the yearly JS prom!” Lia’s voice cheerfully rang through the room. “I’m your host, Lia and with me is my co-host, Marcus.”
Applause engulfed the room as a baby-faced boy walked towards the stage. While that was going on, Ailia was finding the table she was assigned to sit at. By a string of luck, she had managed to convince the promenade committee to let her sit at a different table. It was probably her threats to disintegrate them or maybe the juniors had some sense of understanding. Either way, she was assigned to the table of Yoshii, which isn’t that bad. The company was rather mixed, so the night had some promise.
She found Yoshii, who was waving his hand to grab her attention. She took a seat beside Chyse, who happened to be Yoshii’s date for that night. Things seemed to be going smoothly for the duo with Chyse being able to handle Yoshii’s joking & impulsive nature. Then again, when she asked both Yoshii and Chyse about the details, they simply stated that it was a pseudo-date thing— like date for bonus. They both didn’t mind since they were teammates, so ech other’s company was tolerable.
“Every year, we award the Prom Royalty, which have been preselected by the student body. However, this year is different because it’s your teachers who have selected the nominees.” Lia said.
Mumbles engulfed the room as they wondered who the teachers might’ve picked. “This year the categories are Ambitious, Seriousness, and Availability.”
“Looks like I have a chance.” Lia exclaimed, which made Marcus create puking sounds. Lia threw Marcus a scowl, which started a roar of laughter among the audience. Even Ailia couldn’t help but join the laughter— no matter how humiliating it must’ve been for Lia.
Marcus said the nominees for Prom Prince & Princess. Chyse happened to be one of the nominees even though she hasn’t been in ASA for even a year. The overtime Chyse did in order to get the approval of her teachers and batchmates blossomed at that one moment. She was acknowledged and that’s all a new student would want during her first year in a new school— acceptance.
Ailia then felt an elbow nudge her. She saw Ryu looking at her while pointing at the screen at the front. When she took a glimpse, she was surprised to see her name on screen. She was one of the nominees for Prom Queen— she must be dreaming. She never bothered to attempt to attain such an award. She was shocked that Ryu had to pull her up in order to reach her senses. As she left the table, Yoshii gave her a thumbs-up.
Being in front of two batches was rather awkward for her. Ailia wasn’t the type to speak in front of a large crowd. She preferred doing her preaching and presentation in front of a class or at least a smaller group. She glanced at the other nominees for Prom Queen— she had no chance against the other four. That is to be expected— at least she felt some sense of recognition.
As the nominees were walking around the dance floor in order to be recognized, Ailia felt a chill down her spine once again. The quick shiver was noticed by her walking partner, Peeta, who simply asked if she was okay. The momentary chill disappeared after a millisecond that Ailia returned to her normal self quickly. She didn’t want to worry a third party.
The performances during dinner were quite a mess, but Ailia’s company was there to make up for it. The table was lively because of the questionable tales Dmitri told the group. It was a blast and Ailia found it sad when the emcees decided that it was time to open up the dance floor. The program was unconventional because winners of Prom Royalty were going to be said after opening up the dance floor— not that Ailia was excited for it or anything. The reasoning is that the tallying committee wasn’t done, so they decided to announce it after a couple of songs.
Ailia was at a loss when she was at the dance floor. She knew she wanted to dance, but it was rather awkward when she didn’t have anyone to dance with— considering that they had to start of with slow music. She scanned the floor for someone and her eyes landed on a dear friend of hers— a friend she hadn’t conversed with since the start of the school year.
“Care for a dance, Shouma?” Ailia extended her right hand.
“Certainly.” Shouma took her hand.
It was a simple dance with probably one twirl due to AIlia’s request. The two tried to catch up with the happenings in each other’s lives. Shouma was fully aware of the on-going fight Ailia was having with Koko. Shouma was concerned about it, but Ailia requested that he not worry about it because over time, she’ll find the answer to how it should be left. The exchanged a couple of laughs— laughs pertaining to how they’ve ran out of love in high school. Shouma and Ailia both wanted to dance with certain people in order to obtain closure, but Shouma had a difficult time approaching the girl. The girl was dancing with her current boyfriend, who happened to be one of Ailia’s best friends.
“If you ask nicely, he’ll be civil enough to give in.” Ailia stated like it was a fact.
“I’m not worried about him. I’m worried about her. What if she says no?” Shouma hesitated.
“You won’t know until you try.” She stopped her movement and broke off. She pointed towards the direction of the couple. “Why don’t you give it a shot?”
Shouma simply nodded. He bowed at Ailia as a representation of thanks for the dance. Now, Ailia was left alone once again. She took a seat at the side of the dance floor and continued to scan the room. She noticed tussle of brown hair that looked like marshmallows to her. She chuckled at the thought— if she was right, that person would be Teito. She approached the person to get verification and her deduction was right— it was Teito.
“Why aren’t you dancing with Yin?” Ailia asked. Teito simply pointed out to the dance floor. Yin was dancing with one of her guy friends, so Teito was left alone. Ailia outstretched her hand— it was now or never. “Shall we?”
Teito looked at her with wonder. Should he accept the invite for a dance? Would it be alright for Yin? He didn’t have that much attachment to Yin, but he had great respect for her. Teito wondered what was going through Ailia’s mind. She had been on rage mode towards him ever since the start of the year. Has she calmed down already? Honestly, he wondered why he asked Yin as a prom date. Sure, Yin did look pretty in her dress that night, but Ailia’s outfit managed to grab his attention from time to time. It was a simple red tube dress that reached the floor yet even with its simplicity, Ailia knew how to wear it. Not only that, the gem that hung around her neck sparkled in the light— shining Ailia’s face. Teito was certain that he moved on, but the quick feelings of uncertainty he had when he saw Ailia with different guys was enough to make him reanalyze the state he was in.
Teito took her hand with slight hesitation— a hesitation Ailia felt certain when their hands connected. Funny— Ailia still managed to feel a small amount of butterflies upon the connection. She dismissed that thought— she was doing this for closure. She wanted to finally give up on Teito and maybe, all she needed was one dance with him because they never had a dance together.
It was a quiet dance; they didn’t converse at all during the movement. Ailia liked it that way because she didn’t know what to tell Teito. She felt completely at home in his grasp, but she knew that was only momentary— it was just a dance nothing more. She knew Teito had moved on and she had difficulty accepting that. She was constantly hoping they’d fix the bond they broke, but after constantly chasing him, she had gotten tired. Maybe, it was for the best that she give up. If she was going to give up on him completely, she was going to spend her last touching moment with him fruitfully. She leaned on his chest for a while, but the contact felt so awkward that after a few seconds she backed away— from both the chest and him. This was it— she was going to let go.
Ailia ran off— leaving Teito completely stunned in the middle of the dance floor.
Ailia headed straight to the comfort room. She saw couples walking hand in hand in the area or conversing there. It was a haven for PDA and Ailia wished she could run away from it all. She felt a chill down her spine— a chill that prevailed even after a second. She turned around to see if anyone was behind her— no one. She gave a sigh of relief, but the chill returned. She was in the comfort room— alone. Her spine felt a chill and then darkness engulfed her.
“May we request everyone to return to their seats as we announce this year’s Prom Royalty.” Marcus said.
It took a while for the juniors and seniors to return to their seats. The chairs have been mixed up, but the arrangement of tables remained intact. Yoshii noticed that the chair beside Chyse was vacant. Where was Ailia? It’s not like Ailia could get lost in one location. She must be in the comfort room.
“Our Prom Prince & Princess are…” A drumroll was heard. “Jermaine Paul & Chyse Shall.” Marcus announced.
The room was filled with applause. Yoshii escorted his date to the dance floor— if he put his mind to it, Yoshii was gentleman behind his gaming ways. Hey, he managed to not touch his PSP for the duration of the event.
“Hey seniors! Are you excited to hear who our Prom King and Queen are?” Lia called out, which was replied at with ‘hell yeahs’ and ‘hurry on with it’. “We have Peeta Raylin & Ailia Kira.”
Peeta stood up from his table and quickly headed towards the dance floor. However, Ailia was still missing. The seniors continued to look around for room. They were assuming that Ailia was going to make a grand entrance, but nothing— the presence of Ailia was missing. Suddenly, Sir Dalv took the microphone from the hands of Lia.
“All Dreamless Team Juniors & Seniors— Your presence is required at HQ right now.” There was a sense of urgency in the voice of Sir Dalv— not only urgency, but also guilt.