Story Title: Trials of a Dreamless
Chapter Title: Bursts & Explosions
Chapter Snippets: Shouma had to make himself enticing— no matter how weird thinking that was. || What do you think “la-la” lands and “mysterious” doors signify? || Sir, she is the worst programmer I have ever met that knows how to program
Disclaimer: This chapter was a pain to write. It wasn’t a pain because I had no idea what to write. It was a pain because I lacked motivation midway. Like, ‘what the hell’ was that. I get the groove to write then all of a sudden a certain idiot decides to disturb me and “BOOM!,” I lose it. I decided to let this chapter out early with respect to the fact that I haven’t started writing chapter 8. I’ve been dwelling in the Legend of Korra fandom for quite a while and that is why I haven’t started on chapter 8. However, I figuratively died on episode 8 of the series, so I decided to give this out early— as a means of making me feel better and to those who are actually awaiting the new chapter. Here it is. *weeps in a hole*
“Miss, are you okay? Hey.
The girl slowly opened her eyes. She was looking up towards the clear blue sky. Where was she? This was far off from where she was supposed to be. The grass beneath her felt like freedom with the morning dew seeping through her clothes. But where was she?
“You’re awake now. Yay!”
The girl looked to her side and saw a brown dormouse staring at her. Was this dormouse talking to her? No way— animals can’t talk. The dark brown orbs of the dormouse caught her attention. They looked like a certain someone’s eyes, but that shouldn’t be important at the moment. Somehow, she couldn’t stop looking— the eyes captivated her.
“Are you deaf or mute? Hello…” The dormouse’s voice trailed.
The girl suddenly sat up and stared dumbfoundedlly at the dormouse. The animal just talked. That can’t be real. She was certain she wasn’t in the real world anymore.
“You can talk,” was the most idiotic comment had ever said.
“No shit,” sarcastically replied the dormouse. “This isn’t the real world my friend.”
“This is just… surreal.” The girl said as she looked at her surroundings.
Everything looked normal. The perfectly clear view of grass and sky meant she was on a field— probably on a hilltop since her ears felt weird. It was probably the pressure due to the altitude. Where she currently was was better than returning to dull and scary reality. Was it possible to just stay in this imaginary world?
However, she finally saw something out of place— two doors— just two wooden doors standing under a tree. The girl ran towards those doors to examine them. They were just doors standing and they didn’t seem lead to anywhere. The doors had an air of mystery around them. But when she tried to open one of them, she got electrocuted. What the hell?
“Now is not the time.” The dormouse spoke once again.
The girl turned around to look at the dormouse that was on the ground. “Time for what?”
“Time to make a choice of course! What do you think “la-la” lands and “mysterious” doors signify? We’re trying to make your subconscious mind as cliché as possible.” The dormouse retorted.
“Well sorry for asking! You didn’t need to be a prat about it,” commented the girl.
“Well, you’ve stayed here for too long. Time to say goodbye!”
Ailia suddenly sat up from the bed. The dream she just had was incredibly weird. Was her subconscious mind that retarded and cliché? She never thought her subconscious mind would be childish. Then again, no one dwells into that portion of his brain that often. She was lucky to even get a glimpse of it, but for a price. What was this choice she’ll have to make?
A day has passed since their arrival in Peristalia City. Most of them have gotten used to the atmosphere and system within the HQ, but the city was still confusing. There were numerous waterways that instead of a map telling the streets, it told the respective waterway. Going out without an escort would surely end in “loss” status— something the three prideful members wouldn’t take. Why three? Train loved adventure and wouldn’t mind getting lost— especially if he was with a special someone.
Teito took advantage of the alone time to train (and subconsciously to think about his feelings). The mission was going to be held 2 days from now and Teito needed to be in tip-top shape by then. JS told Teito that there was a floor simply for training and that’s where Teito was planning to spend his next two days and those to come. Honestly, he found his role in the mission to be too late, but it’s better than sitting around back at Academy City, unable to do anything.
The training room had the bare essentials— weights, jogging machines, etc. It was like a gym anyone could access except there were separate rooms meant for specialized abilities. Teito took a look around to find anything that would peek his interest. He found a room meant for target practice that checked reaction time and alertness. He needed to speed up his throws and to learn to distinguish foe from ally.
Train was at a level of busy that he has never reached. Back at Academy City, he was able to share the workload with the other Intelligence division members. He was able to relax and fool around— that’s why he could ditch meetings at any moment. He missed his girlfriend dearly, but that was the least of his worries at that moment. His current worry was blowing himself up to pieces. Why did Chief Dalv assign him into making bombs again?
“Why else would I add you on this team? There are people to do hacking for us here, but I don’t think they have anyone who specializes in explosives. Simple as that.” Chief Dalv addressed to him after the mission briefing.
Train heavily sighed in recalling that memory. He really didn’t expect that side of him to be the reason he was on the team. Shit— he shouldn’t have done that. He was pouring nitroglycerine into the container. One drop into anything not the container and—
Train could feel the heat searing through his hand and arms. There was some pain due to the heat, but at least he didn’t receive any burns. He was lucky that the bomb he was making was inside an explosion-proof container. He wasn’t a licensed professional since bomb makers had to be of age 21 and above to get a license. The container was a precautionary measure insisted by Chief Dalv and Chief Leijona. True enough— they were right when they said Train might slip up at some point.
“Train, are you alright?” Chief Dalv rushed into the room.
“Without your nagging, I wouldn’t be.” Train commented as he stared at the now black soot-covered box.
Shouma was the only one left in the holding room. Blaz and Mai, his previous company, left to tour the city since JS had free time. It’s not like Shouma could stop them since they did invite him to join them except— it was like he was disturbing a date. The two juniors may think that they’re cleverly covering up their relationship status, but the apparent care in Blaz’s tone towards Mai was inescapable— well for Shouma at least.
Shouma had probably the easiest job on the team, but he was still terrified. He agreed to help and to be the bait because Ailia was in trouble. However, he never knew that he’d have to get himself kidnapped intentionally. It was insane, but that’s what he got into. Honestly, he wanted to back out, but who would do the job then? He was certain that the other level 6 users back at Academy City wouldn’t agree. None of the remaining ones were friends with Ailia or had a sense of closeness with her. All hope would be lost for Ailia if he didn’t step in.
Shouma had to make himself enticing— no matter how weird thinking that was. He wondered if his power and looks were enough. He knew his looks have drastically changed from his freshman look, but would it be enough to entice the perpetrator? They still weren’t sure of the gender of the culprit, so Shouma didn’t have a clue what kind of look to push for. Chief Leijona said that his power would be enough, but would it really be enough?
Being alone was one of things Shouma craved for, but if it brought along these negative thoughts, he might as well stray away from it. Shouma decided to look for someone to stay with, but his only option was Teito. He couldn’t bother Train or he might be accidentally blown into bits— something he didn’t want to happen in his lifetime. The others told him that Teito would be in the training room. In Shouma’s eyes, Teito was dedicated to his work, but that was just an illusion— an illusion Shouma didn’t know about.
Teito was panting heavily. His reaction time has slightly increased, but he wasn’t alert enough to know whether it was a foe or ally. If he were in a team mission, the team would be screwed. It’s not that his alertness went down, but his mind was too preoccupied with other matters. He had put up the façade during briefing that he was okay, but deep down, he was slowly eating himself up.
He still couldn’t get over the fact that he was the last one to see Ailia before her disappearance. He could’ve held on to her when she was about to run off. If he had, he would’ve prevented the disappearance. He was filled with so much regret that he found getting stronger as a method of atoning himself— becoming strong enough to save her.
“So this is where you were.” A voice said.
By force of repetition, Teito threw a needle towards the direction of the voice. Shit— he shouldn’t have done that. He wasn’t in enemy territory, so there wouldn’t be enemies within his radius. To make matters worse, Shouma’s voice was the one that called out to him— after taking a glimpse who called him. Sadly, the glimpse came before the throw and the needle was still heading towards Shouma.
Except, that didn’t happen. The needle remained suspended in air; there was no movement from it. The needle simply dropped on the floor after a few seconds. Teito was glad that Shouma was safe, but what the hell just happened?
“So the girl I met along the corridor had level 4 mind control,” commented Shouma. He walked towards Teito, picking up the needle along the way. “Sorry for startling you. Here you go.” Shouma handed the needle to Teito, who muttered a thank you.
“I never thought you’d stop by this place,” said Teito.
“There’s not much to do at the holding room. Blaz & Mai left to tour Peristalia City. They were nice enough to invite me. It’s just that—“
“You didn’t want to bother their alone time,” finished Teito.
“Read right through me.” Shouma chuckled.
“Figures. Even I would decline.”
Silence engulfed them. Teito wasn’t one for conversations or words. He didn’t like communicating in general; he only did as such when required too. He decided to return to training, but Shouma held him on the shoulder. The gesture wasn’t normal and Teito was taken aback by it. However, Shouma just looked at the targets.
“So how does this work?” Shouma said and just when Teito was about to reply, he saw one of the needles that were laid out neatly on the table being lifted. The needle directed itself towards the target with its accuracy a bit off. “I wasn’t prepared for that,” commented Shouma.
“I wasn’t prepared for this!” Teito exclaimed as he over-exaggerated his movements by looking at Shouma’s stature. This was further highlighted by the shifting of his eyes between Shouma and the target. “What are you?”
“Human of course! I’m a human ASA student who has the ability to copy powers and wield them,” explained Shouma.
Teito facepalmed— that made complete sense. It was like the power of Rogue from X-Men, but at least, people aren’t rendered unconscious when doing so. The power was powerful and could wreck havoc if improperly used.
“I’m more surprised about you, Teito.” Shouma eyed. “You’re a level 5, but the strength and control your power has screams level 6. Why?”
“It’s a long story. Too long; don’t hear,” quickly replied Teito.
“If you say so…,” trailed Shouma.
Ailia was getting frustrated by the day. She had sent in her request three days ago and still no answer. Was that a sign that she had been denied? Fuck this— she was going to get her request fulfilled no matter what. She’ll even suck up the whole electricity to do so— if she could that was.
Sleeping and eating was the life of a pig. She didn’t want to become a pig. Hell, even with the all too comfortable bed, she wanted to get out. Being caged was the ultimate low in her lifetime. Her kinesthetic tendencies couldn’t rest and the only means of satiating it was moving around. Hell, that was becoming tiring to do too.
She was still in her promenade dress— one she really wanted to cut. The lining had ticked her off after two days in captivity. She should’ve asked for scissors to make her stay a bit more tolerable. She had no clue how to tear the cloth out properly without messing the whole design. The captivity was slowly taking its toll on her mental state.
Ailia lay on her bed leaving her legs swinging at the edges. She was bored out of her wits that she had spent the past hour finding the most optimum position to exercise without moving. Such an exercise was non-existent, but it kept her mind pre-occupied. Once she’d be free from captivity, she was going to practice getting stronger— being kidnapped sucked as hell.
“Subject 6-12.” The voice rang. Her ears perked up quickly and her attention was momentarily satiated. “Your request has been conditionally granted.”
What the hell was conditionally granted? Honestly, if she were the kidnapper, she’d have said no right off the bat if a request wasn’t to her liking. Then again, this could work to her favor. Her captor seemed to be new in the whole evil business, so he’d be in for flaws and mishaps— and perhaps, she was going to cause one of them.
“What do you mean conditionally granted?!” She shouted into the air.
She would’ve smirked, especially with the grand plan formulating in her mind, but she restrained herself. Any sign of hope coming from her would translate as trouble to her captor. Damn— she really hated bottling up her emotions, but it was for the betterment of her situation and the Dreamless team’s.
A chuckle cackled through the speaker. Seriously, her captor needed to upgrade his sound system. Did he give up quality communication for bed amenities? If he did, she had mixed feelings whether she would slap her captor or give him a high-five. Honestly, the decisions that her captor was making were completely unconventional. She was certain that if her situation were ever written into a story, it’d be comical not action-packed.
“The information you’ll be sending out in order to determine your dream diary’s location will be monitored. Will this condition be acceptable or will request for something different?”
Shit— monitored? Wait, why was she mentally cussing? Hearing word per word, her captor had said information sent out. She was still safe because all she had to do was input the numbers into an online server. If she had her music player, she could’ve done that without requesting, but that’s the dream diary that had to go missing. She could send out the information of her music player’s number, but if she did the step twice, she’ll be caught. Her ultimate goal was to send out the number of her necklace.
“I hate this topic,” replied Ailia online. “Why can’t sorting functions be easier to code?”
“It’s the list aspect that makes it difficult.” Train replied.
“Well no shit.” Ailia quickly typed away.
“Lists can be very helpful especially when you need to send two sets of information at the same time. It’ll save your life once.”
“I need to save my grade first,” finished off Ailia without forgetting to top it off with keysmashed letters.
Ailia heavily sighed, but it looked like her only hope was through a list. Funny— how her best friend had predicted that she’d need it to save her life. She didn’t loathe programming, but she’d rather stray away from major projects involving it. She had an idea and a general idea how to code it out on the server; her only wish was not to mess up the one chance. If she codes it incorrectly, she won’t be getting a second chance.
“I agree with the condition.” She replied with conviction.
Ailia heard the moment of hesitation coming from the speakers. Her captor must’ve been shocked to hear the conviction in her voice. Maybe she dressed up her voice a little bit too much.
“Proceed into the pod.”
Ailia quickly obliged the order. She didn’t hesitate to enter the pod, but she wondered where she was going to be transported. She lifted the opening and entered, which closed with a push of a button. She waited for the pod to move— nothing happened. She was in a state of anxiety.
Suddenly, the inside of the pod slightly lights up. In front of her is the start up screen of just about any computer. She felt a glossy surface at her right hand— a sensor perhaps? She felt the same feeling at her left hand— for typing perhaps? She never tried typing on a touch screen without seeing her fingers. This will pose some challenge to her.
Preparations were done for the event that’ll occur that day. The theme of the event was Illusionary Powers, which Shouma’s power slightly was. It was, technically, impossible to have more than one power because that’d mean having more than one dream. If Shouma were to present his power, then it’d give off an illusionary feeling. Normal people could be fooled into the illusion, but smart Diary owners would realize right away the power— not that it matters. It was all a ploy to lure someone out, but it had to be well executed.
Teito simply sat around in the holding room while everyone else hustled around HQ and directly outside. The event had been announced three days ago, so there’s bound to be an audience. If there wasn’t a big crowd, it was still fine for the team. During the three days, JS rounded up volunteers from ASA Peristalia City who would be willing to act as the crowd. Apparently, the number of volunteers skyrocketed the perceived amount, but that’s probably due to JS’s popularity among the female population.
“So you’re Teito,” stated a voice coming from the direction of the door.
Teito’s attention drifted from the needle in his hand to the voice. He spotted a girl with short strawberry-blond hair at the doorway. The girl had bangs with brunette highlights that covered a portion of her right eye. She leaned against the door frame and radiated an eerie aura. The aura managed to get his attention, but not for long as he went back to fiddling with the needle in his hand.
Teito heard the footsteps approaching him, which meant that he’d have to interact with the girl. Who was the girl exactly? How’d she know his name? Then again, JS had warned the team that the Peristalia students rarely see main campus students, so they, the team, might be treated as celebrities. And like celebrities, their names will be found out even if they aren’t shared directly. So was this girl a fan? He really didn’t want to interact with anyone, especially when he got over his guilt towards Ailia’s disappearance.
Teito felt the cushion at his feet dip, which he confirmed through his gaze was caused by the girl. First she disturbs his alone time then she intrudes his private space. How obnoxious was the girl? That question resounded even more in his mind when the girl examined him from head to toe like he was some sculpture.
“Seriously, what do you have that’s better than JS? You look so plain, except your eyes, which I have to give you credit for, but seriously! What does Ailia see in you?” The girl ranted at him as she backed away.
“Excuse me?! Who are you to judge such accusations?” Teito retorted.
“I’m Mei, the certified student guidance counselor of Peristalia Campus,” quickly replied the girl.
“Excuse me, you didn’t answer the question.
“Are you deaf? I just did you loon.”
“No. You answered who you ARE and not the TO JUDGE SUCH ACCUSATIONS portion. I’m certain we’ve never met before,” corrected Teito while putting emphasis on the capitalized portions.
“Sorry for not being technical then,” said the girl with some ooze of sarcasm before cleaning her act up. “I’m Mei. Ailia was my roommate during ASA System Week.”
The two exchanged gazes before Teito lost interest once again. He returned to fiddling with the needle, which Mei scoffed at. He didn’t want to interact with anyone especially when he achieved his state of stoicism. He had blocked out previous guilt and feelings in order for the mission to be a success. He didn’t need his emotions to fly off the handle.
“How could she still love a guy like you?” Mei mumbled away.
“Excuse me?” Teito replied, but the tone of his voice gave him away. He was flabbergasted.
After what seemed like forever, she finally got the code done. Typing through a touch screen was difficult- typing without seeing one’s fingers to be exact. She sighed in relief as she finished scanning the code for any possible errors.
She only had one shot. It was now or never. She internally screamed for everything to go as she planned. She shut her eyes as she touched the final button-
“Are you loco in the head or something?” Mei retorted.
“I thought I was just hearing things. You said Ailia still loves me. Nice joke.” Teito chuckled.
The lack in any comment or reply made Teito tone down his chuckle. He didn’t hear any follow-up and to truth, Mei was looking at him unamused. He completely shut himself up and stared at her with eyes in disbelief. Was she telling the truth? The fact that there was an eerie silence made it appear that way. But who was she to know Ailia’s feelings? Sure, they were roommates, but only for a week.
Suddenly, the stare off was broken by an unfamiliar tone. Teito looked at the direction where the sound was coming from and that just led his eye straight to the wall at his right. The wall was blank, but as Teito let his eyes drift downward, he was met with a peculiar sight— Ailia’s music player was lighting up. He had forgotten that the group entrusted to him Ailia’s dream diary because they had the closest bond. But that didn’t answer the current question on his mind— why was it lighting up?
Right after Ailia sent the code, the lights turned off. She was right— she was only given one chance. Worry quelled in her. If she didn’t get any response, she’d be haunted by the feeling of failure. Did it go through? She felt no reassurance whatsoever and it was slowly killing every inch of her. Even when the pod opened, she was still worried. The confident face that she had entered with was left in the pod. Instead of leaving her worries behind, she left her confidence. What was she going to do now?
She dropped onto the fluffy bed that was able to lull her emotions away before. However, it wasn’t able to do such this time. She stared at the ceiling in wonder if her plan worked or if she was doomed to fail since the beginning. Come on— the Core division’s best member should be able to find ways out of a pinch. She wasn’t technically in a pinch, but she should help those outside find her.
Ailia suddenly felt warmth on the area above her chest. By instinct, she covered the trinket that had made its home there. She felt the heat radiate on her hand and chest. Such a radiance gave her warmth and calmness. It shined all her worries away— just like it should. She curled up into a ball with her hands still on the trinket. She never felt so thankful of a necklace and fate during her lifetime. Is this what imprisonment makes you feel?
The two spectators remained flabbergasted at what had unfold before them. The tone finished playing, but the light was still rapidly blinking. What was going on?
“Aren’t you going to get that?” Mei simply stated.
“It isn’t mine.” Teito managed to utter. “It’s Ailia’s no-battery music player, which is also her diary. I thought that’s why you were shocked too.”
“I get surprised easily and its effect lasts long,” explained Mei. Silence momentarily engulfed them until Mei realized what Teito said. “Wait, wasn’t that battery dead to begin with?”
“Yes. Your po—” Teito didn’t finish his sentence as he stared back at the music player. It was supposed to be energy drained, so how was it able to sound? More so, how was it able to maintain the blinking lights?
“Dude! Shouldn’t we tell this to a chief?” Mei exclaimed.
A chief? Mei was right. What was he spacing out for? Teito quickly grabbed the music players to his right, replacing the location with the needle he had been fiddling with. He dashed out the door to look for either of the chiefs. Who knew how long the shelf life of the supposedly dead music player was. He searched the floor he was at for any of the chiefs. Everyone was busy that neither had time to heed his questions. The music player in his hand radiated warmth he never felt- except when he was still with Ailia.
Teito was able to spot Train round the corner. He called out Train’s name but the background sounds drowned his voice. He quickened his pace in order to catch up to Train. If he assumed right, Train would know where to find Chief Dalv. He successfully was able to grasp the back of Train’s jacket and pull back Train in order to get Train’s attention.
“Yo Teito! What’s up?” Train said once he faced Teito. “You look like you’ve ran a marathon and in essence, like crap.”
In any other circumstance, Teito would’ve replied with the snarkiest remark he could conjure on the spot- except it wasn’t time for such bickerings. As he tried to catch his breath, Teito raised the music player and shoved it right in front of Train’s face.
“You finally got Ailia’s music player to work!” Train happily said as he noticed the array of lights.
Teito had enough strength left to do a facepalm and say, “It lit up on its own. Do you know where Chief Dalv is? We have to tell him.”
Train’s eyes popped out at the statement. Lighting up on its own— and blinking to add? That had to mean only one thing. Train grabbed Teito’s wrist and dragged him towards Chief Dalv’s location. Coincidentally, he was also going there because he had some network duties to help with before the ploy started. Teito tried as much as possible to keep up with Train’s pace, but his tired state caused him to fumble about.
And before Teito knew it, he was at a new room. He assumed it was the intelligence hub of the operation since there were screens everywhere along with people manning each station. He never bothered to help around with preparations since his role was far later into the ploy. He saw Chief Dalv in front of him and Train animatedly discussing what he had told Train. He would’ve taken the chance to intentionally black out, but the hurried movement Train got into right after talking to Chief Dalv got the remainder of his attention. Teito slugged his way towards the computer that Train was at.
“Anyone in this room have a USB wire for a X790?” Chief Leijona shouted.
“Ma’am, I have one,” replied a girl. Teito spotted the girl searching her bag for the said wire and thankfully, she found it. “Here you go ma’am.” The girl handed over the wire to Chief Leijona, who passed it over to Train.
And in a flash, Train worked his way through the device. His fingers were quickly tapping on the touch pad that one couldn’t help but be amazed at his adeptness in typing. He had worked his way through the pass code stage and now he was deciphering the message sent, which Train quickly stated was the cause of the lights. Train gave an amused sigh as he was deciphering the message. A smile crossed his face as he conveniently broke the pieces of information from the message down and it was simply a code.
“This coding is so Ailia,” commented Train as he deciphered the code before finally adding, “It’s all over the place.” Train attempted to attain the information at first glance, but the unnecessary portions caused him to go in circles. “I give up!” He frustratingly opened the network window and copy-pasted the code before hitting enter.
And the actual message within the code appeared. It listed two different numbers— each with different follow-up instructions. But one aspect remained the same for both numbers, it gave the coordinates of the diaries.
Ailia still kept hold of the trinket. The light it radiated had dimmed down, but the warmth prevailed. She liked the warmth it gave— the warmth of hope. She was glad that Train had adjusted the tracker’s settings. If her necklace kept on blinking, her plan would’ve screwed up.
But good things don’t always last. She felt the trinket heat up to the point that she had to let go of it. She should have lowered the temperature signal of the code she sent. The total high of the heat quickly went down to the point that there wasn’t any warmth left. She was back in the cold, but at least she had the answer to her question.
There it was on screen- two points in different localities. As assumed, one of the points was located at the coordinates of Peristalia City’s HQ. A red dot, however, blinked at the other side of the screen. The dot was surrounded by an arrow that signaled to drag the map towards that direction. In a few drags, the location of the other dot appeared. Was that the location of the other diary? Was Ailia actually there at that location?
Teito would’ve stormed off right away if he knew where that location was— except he didn’t. He was in a whole new territory and he was in the mercy of guides. He tightly fisted his left hand as his eyes remained fixated on the screen. He wanted to run and save Ailia from the clutches of the bad guy. It wasn’t that he wanted to be her knight in shining armor. That didn’t even cross his mind one bit— guilt did. After his heated and over-dramatic conversation with Mei, he felt the guilt weigh him down once again, except now, it was even heavier.
“Train, how sure are you that Ailia sent the message?” Chief Dalv asked.
How sure? Is it even time to be asking such questions? Train had already said that the coding style was like Ailia’s, so isn’t that enough evidence? Teito’s guilt turned into frustration. The lack of quick action after hearing such news caused such a reaction. Deep down, he still felt guilty, but that’s why he wanted to act already. His self-restraint was breaking down bit-by-bit and if he didn’t will himself to keep the self-restraint up, he’d lash out— except Train decided to save him from his misery and effort.
“I am 99% positive sir. I may have known Ailia at junior year, but I’ve seen her coding ethics since she was a sophomore. She codes messily and will find any way to get the program to work, even if the code is inefficient. She has a horrible habit of using “for” loops and patenting them with “while” loops even when it isn’t necessary. She spends most of her time making the output message look pretty. Sir, she is the worst programmer I have ever met that knows how to program,” ranted Train until his mouth formed a smile and continued, “But she always gets the job done.”
The long complaint about Ailia’s habit didn’t sound condescending to Teito’s ears. It sounded like genuine friendship— a friendship that had been formed through learning each other’s habits. He had been in that position once— knowing Ailia’s habits. He loved the feeling of superiority in terms of Ailia knowledge, but that was gone now. Did he miss such a feeling— knowing the ins and outs of Ailia’s life? His heart wrenched at the question. Was it wrenching in pain that he had no clue? Or was it pain due to asking such a question?
“We might as well find out through this afternoon’s operation.” Chief Leijona stated. “Everyone, back to work!”
The students who had been distracted by the map and fuss were back to work in a jiffy. All of them weren’t prepared to get a severe beating or tell off from Chief Leijona any time soon. She may look calm and sweet, but Chief Leijona knew how to grovel your face into the mud when needed. Then again, that’s why she became the chief in Peristalia City.
Teito, however, had nothing to return to. If it was resume to duties, then his was to wait for orders. He hated the fact that he couldn’t be of help that moment, but at the same time, he was also grateful. His emotional state had gone awry and it was best if he cooled himself down back at the holding room. His mind was going in circles due to the emotions he was feeling. Even with the guilt pilling up on him, he felt some sense of relief. But relief due to what? To what Mei had told him?
“Attention all subjects. You will not be catered food for the next 4 hours,” cackled the speaker, which Ailia still found as annoying as ever. “You will, however, be delivered a set of clothes. You are required to wear those clothes. Failure to comply will result to termination— literally.”
The static quickly died down, which was music to Ailia’s ears. The static and cackle from the speakers freaked her out and it was like her eardrums were being torn apart. The ambient silence of the room calmed her nerves and she felt her body relaxing. She plopped onto the bed and glanced at the food hole. New clothes, huh? That was a peculiar change. She had been confined for a few days and this is the first time she saw such kindness. Was it sympathy? Or was it a sign that something big is going to happen? Emotions or plans?
The squeak of the hole’s door momentarily stopped her train of thought. She looked at the box that lay flat on the floor. It was calling her— calling her to clean. Yet she remained suspicious of the box. It looked normal and harmless. She stood and picked up the box situated by the door. She opened the box as she walked back to the bed. She didn’t ravage the box like she’d usually do for gifts. She slowly removed the tape that was preventing the box from opening. She went through the lengths of making sure that the box wouldn’t end in discoloration. Her fingers didn’t work as swiftly as they would. They shook— shook in fear.
As Ailia lifted the cover, there lay a lilac-colored cloth. She pulled it out of the box and examined it. It was a simple lilac dress that hit right above Ailia’s knees when she placed it on herself. The cloth was really thin and that had Ailia worrying for a while. Even if she appreciated thin cloths, she found the cloth to be thinner than her liking. However, she appreciated the dress. She couldn’t wait to get out of her promenade dress and the irritating lining it had.
“Wonderful performance,” exclaimed the girl host. She spoke with enthusiasm, but her stiff posture hinted other things. She didn’t bother to move from her spot, as if she was magnetized to the wooden stage. She was wearing four-inch heels and it looked like she still hadn’t gotten used to them. “Are you guys ready for the grand finale?”
The crowd’s cheers rung through the air. It wasn’t the typical fan cheer, but it was a cheer nevertheless. The cheers were enough to simulate an event, but somehow, Shouma wasn’t too keen about it. Yes, he knew what he was going to do— stand up there and look pretty. Pretty in the sense of awesome and not his typical awkward self that garnered him attention back at Academy City. Yes, he was known back home as the awkward person a variety girls could fall for if he wasn’t too awkward. Why was he in again?
“We have Shouma Kiyama!” Shouma gulped before heading up stage. When he reached the top, the cheers and applause sounded louder. As he walked towards the center, he scanned the crowd. They were applauding, but with a rather dull look in some of their eyes. It was blatant to him that they were forced into this, but he wasn’t certain by who. He droned out Mai’s introductions with his thoughts. He was just there to act out his part— to lure the perpetrator in. It was one of those moments that he wished he wasn’t a level 6— appealing a crowd sucked big time. He felt a shoulder nudge him and he looked directly at Mai.
“Huh?” Shouma’s cluelessness elicited a laugh from the crowd. He had zoned out a bit too much, so everything became awkward. It was so not going his way.
“It looks like Shouma is a tad out of it. Why don’t we call a volunteer from the audience?”
Before Shouma knew it, there was a girl in front of him. She looked way younger than him, but the inquisitive look that her eyes radiated was enough to get him going. No, not in the sexual sense, but it did tell Shouma that there are still people expecting him to do something magical. He bent down to the girl’s height to meet her eyes.
“What’s your name? Shouma said in the kindest voice possible.
“Kate,” mumbled the girl.
“Kate. That’s the middle name of one of my friends. She’s a level 6 too— one of the best.” Shouma cheerfully said. He moved the strand of hair covering part of the girl’s face. “So what level is you power, Kate?”
“Two! I want to become a level 6 someday.” The girl added.
“Really now?” Shouma chuckled. “And I suppose you’ll be able to reach that with this power…” A small formation of clouds appeared over the two of them. So this girl could control clouds? The power’s level, however, was not of a two. Maybe this girl was going to level up in the next examination.
“Woah! Is that your power too, mister?” The happiness in her eye radiated more. Seeing kids smile really made his day.
Shouma beckoned Mai to approach him. He simply touched Mai’s ankle and he conjured a couple of lights in front of the girl. The girl’s eyes were suddenly filled with amazement. It was like she saw magic— and it wasn’t the girl only. The crowd was in awe at what had happened.
Suddenly, people from the crowd wanted to see the magic for themselves. Shouma not only showcased their powers, but even told those who would be leveling up soon— to both the person and Chief Leijona, who was an earpiece away. Everything was going smoothly. Shouma was even encountering a handful powers he thought didn’t exist. He was having fun and for once, the idea of being used as bait didn’t plague his mind. He was so thrilled that he had forgotten one reminder. A man in front of him was climbing up stage and Shouma walked over to help him.
BOOM— an explosion.