"So, she's arrived at the island, has she?" a shadowed figure commented, materializing in a shimmer of red beside the disorganized desk in a pitch black room.
The darkened figure sitting at the desk nodded slightly, looking away from the dimly lit screen on which a figure was displayed. "Inform the other four. Soon we shall see whether she truly has the power which your servant described."
The other figure bowed once in acknowledgment, then disappeared again, leaving only a few sparkling shimmers of red to slowly fade away.
"Yes, soon we shall see," the remaining shadow mused, turning once more to the image of a blinking red-haired girl emerging from a ship. "Soon we shall see ..."
Lina felt her hair being swept up into the air as a soft breeze blew gently from the sea. The sun was shining brilliantly above in a clear blue sky, not even a hint of a cloud to give a reminder that a storm had just occurred, while the sounds of crying sea gulls resounded prominently through the air. Below, the soft lapping of waves against the thick poles supporting the wooden-planked pier at the end of the gangplank caused little droplets of salty water to splash and shimmer in the air like jewels in the sunlight. On the pier itself, there was only silence; no one seemed to be around, and only two offices stood in sight, one close to the ship, the other a little further away. Both were built on a stone pavement that stretched the distance between the two; beyond that, there was only the verdant growth of plants. It seems really nice here, Lina thought in appreciation as she looked around at her surroundings. But ... where's the school?
"Er ... Lina?" came Sylphiel's timid voice from behind.
"Yes?" Lina responded absently, still puzzling over where the school was.
"Um ... well ... could you maybe walk down to the pier?"
"Huh?" Lina uttered unintelligibly, her mind snapping back to the present.
"You're, um, blocking half of the exit," Sylphiel finished weakly.
Blinking a few times, Lina finally turned around and noticed the long line of students behind her, a line from which several angry shouts were heard, most of them along the lines of "what's holding up the line" or, from the more impatient ones, "hurry up" followed by a string of unflattering curses.
"Heh, heh, heh," Lina laughed weakly, scratching the side of her head as more students filed by her left side, every single one of them giving her a dirty look. "Sorry about that!"
"Just move it, already!" a voice shouted in annoyance from the back of the crowd, several murmurings of assent following the declaration.
Lina's face grew dark. "Why, those pompous, rude -- "
"Lina ..." Sylphiel said softly, "We should be going to that building our assistant principle told us about."
For a moment, Lina looked like she still intended to fight the ruder members of the crowd, but then she turned back around and shrugged. "Whatever."
And so saying, she adjusted her grip on the duffel bag slung over her right shoulder and walked down to the wooden pier in a casual manner.
"Do we go to that building?" Amelia asked, hurrying down the gangplank behind Lina as she pointed at the plain white edifice nearest to the ship.
"Guess so," Lina replied, already walking toward the small structure, her three friends right behind her. "Looks like it's the only building right by the ship. I think that the other one is for second years to sixth years."
Upon reaching the door of the office, a smiling attendant ushered the group through the automatic glass sliding doors of the building.
"Welcome to MS High," she said with a smile as the group walked by and into a well-lit room with various pieces of furniture and four desks behind which were several transporters. "Please go directly to one of the desks and wait in line. You'll be given lodging after you sign in."
"It's a good thing there's not too many people here yet," Amelia commented cheerfully as the group joined the line at the very right, in which only ten people were waiting. "Looks like blocking half of the exit was a good thing after all, Lina!"
"Hey ..." Lina growled, shooting Amelia a death glare.
"I wonder how we'll be divided up," Sylphiel interjected quickly, hoping to stop the impending argument. "It'll probably be alphabetical, like it was on the ship."
"Oh, so it was done alphabetically on the ship?" Gourry inquired.
"Yes," came a smooth reply from behind the conversing group before Lina could jump on Gourry for missing the obvious yet again.
Startled, all four spun around to face the unknown speaker. There, in the flickering glow of the dangling lights above, stood a lavender-haired male with deep blue eyes and fair skin. He wore a beige t-shirt over blue jeans and seemed to be just around Gourry's height, though admittedly he was a little shorter.
"I happened to overhear the last bit of your conversation," the mysterious teenager explained, adjusting his hold on the blue backpack slung over his right shoulder, "And I couldn't help but join in."
"Oh, that's alright!" Amelia gushed, her eyes lighting up like stars all of a sudden. "You can talk as much as you want!"
"Yes," Sylphiel agreed pleasantly. "Since all of us are just first years here, it's always nice to get to know someone new, right Lina?"
"Sure," Lina frowned.
Now where had she heard that voice before?
"By the way, my name is Amelia," the star-struck purple-haired girl said, breaking into Lina's thoughts, "And these are Sylphiel, Gourry, and Lina."
"Amelia, Sylphiel, Gourry, and Lina," the male repeated, pointing at each person in turn.
"That's right," Amelia grinned as the line moved up by five people. "And you are ...?"
"My name is Zelgadiss."
Lina gave a start at hearing that name and nearly tripped over herself, never mind that she wasn't even moving. It can't be! she thought furiously, fighting to regain her composure. It's just a coincidence, that's all. After all, Zelgadiss could be a common name ... Right?
Meanwhile, Gourry was scratching his head in confusion. "Did you say Zeldigas?" the blond asked, apparently unable to process the name.
A stress mark began to appear on Zelgadiss' forehead. "How many ways can you get my name wrong?!"
Lina grinned at hearing that last comment, shaking off her perplexing thoughts for the moment; she had plenty of time to worry about that later. "Forget it, he'll learn your name eventually," she stated nonchalantly as the group moved up to the front of the line. "It just takes time."
"Personal identification cards, please," the female attendant at the desk said briskly.
Lina immediately reached into her duffel bag and took out her PIC. Behind her, Sylphiel, Amelia, Gourry, and Zelgadiss did the same. The attendant efficiently took all five cards and slipped them into the computer on top of the desk.
"Lina Inverse, Amelia Wil Tesla Saillune, Sylphiel Nels Lahda, Gourry Gabriev, and Zelgadiss Graywords," the attendant read off the computer. "All of you are assigned to Tavern House in the town of Seascape. Slip your personal identification cards into any of the transporters behind this desk and it will take you to the transporter nearest your residence."
And so saying, she handed the PICs back to each respective person and ushered them through the swung open half door next to her.
"Let's all use the transporter and then wait for each other once we get there," Lina suggested to the rest of the group, looking at each person for a confirmation.
All of them nodded, then split up to go to an open transporter. Lina stepped into the one at the very right and turned around so that her front faced the desk. Then she slid her PIC into the slot at the right of the transporter. After two seconds, the card slid out again and Lina grasped it in her right hand. Suddenly, she felt a shift in gravity, and the floor seemed to drop beneath her so that it felt like she was plummeting downwards. This feeling lasted for a split second before she reoriented herself in another transporter, a transporter that seemed to be in a bustling country village. A little in front of her, Sylphiel stood waiting.
"Sylphiel!" Lina called, waving a happy greeting to her friend as she stepped out of the transporter and onto the well-paved main road.
"Hello, Lina," Sylphiel responded with a grin on her face.
The next instant, Zelgadiss appeared in the transporter. He said nothing, only stepped out of the opening as quickly as he could. Gourry appeared next and joined the group, with Amelia appearing last.
"So what do we do now?" Gourry asked, looking around at the fairly large old houses around them.
"We find Tavern House," Lina replied as she scanned the surrounding area.
"Oh, well, in that case, it's right there," Gourry said cheerfully, pointing toward an old, two-story house about three houses down from the transporter they had just come out of.
"Tavern House," Amelia read aloud, already walking toward the brick building. "He's right, that's what it says on the sign above the door."
"Alright then, let's go!" Lina cheered, pumping her fist in the air as she raced after Amelia.
"H-Hey! Wait up!" Sylphiel cried, hurrying after her two friends.
Zelgadiss and Gourry looked at each other once, shrugged, then walked leisurely after the three girls.
"So do we ring the doorbell?" Amelia wondered, gazing at the small button next to the elegant oak door once she, Sylphiel, and Lina had reached the raised wooden front porch.
"Well, we'll find out," Lina grinned, already pressing the button.
Suddenly, a mummy-wrapped person materialized in a shimmer of teal in the air beside Lina.
"WAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" Lina screamed, jumping back in fright and, unfortunately, tripping on a stray strip of cloth that was wrapped around the mummy man.
"Hey! Watch that cloth!" a frantic male's voice cried from within the cloth, obviously a little too late.
The next instant, a giant crash sounded, causing Amelia, Sylphiel, and the mysterious man to cringe in sympathy. When they finally opened their eyes, the first thing they saw was a very dizzy Lina on top of the two unfortunate latecomers, Gourry and Zelgadiss.
"Aaaahhh! Zelgadiss!" Amelia shrieked in panic. "Are you alright?"
The only answer was a painful groan.
"Gourry, are you alright as well?" Sylphiel asked worriedly.
Gourry looked up at Sylphiel and flashed a thumbs up sign. "I'm fine," he grinned reassuringly, though admittedly he did feel quite a lot of pain in his stomach
Lina scowled at her two friends. "Hey, what about me?!"
Sylphiel and Amelia both blushed beet red at hearing that remark. "Um, well ..."
"Oh, forget it," Lina snapped in exasperation as she untangled herself from the mess and stood up, brushing off her pants as she did so. "Anyway, sorry about that, you guys!"
"You know, you could really stand to lose a few pounds, Lina," Gourry groaned as he stiffly stood up, Zelgadiss following suit.
A stress mark appeared on Lina's head. "WHAT ... DID ... YOU ... SAY?!?!?!" she gritted out through seething teeth.
"I said -- "
Everyone backed away as a dust cloud consisting of Lina beating up on Gourry soon formed.
"So, who are you exactly?" Amelia asked the male who had surprised Lina, forcing herself to ignore the cursing and shouts from behind.
"Oh, me? I'm Hoshi, your house manager," he replied, sweat-dropping at the actions of his charges as exemplified by Lina.
"House manager?" Zelgadiss frowned.
"I look after you five, make sure you don't get drunk, ruin the house, that type of thing. I'll be living with all of you as well."
By now, the fight had died down and Lina was currently dragging Gourry up the three steps leading to the front porch. "So you're our house manager, huh?" she stated, looking curiously at Hoshi. "Well then, I have just one question."
"Do all house managers dress up like mummies, or is that just you?"
Hoshi face-faulted. "OF COURSE WE DON'T ALL DRESS UP LIKE MUMMIES!" he shouted angrily, recovering from the shock in record time.
"Oh, so it's just you then?"
"Lina, I don't think you should continue asking those kinds of questions," Amelia whispered to her friend even as steam began emitting from Hoshi's head.
"Hmmm? Why not?" Lina asked, tilting her head slightly.
"Look at that steam," Amelia replied, pointing at said steam.
"Huh, well, maybe that's another characteristic of mummy-dressed people," Lina mused, tapping her right index finger against her cheek even as she still clutched Gourry's shirt in her left hand. "After all, this is a magical school so who can say that our house manager is even human?"
Zelgadiss blinked a few times at hearing that last remark about humans, but quickly hid his uncomfortableness. Meanwhile, Gourry had somehow wrenched free of Lina's hold, stood up, and was now also participating in the debate.
"But they wouldn't have inhuman people be our house manager," he was arguing. "What if they hurt us?"
"Look, they wouldn't just hire dangerous inhuman people to look after us," Lina explained, raising her right index finger knowingly. "They probably make all the house managers go through a testing to see if they're safe and then hire them."
"But -- "
"No more questions, Gourry!" Lina growled. "MS High wouldn't put us in danger and that's that."
"Don't talk about me like I'm some combustible inhuman being!" Hoshi screeched at the side, stamping his feet against the ground in a fury. "I'm still here, you know!"
"Huh? Did you say something?" Lina asked, finally turning her attention to the house manager.
Hoshi looked like he was about to explode.
"Er ... why don't we all go in, then?" Sylphiel hurriedly suggested, sweat-dropping a little at the obvious tension coming from the house manager.
"Sure," Lina shrugged casually, picking her duffel bag up from the place where it had dropped on the porch and slinging it over her shoulder. "That is, if mummy man here hasn't locked the door."
There was a click, indicating that the oak door had opened. Then, without paying any attention to her house manager's sputtering, Lina stepped in, her friends filing in close behind and leaving Hoshi to gape in open-mouthed fury at the impudence of the red-headed girl. H ... How dare she! he fumed internally. Oooh, I'm going to get her for this!
Lina sighed as she leaned back against the wooden door to her assigned bedroom, her left leg bent so that her foot rested against the door comfortably. For a moment, she remained unmoving and silent, her raised head so still that she seemed almost inanimate. As the ticking of the small clock next to her bed in the upper right corner of the room sounded monotonously through the solemn night air, her expressionless ruby eyes stared listlessly into the shining electrical light attached to the ceiling. In the hall, Amelia's pattering footsteps and Sylphiel's voice saying goodnight to Gourry could be heard, but Lina only stared above, not even registering the activities going on in the rest of the house. After a moment, she blinked once, then pushed herself away from the door.
"12:40 PM," she breathed softly, briefly glancing at the plain clock on the small table to her right as she sat down heavily on the soft mattress of her bed.
Brushing her bangs out of her eyes, Lina smoothed out the creases in her long white t-shirt and glanced about the room. To her right was the small table with the lamp and clock, next to it was a larger desk, and across from her was a sliding wooden closet. The windows in the room were in front of her desk, where it looked out to the main street, and to her back since her room was in the corner of the house. The door leading to the main hall was to her left. I wonder if I'll like it here, Lina thought, slowly standing up so that she could pull the blanket on her bed back and go through the motions of getting ready for bed. I'll be here for a long time ... Sighing, Lina briefly closed her eyes, then opened them to settle into the covers, resting her head on the pillows nearest to the door and pulling the soft blanket up to her chin.
The clock ticked some more as Lina's rustling grew still and turned to silent contemplations of the day's activities. After Hoshi had recovered from his unmoving state outside, he'd grudgingly shown the five students around the house, giving each person one room on the second floor. The house itself was fairly nice; it had a living room, study, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom downstairs while the upstairs housed all six residents plus another bathroom. Once everyone had settled into their rooms, Hoshi took them downstairs for dinner in the dining room, a dinner that consisted of two pizzas from a local supermarket. However, after seeing the entire meal disappear before his eyes in seconds courtesy of Lina and Gourry, he'd quickly called up the store and asked for fifteen more boxes. Even then, it was barely enough, but his pleading to leave some slices for the rest of the group apparently worked. Well, technically, it was just because the slower eaters had grabbed their pieces while Lina and Gourry were busy finishing up a box far away from theirs, but the principal was the same.
After dinner, everyone, except Hoshi who went to bed early complaining about a headache, chatted in the living room about what they expected to find at MS High. Countless possibilities were thrown about the room and even Gourry made suggestions like learning how to develop a figure or the art of eating as the other major area of study. The conversation had only ended a while ago because Amelia had begun to drift off to sleep, effectively causing the rest of the group to realize what time it was and reach a mutual consensus of halting.
Closing her eyes, Lina gave a contented murmur of drowsiness and snuggled into her blanket even more. She still had a lot of questions left unanswered, but for now, she wanted to sleep. After the day's events, she was definitely tired and ready for rest. Plus, I need to recover from eating all that food, Lina thought with a faint tinge of humor. I really haven't eaten this much in my entire life ... I guess that it's just the thought of free food and since I've lived all of my life with food as a luxury ... Yawning, Lina relaxed and let her head fall to the side comfortably, her thoughts slowly drifting off into nothing. Within moments, her breathing calmed to a soft steady pace, indicating that she had fallen asleep.
Outside the window next to the bed, a black cloaked figure suddenly materialized beside the glass pane staring at the red-head intently. After a moment of silence, the figure began to chant a whispered spell in a male's distinctly smooth voice. A small ball of light collected in his hands, then flew toward the window only to flicker out in a shimmer of orange. Making a noise of contemplation, the figure then attempted to pry open the window, but to no avail. Finally giving up, he silently drew back and observed Lina in silence. The air was frigid despite it being late summer and as a chilling breeze blew by, the howling of a far-off dog broke through the stillness, shattering the ethereal quality of the night. Startled by the noise, the man looked up, moonbeams falling softly onto his face and revealing, inch by inch, the mysterious intruder. It was Vrumugun.
So, MS High has good protection on the housing, Vrumugun mused emotionlessly as he turned his attention back to the girl. That means that I won't be able to get close to her since the school will have even better protection. Studying the features of the sleeping girl once more, Vrumugun blinked briefly. The master will know how to deal with this -- and with the information that a young male by the name of Zelgadiss lives in this house as well. And with that thought, he faded away into the pitch black darkness of the night once more.
It was the nightmare again, the nothingness that eroded the soul with eternal anguish and agony. It was clawing, scratching, burning away at the heart until it felt like death was almost there, yet could not be attained. There was the laughter ringing madly in the background, triumphant in tone, adding to the horror of the pain. Oh gods, the pain ...
Were there other people there? Voices? Through the haze of anguish, one thought was vaguely emerging -- the previously indiscernible sounds in the background wasn't just screaming and laughter, there were others there, too. Others! How could there be others?
The pain lashed again, this time more striking then before. Unwillingly, a scream welled in her throat, frantically trying to escape, but unable to make a sound. Darkness, pain, tears, darkness, pain, tears, darkness, pain, te --
Lina gasped, her eyes flying open to stare hauntingly up at the dull white ceiling of her room. Slowly, the pain which had been so real in the dream dulled to a faint memory as the real pain of her fingernails digging into her flesh through the blanket was quickly becoming apparent. The dream again ... but ... were there voices ...? Slowly but purposefully, she loosened the death grip her hands had on the blanket and forcefully relaxed her head so that it would fall to the side. Breathing slow deep breaths, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the pounding of her heart to calm herself. Voices? But there has never been voices before ...
Taking another gulp of air, Lina felt the clammy fear of the nightmare carry over into reality like a tidal wave that swelled from within, threatening to wear down her barricades. Thinking quickly, Lina began to chant the all too familiar phrase in her mind once more. It was just a dream, it was just a dream ... Soon, the memory of the nightmare faded away and Lina was left staring up at the ceiling numbly. Unbidden, a tear welled up in her right eye. It's been six years now, why didn't it just end? Clenching her right hand into a fist, she pounded it as hard as she could into the mattress of the bed.
"Damn it!" A tear forced itself out of her eye and trickled down her face to disappear into the soft folds of her pillow. "Why couldn't it have just ended ..."
"Master, there's a teenager by the name of Zelgadiss living in Tavern House, the same house where Lina Inverse is assigned."
"Yes. With the technology he stole from the lab, he could be just about anyone, but Zelgadiss is not a common name and the fact that one happens to be living with Lina is too much a coincidence for anyone to ignore."
"Master? Your orders?"
"You will watch him and come to a conclusion as to whether this really is our Zelgadiss. Report back to me when this is done."
Vrumugun nodded, then haltingly continued, "Also, there appears to be a problem in getting close to Lina Inverse for observation."
"Oh ... is that so?"
Vrumugun bowed his head in respect. "I'm sorry that I was unable to do anything, Master; that is why I came to you."
The steady breathing of the shadowed figure echoed throughout the room, giving no indication of having heard Vrumugun's plead for help.
" ... Master?"
"Silence! I must think!"
Vrumugun quivered slightly in fright and lowered his head even more. The foreboding silence stretched on for another minute. Then the rustling of cloth could be heard.
"I will speak to the head about this. A course of action will be decided then. For now, keep as close to Lina as you can. Understood?"
Vrumugun bowed in acknowledgment of his orders, than faded away in a glimmer of orange. Nodding, the remaining figure looked about the room disinterestedly once, then muttered a single word and disappeared leaving an empty office with only a few last shimmers of red which dissipated soon after.
Zelgadiss calmly sipped his mug of hot tea in the kitchen of Tavern House, the soft glow from the light fixture above casting a warm flickering pattern across his face, a sharp contrast to the deep nebulous predawn outside. As he sat in silence, looking outside into the backyard through the kitchen window above the sink across from him, a soft rustle from behind caught his attention.
"I know you're there," Zelgadiss said, his voice deep and even in the utter stillness, "So why don't you come out?"
The offending person stopped suddenly, apparently surprised at the teenager's acute hearing. "Well, I shouldn't have expected less of a MS High student," the intruder's voice commented wryly, stepping from the hardwood floor of the living room to the tiled one of the kitchen. "Well done, Zelgadiss."
A little surprised at hearing the familiar voice, Zelgadiss swivelled around in his chair to meet the approving gaze of Hoshi, still wrapped in mummy-bandages but much more calm now that Lina was asleep.
"What are you doing up so early?" Zelgadiss inquired, taking another sip of his tea.
Hoshi grinned at that and retorted, "I should ask the same of you."
There was silence for a moment; then Zelgadiss held up his cup and asked, "Tea?"
"No," Hoshi declined, holding up a hand. "I'll just join you in looking outside the kitchen window."
Zelgadiss raised a brow at that response, then shrugged and turned his attention back to the outdoors. There was a moment of silence as Hoshi walked next to the sink and stared outside at the lightening sky above through which hints of disappearing starlight could barely be made out. It really was quite beautiful, but somehow, he didn't think that the teenager sitting at the table was admiring the beauty. After a few minutes, he turned his attention back to Zelgadiss.
"So, what brings you to MS High?" he began in a conversational tone, breaking the heavy silence in the room.
" ... None of your business."
Hoshi frowned slightly at hearing that, then shrugged and placed his two hands on the back of his head. "I understand," he replied, leaning back against the sink. "We all have our secrets -- especially those using an illegal technology for complete transformation which, in all probability, was stolen from a lab."
Zelgadiss paused with the lip of his cup an inch away from his mouth and blinked a few times emotionlessly. Then slowly, he lowered the cup down again until it hit the wooden kitchen table with a loud thud.
"What makes you think that?" Zelgadiss said in a flat voice.
Hoshi leaned forward and smiled. "You have special attributes which normal humans don't have; for example, your hearing just then. If you plan on continuing this charade, I'd strongly suggest hiding the aspects of your true nature better."
Zelgadiss clenched his hands together at hearing Hoshi's words. "Name your price," he stated in barely contained fury.
"Well ..." the house manager replied authoritatively, "there could be something you could help me out with."
Zelgadiss didn't deign a reply.
"Hmm, the unfriendly type, huh?" Hoshi commented wryly. "Oh well. That's not a problem."
"The price," Zelgadiss prompted bitingly.
"Oh, yeah, that. Well ..." here, Hoshi leaned over conspiratorially with a deadly serious look in his eyes, "Since I suspect you already know some magic, if you know any white magic, it'd be great."
Completely unprepared for this statement, Zelgadiss could only gape at Hoshi in incomprehension. "Huh?"
Hoshi sighed and gestured at himself. "Well look at me!"
" ... I'm looking."
"You're not looking if you're not seeing the bandages."
Zelgadiss blinked a few times. " ... And you want me to ...?"
"Heal these wounds of course! I was trying out a new black magic spell but it backfired on me a little before you guys got here so I didn't have much time to go to a healer and get healed. The next thing you know, there's that red-headed spitfire stepping all over my loose bandages and having the impudence to call me a mummy man as well! Oooh, I could just kill her for that!"
Zelgadiss stared wide-eyed at his so-called house manager. "Um, sorry, but I don't know any white magic ..."
Hoshi sighed. "Oh well, I suppose that's to be expected from a werewolf."
"A werewolf. What, you mean you're not one?"
"Well, I'm 1/3 demon, 1/3 golem, and 1/3 human ..."
"Oh, a chimera then! How'd you get to be one?"
Zelgadiss internally flinched at the term chimera, but forced the emotion down, instead leveling Hiroshi with a cool piercing glare. "Does that have anything to do with the price for your secrecy?"
Hoshi sighed in exasperation. "Relax, there is no price for my secrecy."
Zelgadiss glanced suspiciously at Hoshi who sweat-dropped at Zelgadiss' obvious distrust.
"I'm here to help MS High's students," Hoshi explained. "And since you got in here, you're obviously a student of MS High. Basically, so long as you don't harm things and people associated with this school in any way, you're ok in my books."
Zelgadiss' brow furrowed at hearing this remark. "I see."
"Anyway, I'll be going out to find a healer now. I think the healing agency is open at this time," Hoshi said, walking toward the exit of the kitchen.
" ... Hoshi?"
The mummy-wrapped figure paused a little behind Zelgadiss. "Yes?"
" ... Thank you."
Hoshi smiled. "You're welcome."
And so saying, he left the room, his fading footsteps echoing through the house until a soft click from the front door indicated that he had left.
Lina grinned happily as she leaned back in her chair, a disturbingly large stack of empty plates in front of her on the kitchen table.
"Ah! What a great breakfast!" she sighed, patting her stomach lightly. "You're a great cook, Sylphiel!"
"Thank you, Lina," Sylphiel blushed as she got up from the table to clear away the dishes, "I'm glad that you liked it."
"Are you kidding? You made scrambled eggs, sausages, and french toast! I love all of that stuff!"
"You love anything that's edible," Amelia sweat-dropped, staring in astonishment at the pile of plates Lina had piled up from her position across from Zelgadiss. "Really, Lina, you ought to control your eating habits!"
"Now you're sounding like Gourry," Lina huffed indignantly. "Only without the figure bashing part."
"Hnh? Dihd sowhmone sah myh nahme?" came Gourry's muffled voice from behind a stack of plates that was rapidly passing Lina's level.
"Anyway," Lina continued, purposefully ignoring Gourry's comment, "the purpose of eating all of this food is to test different levels of food intake before you get a stomachache. With this kind of trial and error, I'll figure out the maximum amount of food I can eat before I feel sick in no time!"
"That's not fair, Lina! You're depriving starving children in the world of their food!" Amelia protested.
"Er ... well ... I'll make it up to them in the future by starting a food fund when I get older?"
"You'll probably end up making the food fund be a fund for your own food," Zelgadiss remarked wryly from the same seat he'd sat in earlier on in the morning.
Lina narrowed her eyes at the lavender-haired teenager. "Hey. I heard that, Zel."
What a minute, why am I calling him Zel? Lina wondered abruptly. I only called the other Zelgadiss that nickname ...
Meanwhile, during Lina's momentary confusion, an unknown person wearing tan slacks and a black t-shirt had entered the kitchen. He looked to be a handsome man in his late 20's with upswept blond hair and deep blue eyes. At the moment, his face held an expression of shock and utter disbelief.
"Wow. My compliments to the chef for keeping up with this group's appetites," the mysterious man said in an impressed tone.
The entire group could only stare at the newest person in confusion, with even Gourry pausing in his seemingly incessant consumption of food to inquire, "Whoh arh yoh?"
The blond-haired man scratched the back of his head sheepishly and replied, "If the question was who are you, then I'm your house manager, Hoshi. Um, remember me?"
"WHAT?!?!" everyone yelled in unison as Hoshi sweat-dropped in embarrassment.
"AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! No way!!!" Amelia shrieked, jumping up from her chair and pointing wildly at the house manager. "Our house manager is covered in bandages and looks like a mummy! You must be an imposter! Yes, that's it! For this trickery, I will pound you with the hammer of justice! Repent your wicked ways or an even greater punishment will be inflicted upon you!"
"Much as I hate to agree with Amelia over there, I do have to say that she's right," Lina commented nonchalantly, holding up her right hand's index finger sagely. "Therefore, I give her permission to beat up the newcomer."
"Hey, hey, hey!" Hoshi exclaimed. "I really am Hoshi!"
"Sure, sure," Lina said in clear disbelief, getting up from her chair to help Sylphiel with putting dishes in the sink. "Go get him, Amelia!"
"Zelgadiss, tell them!" Hoshi yelled furiously.
Zelgadiss sighed once, then reluctantly stood up. "Amelia, stop. This is probably Hoshi."
Hoshi's face was beginning to turn red. "Probably?! First you call me mummy man and now this?!"
Zelgadiss smirked at Hoshi's reaction. "Ok, this man here is definitely Hoshi."
"How are you so sure about that, Zelgadiss?" Sylphiel asked as she placed another stack of plates into the sink, Lina following suit.
"He told me earlier on that he was going out to get healed," the lavender-haired male replied, absently brushing his bangs out of his eyes.
"Oh, so that's why mummy man had all those bandages on?" Lina remarked, leaning against the sink counter. "Um, I guess I can't call him mummy man anymore, though." Hoshi glared at Lina who, not noticing his angry expression, grinned and continued, "I know, I'll call him klutzy man now, since only an idiot would get his whole body injured!"
Steam was now visibly emitting from the house manager's head. "Why, you impudent little girl! I got my injuries from a spell that backfired on me, not from something physical!"
Lina's face got dark. "No one calls me little girl and gets away with it, especially klutzy men who can't even handle spells right," she growled, leaning forward and glaring at Hoshi.
"Oh, please don't fight," Sylphiel protested, rushing to plant herself between the two antagonists. "We have to live together for a whole year so we might as well learn to get along, right?"
For a moment, the aura of hostility continued between Lina and Hoshi. Then both hmphed, angrily turned their backs on each other, and crossed their arms in mutual distaste.
"They're acting like they're five years old," Amelia whispered to Gourry and Zelgadiss as the rest of the group sweat-dropped.
"Um, so what are we doing today?" Sylphiel asked weakly, trying to lift the tension in the room.
"Oh, that's right!" Hoshi exclaimed, dropping his right fist onto his left palm. Turning around, he faced the five students and said, "Today, we'll be deciding what classes each of you will take. Afterwards, we'll shop around the town by MS High for school supplies."
"How do they decide what classes we're taking?" Gourry asked, setting down his fork and leaning back in his chair.
"And wasn't the start of school supply buying supposed to be a week before school starts, not a week and two days?" Amelia added.
"The letter should have said a week or so meaning that the dates aren't too strict," Hoshi responded. "And as for how they decide which classes to take, I'll be bringing you to the main campus of the school. The school officials will explain everything to you there at the big assembly in the main auditorium."
"What are we waiting for then?" Lina exclaimed, already rushing to the door. "Let's go!"
The few rays of sunlight that shone through the turbid expanse of overcast sky above lighted upon the main grounds of MS High, casting a feeling of unearthliness which radiated throughout the grounds. Trees surrounded the centered two-story main brick edifice while the front lawn rippled like the undulating waves of an ocean as a cool wind rushed over the school. Everywhere there were students who chatted excitedly as they walked across various areas of the surrounding grass to gather inside the main building, the foremost topic of conversation being MS High. The band of six from Tavern House was one of these groups.
"So who goes to this school anyway?" Lina wondered as she followed the large path which led to the main school, looking at the motley of students in curiosity.
Hoshi, who was walking to Lina's right, impatiently replied, "People from the western, northern, and eastern continent."
"West is Glats, north is Hiems, and east is Alir, right?" Lina recited, matching Hoshi's long strides with apparent ease. "Huh, don't you ever wonder if there's a south continent?"
"Ridiculous," Hoshi snapped brusquely. "Now hurry up, we don't want to spend all day trying to reach the school auditorium."
Lina frowned at that remark and shot the house manager a malevolent look. Meanwhile, Amelia had also caught up to Hoshi.
"So where is MS High in relation to the world?" Amelia questioned, slightly adjusting the straps on her backpack as she modulated her pace to match Hoshi's.
"Oh, you don't know? It's in the center of the world."
Hoshi tripped and fell on his face at hearing the loud shouts from behind.
"There's nothing in the center of the world! All that's there is water!" Sylphiel exclaimed in confusion, looking at her friends in wide-eyed astonishment.
"I thought so, too!" Amelia chimed in, taking out her SEO from her backpack and clicking on a few buttons to show a display of the world. "There! Look! There's only the Vandis Ocean!"
"Maybe MS High is underwater," Gourry suggested, scratching his head comically as he looked over Amelia's shoulder.
"Then how are we breathing, idiot?!" Lina snapped, jumping up to hit Gourry on top of his head with her right fist.
"Hey, that hurt!" Gourry winced, grabbing his head painfully.
Zelgadiss shook his head in disbelief of his companions' actions. "Gourry might be right, Lina," he admonished, joining the group in looking at Amelia's world map. "This is a magical school, after all."
"Then what's that above us, giant sea bubbles?" Lina retorted, pointing up at the clearly gray rolling clouds.
"If you would all stop arguing for a moment, I could explain it to you!" Hoshi roared from the side.
Everyone immediately stopped talking and turned to look at Hoshi expectantly.
Surprised at being obeyed for once, Hoshi quickly calmed down and began, "MS High is located on an island in the center of the world, an island magically hidden from view and protected by multiple spells. No one can come in here unless they are chosen."
"Students from all six years were on the ship, though. How do you keep this place a secret when you allow the older students to leave?" Zelgadiss questioned.
"All of the students are allowed to leave this island for summer vacation," Hoshi patiently replied. "But before they go, a spell is cast on them so that they don't remember where MS High is. The same will happen to all of you. It will happen for the last time when you graduate." Pausing for a moment, he looked at each of his charges in turn. "Alright, now let's get going to the auditorium." Then he calmly walked toward the school building again leaving the five gaping students to recover from their shock as rapidly as they could and hurry after him.
When the group had entered one of the various entrances at the front of the school, they entered a large spacious foyer. Photos of the faculty as well as plaques for various activities were hung on the walls and trophies were displayed in a few trophy cases. Stairs were just ahead and they led up to the second floor while another staircase leading up to the third floor was visible a short distance away from the top of the first one.
"Wow, this place seems pretty big," Amelia breathed in awe, looking everywhere, trying to take everything in.
Sylphiel nodded, also gazing at her surroundings. "I wonder how many students go to this school."
"About 1,800," Hoshi said, leading the group into the auditorium which was just down the hall and to the right.
"You'd think that there would be more students with our world population being around four billion," Lina commented as she followed Hoshi into the dimly lit auditorium.
Inside were two main aisles and three main areas for seating -- left, center, and right. The entire room was slanted slightly downwards and ended only where the broad stage was. Most of the green-cushioned seats were taken by students while the faculty sat in the front center. On the stage itself was a podium with a closed red curtain just behind it, a curtain that revealed nothing through its slightly swaying velvety cloth. As the group of six sat down in the seats near the aisle of the back center rows, the small lights lining the doors leading into the aisles and the ones at the sides of the room dimmed to flicker softly, then fade away.
"I wonder what's going to happen," Gourry whispered to Zelgadiss as the soft murmurings of the crowd also faded away like the lights had a moment ago.
Suddenly, a yellow light shone onto the podium in center stage to reveal a tall, slim, brown-haired male dressed in formal attire.
"Students of MS High," the male's confident loud voice boomed, echoing throughout the silent room, "I am the head principal of this school, Rals Shay. For the next few years, you will be learning at MS High. Your focus will be magic and swordsmanship with history, math, survival skills, and one other major area as side classes. Now let me introduce the principles of the three different continents to you. First off, Principal Mari Larsfield of eastern continent Alir."
A light appeared from above and focused to the left on a short young woman with light blond hair tied up in a bun. She wore a business suit with slacks and had a no nonsense look on her face.
"Next, Principal Larza Weldings of western continent Glats," Rals announced.
Another light shone on Mari's left to reveal the familiar figure of brown-haired middle-aged Larza Weldings dressed in casual attire wearing tan slacks and a brown sweater.
"And finally, Principal Haras Datis of northern continent Hiems."
The last light shone upon a wizened old man who had a stern face and seemed to project an aura of dignified confidence about his tall thin figure. He wore a light blue formal shirt and black pants which reflected a carefully crafted appearance.
"Now then, for the older years, the following information will be old news to you, but I'm sure all of the first years are wondering how classes are decided at MS High," Rals said, looking into the sea of dark faces. "Well, you will be taking the same lessons in history, math, survival skills, and swordsmanship as other members of your year. However, your magic and other major area of study will differ. By reviewing your profiles, our staff has assigned each of you one elective class which we feel is best for you, an area of study that will carry over to the real world after you've graduated from this school. This class will be written in on your schedules, which all of you will receive once this assembly is over."
A murmur was beginning to rise from the crowd.
"What are we learning magic and swordsmanship for then?" Lina whispered to Sylphiel in confusion.
Sylphiel looked puzzled as well. "You're right, that does seem kind of strange," she whispered back.
Lina leaned back in her seat again and crossed her arms. "Oh well, if it gets me through life, I'm fine with it."
"And now, let me tell you about magic," Rals continued calmly from the stage, his words immediately silencing the whispering below. "There are four forms of magic: black magic, white magic, shamanism or spiritual magic, and divine magic. Black magic is used for offensive attacks and white magic is used mainly for protection or healing. I will be demonstrating one spell in black and Haras Datis of north will be demonstrating white."
And so saying, he closed his eyes and turned to face Haras. Holding up his hands in a circular form just to the right of his face, he furrowed his brows in concentration. A crackling of energy began to appear between his hands until suddenly, as his eyes opened, an arrow actually formed.
"Gaav flare!" Rals shouted, drawing one of his hands backwards and letting go of the arrow so that it sped toward the principal beside him.
"Defense!" Haras countered, outstretching his right hand as power suddenly swept up around him and rose to form a defensive shield which easily blocked the arrow of energy.
"Wow! Did you see that?!" Gourry exclaimed, standing up as many other members of the audience were doing to get a better look at the events occurring on stage.
Amelia was also out of her seat, her eyes wide with shock. "How did they do that?!"
"Who cares how they did that, I want to learn!!" Lina shouted, her face bright with anticipation.
"Please, sit down!" Rals bellowed from the stage. "Sit down!"
Reluctantly, all of the standing first years obeyed, though the murmuring didn't cease.
"Now then," Rals continued. "Shamanism has five subcategories: fire, water, spirit, earth, and air. This form has both offensive and defensive spells. As for divine magic, it's used for offensive and defensive as well. Mari of east will demonstrate offensive shamanism and Larza of west will demonstrate defensive divine magic."
Both principals nodded, then took one step backwards. Closing her eyes for a moment, Mari knitted her brows together and held her hands in a circular shape just in front of her chest. A slow glowing blue light began to emanate from her hands. Then, suddenly opening her eyes, she pushed her hands forward and yelled, "Bram blazer!"
At her words, a shock wave of blue light emitted from her hands and flew toward Larza, who calmly raised both hands straight into the air and shouted, "Celestial barrier!"
A crackling golden pillar of energy suddenly engulfed Larza's figure so that when the blue beam hit, its energy spread outwards like an incoming wave, causing wind to howl over the audience. When it was finally clear enough to look at the stage again, Larza Weldings stood as unperturbed as he had before. The talking began again.
"Students, please quiet down!" Rals commanded. "We need to give first years their magic specialty now!"
However, no one heard this and the crowd's voices only got louder.
"Looks like we've got a tough crowd this year," Rals commented wryly to his three colleagues, covering his hand over the microphone so that the students wouldn't hear.
Larza grinned and teased, "Maybe it's your bad leadership skills."
Mari smirked. "What leadership skills?"
"Hey ..." Rals growled, narrowing his eyes at his so-called friends.
Haras just frowned at the crowd and cooly suggested, "Try a lighting spell. We need to get on with the magic selection."
Rals nodded, then held his right hand out, palm up, and muttered under his breath, "Source of all power. Light which burns beyond crimson flame. Let thy power gather in my hand." Then, throwing up the ball of light which had gathered in his hand, he shouted, "Lighting!"
Instantly, the ball of light flashed brilliantly in the air, its shining rays illuminating the darkness like an explosive array of holiness. The voices in the auditorium immediately silenced as the brightness slowly faded away.
"That worked," Rals mumbled before removing his hand from the microphone. "Alright, now we'll be deciding what magic specialty all of you first years will have. Everyone will be learning a little of all four types of magic, but there will be one area in which you will specialize in. To do this, we have a special magical means by which to decide."
And so saying, Rals stretched his right arm up with the palm facing the ceiling while holding his left hand just in front of his face and began chanting words under his breath which no audience member could hear though they strained to do so. Slowly, a blue circle of light formed around his figure and swirled in a clockwise rotation, slowly speeding up so that a wind began to billow from his still figure.
"What kind of magic do you think he's using?" Amelia whispered, her eyes glued on the head principal's figure.
Hoshi shrugged and calmly informed her, "Actually, no one knows."
Amelia, Lina, Sylphiel, Gourry, and Zelgadiss all blinked and turned to face Hoshi who took a while to register the impact his words had on his charges.
"What?" he asked, turning his head to face the five students.
However, before anyone could say anything else, the circle surrounding Rals constricted as he brought his right hand down to meet his left, causing an explosion of blue light to burst forth, flooding the entire room with its power. Lina flinched at the light, then squinted, forcing her eyes to become adjusted to the brightness. What she saw made her gasp in surprise. From the ball of blue light that now engulfed Rals Shay came swirling globes of white, black, blue, and yellow energy. For each first year in the audience, there was one distinct globe that plunged into him or her, causing the faint color of the orb to glow around the person's figure. To her side, Lina barely made out a white globe disappearing into Amelia and Sylphiel, while a blue one chose Zelgadiss. Wait, what about Gourry? Lina thought, noticing that the four different colored globes surrounded the blond without diving in. But before she had time to further reflect on that, it was her turn.
Lina cried out, holding her hands up in a vain attempt to shield herself as she closed her eyes and felt the energy flood through her. Suddenly, she felt a faint tingling sensation build up inside, but that quickly faded away as she felt herself being lulled into a deep calmness. In her mind, she was floating in empty space with bright warm light surrounding her and a presence within that she'd never felt before. Where am I? Lina thought, looking around in confusion. Where'd everyone go?
You're inside your mind, the unknown presence informed her.
Lina gasped in astonishment, surprised by the second voice. Who are you?
A light surrounded her, a light that swirled in chaotic reels with faint tinges of black, white, blue, and gold. I am your magic, the being replied. I am what you will master.
Then why are you so many colors? Lina asked in wonderment. Amelia and Sylphiel both had white surround them. Zelgadiss had blue. Gourry ... well, I don't know about Gourry. Are you just this many colors inside my mind?
The intangible presence grew stronger. Yes and no.
... What do you mean by that?
At the moment, you show no color around your physical figure. However, in your soul, you are branded with the colors of all four types of magic. You are able to master all four.
If the being could've sweat-dropped, it certainly would have. However, since MS High only allows one specialty, you must choose between the four types.
Lina switched from ecstatic to incensed in the space of a second. Who makes up these stupid rules?!
When the being didn't deign a reply, Lina sighed and began running the choices through her head. Well, I definitely don't want white, that's no fun. And black ... Lina's thoughts drifted off as she recalled the chilling darkness of her reoccurring nightmare. Black's definitely out. Hmm ... that leaves shamanism and divine magic ...
Lina remained still for several moments, contemplating the pluses and minuses of the two magic types. Then she smiled and decided, Since Zel already has shamanism, I want to specialize in divine magic.
It is done.
The next instant, Lina felt the multicolored spectrum sink into her to be replaced by the calm steady golden glow of her specialty -- divine magic. As this occurred, she felt her mind being slowly dragged out of the tranquil emptiness, until, blinking once, she looked around and realized that she was back in reality once more, the light from Rals' spell already gone and her own specialty color fading away as well. There was the main stage, there was the head principal, and there were Hoshi, Zelgadiss, Sylphiel, and Amelia all staring at ... a foolishly grinning Gourry who was poking at the four colored orbs that surrounded him.
"Hi, Lina!" he called, waving at the stupefied girl. "Look! Aren't these balls fun to play with?"
And so saying, he raised his right index finger and poked the blue ball so that it bumped into the white one. The surrounding students sweat-dropped as the blond continued to play with the glowing orbs, all the while smiling happily in carefree bliss.
"Aaaaah! Gourry, you shouldn't play with those!" Amelia cried, being the first to register the gravity of the situation. "They're what decide your magic specialty!"
Gourry paused to look at Amelia questioningly. "Huh? What do you mean by specialty?"
"Um, well, one of them is supposed to dive into you ..." Amelia trailed off as the four globes surrounded the blond's head as though drawn in an orbit.
"Then why hasn't that happened yet?" Gourry said, looking at Amelia rather comically since every few seconds, another color would pass in front of his eyes.
"Alright, klutzy man, how do you explain this?" Lina growled, grabbing Hoshi by the collar and glaring at him with daggers in her eyes.
Hoshi opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again when he realized that there was nothing that he could say to explain the bizarre occurrence.
"Lina, shouldn't you let go of our house manager?" Sylphiel asked worriedly.
"Oh, that's no problem, he can take care of himself," Lina smiled, waving back at Sylphiel even as Hoshi suddenly realized that he was currently unable to breathe.
"Well, it's just that he doesn't seem to be able to breathe," Sylphiel said, wringing her hands together as she saw Hoshi's face turn into several shades of red, blue, and purple, all the while being unsuccessful in his flailing attempts at clawing Lina's hand from his shirt.
Lina blinked. "Huh?"
Curiously, she turned her face to see Hoshi's frantic gestures toward his throat and laughed weakly before dropping him back down into his seat.
"Oops," she said in embarrassment, scratching the back of her head in chagrin. "Guess I overdid it a little."
"A LITTLE?!" Hoshi gasped, simultaneously gulping down copious amounts of air.
Zelgadiss crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat. "Tch. Ridiculous."
A stress mark appeared on Lina's forehead and she narrowed her eyes at Zelgadiss while the pulsing in her clenched fists grew stronger. The next instant, she'd aimed a punch at the unfortunate victim's face, a punch that was frantically avoided at the very last second by a jump into the air.
Lina blinked, realizing that her target had suddenly disappeared. "Where'd he -- "
"WOAH!!" came a shout from behind, followed by the sudden tumbling of weight onto her body.
The next instant, a giant crash sounded, one that caused the surrounding audience members to cringe in sympathy. When the dust had cleared, a very dizzy Lina was revealed to be sprawled over some quickly cleared chairs with Zelgadiss on top of her.
"AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!" Amelia cried when she realized her crush was hurt and, furthermore, on top of someone other than her. "Oh, the injustice of it all! First the porch and now this! Why is it that Lina gets all of the action?!"
"Was that Amelia?" Lina moaned from her cramped position, still too stunned to move. "If she said what I think she said ... And what the hell just happened?"
Zelgadiss shook his head to clear up the last vestiges of dizziness and looked down, only to blush beet red when he realized who he was on top of.
"Sorry!" he exclaimed, jumping off immediately, only to get his legs tangled into Lina's and crash into Amelia this time, causing them both to fall onto the ground.
Before the scene could progress into even more chaos, principal Mari of eastern walked cooly over to the group and interjected, "And what, may I ask, is going on here?"
Silence fell on the entire auditorium as the group of six suddenly realized that every eye was turned on them.
"Yo!" Gourry grinned, waving at Mari, then pointing at the four globes which were still circling his head. "Look, aren't they pretty?"
"Yes, they are," Mari smiled, looking at Gourry with carefully veiled astonishment. "They certainly are."
By this point, Hoshi had his head in his hands and was shaking his head back and forth, muttering something about how he'd been stuck with the world's worst group of five, how he never should have consented to being a house manager, and other such statements along that line.
"Please, can you tell us what's wrong with the spheres?" Sylphiel inquired sweetly, her eyes shining with worry.
"Yes, why is Gourry the only one without a magic specialty?" Zelgadiss said in a rush as he quickly stood up and dusted himself off, a very suspicious tinge of red in his cheeks as he tried very hard to ignore the glares from Lina and the blissful looks of adoration from Amelia.
"Oh, Gourry, is it?" Mari murmured, briefly studying the blond-haired male with interest. After a moment, she reluctantly sighed and called to Rals, "Dispense with the orbs, please."
Rals nodded, closed his eyes briefly, then snapped his fingers. The four globes immediately disappeared.
"Now then," Mari sighed, turning to Gourry, "you have no magic specialty."
Gourry grinned. "Oh, alright."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'Oh, alright'?!?!" Lina screeched, imitating Gourry's clueless expression as she said his words. "THIS IS KIND OF IMPORTANT!"
Excited whispers broke out among the students in the expansive room as the eastern continent's principal said her words, several voices rising louder than the rest as the whole room gradually echoed with students' voices.
Rals shook his head wearily and spoke into the microphone. "Silence! This has happened before!"
"Wrong thing to say," Larza casually remarked as the noise only got even louder.
" ... I tried," Rals muttered sullenly.
Larza grinned and impishly added, "Wanna try the lighting spell again?"
He got a dirty look for that suggestion. Meanwhile, Haras had raised his hands, calling for the students' attention. "Be silent," he commanded authoritatively, his voice reverberating off the walls of the room.
Instantly, all conversation ceased.
"This isn't fair," Rals complained under his breath even as Larza smirked at his side.
"The reason why Gourry, here," Mari gestured, "does not have magic is because he will excel at swordsmanship. Students are chosen to attend this school if they have either a high potential in magic or swordsmanship. Occasionally, there are students who excel at one thing and have no potential in the other, but this is very rare."
As Mari was saying this, the crowd began to murmur and stare pointedly at Gourry, who scratched his head and slowly said, "But ... I've never even touched a sword before."
Mari patiently replied, "MS High intends to teach swordsmanship to you so whether you touched a sword or not will not matter."
Nodding, Mari turned to walk down the row and into the aisle, soon joining up with her colleagues on the stage once more.
"Hey," Lina growled at Gourry, who was reclining in his chair. "You didn't understand a word she said, did you."
"Nope," Gourry replied with utter seriousness.
"Why do I even bother?" Lina groaned, sinking back into her seat with her right hand over her forehead while the rest of the group sweat-dropped.
Meanwhile, Rals had stepped in front of the rest of his colleagues and announced, "We will now commence with giving out the schedules."
And so saying, he lowered his head, muttered a single word under his breath, then snapped his fingers. Immediately, a shimmering array of blue stardust filled the room, drifting down to the students lazily like a floating autumn leaf carried by the wind. Lina warily watched the glittering light until, when the first specks reached head level, it condensed into a rectangular object made up of white light. As it formed, it emitted white rays of light from itself, light that caused Lina to squint her eyes because it was so bright. Then, just when Lina was beginning to become accustomed to the brilliance, it exploded in one last blinding flash of light, startling Lina into cringing back against the chair and throwing her hands up in front of her face. For a few moments, she remained like that. Then, when she realized that nothing was happening, she hesitantly opened her eyes and turned her head to face the unknown object.
There, floating in midair, was a sheet of softly shimmering paper with writing scribbled on it. Leaning closer, Lina stretched her right hand out and grasped it. To her surprise, it seemed to almost hum in her fingers before settling into her hand with its feather light weight. Bringing the paper closer to her face, Lina quickly scanned the paper's contents. There was her name on top, followed by her continent, her hometown, and the name of the assistant principal of Glats. Below this information was a listing of her courses, the room numbers, and her teachers. Let's see ... so my classes are Algebra, Basic History, Magic1A, Beginning Survival Skills, Business1A, and Swordsmanship, huh?
"These are your schedules," Rals calmly stated from the stage, interrupting Lina's thoughts. "They are specially designed so that the paper will not be torn, dirtied, or harmed in any way. You are advised to carry these with you until you memorize where your classes are located and which order they are in. Once you feel that you no longer have need of them, you may give it to your house manager, who will dispose of it. That is all for this assembly. Any remaining questions that you have should be directed at your house manager. I wish you luck at MS High. Thank you."
Bowing once, Rals stepped back and nodded to the three other assistant principals. Then all four cast a spell and disappeared, each fading out in a shimmer of blue, yellow, white, or green light. Slowly, the buzz of the audience grew.
"Well, let's go," Hoshi sighed, getting up from his seat and walking toward the exit. "We still need to get the school supplies, now that all of you know what your classes are."
"Alright," Sylphiel agreed, getting up to follow Hoshi.
Amelia jumped up with enthusiasm, then closed her eyes and clutched her hands together. Sighing happily, she gushed, "Yes! I have been chosen to succeed in this school! I will master white magic and use it to punish evildoers! I will make my father and mother proud! I will -- "
Looking around, Amelia suddenly realized that her friends were no longer in their seats.
"Bye, Amelia!" Lina called from behind, waving farewell as she and the rest of the group walked through the exit.
"Hey! Wait for me!" Amelia cried in a panic, flailing her arms as she rushed after the group. "Lina, you're so mean!"
The light from the rectangular screen on which a red-haired girl was displayed walking through the busy streets of a town shone dimly in a marble-walled room. The only sound was the pensive heavy breathing of the watcher and the slight tapping of a finger against the top of the disorganized desk. As the shadow continued to watch, a shimmering of red sparkles appeared just in front of the desk and materialized into another person.
For a moment, the two figures regarded each other. Then the seated one spoke.
"You saw which magic chose her, didn't you?"
The other shadow nodded. "But if you think that she isn't the one just because her magic specialty was unexpected, then I'll have to disagree."
"You admit that it was unprecedented, though."
"Magic does not determine who she might be."
"So you say."
A silence fell between the two. Finally, the seated figure rose.
"You did not come here just to convince me of her power. There is another reason."
The other person made a sound of acknowledgment, then smiled cruelly. "No, I came to find a way in which to have Vrumugun observe her more carefully. MS High has too much protection for my servant to handle alone."
A sniff of disdain came from the other figure. "Very well." Walking to the desk again, the person opened a drawer and took out a small plain white bottle. "Here is a magic protection potion. Have your servant drink it and it will withstand even the power of MS High."
Nodding, the other figure bowed once, took the potion, then disappeared again, leaving the remaining person to stand unmoving in the silent room as the last vestiges of glimmering red light faded out.
"Amelia?" Lina began, a sweat-drop on her brow.
"I really don't think you're going to finish all of those books before school."
"Amelia, when you can't even say my name right because you're carrying too many books, it means that you need to stop buying."
All around the two girls, customers of Cael Printers seemed to be scrambling for shelter, leaving about a five-foot radius around them, though that was probably only because various people kept on walking into Lina and Amelia's near vicinity before doing a double-take at Amelia's six foot tall stack of books and suddenly realize that should the books ever fall, they were in a danger zone.
"What are you buying, Amelia?" Sylphiel asked, walking up to the pair with the white plastic bag of her purchases, on which the name of the bookstore was elegantly written in golden ink, cradled safely in her arms.
"Oh, hi, Sylphiel!" Amelia waved, moving her head so that she could see her friend. "I was just -- "
"AMELIA!!!!!!!!!!" Lina shrieked, already diving for cover, though apparently not fast enough since the pile of books which Amelia had been carrying toppled over and buried the three girls.
"Hey, Lina!" Gourry called, turning around a corner and walking toward the girls, a bag of purchases in his hand. "I wanted -- "
The blond paused in his speech, suddenly realizing that the only thing in sight was a giant pile of books with various human body parts sticking out of it.
"That's funny, I thought that I'd heard Lina's voice," Gourry mused, scratching his head before shrugging and turning away. "Oh well, maybe it was just my imagination."
"IDIOT!" Lina screamed, worming her way through the pile of books so that her head popped through.
"Yes, yes, that sounded just like her voice too," Gourry sighed, still walking off. "I wonder if they sell books on a person's imagination in here."
"Lina! Sylphiel! Amelia!" Zelgadiss cried, running toward the small congregation, his white plastic bag whipping in the light breeze and Hoshi right behind him. "What happened?"
"Eh? But nothing's here except for a pile of books," Gourry frowned perplexedly, turning to point toward said pile of books. Then he noticed Lina's head sticking up out of the pile. "Lina! What happened to your body!"
"IDIOT!!!!!" Lina screeched again, her voice hitting a rather high pitch, causing Zelgadiss to cringe. "WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED?!?!"
Gourry scratched his head again. "I dunno, we're in a place where magic occurs so ..." A light bulb flashed over the blond's head. "I see! I see!" he exclaimed, nodding his head as he said that. "You turned your body into a pile of books!"
"Gourry, don't even try," Zelgadiss advised, warily backing up a few steps after observing the enraged look Lina had on her face.
"Why, oh why did I have to be a house manager?" Hoshi sobbed, turning away and sinking to his knees as Amelia's and Sylphiel's heads also popped out and Lina furiously began to struggle out of the pile with the intent to beat Gourry up. "I could have been successful in the world! I could have been a business consultant! But no, I had to squander my education at MS High and choose to remain as a staff member because I thought that I'd get an easy job!"
"I HEARD THAT!!" Lina shouted, directing her glare at Hoshi this time, with a new intent to beat up on the house manager as well. That was before Hoshi's words finally sunk in. "Wait ... you went to MS High?"
"My education, all for nothing!" Hoshi continued to sob. "Or maybe it's just my bad luck. I'm sure that the other staff members have better charges."
Lina chose to let that slide in favor of her newfound curiosity. "Are all the staff members of MS High former students?"
"What do you think?" Hoshi reprimanded. "Of course, I wouldn't expect a flat-chested brat to understand."
A stress mark appeared on Lina's forehead. "A ... what ...?"
"Lina, we still have to buy books!" Amelia cried, vainly trying to divert Lina's attention.
Lina just leveled Amelia with one foreboding look and the purple-haired girl decided to let fate decide the outcome.
"Tch, at this rate, I'll never find the books I need," Zelgadiss commented as Lina finally escaped the confines of the books and proceeded to approach Hoshi menacingly.
Fortunately, before Lina could manage to touch the house manager, a female cashier of the store came by. "Um, what's going on here?"
"Oh, are you a cashier?" Amelia asked, smiling happily. "Good! I needed someone to help me with all these books."
"Amelia, you don't need to buy this many," Sylphiel said, dusting herself off as she released herself from the pile. "I thought Hoshi already gave you a list of the books you needed to get."
"I know," Amelia sheepishly replied. "But there were just so many other books that I thought Hoshi must have missed and so ..."
"The inner workings of the criminal mind?" Zelgadiss inquired skeptically from his crouched position as he read off the title of one of the so-called missing books.
Amelia laughed weakly. "It might have been helpful in law."
"Amelia, you don't need that for law," Hoshi sighed, standing up. "I only gave you a list of five books."
"I know, I know," Amelia sighed, rising from the pile.
"Oh no! Where did my books go?!" Lina cried, looking down at her hands and finding that they were devoid of the books she'd collected for her classes.
After swiveling her head a few times, she slumped over as the heavy realization that her books were in the giant pile sank into her.
"AMELIA ..." Lina growled, her face growing dark as she clenched her fists together.
"I think you should run," Gourry advised Amelia.
"I think we should mention food," Zelgadiss interjected.
At those words, Lina's eyes grew starry and she swiftly grabbed onto Zel's collar. "Food? Where's the food? Tell me, tell me, tell me!"
"I ... I think there's a nice cafe across the street," Zelgadiss gasped, struggling to free himself from Lina's iron grasp.
The next instant, there was a whirlwind of colors followed by the faint echos of protestations from an unfortunate Zelgadiss. Sylphiel, Amelia, Hoshi, and the cashier all blinked, suddenly realizing that three members were missing from the room.
"Aaaaaaaah!! Zelgadiss!" Amelia cried, her eyes wide with shock. "Wait for me!"
"Amelia! Oh ... wait!" Sylphiel also cried, rushing after the quickly disappearing figure of the purple-haired girl.
Hoshi sighed once, then turned to face the still employee. "Do you think you could get ten books for me? Two of my charges seem to have forgotten all about their materials."
"Uh ... sure ..." the cashier sweat-dropped, apparently not quite over her stunned amazement.
Meanwhile, Amelia and Sylphiel had just reached the entrance to the Buffalo Cafe and paused in confusion. There, in front of the door, was a rapidly increasing crowd of people, all of whom seemed to be just standing there and observing something inside the building itself.
"Um, excuse me," Sylphiel began, tapping an adult female on the shoulder. "Are you waiting to be served?"
"No," the brunette replied. "But there seems to be an eating event today, or something to that effect."
"An eating event?" Amelia asked, her brow furrowed in confusion.
"Yeah, there's this red and yellow demon in there who's swallowing the food like there's no tomorrow!"
"Red ... and yellow?" Sylphiel slowly repeated, a sinking feeling in her guts.
"Come on, let's go in!" Amelia beckoned, refusing to admit anything until she saw it with her own eyes.
Sylphiel snapped out of her blankness and quickly followed Amelia in weaving through the crowd. No, it couldn't possibly be them, she thought as she walked. The lady described them as a demon, not --
"Waiter! Give me five more plates of buffalo!" an all-too-familiar female's voice shouted from the center table of the establishment. "And make it quick, I have a schedule to keep up!"
"I'm ruined, ruined!" a middle-aged man sobbed, pounding his fist against the back counter. "The reputation of my business is destroyed!"
"LINA?!" Sylphiel gasped, worming through the last end of the crowd and bursting onto a scene where a blaze of red and yellow furiously combated with forks, knives, and other such utensils across a table piled up with food.
"Oh, hi, Sylphiel!" Lina waved, briefly stopping in her war with Gourry to greet her astonished friend. "I was wondering when you would get here!"
Seeing this, the crowd immediately dispersed when they realized the hoped for demon was actually just a girl and a boy.
"Lina, you're being embarrassing!" Amelia hissed to her friend as a brown-haired waiter staggered over to the table loaded down with plates of food.
"Oh, you think so?" Lina questioned, tilting her head slightly.
"You want embarrassing, try sitting here," Zelgadiss sweat-dropped, his hands over the top of his head as he slumped lower into his seat.
Lina gave Zelgadiss a dirty look. "Hey ..."
"Ha! The buffalo wing is mine!" Gourry cheered in victory as he speared the item he and Lina had been fighting over.
"Waaaah! Gourry!" Lina shouted as she watched the food disappear down Gourry's throat. "That was mine!"
"That's what you get for not paying attention," the blond retorted, already aiming his fork at another wing.
Lina narrowed her eyes. "Oh no you don't!"
Within moments, the mini war had started again, leaving the other three members of the group sweat-dropping at their friends' behavior.
"Oh well, might as well make the most of it," Amelia sighed, raising her hand. "Waiter! A plate of buffalo and a glass of water please!"
At this moment, Hoshi walked into the building with two bags in his hands, one marked Amelia, the other marked Lina.
"Um ... what's going on here?" he asked, staring at the activity over the center table.
"Lina and Gourry are fighting for food," Sylphiel replied, already sitting down at the table next to the center one. "We've decided to stay here and eat for now."
Hoshi smiled and placed the two bags down on top of the clear table while sitting down next to Sylphiel. "Buffalo, huh?"
Amelia laughed lightly as she joined the duo, the waiter close behind her with a plate of the meat and a glass of water. "Hello, Hoshi. Do you want to eat here as well?"
"Yes," the blond replied with a grin. "I love buffalo. Oh, and Amelia, I bought the books for you and Lina so neither of you will have to go back to Cael Printers since it's on MS High's account and both of you left the store before getting your books."
Amelia laughed weakly. "Oh ... yeah ... Thanks, Hoshi!"
Zelgadiss sighed and got up from his seat, pulling up a chair between Hoshi and Amelia to join the group. "So, what are we doing later?"
"Well, after we eat, I think that we can stroll along this street and shop for whatever you guys would like," Hoshi replied after giving the waiter an order of three plates of buffalo and three glasses of water for the table. "There's a lot of stores that I think all of you would like to explore."
"Oh? Like what?" Zelgadiss inquired, raising a brow.
"Well, there's the magic items store, the potions shop, the supermarket ... oh, we'd better go to that, I don't have enough food at home to handle Lina and Gourry's appetites."
"Sounds interesting," Amelia commented, propping her chin up. "Hey, do you pay for all the food?"
"No," Hoshi replied. "MS High does. And thank goodness for that. I don't know how my money account could handle the stress of paying for you guys."
"Is there a music shop around here?" Zelgadiss asked as the order arrived.
"Yes, there's one next to the potions shop, but you don't need to buy something for your music elective until your teacher tells you to."
Amelia sighed blissfully. "Isn't it great, Zelgadiss? Having an elective of music sounds so romantic!"
"But, of course, I get the justice elective, law!" Amelia continued cheerfully. "So that's great as well!"
"Wait, who has what electives again?" Sylphiel questioned as she swallowed the mouthful of buffalo she had been eating.
"Let's see, Lina has business, Gourry has mastering the sword, Zelgadiss has music, you have cooking, and I have law," Amelia recited thoughtfully. "Um, Hoshi, do you know why we have these electives and not something else?"
Hoshi nodded, then took a sip of his drink to clear his throat. "These electives are what you will be successful in should you choose to go to the outside world instead of staying here, as I chose to do."
"Oh, that makes sense," Sylphiel nodded. "But how do they decide on them?"
"Maybe they compile a profile of us and then decide?" Lina suggested, walking up to Zelgadiss' left side with Gourry right beside her.
"Aaaaah! Lina!" Amelia cried, flinging her hands protectively over her plate of food. "Don't eat my food, please! Eat Sylphiel's or someone else's!"
"Hey, I'm not some compulsive eater ..." Lina muttered under her breath as she sweat-dropped at her friend's rapid actions. "Besides, I'm full."
"A miracle occurs," Zelgadiss said as he lifted his cup with his right hand to take a drink of water.
The next instant, his left hand was raised just above his head grasping Lina's fist in his own while he calmly sipped his water. Wait a second, how did he move that fast? Lina thought, as surprised as the rest of the table over being blocked. I've never seen anyone move that fast before, except ... Slowly, a reluctant connection was being made. Except for that time in the alleyway. But the Zel I met there had blue skin with stones embedded in them. He wasn't human.
As Lina stared in blank-faced amazement at her still hand, Gourry tapped Lina on the shoulder and whispered, "Hey, Lina, if you ever get a better figure, I think that you should work on your temper next."
Lina's face rapidly became red, but after wrenching her hand away from Zelgadiss and before she could beat up on Gourry, Hoshi quickly interjected, "Anyway, the same mechanism that chooses your magic also decides on your elective. And before you ask, no one's really sure about what does this or how it works, so don't bother asking me."
So the same device chooses these two things, huh? Lina mused as she stared down at the floor with a blank expression on her face. I wonder why it's such a big secret then. And why didn't it just pick a magic specialty for me like it did for the others? But ... Startled, Lina gazed at her friends, a new question in her mind.
"How did it feel when your magic specialty was decided?"
Sylphiel looked surprised at the question, but replied, "It was like a warm feeling washed over me, then a voice told me that I had a specialty of white magic because it suited me the most."
Amelia nodded in agreement. "Yes, the same thing happened to me."
"And to me as well," Zelgadiss stated as he looked up into Lina's face in curiosity. "Why did you want to know?"
"Eh? It's nothing!" Lina hastily responded as nonchalantly as she could. "I was just wondering, that's all."
Zelgadiss shrugged, then turned back to eating his food, the other three following suit with Gourry joining the group by pulling up a chair as well. Lina only walked over to her old table and sank down into her seat, lowering her eyes to stare down at the floor, her troubled emotions carefully hidden from her friends. So ... the others didn't have a choice. But then ... why did I?
The tapping of a pen against a metal surface echoed sinisterly in the darkened room where a single figure sat impatiently behind a neat desk with only a few scraps of paper piled up to the upper left corner. A single light shone onto the desk, revealing the long fingers of a human, fingers that circled the end of a pen gracefully. After a moment, an orange shower of light appeared and Vrumugun materialized in a bowed position just in front of the person.
"Vrumugun," the shadowed figure stated monotonously, halting the movements of the pen.
"Master," the hunched servant returned in a respectful tone.
"What do you have for me?"
"The girl has shown no other displays of power, but at rare moments, appears to be troubled by something. However, I cannot discover why."
"I am still not certain, but his character seems fairly close to the one that we know. I still need a little more time to find out for sure."
The shadowed figure smiled cruelly in the blackness, then rose and walked to the closed windows behind the desk. Drawing back the center blinds a little, the wavering light from outside slanted into the room and outlined part of the figure so that it was no longer concealed entirely in darkness. After a moment of mutual silence, the human smiled. Turning his head to look at Vrumugun, the undulating brightness slowly fell onto the cruelly twisted face of a purple-haired relatively young man garbed in red robes.
"Good. After all, I wouldn't want to hurt someone who wasn't my grandson, now would I?"
Whew! It's finally done! Um, I was too tired to proof read this, so if you find some major errors, please inform me. Anyway, in case you're wondering how I picked the names for the continents, Glats and Alir are completely made up, but Hiems means winter in Latin. One other new thing is the idea of divine magic. I only know of two spells that were used in Slayers Try taking divine magic's power, so I'm basically going to make all of the spells for that up.
* For those who don't know the real definitions of magic in the Slayers world, black magic calls on the power of Shabranigdo and mazokus. White magic calls on the power of holiness. Shamanism calls on the power of spirits as well as the elementals (water, earth, air, and fire). Divine magic calls on Ceiphied's power. This is a very basic summary of the different types of magic so if you want more specifics, go to Slayers Universe (the link is on the credits at the bottom of the main page). I guess it was kinda selfish of me to hope that I could get away without explaining myself on why I described the different types of magic as I did (vaguely and sometimes incorrectly, especially with divine magic), but please, just trust me on this. I'm a perfectionist, did you really think that I'd get such a crucial element wrong? For now, go with the flow and you'll see what I'm trying to do later on in the story. See any other major problems in the story? You can email me about that, but chances are that I probably meant to do it. It's just that you'll have to wait a while for it to actually be explained.
Part 3 | Fanfiction