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Heavenly ★ Branches [IC]

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Fearing they would further spook the nervous boy, Priam removed their hand as soon as they felt the stranger jump. They offered the boy a gentle smile as he slowly regained his composure. Dae, was it now? Priam couldn't stop themself letting out a small chuckle as Dae spoke. Even though Dae was frightened and suspicious of the situation he found himself in, he still managed to find the time to be polite. Priam appreciated that.

"Well, we have the rest of the school year ahead of us," Priam said in a low, soothing voice. "A lot of things can happen by then. Maybe they're bluffing about reading our files. If they aren't lying, that still isn't too bad. Official documentation lists little more than facts about your schooling, perhaps any medical issues you might have and any behavioral issues you might have. They aren't exactly intimate." Priam folded their hands together and glanced up momentarily at the seniors in the front of the room. The blue haired boy's speech was intimidating, but he certainly didn't look scary. In fact, now that Priam looked at them more closely, none of the second, or third, years looked particularly threatening. Despite the overall ominous atmosphere, it was important to remember everyone in the room was either a teenager or a newly fledged young adult. As the blond kid said earlier, they were only a few years apart. There was no reason to be so intimidated. "My name's Priam Nightingale," Priam said as they grinned down at Dae. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Dae-sung."

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Ah, so Tanner was ready to nail home the point of the club. How thoughtful of her. Alistair relaxed his shoulders as he leaned back into his chair. It was easier to masquerade as someone else when there were people Alistair knew were around. He didn't exactly know why that was, but it made him feel more comfortable as he stared apathetically at the first years in front of him. Of course, the act wasn't going to last long and he was starting to get a little bored with the whole procedure. He'd probably break the act sometime during the meeting and if he didn't, chances were that one of the first years would see him during normal school time and realize he acted completely differently. Eh, he'd what he felt like and deal with the consequences later.

 

Another first year raised a hand up and asked a question. Alistair was thankful the question related to the point of the meeting and wasn't something unrelated or a quick quip about how the club was treating the first years. Perhaps the other first years would catch on and ask more questions about the club rather than anything outside of it.

"Of course I discovered some of the secrets of the school myself," Alistair huffed in mock irritation. "Some of those secrets I'm afraid I can't share with you until I know I can trust you, but I guess it wouldn't hurt to let you first years know about a few things that you should know." Alistair held up four fingers, making sure everyone in the room could see them. "Ever element, fire, water, earth, and air, all provide some sort of luxury to the school," Alistair explained. "Fire is in charge of the kitchens where you can make any kind of food you want." Alistair lowered a finger down as soon as he said fire and lowered another one as he continued. "Water is in charge of the hot springs. Technically, earth Stems help out, but it's primarily ran by water Stems." Alistair lowered his hand on the desk as he clenched his hand into a fist. "Both the kitchens and the hot springs are run by students, not the staff. They're not exactly big secrets per se, but you would be surprised by how many people don't know about them. As for what the earth and air Stems are in charge of, I think I'll just let you figure that out for yourself."

Edited by Doctortear

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Randall stood above the pair, his arms crossed. Freyja and Will were laying on the ground, panting heavily, unable to move anymore.

"It exploded again, huh?" Randall sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Means you two are trying too hard to force it."

"What do ye even MEAN?" Will said, as he had before. "None of this makes any sense, mate! We tried to force it?"

"Yes. You two are doing what I thought you'd do from the beginning." Randall said, shaking his head. "You're fighting each other."

"What?" Freyja asked, confused.

"You're trying to one-up the other. A rivalry in love isn't bad, but not when it comes to this, you two." Randall said, poking William with his shoe. "You, pirate boy. Who saved you from the water?"

"Freyja?..."

"And you, viking girl, who taught you the meaning of freedom?"

"....Will.." Freyja said sheepishly. Will turned to her slightly.

 

"What?"

"It's true." Randall said. "It's obvious between you two what has happened here. You're trying to beat the other in some hidden game. And that's not how this works. Now, we're going to do this the right way. Will, Frey, hold hands."

Will struggled as Frey followed suit, the two of them reaching their arms across the dirt to interlace their fingers with a bit of effort. Soon, Will felt a slight tingle within his arm, Frey returning the motion with a small gasp of surprise.

"You forget, you two now have a mana pool. Even when your stamina is exhausted to nearly nothing, you have each other to empower." Randall smirked. "Now, link."

The familiar suit decorated Will's body as he began to stand back to his feet, Freyja's wings emerging from her back as her chains took on a light aura.

"Now, imagine your weapons in your hands, you two... and do what you were always capable of." Randall said with certainty. "Now that you are one."

Edited by Thaelasan

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With Sienna done her business, the walk back to the room seemed much quicker than the way there. Judging by the things people considered normal at this school (or city life, really), she didn't think anyone would bat an eye at the white haired girl's new living accessory.

 

They got back right in time for the talk about school secrets.

 

~

 

"Fire and water," Flint thought out loud. "A kitchen and the springs -- a pool. Both of those places share a close relation with their element, so it won't be a stretch to say that air's secret would be floating above us and the earth one under our feet." He pointed upwards, then downwards. He gave a satisfied smirk for solving the simple puzzle. There was the matter of actually looking for those rooms to confirm his hypothesis, but he felt like he already finished Tanner's assignment. "I'm in, but what makes you say that there'll be demons in the imminent future? We barely know anything about them and it's not like there's a weather report or anything--."

 

"Forget I said anything about that," Tanner cut him off abruptly. "Focus on honing your skills whenever you have the chance."

 

After looking momentarily over to the girl with the curly ponytail who just came back, Flint then focused back onto Tanner. "Then I'll guess I'll base my secret analysis on you. Get ready to spill the beans to Private Eye Albion." He gave a wink while snapping with both hands and making finger guns. The third year did not look impressed at all.

 

"Alistair," she said, ignoring Flint's display. "Why don't you explain our last few minutes to the freshman, Sienna and her new pet?" And hope it doesn't try to fight the chicken...

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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The message was too tempting to ignore. The note had been tucked away into his belongings, almost completely unnoticeable until Thel had crouched down to pull out his loungewear. By the end of the day, he found himself in room 208 and among several other first years, sipping from a thermos filled with water. A few second years and a third year were gathered before the confused students, a blue-haired boy with a chicken in his lap trying to play off the Big Baddie. As he spoke, Thel's eyes surveyed the room briefly, eventually returning to the speaker. Alistair could put on a decent act. It brought a smirk to the male's face.

 

Glancing about as others spoke up, he opted to listen rather than interject. Until he spotted Matthew playing with a pebble. His smirk widened, lightly nipping at his lower lip as an idea crossed his mind. Edging his way through the first years, Thel crept a few feet closer to find a clear line of sight. His gaze shifted to his thermos, eyeing the liquid that sloshed within. Pointing a finger at the water, a few centimeters from the top of the bottle, he hummed faintly. "Everything requires diligent practice, doesn't it? It's always hard work that pays off the most," he commented idly. He spoke more to the air than to anyone directly.

 

The water quivered faintly before rising in a thin stream as he pulled his finger farther from the bottle. Thel darted his gaze onto the pebble floating above Matthew's palms, flicking his wrist at the same time. The stream of water shot towards the pebble, whipping it out of place. A satisfied smile spread across Thel's face as he listened to the distinct click, click, click of bouncing stone. "Snipper, one; pebble, zero."

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{{ mage gave me the go ahead to skip cas into the room. }}

 

Cas opened the door slowly, balancing the Starbucks cup rather precariously in his arm as he peaked inside the room. Ah, so the meeting had begun--well, he expected he would be a little late.

He ushered the freshman by his side in quickly, tucking her into a casual corner as he surveyed the gathered students.

 

Well. They had quite the gathering, didn't they? Ally and Sol had chosen well. He had arrived in time to hear the last little bit of Ally's speech, and Cas smiled to himself.

 

"Excuse me, dear," he said, passing niceties around as he slowly weaved his way across the crowd to arrive at the front of the classroom.

 

"Air stems are responsible for making sure you can still breathe underneath that huge ego," he replied, "it's a two man job." Then, he smiled prettily and handed Alistair his coffee.

 

"Venti, half-caf, half 2%, half skinny, wet foam, single origin, fair trade, Ethiopian, one pump valencia orange, three pump mocha, no whip." He inclined his head, reciting the order. "It's been a while, Ally."

 

~

 

Dae begun to relax as the tall other spoke, their voice calm and soothing. Well, they had a point, didn't they? Priam, was it? Dae glanced around the room once again, though now considerably not as spooked as before.

 

"I suppose you're right," he admitted begrudgingly. "Nice to meet you, Priam," he replied. He had to tilt his head to look up at them, something the Asian boy was not used to considering he had grown up mostly considered the tallest wherever he was. "Sorry for the introduction, I'm just a bit ..." He rolled his tongue around in his mouth, wondering how to phrase this. Afraid? Glad? Guilty?

 

"Nervous," he finally settled on.

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Well, so much for the act. Alistair, who had been playing the part of a the mysterious second year who knew more than he let out, gave a timid smile as he took the coffee from Cas's hand.

"Well, so much for that," he whispered to himself before placing the coffee down on the table. "Nice to see ya again, Cas!" Alistair said as he wrapped an arm around his friend's neck, giving him a small kiss on the forehead. "So, now that we all know each other, I can drop the whole "ominous second year" act!" Alistair said aloud as he stared at his first year audience. "The name's Alistair Greenwood and I'll be guiding you through your first year at Heaven's Gate! This lovely gentleman next to me is Caspian El-Amin." Alistair nodded towards Caspian before pointing out towards the other seniors. "Our local third year over here is Tanner Sybil, the girl who just walked back into the room is Sienna Brunilda, and the cat girl in the corner half of you probably didn't notice is Solange Wilds. You can thank Sol and Sienna for sending you all of those letters that directed you towards this meeting." He paused briefly, remembering what Sienna had asked of him. "Ah, a recap for you two before I wrap this meeting up. Robinson can use their abilities without linking through practice, but you shouldn't count on becoming that strong anytime soon. Focus on pairing up and controlling your element. We are not here to oversee you but rather help you find some of the secrets located in the school and vice versa. Every element has their own luxury in the school; fire is in charge of the student kitchens, water is in charge of the hot springs, and you can figure out what earth and air do. Is that it?" Alistair seemingly asked the question to Tanner but he did not wait for her response. "Yes? Good! Let's wrap this up, shall we?"

 

Alistair settled down in his chair, releasing his grip on Cas. "You'll all receive more letters when the next meeting happens. If you have any friends you'd like to drag along into these meetings, just bring them along with you when the next meeting starts. As long as they don't notify the staff, we should be just hunky-dory!" Alistair paused for a minute and tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Ah!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Before I forget, if you discover some nifty secret you'd like to inform us of, have a question, or simply want to talk, don't be afraid to approach us outside of meeting hours. I should easy enough to find, just follow the sound of screaming and palpable wave of disappointment emitting from the staff. You want to talk to the others, you'd best ask them how you can locate them. Some of us are a bit tricky to find, y'know?" Sitting up, Alistair slammed his hands on the desk dramatically. "This meeting is dismissed! I'd reckon you should head back to your dorms before the staff catches you." Grinning wildly, Alistair leaned back into his chair, grabbing his coffee and taking a swing from it. "God that's disgusting," he said as he took another swing from the drink, his face curling in disgust. "Sorry to say you missed the meeting, Cas. Not so sorry I'll have you to myself in a few minutes time, granted none of the first years suddenly have a question to ask." Alistair looked up at his friend with a smile. It was nice to take a moment and relax, especially if the person he was relaxing with was Cas.

 

----------------------------------------------------------

 

Priam chuckled softly at Dae's response. They were glad he settled down somewhat, but they could tell he was still nervous. Why else would he look around the room again with such a concerned voice?

"You needn't apologize," Priam said as they raised their hand. "There is no need to be sorry for being unnerved by this meeting. This entire situation is rather cryptic, don't you think? It was only natural for you to be wary, even towards me." Priam grinned, hoping the kind gesture would help soothe Dae's worries. "It is a pleasure to meet you nevertheless." They paused momentarily as a pink haired boy gently maneuvered through the first years and up to the blue hair boy. The boy, Alistair as he called himself, changed his demeanor from shady to rambunctious and outgoing within mere seconds, changing the atmosphere of the room entirely. He quickly ended the meeting after explaining how they would get in contact again before turning towards his companion. "Looks like the meeting is over," Priam said before looking down at Dae. "Guess we should head out, eh?" From behind Priam, Opal, who was seated next to Thel, scooted an inch towards him.

"T-That was, uh, a good shot," she said, cringing at herself and desperately praying that Thel wouldn't somehow take offense to her comment.

Edited by Doctortear

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Cas laughed despite himself, burying his head into Ally's shoulder as he felt the other give him a light kiss on the forehead. Upon being introduced, the pink-haired one pulled away from Alistair and bowed, a light smile on his lips.

 

"Pleasure. If you need any help at all, don't hesitate to ask." He stepped back, allowing Ally to finish introducing himself to the rest of the gathered group, and waited.

 

He rolled his eyes at Ally's reaction, taking a sip of his own sensible white chocolate mocha. "It was your choice," he said, "I didn't fly off the island for a Starbucks run so you could insult it." Then, he held up his drink. "Want a sip?"

 

Cas nodded as Ally spoke, moreso an acknowledgement that he had heard what the other was saying than anything. "I don't mind," he replied breezily, "I got most of it from your speech just a second ago, anyways. Plus, I'm sure we have other duties than helping out the first years." He smiled behind the rim of his drink. "It's been an entire summer and then some."

 

~

 

Dae blinked, surprised at the sudden turn in atmosphere that had enveloped the room. Huh? What happened? A moment ago, the older students in the classroom had seemed intimidating and hostile, and yet in the flash of an eye, with a touch of pink and blue, the atmosphere had changed drastically. The boy who had lead most of the meeting ended off in a flurry of words, and Dae was left feeling confused and a little overwhelmed.

 

He looked to his side, where Priam stood calm and serene. "I suppose it is," he said, finally finding his voice after a pregnant pause. "That was ... an experience." He shook his head and then smiled to himself, breaking out in a laugh. "I guess so. Better go before we get caught, huh?"

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At first interested in the water manipulation being done by the boy with the water thermos on the other side of the room, Matthew was then quite surprised when the rock with which he'd been practicing flew out of his hands, courtesy of a tendril of liquid. Aside from that, he wasn't wet at all.

 

His previously calm and somewhat bored expression became briefly confused, and then he understood what happened.

 

"Now, that isn't very nice."

 

Matthew tapped his foot on the ground firmly and focused on the rock where he knew it to be. Slowly, it started to roll across the floor as if with a mind of its own, somewhat reminiscent of a Slinky. He stood, and kneeled down to pick it up.

 

"But you're right. Practice makes perfect."

 

He shot the boy a devious smile and held up the rock in an attempt to prove that he wouldn't give up that easily.

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Robinson's class, Two Days Later

 

On Wednesday morning, the first year class was assembled in the courtyard once more. The fountain was back in one piece, although the faces were disfigured, glued back together by engineers, not artists, and one of the repair team thought it would be funny to exchange and arm with a leg. (They were right. It was hilarious -- at least among the students.) Even after the bell rang, nobody silenced the assembled teenagers as they discussed with laughter and whispers about the assignment that they were to be performing and their individual progress. Not many people knew what to expect.

 

A sharp whistle from Mr. Eginhard caught the students' attention. "How today is going to work," he began, pausing to make sure everyone was listening, "is that each of you will be performing your homework individually. The rest of you can do some last minute cramming, but I will be giving a bonus lesson on how to throw a punch. Then, Dr. Robinson will give a proper lesson on linking."

 

Robinson looked up from the table set up before them, with a neat stack of paper on their right and a pen in hand. Legs crossed, they twirled the writing instrument in their hand like a bored student, though it was obvious from their absent gaze and furrowed brow that they were deep in thought.

 

Mr. Eginhard called up the first student. "Thel Aditsan?" Then, to Robinson, "All yours now, doc."

 

Flint looked to his right, then his left. Conversation had already restarted. Some students were still practicing and others looked anxious, as if they were to be giving a speech to thousands, but Flint doubted anyone would be as underprepared as he was. They were going in alphabetical order, which meant that he had about ten minutes to figure something out and hide the fact that he procrastinated on the assignment. It was supposed to be dirt simple! He figured he would be able to wing it, even with his initial puzzlement of how it works. Just focus and the thing floats, right?

 

After a few failed tries on the first day, he just forgot about it for the next two. And now he was here, trying to make dirt float to impress the judges. There had to be people who just couldn't do it. Flint concluded that he would just have to pretend to be someone terribly ungifted in magic, instead of admitting that he was too lazy to put actual work into it.

 

He watched as Robinson grabbed the first sheet of paper on the stack and fill in some data, presumably name, number, and element. Pulling a shotglass and a bottle of water from under the table once Thel came up, the professor poured him a cup. "Impress me."

 

~

 

 

Aria closed her eyes and imagined the fire burning within, like the flames in the stomach of a dragon. She exhaled like she was spewing a steady stream of smoke, then paused her breathing for a few seconds.

 

The assignment was a piece of cake once she tried not to force it. The bathroom incident with Sienna (who won't stop wearing that snake even after she claimed to want to release it) seemed to have unblocked something or other, and to her delight, Aria could conjure her own fire as long as she remembered to stay calm. At least, that was the easiest way to access her magic without having someone deliberately startle her and cause and explosion.

 

She was near the beginning of the list and she was confident in her abilities, and Eginhard's offer was interesting enough even though she already knew how to fight. Maybe she could show some other students how to fight, at least against humans. Was it going to be a bonus lesson on hand-to-hand? It didn't make sense. Demons came in animal form, and an animal acted much differently to a human in a street fight. It is really hard to punch a wolf.

 

"Mr Eginhard," Aria addressed the teacher, "You imply that we're learning to fight hand-to-hand, but we'll be holding weapons against demons. Why?"

 

He didn't have to think about the answer very hard. "A weapon is only an extension of the self, even more so in the case of linking. Even the most complex linked maneuvers come from the basics. And who knows? Maybe hand-to-hand is a skill that will save you one day. Does that answer your question?"

 

Aria nodded even though it answered nothing at all, then raised her fists in a ready stance.

 

((Notes are posted in the OOC.))

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Randall crossed his arms as he nodded in approval to Freyja and Will, smirking.

"Yes. That will do for today. Now, you two need to head back to your dorms, and remember the lessons you learned today." he stated, holding up a finger with his right hand. "Together, you're stronger than you are apart. And you're special because you two already have a link."

He chuckled.

"I remember the first year Robinson tried to play matchmaker. They paired an angsty teen with a constantly irritated one. It was worse because the angsty one was a fire type. Barbecue is an understatement."

He shrugged.

"But that's not important now. You two head back to your rooms and get some sleep."

Will and Freyja nodded, then held hands on their way back to the dorms, their fingers interlaced.

"Sleep well, Will."

"You too, Frey."

They shared a small kiss, and then departed for their own dorms, ready to face the night.

 

-----

 

The hands grasped at him as he heard the moans deep below the water's surface. They clutched, they grabbed, and they pulled. He couldn't move to the surface. With each movement to reach the air, the water only seemed to drag him further down.

He couldn't breathe or scream. He could only flail with panic as each movement became harder to perform, his oxygen leaving him. His body roared with one word - "AIR!"

His eyes began to close and his body felt weak but he kept fighting.

The dream ended as a voice pierced the abyss below him, whispering,

"Your crew awaits you, down below..."

 

----

 

He awoke, screaming, grasping his sheets and sweat flying from his forehead. He breathed as much as he could. There were grunts from nearby as those who had been sleeping were roused. One even yelled for Will to shut his mouth.

A girl pushed his curtains aside and ran to the bed, placing her hands on his chest and pushing him back onto the mattress, yelling for him to calm himself. The danger had passed. A man entered as well, younger than the girl, his arms crossed.

 

Soon, his vision began to clear. Will breathed, almost hyperventilating at first, as he looked at the two of them and realized where he was. Details in faces began to return.

The girl, Sandra, a second year, was now standing in front of him, her face filled with worry. But the man next to her, Peter? was currently standing beside her, looking around and trying to avoid eye contact.

 

"....You had the nightmares, didn't you?" Sandra asked. She was a slightly tubby, but homely second year with black hair and green eyes. Her pajamas were askew and her undergarments were visible. She had obviously pulled them on quickly as soon as he had began screaming.

Peter, the man next to her, was a younger first year, and Sandra's water based boyfriend - which was rare. Most couples were of differing elements. But Peter and Sandra had met before the school had started on her first year, and had been together for two years. He was currently shirtless, standing with irritation and discomfort.

"Wot...?" Will asked, concerned. He was tightly holding the sheets now and felt utterly embarrassed.

"The nightmares?" Sandra asked. "Uh... well.... you may want to whisper. There ARE tests tomorrow.."

"TESTS?" Will asked loudly, which earned him another few angry grunts from some other water users. He sighed, turning back to them.

"Yes. Uh... they're... part of that assignment first years are given... You did practice, right..?" Sandra asked.

 

"Yes. In a way, I guess." Will replied, thinking to how severe Randall's "practice" had been. He still felt sore, even after the sleep he'd had.

"Anyway... uh.. we're not really supposed to talk about it with first years but..." she said, rubbing her arm. She gave Peter a glance. Will nodded understandingly.

"I get it." he said, waving his hand. "I dunnae want ye to get in trouble."

"Thank you." Sandra said, bowing. "Uh... anyway, I.... well, the nightmares. Um... you had one, right?"

"....I've had them yes." Will admitted.

"Well... Har-... A friend of mine... told me about them... about what causes them."

"Harold? That second year?"

Sandra seemed to chastise herself mentally.

"Yeah... Harold."

"Why didn't you want to say his name?"

"Because... during his first year, he... got a bad reputation for exaggerating things. Like, really bad." Sandra said. "But he tells the truth now! I swear! And he told me about the nightmares..."

Will gave her a glance.

"Tell me then."

 

Sandra took a moment, and then began.

"About a year ago, after the beta tests ended... and the school opened up, there was a leaked text message on a forum that seemed silly at the time. The text message seemed like one of those screamers you get randomly online, so no one really paid it much attention. All it said was 'She's watching.'

But... the forum was one dedicated to those interested in the school, especially before the enrollment process, and the name was trailed to a student who was in the beta program. I don't know if you know, but those students weren't allowed to link to the outside world about anything related to the project, so when people saw the picture linked to the message... Well..."

Will narrowed his eyes. "Picture?"

Sandra swallowed a moment.

"Well... it was a picture of three students, sitting in a room on a bed. But it was actually a video file encrypted as a jpg....And when people found the video, the three students were found to be asleep... and there was just this girl staring at the beds...Just staring for thirty full minutes."

"Thi....rty? Are we sure it wasn't a looped video?"

"That's the thing. It came from the school's own security cameras with a video feed timer. She didn't move until the end. And when she did, all three of the students on the beds began to convulse like they were having a seizure....And then she looked at the camera."

She put her hands on her face.

 

"It was burned, almost completely gone. Half of it was skeletal. Her eyes were burned from the sockets."

"You have to be kidding. What does that have to do with nightmares?" Will asked, confused. "Ye tellin' me some burned face girl is doin' it?"

"No. But she's part of it. They say she finds the ones with the nightmares... and she hunts them. But after the video was found, a week later... it was removed by the school, as far as anyone knows. You can't find it anymore." Sandra finished.

"This has to be some sort of prank. It had to be somethin' I ate or somethin' else. I..." Will struggled to find an explanation.

"It felt too real for that, and you know it." Peter finished. "Sandra and I have had the nightmares too."

"It's... just coincidence, right?" Will asked. "We just need to sleep it off. They'll go away. It's... gotta be because we're new students or somethin'."

Sandra gave him a look of sadness as Peter shook his head.

"You'll believe us eventually." he stated flatly, then pushed aside the curtain and left Will's bedside. Sandra gave Will a look, then did the same.

He laid his head back upon the pillow, and closed his eyes.

 

-----

 

He was on a ship now, a large vessel in the middle of a storm. He called for his men to man the rigging and lower the mast but there was no one to hear him shout, and the storm only grew louder.

He frantically pulled the wheel but the ship gave no heed. Still, he tried everything as the rain poured over him and the lightning crashed. Yet, over the sound of it all, he heard a song, far across the waves...

 

...and never did he find his men

upon the ocean where strong beware.

He may not make it home again.

The Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

Alone, and adrift across in storm,

the mast began to pierce and tear,

there was no sun with which to warm,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

He called and called and none did come,

and only the clouds would stop to stare,

as the storm's fury did strike dumb,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

Silently he gripped the wheel,

and realized he was fool to care,

he would be the ocean's meal,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

O hush now child and brush away,

the salt and rain deep in your hair,

remember what things he did say,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

There was silence from above,

and a chillness in the air,

as though to quiet the story of,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

 

As the song ended, the wood began to splinter and lighting bolt set the mast aflame. Will tumbled over his own feet as he tried to grab any piece of flotsam to survive. The waves overtook the boat, devouring it like a giant maw.

The hands grasped him again, and he went under.

"Welcome home, Captain Will."

 

 

----

 

"Well don't ye look a sight, William Edwards."

Freyja stared at him as he sat down next to her with a breakfast tray. His eyes looked tired. His very figure looked haggard.

"Didn't sleep well."

"Why's tha'?"

"Just some bad dreams. Nothin' to worry about." Will assured.

"I'm not worried about the dreams. I'm worried about th' fact that ye're trying ta eat sauce packets an' syrup tubs instead o' actual food."

"....Oh."

"I'll grab ye somethin' ta eat that's actually edible." Freyja said, standing to her full height. "Don't ye go wanderin' off."

"Aight..." Will muttered as she walked off in the direction of the buffet tables.

 

Soon, she returned, with a tray full of food, and placed it in front of Will before returning to her own seat. She prodded him with her elbow.

"Eat. Today's the day we turn in that assignment."

"Oh... right..." Will muttered, nonchalantly eating a small bit of bacon. He hadn't really thought about it. He was surprised he'd even managed to get dressed this morning.

"Are ye sure ye'll be alright?"

"Not at all." Will admitted.

 

-----

 

Now, they were standing in the courtyard, with Robinson calling them forward. Each person walked to the front, Freyja going before Will because of her last name. When she walked up to the pinwheel, it only took her a moment before she held out a finger.

The wheel began to move of its apparent own accord. She theatrically blew on her finger as though to pretend it was some form of gun before she walked back to her own spot.

"Compared to Randall's training, tha' was like running a lap 'round a two inch course." Freyja muttered, patting Will's shoulder. "Ye can nap after ye finish this."

"Right..." Will replied sluggishly.

 

-----

 

When he was called, Will headed to the front as the glass was prepared for him. He could feel the familiar pull of the water in the cup before he was even standing before it. Randall had already made such an assignment easy as cooking toast.

He could hear the children behind him as he looked at it.

"Isn't that the kid that started that fight on the first day?"

"And the one who blew up the fountain?"

"What a crazy guy."

"This should be easy for him right? Lucky."

Will held out his hand, feeling for the touch of the water. It could have been the easiest assignment ever, but something felt off... He tried to grasp at the liquid in the cup, but there was something else there, something that didn't feel right.

He looked down at his reflection in the glass, and then a look of horror gripped him. He screamed, and the glass exploded.

Shards of glass shot through the air, one slicing across his right arm, the other across the left side of his face as he fell to the ground, water cascading all around him.

His face was filled with terror as he landed on the grass, his body shaking uncontrollably. He breathed rapidly.

He looked around at the students behind him, anxious and embarrassed, and then seemed to look off in the distance. He saw Freyja running from the back of the crowd to the front, trying to call something to him, but he couldn't hear her over the ringing in his ears.

His mind swirled as he looked around further, and then his gaze stopped.

His mouth opened wide in a look of extreme fear, and then he fell to the grass, having fainted from the shock.

 

Nearby, invisible to those without the sight, a young girl with a burned face stood in the courtyard before fading into nothingness.

 

There was silence from above,

and a chillness in the air,

as though to quiet the story of,

the Captain of the Maybell Faire.

Edited by Thaelasan

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Sounds of electric sparks and the gentle hum of a table fa filled a dimly lit room, only one corner of the room being significantly brighter than its surroundings. From what could be seen with the available light source, there was a rather large work bench tucked into the corner of the roo with a holographic pad extending out from the left hand side. On the right-hand side of the desk, another computer monitor was flashing with various pieces of information, one of the sections seeming to be a video of sorts and another seemed to be playing a slideshow. Cornering the left side of the work bench was another table with several shelves adorned with an assortment of tools and other devices. Standing in the center of this arrangement was a small girl with brown hair, her eyes covered by protective goggles and a dull gray mechanics apron covering her front side and a pair of black rubber gloves on her hands.

 

Pausing in her work, setting down a soldering iron and pulling the goggles off her face, she looked over at the pad and nodded approvingly to herself before turning to the computer on her right. A chime echoed in the room the moment her finger touched the screen and the lights flashed on, revealing more of the room that now looked more like a lab than a normal work room. Tools and other devices littered the ground, while whatever sections of the wall not covered by screens or wires had diagrams. One side of the room was nothing but desks covered in papers and notebooks, one of them had a stack of mail piled on top.

 

Suddenly, a female voice resonated within the confines of the room as a red figure formed on a pad towards the center of the main wall. Aside from the red tone, her overall design was high rate, as even light freckling could be seen along the figure's shoulders and on her cheeks.

 

"Miss Newman, the current time is now 06:47AM, I highly recommend you finish preparations for departure to the academy."

 

"Departure? Academy? AIRIS, what exactly is it you're reminding me of?"

 

"Today is your planned date of departure for Heaven's Gate Academy of which you received a personal invitation to attend. Albeit, your response is two years and three weeks late, considering the invitation was only recently discovered, but... putting it off for two additional months, don't you think it'll only upset them further?"

 

"Nevermind that, what time is my departure?"

 

"You are scheduled to depart, via ferry at 0830AM. If you miss it, the following possible choice is a second ferry departing at 1340PM."

 

"In that case, please initiate housemaid protocol and assist with packing. I'm going to shower and change, so please prepare the bare essentials. Afterwards, maintain home security and inform my father of my leave."[/b]

 

"Yes, ma'am. Also, please do not refer to my mobile function as a housemaid mode."

 

Shaking her head, The girl proceeded to a set of stairs that led into the main room of her home, a rather plain looking two-story building with a faded brown exterior with cream trimming and a white wall interior, adorned with wood flooring on the first floor and soft carpet on the second. Similar panels as before were situated in the main parts of the house while in the corner of the living room was a mechanical body that replicated the figure of the AI.

 

------

 

Several hours later, the girl was leaning on the railing of a ferry with very few other passengers, save some other teens, a couple of guards and obviously the crew members who served aboard the vessel. A few beads of sweat intermingled with the droplets of water that slowly descended along the girl's cheeks, having to run in order to make it to the ferry before it departed and nearly missing it entirely. Thankfully, in her case, one of the lines had caught a snag and spared her a couple of minutes to make it on. Despite this, her heart was still beating rapidly and she continued to work on her breathing.

 

While she leaned on the rails, a couple of the other teens had approached her and asked her if she was making her way to the academy as well. Turning to look at them, she merely nodded before turning back to look out at the sea. One of them had tried to make conversation again, but his efforts went in vain when she refrained from replying. It hadn't been completely intentional, as a swirl of thoughts began to raid her mind.

 

A few moments later, a voice came over the intercom announcing they would be docking shortly as the island came into view and grew closer and closer. By this point, the girl had learned that the other teens weren't necessarily attending the academy so much as they were assisting with necessary clean up, such as taking the trash, replenishing the stock of food and drinks, and other details that required outside assistance. Hypothesizing, the girl came to the conclusion that these teens had been students who had failed the initial exam and weren't able to obtain a branch power.

 

------

 

Shortly after docking, one of the guards instructed the girl to follow the path towards the north until she encountered the west wing of the building itself. From there, she would need to stay on the first floor and follow along the right path until reaching the main office where her branch would be provided. Waving to the guard in a gesture of thanks, the girl began to follow along the path, pulling out a tablet and powering it up. What she needed now was information and, based on the letter, she had access to some of the standard archives along with a few that normally required special clearance. Figuring now was better than not, the girl began accessing said files, scanning some files that weren't entirely accessible for later study. For the time being, the girl required a base level of understanding and her first order of business was the roster of other students who she would be dealing with.

 

Upon entering the office, the girl was immediately greeted by a fairly enthusiastic individual, a Mrs. Linette who worked as the academy's secretary. After filling out some paperwork, Linette began to try and bring up the issue regarding her late arrival, but the girl pushed the documents back on her, saying something along the lines of, "I've finished my documents, you'll find me in my room if there's something you need." With that, she proceeded down the corridors, filling in the blank pieces of her mental map and adding points of interest that she would visit later. Turning down one corridor, a courtyard came into view with several students standing about and someone clearly of higher standing sitting at a desk and a male student looking at a small glass of water. Moments later, the glass exploded, sending shards flying through the air and water spraying about the nearby area. At first, she had considered moving along, but the look on his face shortly before the sudden outburst looked like one of the old files she had seen during her small stroll.

 

------

 

"Looks similar to that hallucinogenic phenomenon that occurred here just a couple years ago. I'd recommend attending therapy sessions and possible isolation from the other students in order to prevent unnecessary injury. Regardless, Erika Newman, responding to the invitation. Sorry I was late, had an important project to finish up first."

 

Erika's suggestion was both blunt and lacking in any kind of remorse, just as her apology lacked sincerity. Of course, had it not been for a random occurrence in sorting through her paperwork and mail, Erika might never had known about the invitation to begin with. Of course, she had heard about the academy and she had a slight interest in studying it's mysteries, it wasn't until her stumble did she actually commit to attending. Yet, despite the commitment, some other events popped up the Drew her attention away and she almost forgot once more.

 

Now, here she was, standing in the courtyard amongst other first years when she should have been one of the beta testers. It had also became clear who she was speaking to at the desk, their file being one of the more elusive ones in regards to specific information on their abilities. Dr. Robinson, the branch prodigy and one of the younger staff members at the academy. Also, they were a fellow earth stem, but that was about as much as she could get on their profile. Anything else, Erika would have to observe directly.

 

"I take it there's also some form of exam going on at the moment as well. Looks to be the manipulation of ones personal branch to see how far they've come along in self-studies. I'm guessing they had a couple of days to practice beforehand?"

Edited by zakku_uchiha

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Poor boy William looked unwell. He was pale and shaken, as if he hadn't slept or eaten. Possibly he missed home, or Randall worked him too hard? Robinson took the next blank form off of the top of the file and drew a small cross in the corner of the page before they wrote his name. The cup was on the table, filled and ready to go. With high expectations, they nodded for him to begin.

 

There was a pause before anything happened, then the student raised his hand. But instead of the water rising, it pulsed outwards, shattering its container. The professor shielded their face with their arms not a moment too soon. Robinson's sleeves were wet, and blood began to well from a small cut on their forearm. They stared at the tiny wound for a few seconds, as if astonished by the fact that they were bleeding. An odd silence seemed to hang over the scene as Will fell, before conversation resumed in hushed whispers. Robinson motioned a nearby student over and sent her across the courtyard to fetch the school nurse. It wasn't the first time an accident occurred, though rarely anything so strange in broad daylight.

 

Dr. Robinson pulled the notebook out of their breast pocket, then jotted down a note: a reminder to use plastic cups next time.

 

Another girl took the opportunity to step over William and introduce herself. "Newman?" Robinson repeated. That prodigy that got an invitation two years ago, and which, two years ago, the doctor was apprehensive about her selection. "How nice of you to join us, and not a few years too late." They raised their eyebrows. "Normally I would advise against digging any deeper, but I feel like that would only encourage you to seek more information."

 

It was at this time that the student arrived in an awkward hurried gait with the nurse behind her. He was a lanky young man with curly sable hair pinned out of his face by a tangerine branch, although it was ambiguous if he would still be able to use his magic. His lab coat over his blouse at least meant that he wasn't a student. He knelt down to check Will's breathing and his pulse.

 

"Seems like he's going ta be fine after some rest," he concluded. "Probably got too stressed or somethin'."

 

"Thank you, Ken," answered Robinson. "We will continue to monitor him, but we should move him so we can proceed with the tests."

 

 

((Information about Darcy Ken, the school nurse, has been added to the first post.))

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Scared wasn't an adequate word to describe how Opal felt. She was utterly terrified. She was practically petrified where she stood clutching her arm in a death grip. She couldn't stop herself from glancing nervously at the other students as she waited for Mr. Eginhard to call her name. The sound of her peers laughing and talking amongst one another did little to soothe Opal’s nerves. For the last three days, she spent most of her time studying up on the classes she had and attempting to do her homework. Either the assignment was a lot harder than she originally thought or she was simply the worst water stem. She had spent hours alone with a plastic cup full of water sitting in front of her. She had tried to concentrate at the work at hand but every time she tried to rid her mind of her worries, a wave of anxiety would plague her mind and she’d have to stop in order to calm herself down before proceeding. The one time she had managed to move the water was when she was idly fantasizing about a world without her mother’s constant direction. She imagined a world where she could do whatever she pleased, discovering the world around her, making friends, and finding out what direction she wanted to take her life in. It was only after she let out a happy sigh and opened her eyes did she realize the water had rose from the cup and floated in the air above it. Opal had not been able to repeat the result.

 

“Opal Marit.”

Opal took a sharp breath before glancing nervously at Mr. Eginhard. It was her turn and she was convinced she was going to fail. Seeing another student collapse and get taken away by the nurse, or the girl who strolled up and talked to Robinson like a boy didn’t just faint, did little to make Opal feel better about her situation. She quietly gulped, hoping her fears would dissolve as she stepped forward towards the table. There was a shotglass full of water on the desk, a simple enough challenge for someone who knew they were doing. Opal didn’t know what she was doing. She was terrified of failing and the fear of not succeeding was evident in her uncontrollable shaking. She attempted to relax her, breathing in and out as she pursed her lips together. She tried to clear her mind and focus on nothing but the water. She closed her eyes, breathing slowly as she imagined the water floating upwards and out of the cup. For a moment, she succeeded. The water shifted within the cup and began to crawl towards the sky at a slow pace. Opal kept her eyes close, emptying her mind of unruly thoughts as she tried to move the water.

 

Ultimately, she failed. She remembered the whispers from the dorm the previous night, she heard the soft talking behind her from the other students, but, most importantly, she remembered her mother’s face, her stern gaze as she slowly shook her head in disappointment. Opal was distracted. All she could hear was the voices behind her, the non-stop chattering her of peers. They weren’t talking about her, she knew that, but her mind refused to believe so. She could hear them jeering at her, laughing as they waited for her to fail. It wasn’t real, none of it was real, but that’s what her mind told her to believe. Her thoughts became constricted by a rope of doubt and for a second she felt like she couldn’t breath.

“I-I’m sorry,” Opal suddenly said as her eyes flew open, the water dropping back into the cup. “I can’t do it. Not yet, I just…. I can’t.” She lowered her head respectfully to Robinson, biting her lip as she did so. She had failed. She was a disgrace. She could have done better but she didn’t. Her mother would be so disappointed if she learned she had failed her first test, but what else was new? Opal accepted her failure and used all her will to stop the hot tears from pouring down her cheeks. She could cry, but not yet. Not in front of the others.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

If there was anything hard about the test it was the long wait to take it. The whole process could have been sped up if they had more than one person test the entirety of the first year class, but that was not to be. Either Dr. Robinson wanted to test each student individually or the only magic school on the planet was oddly understaffed. Whatever the reason may be, Priam didn’t mind. They had the patience of a saint and they weren’t going to complain about something they didn’t fully understand out loud. That didn’t stop them from wondering what exactly made the process so god awfully long.

 

The test, evidently, put more pressure on their peers than they realized. They could hear the concern mumbles of the other first years around them and more one of them made their worry evident as soon as they were called up. The most extreme example was perhaps the boy, the same one who started the commotion the first time the first years linked now that Priam thought about it, screamed and shattered the shot glass on the table before promptly fainting. A girl from the back ran to him calling his name before he was taken away from the school nurse. There were hushed cries of surprise as the boy was dragged away and Priam could not help themselves from staring at the boy for several moments before turning their attention back to the task at hand.

 

A young girl, Opal, was called up not too soon after William was dragged away. Priam sympathized with the poor shivering girl and offered her a kind smile as she trekked back to her spot once she had failed the test.

“Priam Nightingale.”

Priam blinked once as their name was called and stepped up to the table. There was a small dollop of claw sitting on the table and Priam lifted an eyebrow as they looked up at Robinson. Clay, huh? They thought they’d be stuck with something like a rock or a pile of dirt. They hadn’t worked with clay before and they weren’t entirely sure if that made matters easier to harder, but that didn’t matter, did it? They just had to pass the test and get on with their training. Concentrating on the clay in front of them, Priam lifted up a hand and beckoned the clay to move towards them. They felt the earth tug towards their hand and, after several seconds of silence, the claw slowly began to drift towards their hand. The clay slithered its way into Priam’s hand and they lifted it up, tilting their head as the clay rose from their hand and floated a few inches above their palm.

 

They had done excellently when practicing the past few days. The first day, they had been able to do little more than make dirt float an inch above the ground. This morning, they had been able to make a rock change shapes at will. Granted their powers were of little use beyond being used as parlor tricks, but Priam assumed the first years had to take baby steps. They concentrated on the clay floating in their hand and willed it to change shape. Slowly, the clay molded into a ball and, after a minute or so with staying that shape, it changed into a square and then a triangle. Priam considered making the clay turn into more complex shapes like a star or something, but they knew their limits and knew that they would not be able to maintain such a shape. Gently, they allowed the clay to fall back down into their hand. They gingerly dropped the clay back onto the table and looked up at Robinson, waiting for a response.

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You really failed now, didn't ye? Who's going to believe th' crazy man?

 

Captain William Edwards. For years, fantasizing about th' water, about bein' some pirate on some fancy ship during that golden age of piracy. But dreams are dreams.

And this, my friend, is a nightmare. But ya already knew that.

 

Are ye confused as to who I am? But I'm you. I'm that part of ye who faced facts an' knew it would never happen. I'm the part of ye who wishes ye'd finally man up and stop daydreaming.

 

How does it feel, Will? To be afraid? To feel anxious and nervous? To embarrass yerself in front o' a whole crowd? Ye wouldn't embarrass yerself if ye were me. I promise.

 

Stop lyin' to yerself and wake up.

 

Wake up.

 

WAKE UP.

 

 

"Wake UP!"

 

Will's eyes blinked a moment before he looked around, confused. Standing near him, Frey had both hands on one of his arms, pushing him with a frantic look in her eyes.

"Frey...?" Will muttered. His head felt full of water. "What happened?..."

"That's what I wanna know, William Edwards!" Frey said, clutching him painfully. "The hell were ye thinkin', shatterin' a glass like that?! That shoulduv been easy! What happened?!"

Will placed a hand on the side of his head as he tried to ponder what she meant. Visions danced in his eyes. He remembered the glass exploding, a shout, her voice... But what had happened before...?

He shook his head.

 

"....I saw myself in the glass." Will admitted, sheepish.

"Uh... duh.." Freyja said, confused. "It was water."

"No.... Frey, I saw.... something that wasn't me, an' was."

"What do you even mean?"

"....It was... well... ye won't believe me."

"Ye don't kin that." Frey stated firmly. "Try me."

 

Will rubbed his hands together as he laid in the bed, uncomfortable.

"It was a horned... uglier me."

Freyja stared at him for a long time, then sighed and placed a hand on his forehead.

"It had to be because of the sleep deprivation." she stated flatly. "I believe you. You scared yourself with a hallucination."

"But it seemed so real-" Will protested.

"Will. It was in yer head. Now get some sleep." Frey commanded, patting his arm. "An' don't go blowin' up anymore glasses or lookin' in anymore water til ye do."

She stood to her full height, adjusting her school uniform.

"I'm headin' back out so I don't miss what happens. I'll be back after classes end. Ye better have slept by the time I return... Okay?" she asked, worried.

She turned around, walking to the door.

"Frey!"

She turned slightly.

"Thank you." Will admitted. "I love ye."

Frey stood there a moment, shaking her head.

"I love ye too. Now get some sleep."

She headed out the door, leaving Will to rest his head on the pillow with uncertainty.

 

What if the nightmares returned? His eyes drooped slowly but his heartbeat was rapid.

Who could protect him in his dreams?

Edited by Thaelasan

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“Trent Kim.”

 

He took a deep breath and exhaled. It was Trent’s turn to perform the test.

 

Trent moved forward and walked in front of the table. A shot glass filled with water sat on the table, waiting for Trent to do something. He made brief eye contact with Dr. Robinson, when did they manage to clean up the glass after the accident with the other student?

 

They should’ve used paper cups instead, Trent thought, staring at the glass.

 

It was at that moment in which Trent realized that he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with the water.

 

What if I fail the test?

 

Trent lifted his hand and beckoned the water to move up.

 

I can pretend that I’m a mage using elemental magic.

 

They felt the water swirl once around inside the glass before levitating up out of the glass. The water levitated for several seconds before splashing back down.

 

Trent sighed in relief and looked back at Robinson.

 

Did I do okay?

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Like the damned staring down his executioner, Flint went up to the table with an air of emptiness mixed with defiance. His eyes met Robinson's for just a second before he looked away, finding more interesting instead the lump of dark clay on the white tablecloth. It was a smoother, more coherent mass than the dirt he had worked with, and much more malleable than the stone that he had seen others have. He could see the glitter of tiny sand-like mineral aggregates inside of it, and he figured it wouldn't be a far stretch to say that the professor added those in themself to make the task easier, or harder.

 

"Albion?" Robinson repeated, snapping Flint out of his daze. They had been calling his name for a while now, he realized. His face heated up.

 

He lifted his chin. "Dr. Robinson, I didn't do the homework. I apologize for wasting your time."

 

As he turned to leave, the professor interrupted him. "If you are not even going to try, I suggest you go pack your bags and go home. Demons don't care if you are underprepared or whether you've done your homework or not."

 

Flint stopped, and looked back. Robinson's expression was serious, as usual, but now seemed to be devoid of compassion. To them, Flint realized, he was expendable and that there were hundreds of other students who were better qualified for this job. And yet... the doctor chose to take the time to chart everyone's potential individually, as if the were looking for something in particular. They were right; he could leave at any time, but it wouldn't do anyone justice to let the opportunity slip. He stepped closer and put a hand above the clay before squishing his palm into it and flattening it out. He closed his eyes to focus, feeling for the magic of his Branch and trying to connect it to the magic of the material. He wasn't simply levitating it through some psychic force; it was the material itself, stretching and winding as if it had a mind of its own.

 

When he was done, he lifted his hand off the clay, his knitted eyebrows silently asking Robinson what they thought. They were writing notes, and Flint was hit with the very real possibility that, apart from his handprint, the clay hadn't moved at all. "Well," he suddenly said, putting a hand on the back of his neck and backing away quickly. "It's about it! Thank you Dr. Robinson!"

 

Once out of sight and out of earshot, Flint laid down in the grass, glad that these tests were semi-private in nature and that no one probably saw his failure. And yet, once he had regained some sense of calm, he snuck back over to stealthily watch the other students' performances.

 

~~~

 

Trent Kim's test was pretty standard. Then again, everything was pretty standard after whatever happened to Edwards. Thankfully, Dr. Robinson had another glass on hand to replace the one that broke, and Ken had brought a few bandaids to cover their cuts.

 

There was some beauty in the motion of water before it was drawn from the cup. "That was a nice move at the beginning. Water wants to be in constant motion, unlike earth or fire, so it is easier to make it flow than to hold it still. Is that everything?"

 

~

 

Opal Marit looked as if she was about to fill the rest of the glass up to the brim with the water about to pour out of her eyes. Robinson was a little taken aback by the display of emotion and didn't quite know how to solve the problem. Despite this not being the first nor the last time someone would break down at this school, there was always someone else better qualified to work through this, but Mr. Eginhard was on the other side of the field, busy slamming D'Orazio into the ground after her failed grapple. Darcy Ken had left a while ago after bringing Will in. They were alone with this, this time.

 

Robinson dealt with hard facts and pertinent results; they didn't even understand their own feelings, so it was pointless to understand someone else's.

 

"You did... satisfactory," they said. That didn't seem to help. "This is only a diagnostic and your result here does not matter."

 

~

 

"Very good," they told Priam Nightingale. "You've been working at it, I see." Like a few other students, the tall student went one step farther than most by shaping the clay with magic instead of simply levitating it, although Robinson felt that they would be able to push their limits but chose to play it safe. "Anything else? If not, then you can be dismissed."

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"Thel Aditsan?"

 

He blinked, pausing in the middle of a conversation with a fellow classmate at the sound of his name. Thel smiled and nodded at Mr. Eginhard in response, walking up to the table where Dr. Robinson sat. ”Impress me,” came Dr. Robinson’s command. Smirking to himself, the boy turned his gaze onto the glass, the small amount of water reflecting the sunlight through the transparent cup.

 

Glancing over his shoulder, Thel briefly eyed the other students. The majority had resumed their conversations, largely ignoring him and the task he was about to tackle. However, he still needed to make a proper impression, being the very first one to step up to the plate. He had to set the initial standard, pressure not included. Inhaling slowly, Thel thought about how he should approach the test. Obviously, flair was necessary. The question was, how much?

 

As he thought, he pursed his lips and pointed a finger down at the water, twirling his finger slowly and coaxing the water into a miniature whirlpool. He whistled softly, an idea coming to him, and pulled his hand upward, drawing the liquid in a thin stream. Thel had been practicing non-stop, carrying his thermos around everywhere he went, trying various different tricks. Some had worked perfectly, others needed some attention. Humming lightly, the boy smiled.

 

Flicking his wrist much like the other night, the stream of water spun itself into a ring, floating close to his eye level. He glanced at Dr. Robinson, looking for a dismissive signal. When all he received was a stare from them, Thel wondered if he was supposed to do more. Well, then he would do more.

 

He curled his fingers and the liquid ring turned into a sphere. Thel sucked in a breath, visualizing what he wanted before flicking his fingers outward. The sphere of water burst into droplets, each one falling rapidly and threatening to soak into anything absorbent. Before they could hit the ground, Thel clenched his fist, jerking the droplets to a halt before they flew back into their original placement. The same sphere returned to existence before his face, a wide grin on the boy’s face. Gently, he tapped the bubble with his finger tip, lightly pushing it back into the shot glass with triumph in his features.

 

Knowing he passed the first test of the school year, Thel turned and walked away from Dr. Robinson’s table.

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While others proceeded to take their initial exam, Erika had decided to step back and observe rather than continue on to her room. Obviously, each person was unique in how they handled it, some seemed more adept to the alien energies now coursing through their bodies while others still struggled to make a connection. Was this a mental issue or did it have something to do with their genetic make up? Why could one individual perform better than another? Pausing, she looked down at her own hand and flexed it, curling and uncurling her fingers as if the answers would appear on her palm. Retrieving her loose baggage, Erika began to make her way back inside, pausing momentarily to look back at Dr. Robinson and the other students.

 

"If my presence is necessary, I'll be in the main lab room shifting through the research files acquired during last year's studies. Also, I'll be ordering some special equipment that should prove useful in my research. Lastly, I'll be tapping into the security cameras around campus and reviewing their backlogs. Should you find any issues with what I've implied, please refer to the board director, such trivial matters were stipulations on my part that needed to be met, assuming they still wish to have me here."

 

With that, Erika left the courtyard and proceeded down the hallway, pulling out her tablet which now had a complete layout of the school's primary infrastructure displayed on the screen. There were a few rooms highlighted in blue to indicate the various labs, but one of them in particular was what she needed. B1 on the far end of the academy had terminals and electronic work stations. Of course, other rooms would have sufficed, but she didn't want to be bothered by the teachers for occupying an instructional space. As for the room she had selected, whether it had been constructed in advance for her beta period or if it had an actual purpose, that answer would be found with the headmaster.

 

As she walked down the hall, Erika was unaware of the dark skinned female laughing and idly chatting with another girl passing her by until she felt the strange sensation of being stared at. Looking back and pausing, Erika caught the girl turning her head back towards her partner and carrying on with the conversation without even missing a beat. Tilting her head to the side for a moment, Erika turned back around and continued on until she reached a set of double doors that led to the main stairwell for this side.

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((Everyone back now? Good. Time for pair-ups round 2.))

 

The energy from her branch was foreign but powerful, and Aria had stepped forth to the testing table all too ready. Her skin prickled in anticipation, as if she were already facing down the hordes of demons bent on humanity's destruction. She had been working on it for the last couple days -- since the meeting, actually. That encounter with the snake -- the literal snake, although Sienna did have a sort of cunning look to her -- had made Aria realize that the task that Robinson assigned wasn't so hard after all. They were thrown in the water and expected to swim, and although this was a simple diagnostic test, Robinson was surely scouting for quick learners and those with good magic potential.

 

She gave the professor a smile, then put her hands together to make a triangle with her palms. A moment of focus to find her center, then she cupped her hands over her mouth and blew, her breath turning into a stream of orange fire upon contact with the open air. Robinson ducked and pressed themself onto the tabletop, narrowly missing getting singed by the flames. The fire dissipated just as quickly as it had appeared, but the heat still lingered for a few seconds. Robinson slowly straightened themselves up, running a hand through their short hair to make sure everything was still there.

 

There was a brief silence between them, with the professor taking the moment to write down notes yet saying nothing. Aria felt sweat on her brow. She wasn't sure if it was because of the heat, the magical exertion, or the fact that she nearly roasted the instructor. She overdid it, she knew -- like the kid who blew up the fountain, she didn't have enough control of her element and now it was obvious to everyone.

 

"Thank you, D'Orazio," Robinson finally said with a steady voice. Aria looked like she wanted to ask something, but stopped herself. Instead, she gave a nod and returned back to the crowd of first years.

 

~~~

 

Ever since Erika Newman's appearance, Dr. Camellia Robinson looked distraught. They couldn't keep their composure like they usually did. They couldn't stop thinking about the young girl's threats, whether they were real or empty. Perhaps if they had met like this five years ago, before the Branch Project reached its fruition, they might have been good friends. But now, Newman was unpredictable and would likely go around unchallenged as she dug up all the files of her own intiative. What was Dr. Nakata thinking, letting her in...?

 

 

~

 

"I am overall pleasantly surprised at everyone's performances today," the Doctor declared. They had their arms crossed, but a satisfied look. Behind them, Eginhard was beaming. "Honestly I had not expected that many of you would succeed with zero instruction in the short timeframe provided, but I see that a lot of hard work has happened since the last lesson." Perhaps that hard work was triggered by the impromptu demonstration last class, Robinson added to themself, or maybe because the students had help from the more open second years.

 

"Today we will go over the remainder of the linking basics. Ninety percent of all your fights will necessitate links, and knowing how to use them strategically will be vital to gaining the upper hand."

 

"Pair up with a partner of a different element but do not link yet. If there are uneven numbers, there are a few upper years who have volunteered to help out."

 

After having a few students clear away the table and move out a blackboard, Dr. Robinson flipped the board around to show a pre-drawn diagram of the elements.

 

user posted image

 

"Fire, Wind, Water, and Earth are the four classical elements, represented as the round nodes. During a link, the elements can be mixed to form even more magical types, but I will let you spread out and explore. You may now link."

 

"There are some training dummies in the gym storage room you can bring out, if any of you would want to practice with those. But, by experience, you kids are more durable than you think," Eiginhard added with a chuckle while rubbing his forearm.

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Some time had passed and Erika had, for the most part, settled into her newly acclaimed area. Several holo screens now adorned the room, since it lacked a substantial amount of monitors to begin with, and data was streaming from the central unit. Most of the data she was gathering now was base data that would've taken up far too much space on her tablet. This meant anything from what was planned to be on the menu to who had received a tardy mark, nothing quite substantial, but was data nonetheless.

 

Scrolling through several of the screens, Erika took a brief moment to look over at the one monitoring the security feeds. So, they were gathering in the courtyard once more? Link training? Erika held out her hand once more, a small rock sitting within one of the creases of her palm. With a limited knowledge base on how to manifest ones branch ability, Erika refrained from attempting to do anything until her requested equipment arrived. In the mean time, field training probably wouldn't be such a horrid idea and she had established what arrangements she could make for the time being.

 

"AIRIS, please continue to monitor and sort all the incoming data. I'll be stepping out to get a little practice in. Also, try not to break too many firewalls until we get confirmation headmaster. Please inform me the moment you receive the notice saying if we are approved or not."

 

"Yes ma'am. I will relay the notification to you as soon as I receive it. Is there anything else I can assist with?"

 

"How difficult would it be to acquire background checks on all the students who have either attended or are currently attending the academy?"

 

"It may take a few days, assuming I don't run into any difficult walls."

 

"If possible, I want information on both the students and the staff. Anything you can get, from their blood type to what town they were born in."

 

"Understood ma'am, is there anything else?"

 

"Order a coffee maker and have it shipped same day. Have them deliver it via drone. Tonight is going to be a long night."

 

With that, Erika left the room and retraced her steps until found herself back at the courtyard from earlier this morning. Unlike before, there were quite a few more students, some of them seemed far more relaxed and at ease than the others. Erika concluded these students were the second years here to assist with Dr. Robinson's next lesson. Suddenly, Erika caught sight of the same dark skinned female from earlier, their gazes meeting and a bright smile forming on the other girl's face.

 

------

 

Sienna had been standing off to the side while the first years were receiving their next segment of instruction. Why she was here in the first place? To assist with their training, as per requested in a message sent to them the night prior. Of course, even if they hadn't received a message, Sienna probably would've made her way towards where the first years were anyway, considering she was free to do as she pleased during her free time. Violet had been a tad bit disappointed, but Sienna promised to make it up to her later with a jelly filled bun and some apple juice.

 

When Dr. Robinson finished with their explanation, Sienna made her way to their side, figuring she'd let the students form up with their own pairs first before seeing who needed a partner. Nudging the figure with her elbow and a grin on her face, Sienna turned her back to the main group so she could speak face-to-face.

 

"You seem a bit more tense compared to normally. One of the new students giving you a hard time? Want me to punish them for you? Oh! Speaking of new students, I think I saw one heading towards the back stairwell on the West side. They seemed to be in deep thought cause they didn't even notice Violet and myself passing by until I exerted a little bit of my energy into the air. Unless they were one of the staff members that I haven't seen before, I know they weren't here before."

Edited by zakku_uchiha

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((Jess insert take two))

 

If she had more time, she could've done better. Sure, she had the past couple nights to think about it while that one pissball snored like marching band snares, but clearly that and the practice she had wasn't enough. She didn't want to think about the test, but it wouldn't budge out of her head. The clay did move, but not the way she wanted it to. She wanted it to go into her hand, but it only moved a little bit. The clay changed shape, but it did not obey her completely. She needed to have full control of the clay, but she didn't. She kept mentally kicking herself. She had to have done something wrong. Maybe she didn't practice enough, or with the right materials? Maybe thinking wasn't enough? That had to be it.

 

But that wasn't the worst part. What was the worst part?

 

Partner work.

 

It was something you were taught in early elementary school. It was a vital life skill for adulthood. But she loathed it. She could never bring herself to ask somebody to be her partner, afraid of rejection maybe. Anxiety, you might say. But there was no mention of necessary partnership for major magic to work.

 

Well, she took the test and got selected. She would have to suck it up.

 

While some students might have made a beeline for another person, Jess stood there, looking around. She probably looked like an idiot, and she was fully aware. But that was what happened every single time that a class was told to pair up. She sighed, wishing she hadn't decided to sign up. First she failed at magic while others used it with ease, and now this.

 

---

 

Sam leaned against the wall, excited for the new year still. He had gotten a good night of sleep, and he was feeling especially well today. He turned his neck sharply to one side, hearing a satisfying crack!, then did the same in the opposite direction. Feeling loose and flexible, he paid attention to the Doctor, smiling and waving a tiny bit when they mentioned the second years. He was certainly ready to fill in numbers, especially since Rachel did..not work out.

 

On Dr. Robinson's command, the kids would begin to pair up.

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((Good God, it has been too long.))

 

Matthew had done reasonably well in his homework, he thought: both manipulating and levitating the earth was a bit difficult to pull off, but in her usual manner Dr. Robinson said nothing, dismissing him and calling up the next student.

 

He sought her approval; not only because he admired her, though he did. The fact remained that to teach a subject, the teacher must be well acquainted with that matter. As such, Robinson stood as an example of what the student body could hope to achieve if they tried their hardest. He might have a reputation for laziness, but Matthew wasn't about to shy away from a challenge.

 

The next lesson began as a conclusion to their introduction to Linking, this time focusing on elemental synergy. Matthew took out his phone and snapped a picture of the chart, fully intending to memorize it later. Sure, it would be there for some time since it would probably act as a reference for now, but he could always look it over later.

 

Where do Light and Shadow fit in? They aren't made with any combination of two elements, it seems... Maybe they're more qualities than elements.

 

After finishing that thought, Matthew was suddenly dismayed at his realization that everyone around him had partnered up. Partners were necessary, so he'd need to fix that. But who? He didn't know anyone!

 

Shoving his hands in his pockets, he sighed and went to the other end of the courtyard hoping to find another individual without a partner such as himself.

Edited by Coryn02

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Latoya was certain she failed the test. She couldn't get the windmill to move more than a few centimeters, if that. It didn't help that Dr. Robinson said nothing beyond what was necessary to dismiss her. Wanting to bite her nails, Latoya played with the hem on her left sleeve instead. She stood and watched as the other students went through their tests, many of them doing much better than she had. Eventually, there were no more students to test and Dr. Robinson began speaking again, congratulating everyone and admitting their surprise about the success rate.

 

When they moved on to the next lesson, Latoya glanced around, seeing everyone pair up. Not wanting to be left at the mercy of intimidating second-years, she hurried to find a potential partner. In the process, she ended up colliding into a boy with blond hair. "Ah! I'm sorry!" she exclaimed, reeling backwards and trying to straighten herself out before she ended up falling. Looking at the boy, she recognized him to a degree but couldn't recall if she'd ever gotten his name. "I'm Latoya! Want to Link up?" she asked him quickly, grasping the impulse before it flittered away.

 

~~~~

 

Antonio eyed the chalkboard, studying the diagram and trying to figure out how the elements lined up with each other. There was no clear indication about how Shadow and Light fit in with everything but he tried to come up with a few theories. Mostly that the two elements were opposites of each other and likely had to deal with opposing elements being paired up. Fire and Water were opposites, as were Earth and Air. But, how did those relationships relate to Shadow and Light?

 

Well... Fire is a light source but it's often aligned with the more destructive nature of the world. And, the deeper the body of water, the less light filters through, Antonio reasoned. Scratching the back of his head, the boy pressed his lips into a thin line. "Water's almost always associated with healing, which is considered aligned with Light. But if Fire is viewed as chaos, that would be Shadow..." he thought aloud. Glancing at Dr. Robinson, he was silent for a moment before, "Pairing Fire and Water makes Shadow while pairing Earth and Air makes Light. Doesn't it, Doctor?"

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Unprepared for the contact, Robinson jumped when they felt someone nudge them on their side. They turned on their heels to face the student, and they swore that one day, some of these people -- especially Sienna -- would drive them into the ground. They did not like nosy people, and the white haired girl's casual demeanor and sly smile frequently rubbed them the wrong way. She spoke as if they were good friends for years, when in fact the number of actual conversations they had had would make them no more than casual acquaintances.

 

"My business is my business, Brunilda," they said curtly, though perhaps a bit more snappish than usual and all while avoiding looking at Sienna's smug face. "Most likely a student who was lost, or deliberately skipping class. No new staff have been hired since the introductions earlier this week." Robinson had a feeling that it was Erika roaming the halls looking for something to do, but they would have to approach the headmaster about her attendance.

 

It was then that Robinson saw the girl exit from the doors of the west wing. So she decided to attend after all. "Just let it go. I have a class to lead." With that, the professor turned away and faced the new students in a deliberate act to end the conversation with Sienna.

 

~

 

Antonio Vallejo, one of the last students to test, was the first to overtly speak up about the light and shadow theory that seemed to hang in many people's minds. the professor waited a moment for the volume before reiterating the answer. "Correct. Pairing water and fire makes shadow, and earth and air make light, although your assumption that darkness is aligned with chaos is flawed," Dr. Robinson affirmed with a smirk. Maybe it was a lucky guess, but the thought process was definitely apparent. "An easy way to remember which one is shadow and which one is light: the depths of water overpower the flames, and that the sky is brighter than the ground. Light and shadow are complementary elements created through opposite pairings. While they differ slightly in use, they are very similar in principle. Shadows are just the absence of light, after all."

 

"Shadow and Light--" Robinson repeated, "--created through water-fire and air-earth respectively -- are much less offensively oriented than the elements in the outer ring because they are neutral forces. However, that makes them far from useless, and with the creativity I've seen today I don't doubt that some of you would find them useful. Traditionally these elements have been used to create illusions: consider bending light to achieve invisibility, or disappearing under a cloak of shadows."

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Partner work, eh? Lavender took a look around. Some people seem to already know who they want to work with. Well, I should probably go over and find someone before I get paired up randomly… If they even do that here. She got up from her spot and looked for people who hadn’t been paired up. But the question is, who? It’s a crapshoot considering I know next to nobody here… Hm… Finally her silver eyes landed on a girl with fluffy caramel colored hair. She was buried in a textbook, not even remotely interested in anyone around her. Lavender furrowed her eyebrows. She doesn’t seem particularly friendly. Hm… I should probably be careful with her. She glanced at a tall boy with black hair and green bangs get up and approach another person. One less potential partner. This girl will have to do. Lavender approached the girl and gently sat on the ground in front of her.The girl looked up, narrow hazel eyes either calculating or unimpressed. Or… Shy?

 

Well, Lavender wasn’t quite so shy. She greeted the girl with a small wave. Yo. My name’s Lavender. Wanna pair up?

 

 

. . .

 

 

All Evonna wanted to do was read the textbook and get ahead on the next lesson. She had hoped that someone would pick her last. Nope. Suddenly this girl with red hair in a… Oh, surprise, FIRE hair ribbon practically sauntered to her location. Joy… When the girl approached, Evonna looked up.

 

Yo. My name’s Lavender. Wanna pair up?” Evonna paused. She had contemplated speaking in nothing but French to get her to go away. But she decided against it. After all… She did need to get this work done, practice in, and the only way she could do that was if she paired up with someone. I promise, I won’t kiss you. Evonna snorted. She closed the textbook and placed it next to her. This Lavender chick seemed friendly enough.

 

Eh. Sure. Name's Evonna. Lavender grinned at her. I'm with Fire. I'm guessing your with Water, then? Evonna nodded. Shall we link? She held her hand out to Evonna.

 

...Sure. She took Lavender's hand. They both stood up.

 

 

. . .

 

 

Peridot was rather unsure who to pick. His test went well enough, he supposed... But now he had to find a partner and link with them. Easy enough... Right? He looked around the area. A girl he had been hoping to introduce himself to had already paired up with a girl from Water. Oh well... I'm sure there's someone else who'd like to pair up with me, right? Peridot took another sweep around the courtyard. Who's available...? His eyes went to a young man with messy black hair and- Oh look at that- glasses. He seemed to look rather tired also. Hm... Looks like people are pairing up fast. Move it, Perri the Platypus. Someone else might take him. This guy should be a good enough partner.

 

He calmly approached the young man, and when he made it over he gave him a friendly smile. Hello, my name is Peridot. Would you like to work together?

Edited by Mikasa361

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