Note: Set early during the second season, just after Shou's duel with the insect girl. Potential spoilers within. Approach with caution.
Class in Session
Chronos - Principal Chronos, as he preferred to be called - stood at the door to the classroom and watched his students file in, alone and in clusters, to make their way to their seats. It was his favorite time of day: the time when he had a bright new day full of educational achievements ahead of him, and nothing had gone wrong yet. He called out greetings to a few of his favorite students.
"Good morning, Signora Asuka."
"Good morning, Principal Chronos," said Asuka demurely. Such a proper young lady, Chronos mused. He was proud to have her among his Obelisks.
"Good morning, Signore Misawa," he called.
The young man stopped long enough to make a brisk bow. "Good morning, Principal Chronos." Another fine student, that one. It was a pity he refused to be promoted.
There was a disturbance at the back of the crowd, and Chronos stood on tiptoe and craned his neck for a better look. Someone appeared to have been running into the building at full gallop, and had been unable to stop fast enough to prevent from crashing into several other students, who had fallen on top of each other in a domino effect. The transgressor, however, had managed to keep his balance, and was looking at the mess with wide brown eyes, as if he couldn't imagine how it had happened. He had a fistful of buttered toast in one hand.
"Sorry 'bout that!" he said. "I didn't hear my alarm go off this morning. Again."
Chronos sighed. "Signore Juudai, can't you even wait to get to class before causing a disturbance?"
"Sorry, Temporary Principal Chronos!" said Juudai.
"Just get to your seat," Chronos snapped.
Juudai bounded joyfully to his seat, as if there was nothing in the world he'd rather be doing than attending one of Chronos's lectures, and then set to work devouring the toast. His friends predictably gathered around him, leaving an odd view for his teacher. The rest of the room looked like a well-tended garden, with clusters of red here, some yellow there, and a border of blue where the Obelisks had taken all the best seats. The place where Juudai sat looked like some careless gardener had let the seeds get mixed up, so that the flowers had come up in every color without a care for whether or not they matched. There was Juudai's red jacket in the middle. On either side of him were Shou Marufuji and Daichi Misawa in their yellow jackets. Manjyome sat behind them and a little off to one side, looking out of place as usual in his black North School uniform. Next to him was Asuka in her white and blue. If this had been a schoolwide function instead of a class, the difference would have been even more pronounced, because even more people would have fought for a place next to him. Kenzan would have been there, and Fubuki, and perhaps a couple of Asuka's female friends for good measure. It didn't seem to matter what age or gender or class or rank someone was - they all wanted to sit next to Juudai. Chronos did his best to ignore him.
"Attention, students!" he shouted over the pre-class hubbub. "Today we will be continuing our studies on advanced deck construction. Sit down, be quiet, and turn your eyes to the front!"
Some of the students listened. Some did not. While they were settling down, Chronos turned his attention to a projector he'd set up at the front of the class, flipping switches and turning dials in an attempt to get it to cooperate. When that didn't work, he said a few foul words in Italian at it. None of his actions had any effect.
"Allow me, Professor," said a voice in the stands, and Misawa stepped down to the front to have a closer look at the projector.
While he was examining it, Chronos cast a look at the rest of the class. As he'd expected, Juudai was asleep already. How could he be asleep? Hadn't he just woken up?
"All fixed, Professor," said Misawa.
Chronos turned around. The screen that had been dark three seconds ago was now illuminated with an image of a rather disturbing-looking monster.
"How did you do that?"
"I just pushed this button right here." He indicated a large and rather obvious red button.
"Well, it didn't work when I pushed it!"
"Ah. Perhaps it has a loose wire," said Misawa diplomatically.
"Yes, of course. I'm sure that's what it was," Chronos replied. He gestured for Misawa to return to his seat, and then took a stance next to the glowing image that was now being projected against a screen. "Now, if you all would turn your eyes to the front, we are going to have a few deck-building exercises. Now, here we have the card Parasite Paracide. Assuming you wanted to use this card in your deck, what other cards would you include to maximize its effectiveness?"
Hands went up around the room. Chronos looked around, and his glance landed on the now peacefully snoring Juudai. His sidekicks, sensing danger, were attempting to shake him awake.
"Signore Juudai," said Chronos.
Juudai looked up sleepily. "Is class over already?"
"No," Chronos replied. "Now, answer the question. What cards would you put in your deck to best support this monster?"
"Oh, ah... Jade Insect Whistle," said Juudai.
"Fair enough," said Chronos. "Does anyone else have any other answers?"
"Aren't you going to tell him off for sleeping in class?" another student piped up.
Chronos shot the boy a look. "You're not one to talk. For all his faults, Signore Juudai is still making better grades in this class than you are. If he can think more clearly asleep than you can awake, you might want to consider taking a little nap yourself. Now, do you have an answer for me, or did you want to tell me how to do my job some more?"
The boy stammered and blushed while a number of his class laughed at his put-down. Juudai flashed Chronos his victory sign. Chronos felt absurdly pleased and tried not to show it. A year ago, he never would have stood up for Juudai for any reason - he would have been the first to call the boy to the carpet, in fact. But the fact remained that when it came to the serious business of dueling, Juudai was equal to or better than any other student in school. His marks may not have been outstanding, but it said something that despite the troubles Chronos had heaped on him in his first year, his marks had still been better in this class than any of his others. He was perhaps not a model student, but the fact remained that he was in Osiris Red because he wanted to be, not because he had to be.
"Now, can someone tell me why exactly the Jade Insect Whistle is such a useful card when used in conjunction with this one?" Chronos asked.
Hands went up around the room - among them, one belonging to Shou Marufuji. He looked a bit surprised at his own daring. Chronos remembered the first time he'd ever called on the boy, he'd been so flustered that he'd been unable to answer a simple question.
"Signore Marufuji, let's hear from you."
Shou stood up and looked around at all the eyes turned in his direction, but began to speak anyway, quiet but confidently.
"When Parasite Paracide's effect is activated, it's placed in your opponent's deck, and the deck is shuffled. When your opponent draws it, they automatically lose 1000 life points. Jade Insect Whistle forces the opponent to search their deck for one Insect-type card and place it on top of their deck. That increases your chances that they'll draw Parasite Paracide before the duel is over." He considered a moment. "Unless they're playing an Insect deck anyway. Then it wouldn't work very well."
"That's enough. You can sit down," said Chronos, waving a dismissive hand.
It was amazing how far the boy had come in a year, he mused, watching Shou resume his seat to be congratulated by his friends. Who would believe that this boy who had barely passed his entrance exams was now performing well enough to be a valued member of Ra Yellow? It was as if just wearing that coveted yellow jacket had worked some kind of magic on him, transforming him from a hopeless cause to a clever and confident student. If only it was that easy - they could just put blue jackets on everyone and turn this into the best school in the world before sunset. But no - Shou had earned the privilege to wear that jacket while he was still in Red. He had succeeded and would probably continue to succeed primarily because his friends were supporting him. Also, Chronos had it on good authority that Misawa was helping him with his homework.
The class ran through a few more similar exercises, and then Chronos passed around a stack of worksheets. The basic idea was that the students would be paired off in sets of two (fewer papers to grade that way) and asked to evaluate a list of sixty cards and decide which should be removed from the set to make a proper deck of forty. Or at least, they were supposed to be paired off. Not all of them wanted to cooperate.
"Why do I have to be paired with him?" Manjyome complained, pointing at the baffled- looking Juudai.
"Because he's the only other person in your dorm who can perform at your skill level," Chronos said flatly. "Unless you'd like me to pair you with one of the Obelisks?"
Manjyome shot an apprehensive look at his former dorm-mates, who looked back at him with expressions that said they would gladly fail the assignment on purpose just to give him trouble. After all, if they did fail, they could blame it all on Manjyome's influence. He'd proven himself their equal or better more than once, but they still felt superior to him all the same.
As if I don't know what my own students are capable of by now!
"Isn't there another option?" asked Manjyome.
"I'll work with him," Misawa offered. Indicating Shou, he added, "Juudai can have my partner."
"No," said Chronos flatly. "Those two do not need to work together on every single assignment. Signore Manjyome, pair off with Signore Marufuji. Signore Misawa, you work with Signore Juudai. Is everyone happy now?"
"Oh, fine then," Manjyome muttered. To Shou he added, "You'd better not screw this up."
Shou assumed an angelic look. "If I'm not as good as you, how come I got promoted and you didn't?"
"Listen, I could get out any time I wanted!" Manjyome snapped. "I just choose not to."
Juudai slung an arm over Misawa's shoulders.
"Awright!" he cheered. "I'm bound to get a good grade now!"
"I am not doing all your work for you, Juudai."
"Aw, c'mon! Just a little?"
"Quit complaining and start working!" Chronos snapped. "Get moving or I'll make you do it all individually!"
The students scrambled to their seats and set about arguing quietly amongst themselves. They did, however, look like they were getting their work done, so Chronos let them get on with it. He went back to his desk and began going over some papers from a different class, but his mind kept wandering.
To think I wanted to expel him! he mused, glancing up at Juudai. He and Misawa were now comfortably settled into their assignment and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Why not? They might have had completely different philosophies when it came to dueling, but they were both masters when it came to deck-building. They probably didn't really need this unit, but Chronos believed in making his students practice. If it hadn't been for that boy, where would we all be now? Probably the world would have come to an end. Certainly Chronos himself hadn't gotten very far against the Seven Stars, much as it pained him to admit it. Embarrassing, really, to think so much of himself and then to be the first to fall, and then have to watch the boy he'd antagonized since before the first day of school come swooping in and save everything from disaster. It had made him think. There hadn't been much else he could do, when he'd been turned into a doll, but muse on how the boy he'd done nothing but ridicule had been able to pry himself out of a hospital bed to come cheer him on, and how that same boy had then been put in danger because Chronos hadn't been able to live up to his expectations. Seeing that same boy go on to save him, not to mention the incomparable Kaiser Ryou, and go on to become a school hero into the bargain was enough to make even Chronos sit up and take notice.
If having him around is enough to raise the level of the Osiris Red dorm, then he's the best thing that could have happened to this school, he decided. The one thing he wanted more than anything else was for Duel Academia to become a truly high-class institution. If Juudai could help make it so that even the bottom-rung students were exceptional, then Chronos had to like him for it.
What he did not like was having his work suddenly interrupted by a set of paws placed squarely in the middle of his desk.
"Cat!" Chronos yelped. He leaped backwards, knocking over his chair and backing as far away from the animal as possible. Pharaoh, unperturbed, curled up on the desk and purred noisily.
"Aww, he must miss Professor Daitokuji," said Juudai.
"I don't care if he misses him!" Chronos wailed. "I don't care if he's missed the point, missing in action, or missed the last train to Clarksville! Get him off my desk!"
"All right!" said Juudai. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!"
Juudai darted forward and attempted to seize the cat. Pharaoh, spooked by the movement, leaped to his feet, scattering Chronos's papers everywhere. He proceeded to leap onto the projector and wobble precariously a moment before the machine finally fell to the floor. Pharaoh raced around the room with Juudai in hot pursuit, while students cried out or laughed as the boy and animal tore past. Chronos cowered against the far wall and flinched every time the cat got within ten feet of him. At last, Juudai was able to make a flying dive and get a tabby by the tail and haul him into his arms.
"Gotcha!" he cheered. "I caught him, Professor!"
"Fine, fine, just get him away!"
Juudai blinked. "What's the matter? Don't you like cats?"
"No," said Chronos, watching Pharaoh warily. "They've got claws and teeth and scary eyes."
"Mrow," Pharaoh agreed. Chronos gave a little whimper and backed further away. Juudai shrugged and tossed the cat out the door.
Just as the class was finally settling back into some kind of order, the bell rang announcing the start of the next period. Chronos sighed and slumped against the wall.
"Everyone hand in your papers!" he shouted. "Homework tonight - choose three different monsters and list ten cards you would include in a deck with them! Support your answers! Class dismissed!"
There was a small stampede to get to Chronos's desk so that they could turn in their assignments. Then they all hurried out of the room to get to gym class.
"Bye bye, Temporary Principal Chronos!" said Juudai, with a cheerful wave.
Chronos, too drained to object to the title, waved tiredly. As the last students filed out of the room, he picked up the chair and put it back in its place. He collected all the papers (some now festooned with pawprints) and set them in a neat stack. He found as many pieces of the projector as he could, put them in more or less the right spots, and decided to let the next teacher be the one to worry about why it wasn't working. He had an hour before he was expected to teach another class; he was going to his office to relax for a little while.
He had not gone far before he encountered Vice Principal Napoleon.
"Survived another class, I see," he said.
"Just barely," Chronos agreed. "You would not believe the way my morning has gone!"
"You know, you are in charge of this school," Napoleon pointed out. "You don't have to put up with this nonsense. Hire someone else to teach your classes and concentrate on what's important."
"Teaching my classes is most important," said Chronos.
"Why?" Napoleon demanded. "Why is it so important to let these children work you to a frazzle day in and day out?"
"Er..." For a moment, it was hard for Chronos to think of an answer. It was easier to think of bickering students and rampaging cats after a morning like this.
Just then, they were interrupted by the arrival of a boy in a blue tracksuit.
"Hi again! Betcha didn't think you'd see me again so soon, huh?" said Juudai cheerfully.
Chronos sighed. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you," he answered. "Miss Ayukawa wanted someone to come tell you that the roof in the gym is leaking. We sent somebody to get a mop and some buckets, but we kinda figured you should know, and I volunteered!"
"Wonderful," Chronos sighed. "Fine, fine. I'll deal with it."
"You look awfully cheerful," said Napoleon, giving Juudai his most imposing look - which wasn't very imposing, considering he had to nearly bend over backwards to look Juudai in the eye. "Glad to get out of class, are you?"
"Yup!" said Juudai cheerfully.
"There, you see?" said Napoleon to Chronos. "No point in even trying! They don't appreciate anything you do for them."
"Hey, that's not true!" said Juudai. "I mean, this is gym class we're talking about! It's fun and all, but what's it got to do with dueling? I'd rather play cards than play basketball any day! I'd rather be back in Temporary Principal Chronos's class. That was a fun class today! I think I'm going to do my homework assignment on the Black Magician! Or maybe the Red-Eyes Black Dragon. Or both! Or do you want me to try to pick something nobody else is doing? Hm, maybe I'd better think of something weird..."
"Just do whatever you want, as long as you aren't just copying someone else's deck," said Chronos.
"Okay!" said Juudai brightly. "Better get going, then. I can't leave Shou alone too long in there - he's scared the building is gonna flood, and he can't swim! See you in class tomorrow! Bye!"
He waved cheerfully and scampered back in the direction of the gym. Chronos looked at Napoleon.
"You were saying?" he asked mildly.
"Nothing," Napoleon grumped.
"No, I think you were saying something about nobody appreciating me."
"If the opinion of one boy in a red jacket is enough to make you happy, then there's no point in arguing with you," said Napoleon.
"There is no point in arguing with me," said Chronos, "and that is indeed what makes me happy."
And with that, he turned on his heel and marched off, leaving a very confused vice- principal in his wake.