Narrowed eyes quickly scanned the messily-written words printed on a page of paper that had been torn out of a spiral bound notebook. After a few seconds of silently absorbing the information, a frown began to twitch on his lips and his eyebrows knitted together in displeasure.
His hand crunched up the paper.
Brown eyes widened tearfully.
Pink lips parted ready to cry in despair leading the fate that bestowed him.
Manjyome swung back his arm and threw the crumpled ball as hard as he could at Juudai's forehead. It hit him on the sweet spot of his head and he crashed to the floor, thoroughly dazed. Manjyome locked a hand on his hip and loomed over the fallen Juudai, his expression mutinous.
"What was that? What? WHAT?" he demanded furiously, grabbing Juudai's nearby binder and shaking it at him. "That was pure bullshit!"
"Mah…!" came the protest. "But, but—Manjyome! Not my—mahh…"
Strong arms tossed his binder upwards and a whirlwind of white papers flew into the air, dancing around the room gracefully like a thousand swans taking flight all at once. As a matter of fact, Juudai would have stopped and appreciated the beautiful view had it not been for the fact those were his essay papers that were doing the performing. He had worked so hard on that! Hours upon hours of writing and research—only to be used as actors for some demented stage show. How could Manjyome be dissatisfied with his continuous effort? What did Manjyome want from him? The papers continued to soar around the room, flying in a circular direction so that the storm of papers resembled a vague hurricane. Manjyome stood in the eye of the storm, silent, but deadly, waiting for the right moment to startle the unsuspecting victims who thought the worst was over. Many of the papers began to lose their aerodynamics and fell, some landing into his hair, symbolizing that it was a good time for Juudai to brace himself for the next impact.
Manjyome started off with a noogie.
"How the hell do you expect to get a good grade on ANYTHING if you continue slacking off like this? It's really no wonder why you're in Osiris Red!"
Knuckles dug into Juudai's skull and the brunette wailed in pain.
"Hey, hey…I like it here, I really do—ack!"
Next came the headlock.
"Don't you dare give me that! You're attitude is shameful to all students here!"
"Just—ack—just not the exams—Manjyome get off me—and homework and stuff…and I'm not slacking off!"
With a well-placed jab in the ribcage, Manjyome's suffocating grasp unclasped from his throat and Juudai took some desperate breaths of air. Despite his one-second retaliation, Juudai only freed himself to cower at another corner, and looked reproachfully at the fuming Manjyome.
"…I'm not!" he protested weakly. "I'm trying my hardest—it's just that—and all this memorizing—and the card names—"
Juudai helplessly waved his arms around in an attempt to symbolize how much trouble he was having because it looked as no amount of verbal grievance could grant him any sympathy from Manjyome. He grew watery-eyed and attempted the puppy-lip. However, this just served to accomplish the opposite effect.
"Card names?" he shouted, brandishing his own arms haphazardly. "You have trouble with card names? You shout them all the time on the top of your lungs when you're beating everybody down to the ground! IDIOT!"
Another thwack on the head served to cause Juudai more pain.
He clutched his now permanently-damaged cranium and staggered to stand up, only to get roughly pushed into a nearby chair. Juudai blinked as a new sheet of crisp paper was slammed on the desk. A pencil sky-bombed in front of him.
"GET TO WORK," was the commanding order.
Juudai set straight to writing. His eyes screwed up in concentration the tip of his tongue stuck out of his mouth as he jotted down sentences. Line after line he wrote, feverishly, scrappily—it didn't matter how poor his penmanship stuck out now—he needed to finish this essay! Manjyome's hunched form leaned beside him as he worked. His arms were crossed and he had a leg propped against the table's edge in a seemingly relaxed manner, but Juudai knew that those constricted black eyes were watching his every move.
They should call him Manjyome the slave driver! Juudai thought anxiously. I don't know how he expects me to finish this…my first try was good enough…I'm so…so…
It was 11:44 at night. Perhaps it wasn't too late for others but Juudai had a strict bedtime at 9:15. He suppressed a yawn and continued scribbling, though at a considerably slower pace now.
…tired…I'm so god-darned tired…
Eyelids grew heavy and he felt himself traveling back and forth from his room to the plane of unconsciousness. He was about to doze off when the sudden slap of a hand on the desk erased any thoughts of sleeping on the job. Juudai jolted into an upright sitting position.
"I'm done!" automatically came out of his mouth.
Manjyome's eyes narrowed at his abrupt announcement. He snatched the paper from the brunette's grasp and scanned it over.
"WRONG AGAIN!" he bellowed and shook the paper in front of Juudai's eyes. "How could you spell 'The Earth' wrong? HOW?"
Before Juudai had a chance to object, the spiky-haired boy scrunched up this paper too and flung it straight at his face. It bounced off his left eyelid and Juudai stumbled back, clutching his injured eye in a rather pathetic manner.
"Ow, ow, owie…"
A fresh sheet of paper was pulled in front of him. Manjyome prodded it with his finger, his expression dark and menacing.
"Again. Again until you get it right!"
Manjyome the slave driver! I rather face Ryuuga, no SHOU again than have to deal with this anymore! I understand why Manjyome is so serious all the time but that doesn't mean he has to make me live up to his work ethnics!
It was well past midnight when a tugging on Manjyome's sleeve signified Juudai wanted to show him his essay. He gingerly handed his third effort to Manjyome.
"Mah…" came the bleary sigh out of his lips. Juudai said no more.
Manjyome snatched the essay out of his weak grasp and scrutinized the nearly illegible words for barely a second.
"This piece of crap isn't even halfway finished…" he started, shooting bloody daggers at Juudai.
Manjyome trailed off upon seeing the sight before him. The tight sneer on his lips unwounded into a soft gape and he shook his head. Juudai had wordlessly collapsed into a dreamless sleep and was now sleeping in an uncomfortable position with cheek on his textbook. Guilt swam in his heart and Manjyome closed his eyes. It was obviously caused by pure exhaustion of writing for many hours straight and tireless slave-driving on his part. Manjyome heaved a sigh and ran his fingers through the jagged spikes of his hair, contemplating what to do next. It would be cruel to wake Juudai up again. After all, the brunette had worked so hard…well then, there was only one thing he could do. Manjyome dug into his own notebook and pulled out a painstakingly neat-looking essay. He nibbled on his lip. Then he took a pencil from the cylindrical tin and flipped it over and rubbed out his own name on the top of the page with the eraser. Manjyome pressed the tip of the pencil to the smudge mark where his name used to be.
Reality made him freeze and wonder if what he was doing was actually smart. By giving Juudai his essay, he would have none to hand in himself. There was a moment of utter silence before he muttered, "…hey, dropout boy. Your essay's finished."
Juudai continued to sleep and Manjyome gazed contentedly at his resting form. He nudged the brunette's arm to the side and opened the folder he was sleeping on, slipping the essay into one of the pockets. He then closed it and set Juudai's arm over the folder again. There was a pause before Manjyome patted his arm gently.
"Good night, Juudai."
A white, ghostly hand reached into his brain and pulled him out of his unconsciousness. Sunlight filtered through his eyelids and his eyes cracked open. His head rose from his desk and Juudai yawned heavily, stretching his arms and then yawning again. He blinked a few times, trying to shake off the remainders of sleep that still enclosed his mind. What had happened now? Why was it so bright? And what happened to his essay…?
All traces of drowsiness immediately disappeared and he jolted into an upright sitting position. His essay? Where was his essay? Panic soared in his heart as he rummaged around the desk and searched for his precious essay in frantic despair. Where was it? He couldn't have lost it—he just couldn't have!
Then it struck him. His folder. Juudai slipped a finger into one of the flaps of the folder and gingerly opened it up. A crisp essay with the words 'Yuuki Juudai' printed on the top stared directly back at him. The brunette gaped in astonishment, his heart rate plunging down to a dead stop. It was…finished.
"Wow! I must have written it in my sleep!" he exclaimed cheerfully. He turned to face Manjyome. "Hey, gues—"
He shut up. There was nobody next to him. The Obelisk Blue trenchcoat that hung on the hinge of the wall last night was absent and the room was empty of any other human presence.
"I guess he went to class already. Oh well."
Still smiling goofily, he looked at his essay again. Finished. The word rang through his head over and over again like a bell of a blissful miracle. Finished. Completely, utterly finished. The smile faded from his face and was replaced by a look of mystification. Juudai scratched his head. It was wonderful, gorgeous, actually—whatever he did last night, he swore to continue doing for the rest of his life because apparently sleeping on textbooks meant that all the stuff in the pages were absorbed into his brain!
"Talk about learning in your sleep…" he muttered.
He furthered examined the paper and began to notice a strange trend in his alleged writing. Firstly, the whole concept of the essay was well-organized and each subsection was constructed in a neat and orderly fashion. Juudai didn't remember possessing this sort of ability. Nor did he remember taking the time to write an introductory paragraph. Secondly, there was nothing about his E-heroes nor his Hane Kuribo and was instead replaced by the constant recurrence on the subject of dragons. Juudai noticed that a monster called 'The Light and Darkness Dragon' was repeated several times throughout the essay. There were some parts Juudai had never seen before in his life, let alone writing them last night.
He hadn't remembered writing any of this. This wasn't even his handwriting! So who wrote it then? Juudai leaned down and squinted at the essay. Under the faintness of the 7 'o clock morning sun, he could weakly make out a few blurred letters.
The paper fell out of his grasp.
"…Manjyome," he whispered.
A week later, Tenjoin Asuka found herself staring at a neat and well-organized paper with a stamp A printed in big, fat red letters on the top of her page. She smiled. This just proved her theory that if one spent all their Sunday afternoon working on their assigned essay rather than dressing up in a skimpy bikini to impress the guys and going off to play volleyball at the beach (like a certain Seika) they would receive a satisfactory grade. This called for a reward. To recompense for all the hard effort she put into writing that essay, Asuka treated herself to a relaxing walk without a solid destination on the nice sunny day. No worries. No stress. She just wanted to unwind a little. As a matter of fact, Asuka was so unwound in that she didn't see the person walking towards her direction on the same pathway and accidentally collided with that person. She stumbled back and quickly brushed off her skirt before glancing up at the victim of her clumsiness.
"I am so sor—Juudai?"
Juudai dusted himself off and flashed a beaming smile at her. "Hey, Asuka! Listen, forget it. I just wasn't looking where I was walking…my bad, hehe." A soft laugh. His hands were squeezing the rolled up section of a white plastic bag, opaque, so that the contents inside remained a mystery.
Asuka smiled in spite of herself. He was such a tease. Who could hold a grudge against somebody like Juudai? "You look awfully happy. What happened? Did you get a good grade on your essay?"
He closed his eyes and grinned sheepishly. "Mmm…yah!" His happy pretense flickered for a fraction of a second and he opened one eye. "Umm, I was just curious but have you seen a guy named Manjyome anywhere?"
She blinked. "Eh?"
"An Obelisk Blue about wee high with the black hair and the face that screams 'I hate you all?' See him anywhere, perchance?"
Asuka took a moment to blink again. Manjyome? The name and humorous description sounded familiar but didn't really jog any sharp memories. She swam back into her rolodex and attempted to match the name with one of the people in her mental database. Wait a minute, she remembered now—he was the one Juudai dueled a short while back. Asuka also recalled reading about a boy named Manjyome in a dueling magazine and how he had been the junior duelist champion at a young age or something of the sort. Now come to think of it, Asuka did remember seeing him somewhere. She smiled sweetly and tilted her head to the side, pointing a finger to her right.
"Hmm, I think I know who you're talking about. He was resting underneath a tree in the middle of the campus," she offered helpfully. "You know, right next to the water fountain and wooden bench?"
It looked as if Juudai was well acquainted with the location because brown eyes lit up with comprehension. "Oh, yeah…I know the place!" He closed an eye. "By the way, how's your brother doing?" he asked curiously.
Asuka planted the palms of her hands on to either side of her waist and let out a dry sniffle. "Just got an email from him the other day. Fubuki says America's great. The weather's nice...the food is good...and the girls are drop-dead gorgeous..." Her eyes rolled to the heavens and a disgruntled sigh escaped her lips. "Such a flirt," she muttered in a barely audible breath, if not entirely to herself. The blonde flashed Juudai an apologetic smile. "You should go look for Manjyome now. Truth is, I saw him half an hour ago and there's a chance he already left that spot unless you catch up with him quickly."
"A-ah, good point!"
But to Juudai's surprise, Manjyome wasn't lying beneath the cool shade of the tree. Instead, there was a boy clad in a yellow jacket sitting on the roots with his back leaning against the trunk. He was holding an open book to his face with one hand and his eyes were engrossed in the pages. In his other hand, he twirled a pen between his fingers and he was also humming some catchy tune as he read. Quick-paced footsteps slowed down to a stop next to him and Misawa glanced up from his reading to look at his unexpected visitor. His expression turned to that of mild surprise.
"…oh! Why, it's nice to see you, Juudai. What brings you to this part of the campus?"
"Ah, I was talking to Asuka a few minutes ago—not in that way!" Juudai added in hastily when blatant jealousy flashed across Misawa's face. It was obvious the Ra Yellow had a gigantic crush over her and Juudai for one was not ready to get into another duel over something as trivial as a cellphone number. (Though the Battle City DVD's were a whole other story). "I just asked her were Jun Manjyome was but she didn't know. I've got something to tell him. What about you? Can you help me?"
Misawa rubbed his chin in thought and turned his gaze to the heavens. "Manjyome, eh?" he repeated. A pause. "Huh...well I do remember seeing him heading towards the Obelisk dorms."
Juudai resisted the urge to smack his forehead. "Doh, I can't believe I didn't think of that! Hey, thanks a heap!" The brunette was about to make a straight beeline for the Obelisk dorms when his short attention-span intervened once again. Brown eyes peered at Misawa's book in obvious curiosity. "...what are you reading, anyway?"
"What, this? I recently discovered that Gouka, the Spirit of Malice is based off a demon in ancient mythology. The book is quite interesting though I'm still waiting for the rest of my fire monsters to make a cameo, heh," Misawa finished off with a light chuckle.
"No way! You think any of my E-heroes are in that book of yours too? Voltic? Knospe? Blume?"
"Juudai. I doubt nature heroes are in anyway related with hellfire demons."
"Hmm, good point. Anyway, it's being nice chatting with you all but…alas!" He faked a comical tear. "I must leave!"
Juudai patted the opaque bag in his hand implicatively. Misawa eyed the red and blue logo imprinted on the front of the bag and raised an amused eyebrow. Juudai pivoted around and only took a step towards the Obelisk dorms before Misawa's voice caused him to halt.
"By the way, what grade did you get on your essay?"
Juudai's thin frame stiffened for a moment. Then he turned around and flashed a peace sign. "…pretty decent! Gotta jet now!"
As the brown-eyed boy disappeared in a billow of dust and smoke, Misawa had the strangest feeling that Juudai had lied to him.
The sun was high in the afternoon sky but Manjyome was overall unconcerned as he took his first steps outside the Obelisk Blue dorms. So he had to serve a week's worth of detention for being the only student not to hand in an essay. No big deal. So what if Chronos de Medici was furious? And his reputation had only been slightly smudged—not completely tarnished. On the bright side, he could always do spectacular on the next assignment and still keep face as one of the most diligent elitists in the school.
He knew who it was from the voice, from the footsteps, from the concern radiating visible waves off the boy's body. Manjyome glanced around and locked gazes with Juudai. For a moment, neither of the two spoke. Juudai was completely out of breath from running and Manjyome was fresh out of words. Then Juudai extended his arm and held out a plastic bag bought from Tome with the blue and red DA symbol printed on the front. Manjyome immediately recognized the shape of the bag and guessed its contents; however he remained silent and merely continued to gaze up at the brunette.
Finally, the spiky-haired boy opened his mouth and uttered, "…yeah?"
"This is for you—the golden tamagopan," Juudai said with a slight grin. "Good job on the essay." He paused. "You got an A+."