THE CLEVER JESTER
Disclaimer: The author rightfully respects the genius of Tachibana Higuchi, creator of Gakuen Alice.
Author's Notes: I try to make my stories flow with each other, though they should be able to stand alone. This is best read after Natsume Nullified.
"All right everyone!" Mr. Narumi said merrily five minutes before the end of class, "Stories are due tomorrow and I'm very much looking forward to hearing your works!"
The class groaned.
"Oh, come on!" the teacher went on, "Creative writing is fun! It's a form of release! Express your deepest emotions! Unleash your imagination! Now go! Class dismissed, put the finishing touches on your masterpiece!"
"I'd like to unleash something else on him," Natsume Hyuuga muttered darkly as they filed out of the room.
"How can you put finishing touches on something that doesn't exist?" Kokoroyumi wondered out loud.
"You mean you haven't started?" Mochu asked.
"Why, have you?" Koko demanded.
"Of course," Mochu answered.
Koko stared at him. "Writing down, 'Once upon a time in a faraway land' doesn't count."
"Mochu!" Sumire said tersely. "I thought you said that was almost done."
"Really, you guys," Ruka admonished. "We were given a week for this."
"Easy for you to say," Natsume said to his best friend. "You're oddly inspired these past few days."
"Hn." Ruka nodded absently. He was already scanning the student-filled hall for his new girlfriend.
"What am I going to do?" Koko moaned.
"About what?" Yuu asked as he and the girls joined them. Ruka sidestepped so that he can walk next to Hotaru. Koko saw Mikan give Natsume a smile, which he returned with a small nod. Her smile faded a little.
"Mochu and Koko are cramming for Narumi's homework," Ruka provided.
"It's in the works," Mochu said. "But I could use some help."
"All right," Sumire said as they entered the dining hall. "We'll work on it after school. We're heading straight to the library at the last bell. You can't fail another subject."
"Thanks, you're an angel," Mochu said.
Sumire smiled. "I know."
"What about you, Koko?" Anna asked as they sat at the table. "Need help?"
"No," he answered, "Need a miracle. Say Nonoko…"
"No way," Nonoko cut in. "I'm not concocting any brain enhancers for you. You have to do this by yourself. Besides, the stuff I got are untested."
"I can be a guinea pig."
"Find another calling, Koko." Yuu said. "C'mon guys, food line's getting long, let's go."
The others left to get food, leaving only Koko, Anna and Nonoko at the table. "It's not that hard," Nonoko said, "Even Natsume managed to write something."
Koko looked at her. "Natsume reads mangas practically 24/7/365. He does not lack imagination."
"Look Koko," Anna said, " It's fiction, basically you just make stuff up."
"Yeah," Nonoko said encouragingly. "You can also use real-life experiences as inspiration."
"Making stuff up using real-life experiences," Koko said, "Uh-huh…"
"We're confusing him," Anna said to Nonoko. "Koko, just look around. There's a story brewing right here. What do you see?"
Koko obeyed. He saw people eating, people talking, people standing in line. At the lunch line, he watched Mochu hold the tray as Sumire loaded it with food for both of them. Ruka was trying to get Hotaru to eat more so he was piling food on her tray and she was putting them back. Yuu was standing behind Mikan choosing viands, but Mikan wasn't looking at the food. She was watching Natsume who made quick selections and broke away from the line to get back to the table.
Things had improved between them since the prom, but there was something else. It's like a conversation was hanging in the air and no one was picking it up. They still weren't officially together but the whole Academy recognized them as a couple. The drama continues.
The drama continues…Koko thought to himself.
"Well?" Anna asked.
"I think I see something." He stopped watching Natsume and Mikan then turned back to the girls. "Okay, so it's making stuff up out of real life, right?"
"Yeah," Nonoko answered.
"So in that logic, lying, denying and blowing things out of proportion can be fiction?" Koko went on.
"Uh, yeah, I guess," Anna said slowly.
"You're reaching, but okay," Nonoko said.
"I could do that," Koko said as the girls exchanged a look. "I think I have an idea."
"Oh great, that doesn't sound so good," Anna sighed as Natsume sat down. Mochu and Sumire were close by.
"No, no, it's fine." Koko stood up. "Come on, let get some food. I don't want to run out of rice balls like the last time."
"…And then the powerful Zarthus fired at the generator yelling, 'Die, alien scum!' Explosion! Braghaaaaagh! Blood! Guts! Green blood and guts everywhere! Captain Zarthus leapt into the escape pod, schwoooosch, and flew back to Mochulandia where a hero's welcome was waiting for him. He was crowned king and they lived happily ever after." Mochu looked up from his paper and beamed at the class.
Narumi clapped and the class politely followed. "Excellent job Mochu. Though it still escapes me how Captain Zarthus could have fired at the alien scum and navigate an escape pod after he survived the fire in the previous scene where you already severed both his hands."
"Because of the magical regenerating amulet," Mochu answered, "Did I not put that in?" He scanned his paper. "Damn, I'm missing a scene."
"Awesome effort, Mochu. The sound effects were great. " Narumi place a hand on his student's shoulder and gave him a nudge to his seat. "Really awesome."
Mochu went to his seat, looking very satisfied with his story.
"Okay, next story." Narumi looked at his list. "Kokoroyumi, you're up!"
Koko stood and walked to the front of the class. He had stayed up all night working, armed only with caffeine and a thesaurus. The story felt rushed but he felt that he came up with something pretty good. He was worried though, some people might identify too well with the characters.
"Hi," he greeted the class. "Um, my story is called The Clever Jester. It's about a boy, uh, a king…a boy king and a jester. Oh, they're not really boys because they're teenagers, like you and me…not that the boy is me or you, or in this class…he's in a faraway place…very far, not in Alice Academy…way far…"
"Kokoroyumi?" Narumi cut in. "The story?"
"Oh right. Well, here goes…" Koko cleared his throat.
"Once upon a time in a faraway land, there lived a King who ruled over a country populated only by magical people. Each one had a special talent. The king was feared by his enemies, respected by his friends and admired by everyone else.
"The King had advisers to help him and these were his closest companions. Among them was a jester, who never really came up with the best solutions, but was always good to have around. Sure, he juggled and rode the unicycle, but he had the power to know everyone's secrets.
"Now, even if the King had everything he wanted, something was missing. He needed a queen. Everyone wanted to see him happily settled down, but you see, he was the type of guy who never let anyone get close to him."
Koko stole a glance at the class. He noted that Natsume was watching him very carefully. Does he like the story? He's thinking no.
"The people knew who would make a good queen. There was a very cheerful storyteller who came to the kingdom a few years back. And even though the King never admitted it, it was plain to everyone that he didn't mind having her around. In fact, he seemed to cheer up whenever she told him a tale or two. The King's advisers knew this, and under the leadership of the Mastermind, they managed to get the two to dance at the last ball. They really hit it off, but neither made a move to improve things between them."
"Did he say mastermind?" Koko heard Ruka ask from the back of the class. He ignored it.
"So the Jester had a plan. Since he knew people's secrets, he was sure that the King and the Storyteller loved each other. They're just too stubborn to admit it, especially the King. He wrote a letter to the Storyteller using the King's stationery. He put in the King's feelings and everything he believed to be true and affixed the Royal Seal at the end. Then he wrote a second letter, this time, pretending to be the Storyteller. He wrote about her love and her fear."
Koko dared to look up from his paper to Natsume. "Yes, she was afraid that she would only get hurt."
He read on, "The Jester thought that the reason why they weren't together was that they left a lot of things unsaid, so he was going the say it for them. Lastly, he put a request in each letter for the reader to meet the sender at a certain grove in the palace grounds. Then he sent them out at the same time. At the appointed hour, the Jester went to the grove as well and stayed hidden. Who would respond? Anyway, after waiting for a few moments, the King and the Storyteller arrived. They both brought the letters he sent and have now launched into denials about writing them.
"They kept arguing and obviously, they weren't going to confess their feelings as the Jester hoped. Neither was going to acquiesce. He was forced to reveal himself and admit what he did. In fury, the King had him thrown in prison."
"Whoa, harsh," Mochu called out.
"The King paid the Jester a visit and questioned his intentions. To which he answered that he only wanted the King to be happy. The King gave him a long, hard lecture about staying out of other people's business and that he doesn't know what makes people happy.
"To this the Jester said, 'Sire, I have served you faithfully but all these years, I have never seen you truly happy. Only once did I see you even close to the vicinity of happy, and that was when you were dancing with the Storyteller at the ball. I will apologize if I went too far, but my intentions were noble. I take full responsibility for my actions and I'm ready for any punishment you see fit. Now, will you punish me, or will you admit that you have feelings for that girl and set me free?'"
"Did you know Koko could write like that?" Ruka asked Natsume. The latter shrugged and narrowed his eyes at Koko.
"He expected the King to leave because it was his nature to be evasive, but to his surprise, the King brought out the key and let him out of the cell. 'Jester,' he said, 'You had made me see the error of my ways. You are free to go, but you will write a hundred times I will not play matchmaker to His Majesty. No, make that a thousand. See that you remember it. Before the day ends, I will go to the fair Storyteller and make amends.'
"And before the end of that year, the kingdom witnessed a Royal Wedding. The two finally got together and the people rejoiced. The Jester received a dukedom for making it all happen. They didn't live happily ever after, because that's not what life is. They were happy most of the time and that was enough. The end."
The class was quiet. Then Narumi clapped. Mochu and Ruka joined in. Soon the class was applauding except for Natsume.
"That was great work!" Narumi praised. "Inspired! You get an A! No, you get an A that's carved in platinum, set on a pedestal and enshrined in a golden palace!"
Koko gave a theatrical bow. "Thank you! It's amazing what eleven double tall macchiatos can do!" He grinned one more time and went back to his seat. Before he did, he risked a glance at Natsume.
Inspired? Yeah, I bet he is. Koko read from his classmate's mind. He gulped.
At the end of class, they all headed for the dining hall. Natsume seemed to purposely walk ahead of all of them. Ruka walked next to Koko. "Don't you think your story was a little pointed?"
Koko looked at him innocently. "No…it's just a made-up story."
"Right," Ruka said. "Watch your back."
Mochu was frowning. "Does anyone have a dictionary?"
"Why?" Ruka asked.
"I need to look up 'acquiesce'," Mochu answered. He turned to Koko. "That was good. I hope he got it. It was even better than Captain Zarthus and the Green Man-Eating Aliens: An Epic Battle."
"I enjoyed listening to yours," Koko said.
"Really?" Mochu brightened. "'Cause it felt a little too much, maybe I should've…"
Koko tuned him out and stared at Natsume's back. Again, he peered into his mind.
The error of his ways? He means the error of my ways.
Natsume wasn't stupid. They all knew that. Koko wondered what he was going to do to him. They arrived at the dining hall where their friends from Class A were already in line. Ruka, Mochu and Sumire went to get food but Koko followed Natsume to their usual table. He didn't really know what to expect, but he felt that he should present himself after that little stunt-disguised-as-homework. Natsume avoided his eyes. For a while they sat in silence.
"Don't you think the jester got off the hook a little too easily?" Natsume finally spoke.
Koko cleared his throat. "Uh, no, I think it's just right."
"Of course you do."
"What do you think should've happened?"
"I dunno." Natsume directed his gaze at Koko. "Burn him at the stake, I guess."
"Now that's extreme," Koko said.
"No, I think it's just right."
Koko let out a nervous laugh.
"I didn't know you could write like that," Natsume commented.
Insult or praise? Koko couldn't tell. He decided on praise. "Yeah. I guess I just found the right material."
"Oh…around…I wouldn't think of it. It's just fiction."
"But you can get lessons from it," Koko said carefully. "Maybe soon I can write a sequel."
"Let's keep it a one-shot wonder," Natsume said, "But you know what I think?"
"The King already decided to forgive the Jester, but if he ever did anything—subtle or direct—to meddle in his affairs again, I think he should burn him at the stake."
"Oh, I think the Jester got the message."
Natsume was quiet for a while. "But the King knows he was just trying to help. So he will think about his next move."
"He will?" Koko asked surprised.
"Yeah," Natsume answered, "but on his own. Anyway, forget about it. You're not the Jester."
"Nope," Koko agreed, "But I am clever."
- THE END -