I apologize for my very long absence.

"Anise, isn't this a little ... rude?"

"What? It's not rude unless we get caught. Aren't you curious?"

"Well yeah but I don't want to-"

"Shh, they're coming!"

Swatting her hands down, she ducked back into her hiding place a moment, her and Ion cuddled close to one another in secrecy. They were quiet for a few moments before Anise peeked around to gaze into the window.

"Anise, please, if he catches me-"

Moving away from the window, Anise turned to give her new found friend a scowl. She'd grown quite close to Ion within these past few months and now well into the winter, she had grown to know his personality pretty well. He was far too passive for his own good. "He's not going to catch you if you play along. Besides, we're only here for information. It's not like he tells you anything. Don't you want to know anything about your own brother?"

"He likes his privacy. He gets defensive if you bother him."

"Really? Really? After that big blow out at school, all the rumors circling around and you aren't in the least bit curious to know how he's making out?"

Ion looked hesitant for a moment. "Well .. He does seem ... different at home ..." His eyes slid back over to Anise, who looked like she'd just one a prestigious competition. "But I'm not saying I want to butt into his business. If he was really upset about something, he'd tell me!"

"Would he?" Anise questioned, crossing her arms. She'd learned a couple things from Jade on how to get the answer one wanted to hear.

Ion bit his lip before he looked defeated. "....No but he knows I'm always there to listen."

"Not good enough. Now we're investigating and I don't want to hear another peep about it. Besides, I'm here not only for my own curiosity but Peony wanted to know how Arietta is doing."

It was then that Ion's face fell a bit. "The principal?"

"Wouldn't you be concerned about your students if they had to under go such torment?"

Something about that line sounded terribly rehearsed. "Alright, fine but only for a quick look. We're not sticking around."

"Good enough for me. Now let's go inside." Reaching forward, she grabbed at his wrist and began to tug him toward the entrance, much to his protest.

It took a while to find a table far enough away from their target so as to not raise suspicion but close enough to hear what was being said. It took even longer to get Ion to simply calm down. It wasn't spying, Anise had to tell him, it was necessary observation in order to ensure the safety and happiness of their peers. Again, Ion couldn't help but feel like that line was rehearsed for this very situation. Had she planned on dragging him along in the first place? It hadn't just been a wrong place at the wrong time kinda situation?

So he got suckered into listening but only because he managed to convince Anise that it would be a terrible chance to keep peeking over the ledge like she'd been trying to do earlier. The divider would ensure their secrecy. She'd thought it was a brilliant idea. Ion just didn't want to retribution if they got busted.

"-I mean, I just don't ... get it." Sync sounded distressed, something Ion wasn't sure he'd ever heard before. At least, not honestly.

A female sigh. "Well what was I supposed to say to you?" That was definitely Arietta, her voice was quiet and even Anise was having a hard time picking up what she was saying. "If I'd told you the truth, you'd have tried something. I-" She paused, her voice now nervous. "I didn't ... want you to get hurt."

"Come on, Arietta, that isn't fair. We've been friends for ages, how do you think it makes me feel now knowing all those times you wouldn't talk to me was because you'd been getting beat up? All those days of school you'd miss?"

She was quiet and Ion could have guessed she was probably tearing up by the way Sync was now trying to gain back a little bit of human sympathy. "No, no, sorry, I just- you should have told me. I know I definitely would have done something but you should have told me anyway .... I'd have liked to help."

And the silence grew. Suddenly, both were very quiet and neither said a word. Eventually, Anise turned to Ion and breathed a very quiet, "Shesh, they're making me feel awkward." She didn't seem in the least bit concerned which Ion rather understood with a quiet smile. At times, she was a lot more adorable then she gave herself credit for. Well, she knew she was cute, she flaunted that whenever she worked up in the office- Ohཀ

"So Anise, how is office life treating you?" It wasn't like the people they were investigating were doing any talking. Arietta was too quiet. Sync had never known how to talk to a girl. It could be ages before they even coughed to fill the silence.

That immediately caught her attention but then she suddenly looked a little guilty. She paused a moment, concentrated to see if they were talking again and finally decided to speak up. Quietly, of course.

Her entire presence completely unfolded. "Ohh, it's great! I don't understand how nobody can stand working up there for too long. I mean, I've been told by a couple seniors that I'd have to be completely crazy. And you know the cute janitor? The blond one?"

Ion chuckled. "I've been there longer then you have and I am a year older. We only have one janitor, Anise."

"Right, sorry, but he's always telling me I have a crazy amount of patience to help out there. I mean, it's not as bad as everybody seems to keep warning me about. It's a lot of fun! I work there in between classes and help Frings answer phone calls during the lunch hour so that he can go eat. For some reason, he always said he could never get the opportunity to. Something about constant distractions but whenever I go, the only people who are even there are Jade and Peony."

Ion nodded, knowing full well what the secretary was talking about and feeling pity for the man. It was rather cute, however, that Anise didn't seem to catch on. "Uh huh." He spoke, to show that she had his attention.

"And then when classes are over, I go after school and Jade always has something or other for me to do. Sometimes its emailing stuff or calling somebody. He likes me to call people. He always says everything sounds better coming from a cute voice." She beamed at the mention and pointed to the corner of her lips before breaking into a large smile as if to prove the statement true. "Oh and I get to talk to Peony lots too and he tells me all kinds of stories. Like, did you know that Jade and Professor Nephry are siblings? I mean, they looked similar but I'd have never guessed that. Oh and the janitor, Guy, did you know that when he went to school there only a couple years ago? Apparently he was Jade's favorite student and that's why Jade insisted on keeping him around. Oh and did you know-"

Ion giggled. Anise cut herself off. "What?"

Leaning on his hand, Ion couldn't help but smile. "You sound so happy."

"I am happy!" She insisted and her smile proved just that.

"No, no, I mean you sound really happy."

Apparently Anise didn't understand being subtle. "Is that a bad thing?" Her blank expression was too hard to not chuckle over once more.

"No, far from it. Please, continue."

And she did. Ion listened as she remembered fact after fact and story after story and a play-by-play of every day she found amusing. He wondered if she realized how excited she got whenever she talked about Jade and her office adventures. He was pretty sure she was completely aware of how much she loved what she was doing (otherwise she wouldn't be chattering at him) but he wondered if she noticed that her smile had gotten bigger ever since Jade had insisted she start helping them out. Her spirits got brighter somehow. Her energy increased. He hadn't seen her look so much as bored in the months he'd been hanging out with her. He wasn't sure if that was normal for her, having not really known her before but it was definitely suspicious.

As their lunch hour rolled past, Anise didn't even notice when Sync and Arietta finally got up to leave, their fingers linked shyly together.

---

"Why didn't you tell me they'd left?" Anise practically cried, removing her pink toque from her head and shaking off the snow onto the carpet. She stopped her feet a couple times before starting to unzip her coat.

Ion was unwrapping the white scarf from his neck. "I didn't want to be there in the first place and I was listening to you. You were much more entertaining."

"But I wanted to know! Now what am I going to tell them?"

"Them?"

"Jade and Peony, of course. Who else?"

"Anise, do you have any friends in school ... besides me?"

"I have plenty of classmates-"

"No." Ion spoke, stomping his own feet on the carpet to get rid of the snow that covered his black boots. "I mean, kids you hang out with after school and talk with and stuff."

Anise looked thoughtful for a moment before shrugging. "I guess not really but I mean, you don't need a lot of friends, you just need a few really good ones." She winked and fluffed her coat out just in case any giant snowflakes had decided to cling to it.

Ion sighed softly but smiled. His suspicions were only growing.

"You two are currently my two favorite students right now."

Both looked to their left where Guy was leaning against a mop, staring down at their feet. "Every last kid that has come in from lunch hour," he continued. "Has just walked on by, melting their shoes all over my freshly cleaned floor."

Anise laughed. "Don't you just love winter?"

"I hate it so much when it comes to my job that I can't even follow your sarcasm with my own." Guy sighed, standing himself up straight.

"Well that's no good." Ion replied. "Oh and you're very welcome."

Guy smiled. "Thank you. Now you better head off to class. Bell already rang."

"Oh no!" Anise cried, scurrying down the halls with urgency in her steps. Ion was soon to follow.

---

"Today, we start Shakespeare." The English teacher spoke, a thrill in his voice no one could possibly match.

A chorus of groans and quiet protest went through out the class but was silenced immediately when a ruler came slapping down onto the desk. Someone giggled.

"How could it be that a class of Pilots still doesn't hold any respect for such an artist?" His hands rose, swaying as if to put motion to his words. "His words hold a beauty those of this world fail to use anymore and his genius is packed into every verse he spells out."

Someone familiar raised their hand. "I like Shakespeare, Professor Dist."

"Ha!" The professor cried, his ruler pointed at the student. "Don't think I don't know you better, Genji, you are always the first one to space out when we start the readings."

The class giggled but Genji only looked mildly embarrassed. He was so used to getting picked on in this class. He absolutely hated English. The professor knew it. He'd have to be a rather large idiot to not notice. In fact, if it wasn't one of those stupid mandatory classes, he'd refuse to take it at all.

Glancing over to his right, he saw that his sister was in fact already doodling on her paper. She was good at English but she didn't really fancy it much either. They both had the same dream after all. Ever since they'd been kids, both of them had wanted nothing more then to grow up and become a pilot. Noelle's dream had practically diminished as of late but he was sure she'd come around. For that, they needed sciences, mathematics, Artes and practically everything else but this stupid English course.

"Doesn't mean I don't like him." Genji protested, his eyes set on the man.

But Dist didn't so much as waver. "I don't have a problem with failing you now, Genji. Learn to keep your mouth shut. You are sullying the beauty of his literature already and I haven't even handed them out yet."

Rolling his eyes, Genji decided it best to just do what he was told. It was the best way for this class to end quickly.

In return, the class rolled along just as it was supposed to and Genji really didn't bother trying to concentrate. Instead, he let his eyes wander about the class, his book open but probably not to the right page.

Then came the knock at the door.

Dist ignored it.

Already there was a humorous aura starting to build within the classroom.

The knock came twice.

Dist flinched but again, ignored it.

Someone in the back couldn't help but giggle.

"Quiet!" Dist called out and soon the knock came louder. "For goodness sake, go away."

There was silence, as if the visitor was actually debating it before the knock came once more. A frustrated cry came from the English professor who leaned closer to his book and began reading the verses louder.

Soon came a jingle, the knob turned and the door opened. Dist fell quiet but only out of what looked like pure rage.

Guy was retracting his keys. Jade gave him a smile. "Thank you, Guy."

"Anytime." The janitor spoke and simply walked away.

Jade turned and stood in the entrance. He peaked in, looked over the class and then back at Dist who by now was pink with frustration. "Well, go on, I'm only here to observe."

Reluctantly, Dist turned back to his class, lifted the book and motioned for everyone to do the same. Then he began to read.

"I never understood why Shakespeare was to be taught in a classroom." Jade interrupted and Dist slammed his book shut, tensing up at the shoulders. "I understand that it's supposed to be brilliant but- ahh, yes, I suppose that's the wrong way to phrase it. I never really understood why they let you teach Shakespeare."

"Get out of my classroom, Jade! My students and I are trying to get through at least one class where you don't come along to interrupt it!" Dist scowled, pointing the book threateningly at him.

Jade looked mildly amused. "Proper grammar even, I'm impressed."

"You should be!" Dist tossed the book onto his desk where it bounced and nearly fell off. "I went to university for this job and I am perfectly qualified!"

The vice principal nodded. "I wouldn't have hired you otherwise."

"You never hired me at all! I came here with a promise that you were no longer working here. That you had decided to go elsewhere."

"Only a true imbecile would believe such an obvious lie."

"Get out!!" Dist shouted, his patience gone.

"Really, Professor, how long have you known me? What do you think are the odds of me listening to anything you say?"

By now the class was trying to hold back their laughter. Most had to bow their heads to hide the grins, some simply covered their mouths but a couple others couldn't help but let the giggles escape.

This was the reason everyone had a hard time taking this class seriously.

"Jade, I swear-" Dist started, teeth clenched.

Raising a hand, Jade waved a finger. "Now now, we don't want any violence to start. You should really learn to control your temper, Professor. You are a role model to your students."

"Then what are you, exactly?!"

"Me?" Jade questioned, looking slightly innocent. "Why, I'm simply the vice principal. Nobody cares about whomever fills that role. In fact, some schools don't even have a vice principal."

"I meant that you're a role model too so you should start acting like one."

"But I am. I am going about my duty of seeing how each class is doing. I am performing my job perfectly. Now you, on the other hand, how is it that you have kept this job? With how easily you get distracted, I'm astonished you haven't been fired yet."

"OUT!"

"Fine, fine." Jade sighed, looking bored. "Such a lack of manners; that is definitely going on my report." He muttered more to himself.

Dist whipped a book after him in time to catch the door closing as he left.

Now that he was gone and the class was left alone with Dist, they all tried their best to get themselves under control. The professor would need a few moments as well anyway to calm himself down. Soon he wandered over to the book, picked it up and placed it neatly onto his desk. He ran a careful hand over it, grabbed his version of Shakespeare and slowly lifted it up. He opened it to the correct page, found the verse and began to read.

He didn't make it to the third sentence before the bell rang.

The students left in a quick hurry to avoid the fit the Professor was starting to pull.

The last one out shut the door behind themselves.

Even in the busy hall, one could still hear him shouting to himself.

It was amazing anybody ever got anything done in that class.

TBC ...

Review, please!