Tanaka Ren hated being sleepy. She always had. That's why whenever she felt drowsy, she would head to the nearest bed and nap, regardless of the time. Hell, if it was only 4 PM and she was already yawning, she'd automatically start marching to her bedroom, already thinking of soft pillows and warm blankets awaiting her.
So she wasn't in the most chipper of moods that particular weekday morning, forced to enter their new school and do their sensei's bidding. The plane trip had been excruciating; none of them had taken a wink of sleep thanks to the old lady sitting in front of them. Who knew an old bag like her could snore like a bulldozer the whole eighteen hours?
Still, even though she hated being awake right now, she couldn't bring herself to despise the guy giving them orders.
If you don't, then I might not be able to save you. If you don't, the enemy will find you, capture you, and, in best case scenario, torture you in case you know something. Worst case scenario… If you don't, you will die.
He was right, of course. He wasn't superman. They all knew that. And he had his own problems too, and should be dealing with them right now instead of theirs.
Besides, back in the taxi, they all suddenly realized they couldn't just sit back and make him do all the work like some sort of servant. It was their fault they were in this mess. And it was their responsibility to get themselves through it.
Seishun Gakuen looks pretty different from schools in America, Ren thought upon entering the high school. Then she yawned again and the thought disappeared. Man, she really wanted a bed now.
"Where is everyone?" asked Maya, looking around, puzzled.
"Dunno," Ren replied, shrugging.
Yamada Maya was pretty much Ren's oldest friend, had been ever since they had that argument in third grade that caused chaos in the whole batch with the two of them practically gnawing each other's arms off. They've been inseparable ever since.
"Classes are probably still in session," Maddie pointed out.
"Good. Or students'll probably start staring at us zombies in the hallway," Caitlyn commented, rubbing her eyes with closed fists.
Kotobuki Maddie and Cross Caitlyn weren't that old of friends like Maya, but they still two of the most irreplaceable people Ren had ever met. They were part of the few who were willing to deal with her attitude – who didn't mind it at all, really. And that was already a feat amazing on its own.
Actually, these three were the one of the few things Ren was grateful for in her kind of position. Even if she had to pick who'd be with her in their hellhole of a situation, she'd definitely stick with the same people. And if the situation had called for only her to be in trouble, well, she'd still find away to get the other three to come with her. Even if they didn't want to. That's just how much they meant to her.
Doing their best to not fall to the ground and start snoozing, they started looking for the administration office. They didn't bother much with sensei's second order – they had enough time in the following days to memorize every single square inch of Seigaku. But they did need to finish orders one and three – getting their uniforms and finalizing the paperwork – today, whether they liked it or not. Which they didn't.
"Where is it?" Maddie sighed exasperatedly, leaning on a hallway wall after they decided to take a break.
They've been walking around for the past twenty minutes inside the pale blue walled hallways of Seigaku and they still haven't been able to locate the office. One of the disadvantages of walking around school property during classes was that there's no one lurking around in the hallways to ask directions from.
"Ah!" Caitlyn suddenly exclaimed, for the first time this morning opening her drowsy eyes. She gave herself a small slap on her temple with her wrist.
"What is it?" Ren grumbled, her interest perking slightly.
"This," Caitlyn groaned, whipping out her cellphone from her pocket.
Ren proceeded to
give Caitlyn's temple a whack of her own.
"Caitstler…" Maya said darkly as the other girl struggled to not get knocked down. "Why didn't you think of this earlier?"
"Sorry…" Caitlyn apologized and smiled a bit sheepishly, straightening up. She pressed the cellphone out of lock mode. "You know how out of it I can get in the morning."
"Buy me Chokoko
later to make up for it."
"In your dreams, Ren."
As Ren scowled, Caitlyn first tried to contact sensei on loudspeaker. But after about three rings, it stopped.
"He cancelled the
call," Caitlyn sighed. "Must be in the middle of one of his
Ren muttered to herself, a hand on her hip as she glanced up and down the hallway as if someone would magically pop up to help them out. "Back to our first option…"
"I'll leave him a message and tell him we're here." Caitlyn started prodding buttons, the device beeping softly at each input.
Ren was suddenly
struck by an idea.
"Hey," she remarked. She faced her friends. "Let's split up. It'll make looking for that office much easier, I'm sure."
"Don't we all need to fill out individual forms?" Maddie asked, raising an eyebrow.
"We could meet up again outside in ten minutes then," Ren decided. "In case one of us found the place before the others. We'll pretty much be saving thirty minutes of search time this way."
Maya nodded. "That's
pretty good, ja. Nice, Ren."
She smirked then shrugged in a way lacking modesty. "Right. Well then, see you guys later."
"Say that to Caitlyn."
"That's it. Definitely no more Chokoko for Ren."
He was signing documents over the wooden teacher's desk the school provided in every classroom. Actually, they happened to be about Maya, Ren, Maddie and Caitlyn's enrollment – the paperwork he, as their temporary guardian, had to sign.
For a moment, he worried that the school might not accept the papers and the whole thing will end prematurely with his arrest. Then the feeling quickly disappeared. They had no reason to be suspicious. His and their tracks had expertly been covered by a person he'd trust his life with.
He looked up. One of his students of this particular first year class (Class one, perhaps? It was difficult to keep track – he taught every Science Lab class in all the three years) was standing hesitantly in front of his desk, her shoulders tensed, arms straight, and hands clasped together as she nervously twiddled her thumbs.
Cure paused to try to remember her name. She was the granddaughter of one of his co-workers, right? And from what he could remember, they shared the first letter in their first names… Ah. There it is. Ryuzaki Sakuno.
"Ryuzaki-san, what is it?" he questioned calmly. He raised a hand to overturn the paperwork and hide what was written from her eyes, but decided he didn't really need to. What was written was supposed to be the 'truth', anyway.
"Anou… Uhm…" she mumbled so softly that he had to strain his ears to hear her properly. "There's a problem with our experiment…" She glanced back at her group's worktable, which he concluded was the one in the very back with a number of equally nervous students looking back at them.
"What is it?" he
repeated with a frown, forcing the student's attention back to him.
Now she started to look frightened. "T-The experiment…"
"You said that already," he told her. "I meant, can you tell me what went wrong?"
He wasn't even sure how her group made a mistake with the experiment. It was so simple to perform. The goal was to inflate a balloon attached to a water bottle by dunking it into a bucket of hot water, then deflate it by putting it in a bottle of cold water (and the explanation was equally simple: heat makes air molecules speed up and spread out, while coldness causes them to compact).
"I think our balloon has a hole…"
said so in the first place. If you were listening at the beginning of
the class, I said that I gave the class representative extras to
distribute to groups with faulty balloons."
"O-Oh." Ryuzaki's face flushed. She bowed, perhaps to hide her face, or maybe she just didn't want to look at his pissed face any longer. "A-Arigatou gozaimasu." She quickly escaped to the class rep, her ridiculously long braids flapping in the air behind her.
He sighed. Suddenly, he felt something in his pocket vibrating. His cell again. Calls were prohibited during class hours so he quickly denied the call.
Then, with that over, he started to survey how the rest of the class was doing. There didn't seem to be much problem, except… That student – Horio, was it? – was lazing off and bothering other groups by bragging about his 'two years tennis experience', but, even though he never seen him or the tennis club practicing, he doubted it made him much different from a beginner.
He frowned, halfway up from his chair and ready to walk over and tell the boy to get back to work. Then he saw that the rest of his group was pretty much doing the same thing, although being much, much quieter. The equipment given to the group was already packed neatly inside its tray at the center of the table. Were they finished with their project already?
Then he spotted the reason why. Ah. He was groupmates with Echizen Ryoma, one of the best students in his class. He was also the infamous first year regular that the whole faculty had been buzzing about for a week one time. Echizen's name was one of the few student he could actually remember instantly because of that. But maybe the boy did deserve the fame. He was extremely talented at the sport, he heard.
Yet, he couldn't see the prodigy's face. All he could see was his greenish opal hair. Because the boy was burying his face on his arms over his desk, probably planning to spend the rest of the class sleeping.
Sleeping. That made him remember the girls again, and he realized that they have probably already reached the school. His pocket vibrated again, this time for only two seconds, representing the arrival of a text message. Opening his inbox underneath his desk confirmed his suspicions. He kept the phone again. Apparently, they were also lost inside the premises.
That was natural, he supposed. The administration office was located at the other side of the school, almost at the opposite side of the building from the main entrance.
He glanced at the papers on his desk. They were already completed and had to be submitted, preferably by today. He glanced at the clock. Class was ending in ten minutes.