*Excerpt from an abandoned story concept
A gray pleated skirt fluttering in the slightly chilled air of autumn. A dark blazer over a white blouse, a pentagon symbol on each shoulder. It was the uniform of the Numbered Academies, specifically that of the Fifth Academy, judging by the gold number 5 stamped into each of the pentagons.
The girl wearing such a prestigious uniform was standing at the gates of the famed Fifth Academy. A wide, uncontrollable smile was plastered on her face, her slim ponytail wagging like a dog’s tail over her neck. Her happiness was at such a level that tears were streaming down her eyes and her cheeks had become all red and puffy from her constant pinching.
Little cries of pain that were smothered in a mix of laughter and sobbing. She was really here. She was standing in front of the gates of Fifth Academy. Any second now, she would walk through these gates with the kind of boldness that one would show while walking into one’s own home. She would melt into the crowd of students arriving for their first day, travel over the same geometric Portugese pavement, open the same heavy, black iron doors that guarded each spired building, climb the same burnt-brown stairs that smelled faintly of dust and sunshine.
Extravagant meals provided daily. A single room that was fit for royalty. A network of esteemed colleagues and professionals that would guarantee an equally fortunate life at the end of her education.
As of now, Kashiwa no longer cared about how others saw her. She did not care about her peers, she did not care about her upcoming courses; for Kashiwa, her future and past no longer mattered. That was because her past self had cemented her future. There was nothing left but leisure and success at the end of this tunnel she called Life.
She had studied and studied. She had trained and trained. She had begged and coerced. She had poured every inch of her past life into a single goal, for this single moment to be attained.
That was why Kashiwa fell to her knees and praised God. That was why the students that had to walk around her gave her bemused looks, then immediately increased their pace as she let out gasp after gasp of hysterical laughter.
“I DID IT!!!”
She roared. She jumped and kicked her legs in the air. Flower petals and beams of sunlight were lighting up her world. It was as if everything had turned into pink bubbles and glowing sparkles. Had she ever felt such happiness in her life? Nope! But wow, did it feel good!
“Kashiwa, as of today, you’ve accomplished what marriage is supposed to do for desperate women with nowhere else to turn! Ahaha, what kind of magic did you cast, me? What sort of deal with the devil did you have to make to pull off this miracle?”
Kashiwa hugged herself tightly and squealed in delight. In all of the Western Alliance, there was no better place to attend than a Numbered Academy. Any student that was able to pass its rigorous examinations was subject to a full scholarship and given the most premium of privileges and opportunities. It was no exaggeration to say that those who attended Numbered Academies were the only people in the entire country that could truly live a “life of no worries.”
The establishment of something as extravagant as the Numbered Academies seemed hard to imagine; after all, as high quality as an education might be at such a facility, could it actually warrant the monstrous resources required to maintain it?
The answer was yes. And the reason was because of the war between the East Kingdom and Western Alliance.
The education wasn’t what allowed Numbered Academies to exact such privileges.
It was because they guaranteed a consistent, finely-engineered supply of manpower.
In its most general description, the Numbered Academies were simply an elevator system for military training and education.
Specifically, the use of GEAR and the development of soldiers for the ongoing conflict.
But not that any of this mattered to Kashiwa. Certainly, many of the attending students were here to progress through the Numbered Academies. As an elevator system, Fifth Academy would be considered entry-level and the beginning for nurturing talent while First Academy would be a step before actual deployment into military operations.
There were many students aiming to reach the top and graduate into Fourth Academy or higher. That being the case, Kashiwa would simply cheer them on.
The fools! Overambitious and glory-hungry! Sure, call her a plebeian for wanting to enjoy the simple things. Yes, perhaps she would be talentless and likely the shameful outcast among the shining geniuses and polymaths.
But who cared about that!?
In fact, bring it on!
LAZY. COMFORTABLE. KICKING IT IN THE HIGH LIFE.
That was all Kashiwa wanted. And that’s exactly what she would pursue.
Grades, schmades! She’d put the minimum effort necessary for achieving the lowest passable scores in her courses!
A social life? SURE, when she FELT LIKE IT.
Still feeling like she was lighter than air, Kashiwa finally started making her way onto Academy grounds. She skipped and danced her way across the Portugese pavement and swung through the light drizzle of red and golden leaves falling from the trees. Beautiful and gorgeous. That was her life now. What had been the daughter of a poverty-stricken family struggling in the mud of lower-class society was now a bright star shooting into the sky.
“Hi! How are you! Isn’t today a great day?”
Kashiwa beamed and beamed as she flitted through the students, shaking some’s hands and hugging others with radiating glee. Some smiled encouragingly back at her while others looked at her in disgust and tried to hurry away. But nothing could bring Kashiwa down now. There was no force on Earth, no, in any dimension, that could possibly ruin this amazing, momentous, history-shattering da—
Kashiwa ran face-first into a wall.
A wall of flesh and cloth. The back of a dark student blazer.
“What the hell?”
Kashiwa paled as the student she had bumped into turned to face her. The face that appeared could only be described as frightening, not so much its appearance, but the aura that emanated from his sharp, vicious expression. A curled lip that seemed to just barely hold back a snarl caused Kashiwa to backpedal and wave her hands furiously.
“S-Sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to bump into you, it was a complete accident!”
The words rushed themselves out of Kashiwa’s mouth in a squeaking jumble, making her sound even more pathetic than she looked. Fortunately, the student seemed to be busy, so he simply snorted before giving Kashiwa a pass. No longer the target of his fierce gaze, Kashiwa realized that it was not just one terrifying student in front of her, but an entire group. The hulking postures, the blatant disregard for standard uniform code, auras that prickled the hairs on her skin—
There was no doubt about it.
These people were thugs.
Ahaha. Isn’t it great, Kashiwa? You just ran into a bunch of delinquents. Haha and you’re still standing behind them, like you’re just waiting to ask them to beat you up and take your money.
In an instant, Kashiwa turned a complete 180 and tensed all of the muscles in her legs to make her escape. However, she still didn’t move a single step.
That was because a voice had suddenly come from behind her.
“Help. Help me, I’m being beat up!”
Now, Kashiwa wasn’t a generous person. In fact, one could even say that she was a miser and was only selfless when it furthered her own selfish goals. But this was a temperament cultivated by her life as the daughter of a struggling, poverty-stricken family. At her most base nature, there was a goody two-shoes that was all too ready to interfere with problems that had nothing to do with her, that was all too ready to throw herself under the bus for someone else’s sake—
In short, even though Kashiwa had already been in the process of trying to escape the danger, there was nothing she could do to stop her body from turning back around and making eye contact with the victim.
Oh god. She actually made eye contact.
There was no running away now.
“Hah? Who is it?”
A group of fingers pointed at Kashiwa. An enormous figure turned to face her. A figure so large that Kashiwa could not believe that she had missed him before. A figure that blacked her out completely in his shadow.
If the previous delinquent had been frightening, this person was a monster. Kashiwa felt her knees getting weak just looking up at him.
“A first-year, huh?” The delinquent’s voice was calm and measured, like a precise blade slicing through the air. It only served to terrify poor Kashiwa even more.
Kashiwa’s voice failed her as her throat locked up. Self-preservation took over her empathy and turned her body back again 180 degrees.
She swiveled on her foot and went back to facing the monster.
What the hell am I doing!? thought Kashiwa, crying to herself.
“Hey, first-year. Get out of here before you get yourself hurt. This has nothing to do with you.”
“Yeah! Turn your flat ass around and get the fuck outta here!”
Kashiwa complied and proceeded to leave the area.
“You’re going to abandon me…?”
Kashiwa sobbed silently as her body whipped back towards the victim’s voice.
“Get out of here, first-year!”
And turned again.
“What’s with this girl? Do you have a hearing problem? I said get out of here!”
“FIRST-YEAR. FOR THE LAST TIME, GET YOUR FLAT-ASSED, FLAT-CHESTED TAIL THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!”
A vein throbbed in Kashiwa’s temple.
“AHHH! GOD DAMN IT! FUCK THIS SHIT!”