Chapter 1

(Written with my cousins constantly on my back. I am proud.)

The small dormitory room was dark and silent. Already nearing towards midnight, the night had so far managed to pass by uneventfully. Left to himself during these peaceful hours, one young man simply sat on his bedside, reading; the moon shining from the room's one window was his only light. Looking up after long minutes of craning his neck down to read, the student only saw the shadowy figures of the furniture. On the other side of the room, his roommate was sprawled on top of the bed opposite to his, dreaming peaceful dreams that he would dare not disturb.

The night was just like any other, yet the boy could not sleep well all the same.

Turning his head the other way, his gaze focused outside the window.

"Nothing but trees," he muttered to himself, as if in assurance. He would surely know if something was close by out there. Being able to read the passing thoughts of anybody, he was hardly ever disabled by the unknown. Sighing to himself, he was about to go back to his reading, until a faint blue glow caught his eyes.

In that glow, right before the edge of the forest, there was the silhouette of a woman.

Incredulous at the sight, he only stared on, his jaw slightly ajar. It wasn't until she beckoned to him that he realized that this glow was calling to him, and naturally, with a strong sense of purpose, he stood upright from his bed. Quickly he grabbed his glasses off the nightstand, tied on his shoes, and spared one glance at his roommate. Quietly, he slipped out of the room.

Sneaking past all of the two teachers that were surveying the halls, it only took nearly two minutes to get out of the magic school. However, those two minutes were enough for him to doubt his own vision. So when he managed to carefully close the tall back door behind him, he found himself amazed all over again after seeing the blue woman still waiting for him patiently.

Her features were undefined, but to him she was beautiful all the same. Her figure was wispy and transparent enough to see the green of the trees behind her. Ever her hair was uncanny, flowing behind her as if she was underwater. Before he could examine her much longer though, she turned, guiding him into the depths of the dark forest. He was uncertain how wise it was to follow her, especially since he could read nothing from her mind, but curiosity urged him forward. Each of his footsteps left a snap of a trig or a crunch from the gravel, but her footsteps did not even seem to touch the ground.

Entranced, he did not realize how deeply he had followed her in until he found himself before the guys who were waiting for him, all from his school and all very familiar.

* * *

There were three of them standing before the boy, all turned to him with knowing eyes.

The leader of the trio was obvious. He wore a satisfied smile that made it known who it was pulling the strings for their encounter. His silver blonde hair was a styled disarray, sweeping closer towards his left eye as if to obscure it, but the sinister in his eyes could not be hidden. He was known by his nickname Jay, the copy-cat.

The other one looked on with apathy. Like the leader, his eyes were also green in color, but what laid behind them was much different. His hair was black, curling as the locks reached for his neck, grown too long. A lanky figure standing in the darkness, one hand in his pocket repetitively turned over a small, unseen object. His name was James. He was the first to look away from the boy.

Then, at last, there was Lance. Perhaps, by appearances, he was the most ordinary of the trio. His pale brown hair was shaggy but purposely so. His eyes were also brown, darker in color but similar in plainness. He was handsome though, by most respects. However, his eyes held nothing, or at least, nothing real. While he wore many emotions, if one really looked, one would find him hard to read. If the boy was the mind-reader, and Jay the copy-cat, then Lance was the necromancer.

Lance smiled as the boy froze, outstretching his hand towards the direction of the ghost woman. Her figure immediately vanished into a vapor- released from his summon.

"See, James? I told you he'd take the bait," he said with a sneer, the shadow of the night obscuring his gaze.

Fear fell over the boy's face as he registered the plans from their heads.

"Yeah, okay," James said reluctantly. Indifferent, he looked to Jay, only to see him wearing a highly anticipative smile on his lips. Jay leaned comfortably against a tree as if the area was his territory. It was as if he was ready to make the final move to call checkmate.

"But- her thoughts. I heard nothing," the boy barely checked out, hardly believing the situation he got himself into.

"You can't read the thoughts of the dead, can you?" Jay practically taunted him, smirking all the while. The boy stayed silent.

"Guess that's a no," Lance said with a dry laugh. "We should get this over with."

"Wait!" the boy interrupted. "I-I did as I promised. I kept quiet about you three. I didn't say a word!" His hands quivered into fists. He waited for an answer, but the trio simply looked at him. "Why are you trying to kill me now?"

"Going to. Not trying to," Jay corrected with a wry grin. "You've forgotten about what I can do, haven't you?"

It was then the copy-cat emerged. The boy realized that Jay could see every plan he ever attempted to make, just as he could see the plans that all three of them had to kill him.

"Mind reading is useful, isn't it?" Jay asked wistfully. "Especially when someone starts thinking about how to exploit you. It's too bad I won't be able to use it again after this."

"Please! I promise, I really won't say anything!" He fell to his knees and groveled. "I will do anything you want! I can serve you! I can leave the school!" The panic in his voice threatened tears.

A skeletal hand reached up for the boy's ankle, but he was quick to stumble out of its way. Giving one last frantic glance at the three, the boy ran off. The cold realization that pleading would not save him began to sink in.

Lance sighed. "James," he said tiredly. He looked over at his side to see that James already vanished from his spot. Instead he seemingly reappeared right next to the boy, as if by teleportation. Except- unlike the second before- he had a knife, already bloody in his hand.

The boy was gasping for air. A mix of confusion and agony wrought his face. Despite that he had only just been sprinting for his life, he then crumpled to the ground. Right over the area of his heart, the blood spurted and seeped through his shirt. The attack was so sudden that no one but James would have seen it. Not even the victim himself saw what killed him. Only the searing pain in his chest would tell him what happened, but there was no time for him to contemplate it any longer. The new student had met his end.

Such was the ability of the clock-stopper. James stood over the body, his back turned to his friends.

"Well, we did it. We should head back in," Jay said, finally shifting himself from his spot against the tree. He took one last look at the corpse before turning away in disgust. "You got this, Lance?"

"Yeah, I got it," he answered, approaching the now crumpled heap. More decomposing hands reached up from the dirt, clawing at the edges of the now deceased mind-reader. Slowly they dragged him into the ground, descending towards depths no one would dig to find him. By then Jay had left, but James still lingered to watch on with morbid interest.

For a long time the only sound was shifting soil.

"He only knew too much," James said softly. Lance said nothing, crouched beside the dirt where the hands were still at work. James's black hair began to fall over his eyes. "You know this is wrong too, right?"

"It's a little too late to be asking that now." Lance watched the hands disappear under the dirt with the body. "Some guy lowly enough to beg isn't much of a loss in the world anyway."

James looked at him for a minute, but said nothing. He left when the job was done. Lance remained in the same crouched position, unable to tear himself away. He looked at the ground where the victim now slept beneath.

In reality he didn't believe the words he had said, but they made things easier to swallow. If he made people cry, then it was their fault for being too sensitive. If he hurt people, then it was their fault for being too fragile. If people died because of him, then...

He stared numbly at the dirt, smiling bitterly.

"You're really deep in there, aren't you, kid?"

* * *

Tired and drained by the walk from the forest, Lance entered the school without much caution. The teachers were already asleep by that hour. By then even James and Jay must have gone to bed. Unable to sleep, Lance found himself wondering about the contents of the kitchen. He crept across the marble floors until he reached the doors of the dining area. Before he opened it though, he paused after getting a glimpse inside.

At the far side, sitting at the round table by the window, Lance could barely make out the figure of a lady. The room was entirely unlit, but once again the moon shed its light upon the building. From it Lance could only garner the basic outline of her face, but the mere fact that there was a girl out at this hour caught his interest. He opened the door.

A ball of flames rushed towards him. Stunned, he stood in place as the fire whirled just by his head. The flames disappeared right before they hit the door.

"Katherine?" he asked in disbelief, standing on guard now in case she was plotting another assault. The figure stood, her chair having fallen to the side from surprise. Her voice echoed through the room.

"Who's there?" she called, straightening up her chair. Unsure how to answer, he hesitated before speaking.

"That depends. Are you going to throw that chair at me next?" he asked.

In reply, she raised her hand and fire flickered from it as if she was balancing it on her palm, but he did not so much as flinch. With it, the warm glow highlighted the delicate shape of her small lips in the darkness. She stepped away from the table, approaching Lance's direction cautiously. Her footsteps were near silent. When she stopped a few feet in front of him, he first noticed the look of uncertainty in her dark brown eyes as they met his. There she stood in her white night gown with the curled locks of her chestnut hair spilling over her shoulders. Her gaze lingered on him longer than necessary, and he found himself standing stiffly under her examination.

"So the necromancer stays up with the dead at night after all," she mused in monotone. "Why are you here?"

Lance narrowed his eyes accusingly, but he grinned a little.

"Who knows? Why are you here, Katherine?"

"I have always been here." With that as her only answer, she brushed past him and reached for the door he entered from. He raised his brow.

"Wait, why are you going?" he asked, reaching to touch her.

Immediately flames snaked around his feet, forcing him to both withdraw his hand and mutter a curse under his breath. As he stepped back, her eyes darted back to him, her lips upturned in a smug smile before she pushed the door open.

"I was not sitting her to keep you company, necromancer."

Then the door closed behind her, leaving Lance in the dark once again. He rubbed the back of his neck, watching her leave through the glass of the door. When she was out of sight, he turned away.

Katherine always had been different from other girls. There was no need for him to be taken off guard by her unfriendly nature then of all times. Perhaps because up close he could fully see how much harsher her tongue was when compared to the soft features the fire's glow had revealed- minus, of course, her eyes. There was something that seemed to dance in her eyes.

He walked towards the table, pushing in the chair she had left pulled out earlier.

So what had she been sitting out here for anyway?