What now?

I froze as I heard laughter.

Loud, laughter. I felt the feather on my head suddenly twitch - and then jerk up straight.

"Up there!" Someone yelled.

Asta gasped, eyes bugging out.


Up, easily a hundred metres high, a series of red canoes were floating in midair, accompanied by what looked like drifting circular lights.

At least thirty older kids were peering down at us, laughing and sipping from glasses.

What in the holy...

A few were pointing behind us.

I looked back at the building - at the lighted windows where people were still being terrorized by the plant from hell.

And I realized they must have seen everything.

And, it got worse as I looked back up at the canoes...

And recognised the figure at the helm of the biggest one.

He wore red robes and a rather nasty smirk.

"Ha- Haruka?"

"Beautiful Night, beautiful sight, isn't it?" He yelled down in a gloating voice.


His canoe buddies laughed louder.


I literally felt the heat rise around me.

This evil, evil freak. He planned this!

This- this- I was so gonna-

Before that thought could finish, we heard the sound of glass breaking, and the yelling reached a whole new level of loud.

"It's outside!"

"OH hell no!" (Dollface?)

"Comrades, it stings me!" (Russian Kid?)

"Oi! you - watch out!-" Zach sprinted past, followed by Pierre, whose cheek was bleeding.

"Help! It's here!"

That sounded way too close. And kids were getting hurt! We watched in dismay.

"We have to do something!"

"Well, we don't have any powers right now!" Kian yelled furiously. "So, that thing can beat the shit out of us!"


We saw one of the mummy kids stumbling about, bandages trailing behind. The potted menace hopped after him/her, giggling as it got closer and closer.

The mummy kid tripped over the bandages.

Kian cursed and disappeared with an "I'll be back!"

Everyone was yelling and running, not that it helped in the darkness. Even the Healers were panicking. Shrieks of pain were everywhere.

The boat people above were laughing like maniacs now.

"Oh, dearest couuusin...we neeeed to taaaaalk..."

I looked up. My eyes narrowed as I took in Haru's malicious grin...

Wait a second...

His eyes were fixed on the top of my head...

On the feather. As I watched, his eyes narrowed.

Oh shit. I had an idea, a doubt about this...and it seemed that it might be spot on.

"Ria..."Asta was staring at my feather - which was swishing about madly. "Let's leave. Now!"

I had a feeling she also shared my suspicion. I nodded.

Yeah well, before that...

"OI HARU!" I called out. Haru peered down. And I did something I'd promised my mom I'd never, ever, ever do.

I flipped him the bird.

And then ran for it.

Haru yelled something, but like I was going to hang around to get torched. I hadn't seen that big bird, but I bet it was close by.

It and its ability to shoot fireballs. I followed the other two towards the lawns.

"I thought hospitals were safe places!" I yelled at Asta. "This is crazy!"

"They normally are!" Two more sempais streaked past me. "Its Hiwatari whose insane!"

"Damn right!" The other screamed, head looking like a bobblehead as he ran.

"Let's just hope the other one doesn't show up!"

"Please don't talk loudly!" Amir was also yelling, rather ironically.

"Kids, just keep running till the Head Healer returns and lifts the spell on us!"

I remembered the rather strict woman.

"When is that?" Sometime soon - like seconds soon hopefully.

One of the sempais - he had streaked blond hair looked sympathetic.

"No clue! Also - more than the noise that thing tracks yoki! So just run to the outer lawns!"

The sempai sped up, disappearing into the darkness ahead. "Hide it out!"

"Real helpful" Asta snarled as we raced. I followed her, heading for the mini bridge/archway thing which led to the outer lawns.

"What the hell is Haru's problem?" I wailed. "This sucks!"

"I hate to say this - but you aren't the only victim here!" Asta wailed right back.

My flipflops were so not made for running. I was terrified that I was gonna trip up, so I ended up ditching them in the middle.

Running barefoot didn't do much to improve my mood.

The grounds were extensive - mostly rolling lawns with different flowerbeds, and some with some statues. It was essentially divided into inner lawns and outer lawns - which we had yet to see.

Not to mention it was almost pitch dark. As we ran, it started getting really windy and I mentally added 'freezing to death' to 'death by cactus' and 'death by evil cousin' on the list.

Goddammit, Haru!

Gritting my teeth, I ran on.

On top of one of the buildings, two figures watched the chaos below. Both wore black, their faces partially hidden under deep hoods.

"Waah...Hiwatari sure goes all out, doesn't he?" The girl shook her head, her long blond hair whirling in the wind.

"He is not going to be happy." Her mouth twisted.

Beside her, the taller figure shrugged, lips forming a smile. "Ah, it has been too long since the factions clashed. I think we are getting rusty."

As he started forward, a clinking sound seemed to follow. "Shall we?"

The girl shook her head and he stopped. "Not right now, ok? Look..." She pointed.

"We are being watched..."

On the other building, two more figures stood, almost eerily still against the rising wind.

These were dressed in white robes, their faces were covered by what looked like red half-masks.

And their eyes were fixed on them.

The boy stepped back, mouth flattening.

"Too bad.." He sighed.

"They always spoil the fun..."

I don't know when, but after entering the outer laws, I got separated from the others.

Not surprising, given we could hardly see each other. How I managed to avoid crashing into someone, I have no clue. I doubted it was Lady Luck though. With a psycho like Haru as a cousin, Lady Luck clearly had no interest in me.

It felt stupid, running from a plant, but those needles. And the fact that my 'power' of which I had no idea, couldn't save me even if it wanted to. But, what I was most scared about was that uncle Azuma was wrong - and Haru wanted the feather back. If he thought that he was the rightful owner of the artefact..he might have come for it.

That was the real reason.

For, if he wanted it back...I don't think he would ask nicely.

Given his personality - he might literally want to pull it out of my head.

I shuddered.

No way in hell was I sticking around for that!

I could hear kids racing, some far away, some close by.

And I couldn't see the others.

Must have separated sometime after the archway...

Giving up on finding the others, I finally stopped on the part of the laws with some statues.

"Ugh, that was just ugh." I sat down. It may be cold, but I was sweating like crazy. I hoped the others were alright. Thoughts whirled through my head.

The Feather was still madly active though. It had been mostly droopy all this time. Was it reacting to Haru? Was it like a tv antenna? Could it be tracked?

That so didn't sound good.

A few quiet minutes passed, and the screaming kids could no longer be heard.

Was it over?

Just as I was thinking I was safe, A small circular light floated down suddenly, followed by another. Then another.

Why do they look familiar...

And then a light shone down.I looked up and saw a canoe. A few teens were staring, holding a huge lantern, pointing at me.

The next second, my night officially got like 20x worse. My feather started waving like crazy.

"There she is!"

"Lord Haru!"

Oh no.

"Well, well, little brat. There you are." Haru's jeering voice floated down. "I'll have to punish you now."


"This I have to see." And the lights suddenly vanished.


I froze.


Oh nononono!


It was close by...I looked around. The wind had gotten faster, and even then, the sky was cloudy. If anything, it seemed cloudier. Then I saw it - a weird stumpy little shape running through the grass right at me.


Can't panic! I cannot panic.

I narrowed my eyes.

Ok...I'd seen it leap off things (people), and right now it was running on plain grounds. But then, it might launch at me ...and then again...I shook my head. No time to think!

Let's just do it.

I waited till it was super close, then closer.

Just as it was a foot away, the thing jumped.

And somehow, I was ready.

I spun around at the last possible moment - and Whoooosh! - it felt its stumpy little form miss me by millimetres.

I almost fell but regained my footing in time.

The cactus soared straight into a statue and then slid off with a scratchy scraping sound.

It would have been pretty funny - if it didn't immediately get up again.

And turned to me.

I swear, it looked pissed off.

And then, I ran like a crazy person.

And so, for the next few minutes, I played a twisted version of Tag with the potted plant from hell.

Again, and again, I did the same thing.

Then again, I'd always been awesome at Tag...

How long with this go on for?

The laughter had died down to a few hoots and rude commentary.

And after the fifth time, Haru apparently had had enough. As I started running for the sixth time, a line of red gold fire suddenly blocked me.


I looked up, furious.

"Stop it! Why are you doing this?"

Fresh laughter broke out. And two more lines of fire appeared to join the other side like he was drawing like a square. With fire.


The thing had gotten up.

Oh great.

And it started to run.

Was it me or was it faster than before?

I brought my arms up and braced myself for some serious pain.

Just as I thought I was a goner, there was a loud crack of thunder. On my chest, the cool stone suddenly seemed to throb. Huh?

And the next second, a truly violent wind began to blow.

I yelled, covering my face as dust, leaves, and other stuff whirled about. I could hear the people head yelling, which seemed to be getting fainter and fainter.

Weirdly enough, it seemed to be more powerful over my head. But that wasn't possible, right?

It sounded like the canoes were getting blown away or something. The wind carried on for a while, and then finally stopped when the voices faded into the distance.

A faint familiar scent swirled in the air.

"It's alright now."

I knew that voice.

I peeked between my arms, and I saw someone's back. The person was tall, with a side pony.

I gasped. Was he...?

He turned and blue-green eyes flashed in the darkness.

"Ryuu sempai?!"

What was he doing here? I started to ask, when;

I heard the weird little giggle.


Oh no! The Cactus was heading straight for sempai!

"Behind you!-"

Expression unchanging, Ryuu sempai turned and - and I kid you not - flicked his hand. I hardly felt anything, but the next second, the cactus suddenly shot up - like way up, and went flying into the night.

My jaw dropped open as it vanished. "Uhhh..."

There was like five seconds of silence and then;

Somewhere, up head, people began to scream.

No way in hell.

"Are you alright, Ria?" Ryuu sempai was in blue robes, similar to the ones I'd seen him in before. "It didn't hurt you, did it?"

"Ummm no." I was still out of it. What on Earth...How on...?

"Uh, thank you..thanks..." I added, blinking like an idiot. My brain was alert - but wtf was wrong with my body?

He smiled. "That's good to hear. I'm glad."

As he spoke, I suddenly thought of the Blue stone. And, all at once, I snapped awake - I remembered the Freshers.

And the part it had played.

"Also, thank you for the stone, I think it really helped me in the Freshers. If you want it back..."

I stopped when as he started to shake his head, amused. "Ria, it's a part of you now - just as much as that Feather." He patted my head.

"It's your tabeez now, and that's just how it should be."

I nodded. "Okay... but what are you doing here?"

Ryuu sempai looked thoughtful. "I was passing by when I sensed something strange and decided to stop by."

His frowned as he glanced up. "I'm glad I did." I agreed.

I got so very lucky.

I was about to thank him again when;

He cocked his head. "Ah, there. I think your friends are calling for you."



"Quit playin' hide and seek!"

I turned, and sure enough, I could make out Asta's voice close by, along with Amir's. And, of course, Kian's.

Those guys... I smiled as I looked up in relief.

With a start, I realized the wind had finally blown the clouds away, and the night sky was twinkling with innumerable stars.

No canoes or floating lights were in sight.

"Woah...sempai I-" I turned. Then stopped.

There was no one there.