Chapter 4

A Fresh Start! Jealousy Surrounds Shaun Gregor

You ever felt like some days were better than others? That at certain points in your life, the universe decided to take pity on you and give you something for all your trouble? Shaun Gregor knew such a feeling the moment he stepped out of that bookstore. The fact that he knew one of the most popular girls and school and didn't even know it was crazy enough, but he had helped her become such. He, the one many deemed as a loud, obnoxious monkey, with the anime hair? Heck, she'd even given him her cell number. That never happened! Finally, the gods were smiling down upon him.

Much like the typical high school students, his mornings started as any other. A 10-minute shower, before throwing on a clean uniform. Afterwards, he'd find a plate of breakfast sitting at the kitchen table, prepared by his dear, sweet mother. A bit mundane, but it worked with his schedule in mind.

"Morning." He said, while taking a seat at the table.

"Morning, sweetie. You sleep well last night?" She asked in a tender, loving voice.

"Never better." He replied, letting out a soft yawn.

On the menu for this morning: two scrambled eggs, two pieces of buttered white wheat toast, and a glass of orange juice to chase it down. A moderately sized meal to start the day. Their kitchen resembled any other kitchen you'd find in a two-story home: decent size, marble flooring, one large table, a sink and dishwasher, a friend, a large pantry, and 10 cupboards for all their supplies.

"So, who's this Luna girl?" She asked from out of the blue.

Hold up, how did she know? He hadn't told her a thing, yet. In fact, he'd planned on bringing her over someday to meet her.

"How do you know about her?" He asked out of suspicion.

"Well…you were kind of mumbling in your sleep."

"…Like what?"

"Something like "I'm so glad I could come inside you, Luna."?"

Hearing such an embarrassing statement nearly caused him to choke on the toast in his mouth. Had he really said something that perverted? From what he could recall, no. Hos dreams weren't that perverted.

"I'd never!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry, hon. Just telling you like it is." She told him, giggling at his flustered attitude.

Marian Gregor: 37 years old and a loving mother to her only child. When she wasn't working at the local flower shop, you'd find her cleaning up around the house or running around town for supplies. For a single mother, she did quite well for herself. They weren't rolling in the cash, but their lives were peaceful and comfortable. Her long, light orange hair was tied into a braid, while her green eyes sparkled like a beautiful emerald. Quite the nice woman, though also a tad teasing as well.

"Jeez. Next time, I'm locking the darn door."

"Still wouldn't stop the sound, sweetie." She replied, giving a teasing wink.

Alright, that turned awkward really fast. Luckily, there wasn't much left on his plate by the time she asked. Once done, he quickly washed it clean of any leftover stuck on his surface, before grabbing his book bag.

"I'll see you later, mom." He said to her, before opening the door.

"Alright. And don't forget, if you plan on doing anything with this girl, bring a rubber."

"Just ignore it, Shaun." He told himself, while stepping out towards a new day.

Well, another day in the life of Shaun Gregor had begun. And what greeting did the world have for him? Waves of intense heat. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but for some reason, it felt a bit more intense than previous days. And with no way to cool himself down, all he could do was open the top three buttons of his shirt and hope it helped. There was, however, some good news. Despite being cooked alive, the distance between home and school was pretty short. Only around a 7-minute jog, depending on traffic. If it sucked like the previous day, then 10-15.

"Jeez. Who pissed in God's Cherrios?" He humorous asked. Best make the best out of an annoying situation, right? "Oh well, no use standing around."

Aside from the heat though, the day was looking quite nice. Not a cloud filled the beautiful blue sky, the birds were out in full force, and those walking along with him were off for a day of their own activities as well. Whether it be work or school, everyone had somewhere to go. All the while, those on the road passed by, creating a light breeze in the process. Sadly, that's all he'd get for the whole trip. On the plus side, he was burning calories off from his breakfast in the process. So, that was something. A short 4-minute jog and he arrived at the crosswalk.

"Not bad. That might be my best time." He told himself reassuringly. Having been timing himself nearly every weak, hoping to improve. "Maybe by a few seconds? I don't know."

Now came the annoying part: the crosswalk itself. Simply standing and waiting was boring enough, but couple it with the heat and ongoing traffic, and it got much more frustrating. Tapping his foot, his patience began wearing thin. If he was late again because of these morons, he'd have to sit outside the classroom for the entire hour. Like hell that would happen. But he couldn't just run out and break the law. Best to wait it out.

"Ugh. I really hope they're not serious about throwing us outside today in P.E." He sighed in disgust. God knew how much that would suck. "We'd all melt…"

The long he stood around, the hotter it felt. Perhaps from the concrete under his feet or the metal pole beside him. While standing around though, he took notice of a few other students heading around the corner. The poor souls, they weren't doing themselves any favors by going the long way around. He, on the other hand, had a nice, short route that lead right to the academy's front gates. That plan? The marketplace: a series of outdoor vendors who sold various items to citizens. From different fruits and veggies, to herbs and spices, they had what you needed.

"Come on…come on…yes!" He cheered the moment the signal turned. Watching as the cars came to a halt. "Thank you."

Eh, not too had. Around 2 minutes and they were free to go. Running across, he could see it. His destination at the end of the dirt path. And with nearly 12 minutes left before first period, attendance was guaranteed. The marketplace, if unfamiliar with it, resembled a labyrinth, with many branding pathways and routes. This route, however, he found nearly 4 years back after registration. It proved far more useful than he though. Not only was it a shorter route, but if he needed a quick bite, there were plenty of fruits to pick from. Huffing and puffing, his feet clapped against the ground, as the school's iron gates came into view.

One may ask what an academy would need with iron gates. Well, not only did it provide protection from suspicious predators, but also a lesson in attendance in general. You see, it wasn't a matter of reaching theirhome room before the first bell, but also the campus itself. Those caught outside its iron boarders were often denied entry for the day. Harsh, for sure, but a lesson nonetheless. Those who slacked off in the real world were punished all the same. As for Shaun, 8 minutes remained on the clock.

"Alright. Not bad at all. Traffic wasn't too bad this time and I got here on time." He said with relief. Knowing William wouldn't be any trouble this time around.

But while others hurried inside to cool off, many more remained outside to converse with their friends. Something he couldn't say he'd done, ever. Normally he'd run inside, grab a drink, and kick back for remaining minutes. That wouldn't be the case today. At least, he hoped. Glancing around, he couldn't see an a hair of trace of her.

"Maybe she' running late?" He proposed.

As if the universe answered him though, a familiar voice called out to him. She had arrived, but in a way, he hadn't expected. Much like the previous day, she returned with fresh make-up. Unlike before though, she'd left her blazer behind; leaving only her white shirt left to cover her assets. Which they did, somewhat. Like himself, she too had undone the top few buttons of her shirt. But unlike him, she had her cleavage on full display. And on top of that, the constant running caused them to bounce and jiggle. God forbid any others came undone, or they'd have a real problem on their hands.

"Whew. Sorry I'm late. Kind of woke up later than usual and had some trouble with my make-up." Luna said with a sweet smile.

"Uh, yeah. Isn't that kinda…bad? The make-up?" He pointed out, knowing if enough sweat ran down her face, she'd have to remove it. "Won't it run?"

"Nope. It's waterproof." She replied in a chipper tone.

"Okay, and the top?" He questioned.

"Oh, that. It's hot, so I left it open a bit." She said, only to bend over in a teasing manner. "You weren't staring, were you?"

"Hah! You think something as natural as breasts can break me? Please, I've seen my fair share…online." He admitted outright. Although, having lied about the former.

"Heh heh heh. Well, at least your honest. I can respect that." She giggled, before wrapping her left arm around his right. "Besides, if anyone were to try anything, I know you wouldn't let anything happen."

Oh boy, things weren't off to a great start. He hadn't been the only one watching her little display back there. Many in the area were already probably jealous. But by locking arms, he'd drawn their ire. Like moths to a flame, they'd surely be drawn to him in the most negative of ways; their glares already catching his attention. Today would be a test of his patience. He liked it!

"Of course! Like a knight to a princess, I will defend you to my last breath." He proclaimed with vigor.

"Awesome! Let's go!" She exclaimed, pulling him towards the doors.

Being a good-natured girl at heart, seeing him act all chivalrous after blatantly staring amused her. Plus, what harm could come from a little teasing? The two were just having a bit of fun together. And if pursued, he'd have to have to a little chat with them; whether with words or fists.

Meanwhile, lounging around in class, both Jaylin and Sarah were busy discussing their summer plans. Jaylin, for the most part, would keep working at her uncle's repair shop. While Sarah would continue her job as a cashier at the local supermarket. So a pretty typical summer all around.

"Just curious, did you get the text from Luna last night?" asked Sarah.

"Text? Try 5 of them. The girl's gone insane over this one guy, I swear." She huffed, rolling her eyes at the sentiment. "It's not like he's that good-looking and I doubt he has a job."

"Mmm…maybe. But I don't think she cares about any of that."

"Yeah-yeah, drive and determination. I guess it's something, but's hardly got him anywhere."

"It got him into her heart." Sarah reminded her, giggling cutely. "Or maybe you're just jealous that she has someone else to hang out with."

"Hah! Don't be dumb. Like I could be jealous over someone like him. Brash, loud, obnoxious, self-serving. Hardly any redeeming traits."

"Excuse me, ladies. Mind keeping it down?" Carl asked of them.

"Sorry, maybe." Jaylin replied apologetically.

"Uh huh…"

Across the room, near the back door, their hulking ape had decided on getting a little shut eye before class started. The last few nights having been filled with a rigorous exercise regimen. Over an our spent on the elliptical and bike, forty minutes on the weights, and another twenty spent on sit ups, push-ups, stuff like that. By the end, all energy had left him. And though a good night's sleep helped, it didn't do much for his sore muscles. All was well though, until the voice of another student caught his attention.

"Sorry to bug you, Will, but could you look at something real quick?" the boy asked, adjusting his thin framed glasses in the process. "It won't take long."

"Ugh. First off, it's William, and second, is it really that important?" He groaned, before leaning back up in his chair.

"I'm not really sure. When I looked on VTube this morning, I saw this video in the top trending tab. It seems to have caused a bit of a debate." He explained, offering up the phone to him.

"Let me guess, some moron did something retarded in a place he didn't belong?" He replied, yawning.

"Not exactly. All I know is it's sparked something." He said, while pulling it up.

"Fine. Give it here." He sighed, taking it front him.

The thumbnail had a fairly interesting appearance. In place of an image, a line of text read "The Gods Are Real". Ominous for sure, only to follow a rather cheesy looking fight sequence. The boy in the video wore a black shirt, jeans, and black sneakers, while a headband wrapped around his tanned head and black hair. And on the opposite side, a large, black, 8-foot-tall creature stood at the read; its gaping jaw lined with razor sharp teeth, while tendrils escaped from its side. The setting looked more rural than their own, but it didn't seem to both the kid none. The video went on to show the mystery boy firing chunks of ice from his hands. Such attacks seemed to damage the creature, as he ran up, jamming his ice encrusted fist into its head. One punch and the beast fell to the ground with a hard thud. As a closing statement, another line of text read "Will you be chosen?", before coming to an end.

"So…you wanted me to see an amateur filmmaker's short?" questioned William.

"Well, yeah, but, you didn't feel anything from that?"

"Was I supposed to?"

"I don't know, I felt pretty tense afterwards."

"Tsk. Relax, it's just a dumb little clip. Nothing to get worked up over." He assured his fellow classmate.

"I suppose."

Like anyone would believe such a creature could exist. If it had, wouldn't the government had heard about it and been on top of it by now? It couldn't have been anything else but a silly short; it was the only explanation. Murmuring continued throughout the class, as 3 minutes remained. It was at this point that the lovely voice of their equally as lovely goddess filled the room.

"Morning!" she exclaimed with much excitement.

"Good morning, Lun-" nearly every boy recited.

Only to stop at a most unusual sight. Unlike previous days, she hadn't come alone. That loud mouth Shaun had tagged along. And what's worse, their arms were locked! The bastard even dared to cast a smug look towards every single one of them. He knew, the damn monkey knew of their jealousy and took pleasure in seeing their shocked expressions.

"Huh. Looks like she did it." Sarah said, holding one of the few smiles in the crowd.

"Looks that way." Jaylin sighed.

She knew what would come of this endeavor and sought only to stay away. Best not to get involved in matters that didn't concern her.

"Mr. Gregor, I kindly advise you to release Ms. Vale from your grasp immediately! Unwanted contact with one of the opposite sex is strictly prohibited." Spouted Clark.

"Hm…you have a point. But, oh wait, she's the one who did this." He corrected, before sticking his tongue out.

"That's bull crap and you know it, Gregor." William growled, after having gotten up. "Like hell someone like her would hang with someone like you."

"You're not much better, William." She replied with a less than thrilled expression on his face. "At least he's kind and gentle. Not to mention, understanding."

"Wha-."

"Now, if you'll excuse us. We'll be going to our seats now." He said in a cockier manner, as she released his arm.

Dead silence fell over the classroom, as they watched them nonchalantly walk to their assigned seats. Their plan was a success. All this time, ever since her popularity had grown, she'd always wanted to see how they'd react to such an event occurring. The two of them, of course, were in on the whole thing. Though a bit hesitant at first, the reactions given were priceless. However, it would come at a cost.

Throughout class, there were times when Shaun caught a glimpse of wicked glares from his fellow classmates. Out of all the men in the academia, she'd chosen him, many of them thought. Inconceivable as it may have seemed, you couldn't change the girl's mind. Once made up, she'd stick by it. If she wanted a new friend, so be it. It wasn't like anyone could stop her. Although, he'd find himself under the watchful eyes of those around them. It wasn't until P.E that things got a bit more interesting. Due to the heat, their wonderful coach had decided on a different activity for the day. A game of speed and hand-eye coordination: Battle Ball.

"Alright! As per my decision, we will be going outside today." He announced, causing a round of cheers. Thank god, they'd been saved. "Hold up, that doesn't mean we'll be taking a free day. Instead, we'll be having a good old game of Battle Ball."

Excitement erupted throughout the building. If there was one game everyone loved, Battle Ball would have been it. The rules were simple: divide up into teams of eight, and the first one to have every teammate eliminated won. Along the center of the basketball court, seven balls were placed. Both teams would rush them and grab what they could. If you got hit once, you were out of the game. Catch one, and that person was out. Simple as pie. As quickly as they could, everyone began rushing to create a team.

"Shaun." Called Carl.

"What's up?"

"I would appreciate it if you'd join my team." He inquired.

"And why's that?"

"Stubborn as you are, you're also one of the quickest. We could use your speed to fend off the opponent." He stated, readjusting his glasses.

"Meh. I guess. Let me just grab Luna and-" He said, only to find a group of both boys and girls had claimed her. Her awkward smile having said everything. "-or not."

"It seems the predators have an eye on their pray." Clark pointed out.

"Okay, fine, screw it. Let them come. We'll be picking them off soon anyways."

"A rather bold presumption."

"It'll happen!"

Four teams, all ready, willing, and able to take down any opponent thrown at them. Without a doubt the most ruthless activity Herman had up his sleeve, this would test their ability to think on their feet. And with big, rubber balls coming their way, they had better think fast. Sitting along the bleachers, each team looked prime and ready for some action. Except for Luna, who'd given her friends a little reassuring wave from across the court. In return, he too waved.

"I'd recommend you cease fraternizing with the enemy." Recommended Clark.

"What? We can't even wave?"

"Emotional attachments will only get in the way of victory. It's best to sever ties. This is war after all." He said in a far more serious tone than needed.

"Sheesh. This guy's intense." Thought Shaun.

Teams were formed, with both Clark and Shaun in Team A, Luna in Team B, and the rest, Team C and D. Each determined to claim victory for themselves. While Coach took center stage, his assistant, Travis, began placing the balls in a horizontal line at the center of the court. Now for to choose the first two teams.

"Good, I like the fire in all your eyes. To kick things off, Team A will face off against Team B. The winner will proceed to Team C and so on." Herman explained.

"Figures!" Shaun internally exclaimed to himself.

The universe giveth, and the universe taketh away. In a twisted turn of events, the two friends were facedwith a conflict. None could opt out once in a group, meaning neither could escape their fate. Much like their previous meetings, they'd been fated to meet in combat. Needless to say, both were found in an awkward situation. But worse, her teammates were determined to team him a lesson.

"This suck, this really freaking sucks." He thought to himself, as everyone lined up on each side of the court.

"Focus on getting a ball, Gregor." Carl told him.

"And focus on not hitting her."

"That's a negative."

"Tsk. Hurt her and you'll be dealing with me."

"That would be amusing." He said, chuckling at the humorous comment.

Readying themselves, their coach grabbed a hold of his whistle. And, lifting it to his lips, gave it a hard blow. In an instant, everyone charged the center; their goal only to secure a ball for their team. Both Carl and Shaun managed to claim a ball for themselves, while another two claimed their own. It was a fight to finish, as large, red, rubber balls went flying.

"Shaun, to your left!" Carl called out.

Having spotted it just in time, he quickly ducked, before beaming the girl in the legs with his own projectile. Bingo, one down. A few of their own teammates, however, hadn't been so lucky. In a blink of an eye, two of their opponents took to taking them out with a well targeted blow to the chest. Six remained, as everyone scattered; hoping to confuse their opponent. Snatching another ball up, Carl saw another opportunity, as he threw it at an unsuspecting boy diagonal from them.

"Not bad." Shaun complimented.

"No time for that, there's still six remaining." He reminded him.

Bobbing and weaving around all incoming attacks, both proved tougher to hit that the others. Being shorter and quick made Shaun the prime candidate to gathering up any balls left on their side, while Carl had the arms to attack. Casualties littered the court nearly every minute, until only four remained. Shaun and Clark versus Luna and Random Guy #8.

"You know, I'm getting the feeling the universe just hates me. Hates me like I hate cockroaches." Thought Shaun.

Despite their best attempts, Team B failed in nailing their biggest target. Now he stood, faced with a difficult decision: nail Luna and succeed or take a hit and relinquish his duties to his only other teammate. A choice had to be made and quick.

"Shaun, to your right!" He called out.

"Screw it…" He said to himself, throwing the ball in said direction.

It was in this moment that he realized, he'd messed up. For it was not her teammate he'd been told to target, but Luna herself. Because of his internal thoughts, he'd forgotten to look. And thus, landing a hit along her right arm. With her teammate distracted, his teammate took the shot. One hit to the arm and another to the knees, and Team A rose above the rest as victors.

"You didn't tell me it was her!" Shaun exclaimed in frustration.

"Of course not. If I had, you would have failed and gotten hit, without a doubt." He explained in a calm demeanor. "It was for the best."

"Why you…"

Their argument though became interrupted by humorous giggling. Apparently, she found it funny, as she stood by, watching. In essence, it did feel like a pretty stupid thing to get ticked about. Especially in such a competitive sport.

"Relax, Shaun. It's not like you killed me or anything." She reminded him, giggling at his intense frustration.

"Hm…fine. But you'd best tell me next time." He warned.

"But of course." He sarcastically spouted.

For the rest of class, chaos ensued. Team A may have won, but found defeat with Team D. It didn't help that many of their players were beefed up and quick. They knew no such mercy, as everyone felt their fury. Shaun, whom became the target of many, found himself under a barrage of attacks throughout. In the end, neither could provide a good defense; leading their unfortunate defeat. An outcome determined by their overly confident attitude towards the competition. But, in the end, it was merely a game.

Hours went by, and before they knew it, the final bell had rung; signaling their release. Thank god, no more lessons, and one day closer to their permanent release. Like many students, Luna and her friends had left, not for home, but for the large courtyard in the center of the academy. There, students could converse and relax. All the while, the gentle trickling of water from the large, white, marble fountain helped calm their nerves.

"Ugh…So…freaking…hot…" groaned Jaylin.

"Don't remind me." Luna replied, while attempting to fan herself with her notebook.

"Need some water?" proposed Sarah.

"That would help, but one problem." Jaylin replied, only to open an empty coin case pulled from her bag. "No money."

"Luna?"

"Sorry, I've got nothing today." She sighed.

"I told you not to buy that stupid ice pop at lunch." Jaylin sternly replied. Having warned her about doing such. "Now's we're gonna fry."

"I know…"

Temptation was a bitch. And having only brought along enough for lunch, none could afford the $1.50 needed to grab a cold, refreshing bottle of water. On the bright side, the sweltering heat had lifted a bit since the afternoon. Still, and oven was an oven.

"First thing we're doing this summer, hitting the water park." Said Jaylin.

"I hear you there." Replied Luna.

"But they're not opening until June 3rd." Sarah reminded them.

"I know…" They both said in disappointment.

A sad shame. Today of all days would have been perfect for diving into a big pool of water. But, per every year, the park only opened after every school had been let out. No school meant more families, and more families meant more money. So, yeah, no luck there either. If they were desperate enough, they could have jumped into the fountain. But then, it would only cause problems for the three of them. Relaxing her back against the wooden bench, a familiar face caught her attention.

"Huh. Look who it is." She pointed out, chuckling at the sight. "And he's looking pretty roughed up."

"Who's that?" Luna asked, turning her head to check herself.

Beaten and bruised, a defeated Shaun appeared from the doorway, with battle scars aplenty. A decent sized bruise surrounded his left eye, while more covered both arms. No doubt there were others scattered about the rest of his body as well. What made it worse, off to the side, others could be heard snickering at his disheveled appearance.

"Laugh it up, retards. Hope karma comes to bite you in the asses." He scoffed.

As fun as knocking a few heads would have been, it would have only caused trouble for himself. Something a he wanted and needed to avoid until graduation. Bruises aside, he couldn't have cared less what others thought of their friendship. Whether they came individually or in groups, he'd stand his ground to the end. Luna, however, appeared for more concerned.

"Nice look you've got there, champ. You got a tally for how many butt whooping's you can get in one day?" taunted Jaylin.

"Oh, shut it." Luna demanded, as she walked over to check on him.

"It's alright. I'm sure Chocolate Thunder over there wouldn't fair any better." He spat in return, casting a smirk back her way.

"A lot better than you." She boasted.

"Oh, really? Want to try that theory out?"

"Tsk. Sorry, I don't fight midgets."

"Oh, okay, so 5'7" is a midget to you? Must me a lot of midgets in this school then."

"Enough, both of you." Luna sternly told them, before returning her attention to his black eye. "Who did this?"

"That stupid ape. Sent some others after me, said he wanted teach me a lesson." He answered, while feeling her gentle touch rub over the injury.

"Ape?" Sarah questioned.

"William. You know, tall, bulky?" Jaylin explained.

"Oh! The hunk!" She giggled.

"We should go to the principle." Suggested Luna.

"Nah, that'll be nothing but a headache." He commented, having know from past experiences, what the result would be. "And I'd prefer not to get suspended."

"I guess, but…"

"I promise, it'll be alright. Just gotta grab some ice and relax for a while." He promised.

"Well, okay. But if he comes after you again, I'm going to the principle. No matter what you say."

"Guess I'll have go stealth mode then." He chuckled, while slinging his book bag over his shoulder.

"Stealthy as a raging bull." Commented Jaylin.

"Ignoring that." He said, annoyed by her taunting tone. Unfortunately, duty called back home. "Anyways, I'd best get home. Got some stuff I need to do and whatnot. See you around, Luna."

"See ya!"

And so, after a day of patience and annoyances, his journey home began. Unknown to them, something would happen the next day that would show them true fear. Not of what existed within their own reality, but one beyond their senses.