Chapter 30: so it ends

The reasons behind the DM's departure were speculated and discussed by the school. Everyone had their own version of the story but only two knew the truth. However, they chose to keep quiet.

As time passed, the gossip died down and was eventually forgotten, replaced by more urgent matter such as the exams. It was also due to this that most of the students of class 203 were holed up in the library, studying feverishly. Much to the astonishment of Eden and gang, they saw Josh there as well, pouring over an endless stream of textbooks.

"Didn't think there come a day that I would see him studying." Eden smiled at Josh's bowed head before turning to Chad "Watching him inspires me work even harder."

"Oh yeah, I totally agree dude, like, he's so inspiring Kev too. Look, he's even going over to tell him so!"

"Huh?"

~~~~~~~

A shadow fell across the page of his book and he heard an all too irritating voice say, "Wow, is this an illusion I am seeing? Josh Rayne actually studying for his exams?" Josh looked up at Kevin and frowned "Oh it's you, kid. I thought I found your squeaking familiar. Unlike the slacker you are, I intend to pass my finals this time and then, I won't have to keep seeing your ugly mug everyday."

Josh expected Kevin to be furious at his remark but the younger boy actually smirked "You can say whatever you want, Rayne but you," Kevin raised an eyebrow "Passing your finals? Now that's what I call an impossible task."

"Listen up you jerk-"

"Wanna a piece of me, huh? Come on-"

"GET OUT OF MY LIBRARY!" The old librarian had suddenly appeared and had an iron grip on each of their ears.

"THIS IS A LIBRARY, SILENCE IS TO BE KEPT AT ALL TIMES! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

From his table at the far end of the room, Eden could be seen rolling his eyes at this and whispering to Chad "Oh yeah, she is showing such a great example of being silent there."

"Mr Rayne, if you cannot contain yourselves, I suggest you leave."

Josh shot Kevin a dirty look before gathering up all his books and leaving the library.

Kevin smiled smugly at Josh's back and was about to head back to his original seat when he felt a hand on his collar "Mr O'rion, that applies to you as well." Kevin decided to turn on the charm as he grinned at Mrs Teady "Me? You know me, it was all a misunderstanding."

"Oh really, Mr O'rion? I happened to see you provoking him. Out."

Kevin sighed, "Damn."

~~~~~~~

Alicia was studying in her own room with Peanut Butter for company. She used to study with Ulric but recently, he was more and more of a distraction. It wasn't his fault, having him around always made her feel so secure and comfortable and so acutely aware of his presence that she stopped whatever she was doing and simply watched him.

She studied the way his hair fell all over his face, the way he frowned when he was concentrating on his work, the way his lips curled into a smile when he noticed her observing him.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"Was I?"

"Yes."

"Nothing."

"If you say so."

Though Ulric didn't say anything, she had a feeling that he was the one who got rid of the stalker but she didn't know how. Ulric did not elaborate on the matter either as she did not ask.

When he came to her room later that day; the day of the rematch; the first thing he did was to take her into her arms and hold her close. "You're safe." He had whispered "I'll protect you with my life." She didn't know what to say, the line seemingly familiar to her, as if she'd heard it somewhere before.

They had kissed then only to be interrupted by Tyler opening his door and slamming it again when he saw them. She grinned, recalling Tyler's expression and how they laughed, both a little embarrassed.

"Mew?" Head cocked to one side, Peanut Butter gazed up her inquisitively.

Alicia touched the tip of the cat's nose with a finger "Yes, I know, I should be studying and not daydreaming." She looked down at the floor beneath "I wonder what he's doing now?"

~~~~~~~

He was also studying or at least, he was trying to. Ulric flipped the page restlessly, his eyes saw the words but they made no sense to him.

He glanced up at the ceiling; they had a mutual pact to study alone since they were both distracting each other. He didn't understand the sudden change, he could work with her quietly just a couple of weeks ago but now, he found himself unknowingly watching her.

It was as if he was trying to keep that image of her in his heart, trying to remember the shade of her hair, the faint blush on her cheeks when she noticed him looking at her, the reflection he saw when he gazed into her eyes.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"Was I?"

"Yes."

"Nothing."

"If you say so."

They continued with their studying then and then he noticed her observing him.

"Ulric."

"Alicia."

They both said it at the same time. "I think we should study alone." And that was when they decided to study separately.

Ulric shook his head and turned his thoughts back to his mathematics. He wanted to top the class again and daydreaming wasn't going to help him but... he missed her. He always would.

"No." Ulric told himself firmly "I must concentrate. I must concentrate. I must concentrate..."

~~~~~~~

"I can't look."

"Sure you can!"

"It would help if you opened your eyes."

"No. You look and tell me."

"Ok, dude. Gosh, you flunked again."

Josh sighed deeply, an expression of defeat on his features, his father was sure to disown him now.

Eden smacked Chad on the back of the head sharply "That was mean." He turned to the blonde and held out his hand "Hey Josh, congratulations, you passed. Chad was just messing with you."

Chad grinned sheepishly and offered a hand as well "Sorry, didn't mean to scare ya, I was just having some fun."

"I passed?" He rubbed his eyes and blinked but it was still there. Printed on the board was his name and beside it, his results: four B's and one distinction for computer programming.

"If you ask me, it was just dumb luck." Kevin snorted, coming up to the group.

Chad draped an arm around Kevin's shoulders "And how were your results, Kev?" Kevin mumbled something unintelligent and glared at the board where Eden was standing.

"Guys," Eden pointed to the top of the list "Ulric tied for top with Alicia and I'm second. Exactly like our first year! Oh, and I see what Kev's so annoyed about. He got a 'C'."

"Why?" Kevin yelled, startling Chad "Why did I have to get a 'C' in shop class? It's gonna affect overall my GPA!"

Chad raised a finger and skipped away from Kevin, grinning wickedly as he ran backwards, he shouted for the entire hallway to hear "If you didn't spend all your time hiding under the table during shop class, you wouldn't have gotten a 'C'!" And then he dashed off as Kevin came tearing after him. "I'll get you Martell!"

Eden threw his hands up in exasperation "Those two will never grow up. Wanna get a drink Josh?" He had almost forgotten that the other boy was still there.

Josh shook his head and smiled "No, I think I'll call my dad but thanks anyway." His father would be pleased, not only for Josh's first distinction but also because he managed to protect his cousin. For once in his life, he felt a great sense of accomplishment.

He was about to walk off when he paused and said, "I'm finally graduating. It was nice knowing you... Eden." With a wave of his hand, he left, leaving behind a rather speechless Eden.

~~~~~~~

After the exams, came the annual track meet with the IOE and this year was the their turn to host it.

Clearly aware of her classmates' desire to beat their rival school and knowing that their 'plans' usually involved her, Alicia had warned Eden and Chad beforehand that if they were going to try and use her to win the race again, she would hang them from the roof. Upside down. Eden and Chad of course, had assured her that they would not be telling the IOE boys to look at her.

She was relieved that she'd maintained her top position with Ulric though she had been somewhat unfocused. The moment the last paper was collected, she turned to see him looking back at her with the same lingering gaze.

They spent nearly all their waking moment with one another, at times, words weren't needed; being close to him was all that mattered to her. She didn't understand her sudden habit of observing him at first and then she realised it. He knew so much about her, her family, her friends, her very nature but she knew so little of Ulric. He didn't talk about his parents or his ambitions and most of the time, he always kept his thoughts to himself.

"I want to know everything about him." She told Peanut Butter solemnly "Even if it's gonna take my whole life just to. I will, someday, discover the Ulric behind the mask."

The cat purred as if in agreement and then settled down on top of her notes and slept.

Alicia yawned, "That's a good idea. Think I'll-" She didn't finish speaking as she too, collapsed on her bed and dreamed.

~~~~~~~

The day of the meet came and the boys trooped off to the IOE, proudly bearing the cup that they had won the previous year.

Alicia met Edison once again and they exchanged greetings. They didn't have time to catch up with each other as he had to excursed himself for his upcoming race.

Unknown to Alicia, Eden and Chad had made another sign but it was slightly different from last year's one. They positioned themselves behind Alicia and waited till the crucial race which would determine the winner.

Eden was worried; Alicia's threats scared him but Chad had brushed them off, reasoning that they weren't exactly breaking their promise.

"I'm still not so sure about this."

"Trust me, dude! Nothing will happen."

~~~~~~~

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DID IT AGAIN!"

"What did I do? I told them not to look, right?" Chad shouted to Alicia as he ran.

Eden was right next to him, clutching a large cardboard sign that had the words 'Don't Look!' and a bright red arrow drawn on it.

Chad cast a sideward glance at his best friend "Ok dude, so I screwed up this time. You can say those famous four words to me now."

Eden abandoned the sign as he avoided knocking into some IOE boys "I told you so. Now run!"

~~~~~~~

Alicia threw her trunk onto the back seat of her car and slammed the door. It was the last day of the school term once more and she was on her way home.

This is been an all too exciting year for her, with the mysterious DM and the stalker, Tech U retaining the cup for the second time in a row, getting ship wrecked and the development of her relationship with Ulric.

She touched her hand gingerly, her fingers tracing the white scar across her knuckle. She hadn't told her parents about the incident and she didn't think she ever would.

"Aren't you leaving yet?"

She turned at the sound of his voice to see him carrying Peanut Butter. Ulric handed the cat over to her.

They were the only few left, Kevin's chauffeur had picked him up and Eden and Chad took the earlier train with Plus tagging along.

"I was waiting for you." She replied, leaning against the car "I... I wanted to invite you to my..." Her voice faltered on noticing Ulric's expression.

He was flushed and looking rather uncomfortable "I would like to accept but... I have some things I need to do back at my home. I'm sorry."

"It's alright. I assume too much sometimes." Try as hard as she might, she still couldn't keep the disappointment out of her tone.

She placed Peanut Butter down on the passenger seat and was about to get into the car when he caught her arm. "Can I say goodbye?" He asked softly, stepping closer to her. She saw the shy grin on his face and all her disappointment melted away "I guess." She answered, smiling at him and then without warning, she threw her arms around him. She kissed him lightly; it was getting a little hard to tear herself away from him.

She got into the car and started the engine as Ulric looked on through the opposite window "Hey," He grinned crookedly, making him look unusually adorable "How 'bout a lift?"

Alicia raised an eyebrow and smirked "You know the answer."

To be cont'd?

I'm not so sure about having a third phase and even if there is, it will be much shorter than the first two. I'll be working on 'For real' and other projects before starting on the final phase (should there be one).

I have said this many times but it is never enough; thank you to anyone who has had the patience to read my stories. I know I'm not the best but I try and sometimes... it still sucks. Oh well, I'm only human, I personally thought this last chapter rather lame for my standards and I apologise for that.

If you liked it, thanks! Thank you, thank you and thank you! You guys rock.