Special-A (Best friends forever) Kei Takishima Hikari Hanazono Jun Yamamoto Megumi Yamamoto Tadashi Karino Akira

Toudou Ryuu Tsuji Dana jean tapang Cristelle Anne David none yet Anne Margarette David Alyssa Anne borja Pamela carbungco princess Judy cunanan

CHAPTER ONE “Hey, Cristelle have you heard? There’ll be a new member to your group today!” said Leila Nickerson to her friend, Cristelle Lynden. Cristelle became immediately interested. “Oh, is it really?” she inquired. “Yes. There were a bunch of girls gossiping in the comfort room and I heard them talking about it. I think he or she will be replacing Grace. Well, it has been a while since she left, isn’t it?” said Lei, looking at Cristelle. “I –I guess,” answered Cristelle uncomfortably. Grace Angleton and Cristelle were cousins. Both of them were members of the Athens class. In this class, only the top seven best students were granted admission in this group. Everyone envies the Athens. They were granted privileges a common regular could never have. To the regulars, an Athen is most worthy of praise and service. This seems to be a reward for their brains, talent, and skill. Yet being one of the Athens is a tough job. The competition is fierce. You have got to maintain the best grades if you would want to remain sitting on the throne. That was why Grace left. She loves competition, especially if she knows she has the upper hand. But she never liked to lose. Cristelle went to Acanthia Academy because her Aunt Theresa, Grace’s mom, loved the idea of Cristelle and grace studying at the same school. Without having another option, Cristelle enrolled at the Acanthia regular program. At grade school, Cristelle had top grades while Grace enjoyed the throne over the Athens. At the start of their high school days, predictably, Cristelle was granted

admission to the Athens. Grace wasn’t bothered at all. To tell the truth, she acted as though Cristelle never existed. On the other hand, Cristelle wasn’t disturbed at Grace’s behavior at all. The other Athens, however, were puzzled at this routine as they were not oblivious of the fact that both were first cousins. This kept on going without pause until the day of their final exam results came. Cristelle and Grace almost tied for first place. The only withstanding difference was a point. Cristelle achieved 100% of the exam when Grace only got 99.99%. The results put Cristelle at the top and grace, unable to accept defeat, dropped out and flew to Singapore. Cristelle both tried and failed to wash away the guilt overpowering her whenever the subject of Grace’s departure was opened. That’s the rotten part of it, she told herself, being an Athen. No one likes to be fawned on by everybody. “Hello? Am I the only one talking here? C’mon, earth to Cristelle, paging Lynden. Do you copy?” said Lei with amusement. All thoughts flew out of Cristelle’s mind at once. “Ah, sorry Lei,” she apologized. “But I really need to get moving. Don’t want a late Athen.” “Oh,” sighed Lei (who wasn’t an Athen.) “Will I see you at lunchtime, then?” “Um,” answered Cristelle, looking at her friend’s eager face. Lei always want to show off to the other regulars that she had the top Athen as her friend. “I am not sure. Pam’s preparing a special brunch today. But I –I’ll try and see you later this afternoon,” she added, seeing the offended look on Lei’s face. Suddenly, Lei brightened. “Okay,” she said brightly. “I’ll see you in a bit! Ha-ha!” Cristelle turned and took the path leading to the school’s rear courtyard. She walked and walked ignoring the greetings thrown at her by the regulars. She knew she was too early but she assumed that she’ll be able to run into an early Athen like her. Finally, Cristelle reached a garden lawn with a glass house situated at the peak of a low-lying hill. She hiked to the hill and climbed a series of granite steps. The glass house looked magnificent at a much closer look. The frosted glass walls glimmered and sparkled like gems under the pale glare of the early morning sun. Its roof was also of frosted glass. It was like an ice sculpture that’ll never melt. Cristelle pushed the doors of the glass house open. The view of a glass table, quite spacious and somewhat elliptical, surrounded with seven silk and linen couches. Apart all those, the glass house seemed to be mercifully empty. It seemed to Cristelle that the other Athens didn’t bother to come early at a Wednesday morning. She dropped her bag down a couch and tried to see if there was an Athen confined in the library. The library was at the west wing of the glass house. Cristelle opened its mahogany doors and saw rows and rows of dozen shelves lined with books. She knew at first glance that it was empty. Cristelle was about to close the door when she caught sight of a piece of paper lying on the floor. She picked it up and when she had ruled out what it was, she smiled. It was the list of the Athens this sophomore year. The Athens ‘Don’t let them bring you down! Or pull you either!’ Cristelle Lynden Ishmaelle Smith Issabel Smith Clarence Fawcett Akira Prince

Derrick Clearwater Ishmaelle is ranked 3rd in school and is Issabel’s younger twin brother. The son of a music producer and a talented singer, Ishmaelle loves music more than anything else. He possesses a wonderful voice but little talent for musical music. Issabel is ranked 4th in school and is Ishmaelle’s older twin sister. She is the daughter of a famed vocalist and a music producer and shares her brother’s love for music. A cute girl who rarely shares’ disputes; Issabel is always quiet and refuses to speak because she wanted to save her voice for singing. She usually writes on a sketchpad to communicate to the others, but will speak when deeply upset. Their parents also own a music company. Innocent and carefree, Clarence is ranked 5th in school. His mother, a fierce and intimidating woman, is the director of the school and his father owns the school. He suffers from wanderlust and frequently likes to vanish and return later after days. Akira holds the 6th position in school and is the daughter of the owner of an international airline company. She is fond of Cristelle and cute girls. Akira is enthusiastic about afternoon tea, and has even constructed her kitchen on campus. Derrick holds the 7th position in school, although his test scores are a poor reflection of his intellectual powers. He is in 7th place mainly because of the twins- Issabel tends to fall asleep and Ishmaelle becomes bored during a test, which results in Derrick focusing part of his attention on them instead of his own exam. He has been close to them since they were young; it is evident that he cares for the twins so much and the three of them see each other as family. An eventempered and kindhearted person, derrick loves animals and is good with children. He is the son of the CEO of a sports company. The space below Cristelle’s name was left blank as this is where grace’s name should have been. As Grace was gone, it was made to be nameless. As she stared at the inkless part of the paper, the familiar guilt began to go washing over her. She stood there for a minute, letting it inside her hollow heart. Once Cristelle thought it was too much to bear. She pinned the paper at the end of a particular shelf. Cristelle gave it a one last glimpse as she shut the door close. Walking back to the clearing, she saw the other Athens already around. Ishmaelle and Issabel, both with light brown hair, 152 cm. in height, amber colored eyes, and as cute as ever, were watering the flowers while shooting furious glares at the sloth slumbering peacefully at Derrick’s lap. Derrick, 186 cm. tall, with emerald shaded hair, lean composure and deep forest green eyes, o the other hand, was stroking it with what looked like love. Clarence was slumped on an armchair with his stomach audibly grumbling. He is 169 cm. tall with dark brown hair and eyes with a lightly tanned complexion. Akira was nowhere to be seen and Cristelle assumed that she was in the kitchen, preparing morning tea. She greeted them all with a happy morning which they returned. Cristelle sat down her chair and rummaged inside her bag from which she extracted a thick leather bound history book and began to read. The Athens were given the right to study by themselves and do whatever they want as long as they maintain the best grades. Twenty minutes later, Akira appeared with a tray laden with a tea set and cakes. Akira was 159 cm. tall with long sleek purplish hair, milk white complexion. At the sight of her, all the Athens abandoned what they were doing and settled at their seats. “Hi, guys. Hello Cristelle!” she said, smiling. “Our morning tea for today is White tea and lemon meringue pie added with the tingle of mint paste.” Then Akira started giving each one of them pink porcelain teacups upon the same kind of saucers. Once Clarence received his, he began to gobble down as much meringue pie as he could as though he was being starved to death for weeks. This move gave him a particularly hard blow from Akira. “You don’t eat any of that unless you get rid of your vagrant habits!” she shouted

angrily. “Ow!” howled Clarence but either way he resumed to eating the pie ravenously. “It’s really good, Akira” commented Cristelle. The others nodded their agreement. “That really means much, especially coming from you, Cristelle!” said Akira. “Comme toujours,” said Clarence rolling his eyes through a mouthful of pie. Akira kicked him rather hard at the head. This routine isn’t anything rare everyday to the Athens so they didn’t mind. “Clarence,” said Cristelle suddenly. “Since when did you learn to speak French? Doesn’t ‘Comme toujours’ mean ‘Like always’”? “Yes, I mean, oui,” he laughed. “I went to France last week. I tried to climb the Eifel tower.” “Oh, wow!” said the other Athens. All of them looked awed except Akira who just snorted. Issabel brought up her sketch pad, ‘I heard something this morning among the regulars about someone replacing Grace. Does anyone of you do too?’ The other Athens nodded also. Issabel brought up her sketchpad again, ‘I think it weird because none of them notified us and from what I’ve heard, they said he or she will be coming today…’ “My friend, Lei, told me also,” said Cristelle. “I agree with Issabel,” said Akira. “A letter should have been given to us. Clarence, did your mom, Madame Fawcett, mention this to you?” Clarence merely shook head. He was still eating. Derrick and Ishmaelle were both deep in thought. “What do you expect?” said the Akira thoughtfully. “We’ll just have to wait,” Derrick said simply. Everyone nodded. They know Derrick as one with a deep mind so all of them relaxed a bit. Yet no matter how relaxed they all became after that, the unease around the glass house grew. The day passed on without them seeing a sign of a notice from the board of administrators or the supposed to be Athen. The next day… Clarence entered the glass house looking very sober indeed. He had a letter in his hand and didn’t show a sign that he saw them. He just slumped himself down his armchair and continued to drone soundlessly. The Athens took no notice of this as they all assumed that he was starving-again. And they were all used to Clarence's sober self. They all assumed that he was just punished by his mom or failed to hike Mount Everest that he is missing his jovial and ebullient self. When tea time came, the Athens finally became worried towards Clarence's definite fall of morale. As usual, Akira served the tea and brunch. “Everyone,” she announced carrying a tray of tea and cakes as usual. “Our afternoon tea is Darjeeling tea in porcelain Russian teacups and apple cream tart.” She began giving the teacups to everyone and pouring them the fragrant and steaming Darjeeling tea. Clarence took his without every bit of enthusiasm he usually gives off. “C-Clarence,” said Akira frowning but apparently worried. “You’re not touching any of your food. Is there something wrong with your appetite?” Issabel added, ‘Or is it just Akira’s cooking?’

Clarence just shrugged and began to eat. Cristelle assumed that he did so because he didn’t want to hurt Akira’s feelings. Yet his lack of eagerness seemed to drive the Athens crazy. They were not used to Clarence being so down. This change of routine seemed to drain the good aura from the glass house. Akira on the other hand was getting different effects. “Won’t you act normal?!” she growled and threw a punch at Clarence. Clarence didn’t show any gesture of pain. He continued to stare mournfully at his teacup. “What’s the problem with you? Have you lost it, Clarence?!” Akira was breathing heavily. “I’m positive he really has lost it,” said Ishmaelle vaguely. Issabel wrote, ‘I agree with you.’ “Clarence, spit it out, or I’ll kill you,” shouted Akira, tears in her eyes. Cristelle thought they were tears of rage and fury. Clarence looked up and upon seeing Akira’s expression, his mouth hung open in surprise and fright. “Y-y-you’re c-crying a-Akira?” he said with fearful uncertainty. Issabel scribbled, rolling her eyes, ‘Obviously, Clarence.’ “You’re worried about me, aren’t you?” Clarence said shakily, suppressing both a laugh and a shudder. Akira’s eyes snapped open. And she began to laugh with mischievous contempt. She seems to be on fire. In a flash, she began to hit, kick, slap, punch, pinch, beat, spank, and throw Clarence. “Ow-ouch!” wailed Clarence. The Athens sighed. Everything is back to normal-it seemed. A few minutes later, the rumble was over Clarence sat down his armchair (bruised and limping) and began to eat with much of his usual gusto. Akira emerged breathing heavily her face with beads of sweat but oddly satisfied. She sat on her armchair and began sipping tea. “Clarence, aren’t you going to tell us?” Cristelle asked Clarence. He gulped nervously. “T-tell you what?” he coughed with uncertainty. Akira set her tea on the table and began to listen. “Tell us why you were so depressed a while ago,” Ishmaelle answered him matter-offactly, raising an eyebrow his arms crossed. Honestly, the others thought he was too demanding. “Oh, that,” Clarence muttered, shooting a nervous glance Akira. “Well the fact isthe thing is it is not at all important. Just forget about how I behaved…” “Clarence you know I’m waiting,” Akira hissed dangerously at him. He shuddered. “Here take it, but don’t blame for it, please!” he said pulling a letter from his coat pocket. Clarence thrust it at Akira’s palms. Everyone gathered around her as she opened it and procured an official-looking paper. It was sealed with the school coat of arms: a book with a tongue of bright blue flame on it and a sword. They all began to read. Dear Athens, We’re sure that as you perfectly know too well, this class must be composed with the top best seven pupils all throughout the school. You are given privileges by the school CEO, Mr. Adrian Fawcett, to self study, have your own glass house, etc, etc. but in return, you must, however, maintain the best grades .

Recently, we were aware that this class had suffered a loss. Ms. Grace Angleton, your 2nd in rank, dropped out of school to go to Singapore and continue her studies there. Therefore, the Athens was merely of six students. Abiding to the rules, we obliged to grant the Class A’s first placer admission to your group so as to complete the group. Surprisingly, and it was a great shock on our part, he refused to accept. The reason behind this is oblivious to us. The week before, the board of Administrators decided to close down this section for no one seemed to be interested in joining your group. The day after, we received a petition from someone who is willing to enroll and join all of you. We let him undergo a series of tests and quizzes. Predictably, he topped them all given to his status and background. Therefore, we thought we have found a member of an Athen. Supposed to be, he must meet you yesterday. Yet evening before last did we receive a message from that willing student. He therefore tells us his withdrawal of admission. Thus, dear Athens, this changes our plans. If no one, unless that student changes his mind, is willing to become a part of you, we are forced to remove your privileges as an Athen…forever. If, by next week, there are still no changes, you’ll join the school’s Class A and adapt a regular student life. Thank you and good day to all of you… At your service always, Acanthia Board of Administrators All the Athens wore the same shocked expression after they all finished reading the letter. “See?” said Clarence mournfully, “Now you know why.” “Clarence,” said Derrick slowly, stroking the sloth, “who gave this to you?” He waved the letter. “Well, you see…” An hour ago… Clarence was sitting at the end of a long, polished mahogany dining table facing his mother, Thea Fawcett, and were eating their breakfast. Clarence’s dad was not around for he had to attend an international conference at New York. “So,” her mother said in a crisp voice that exploded like a whip. Clarence looked up nervously. Beside Akira, the person Clarence fears most of attack was his mother. “So,” she repeated, “Clarence, I heard that you flew to France and attempted to hike Eifel tower. Is that true?” “Where did you find that out?” Clarence asked in a shaky voice. “Answer the question,” she snapped. “Yes,” Clarence mumbled. “Does that mean bungee?” Clarence was punished by his mom through bungee jumping. “NO,” she laughed though with a trace of wickedness. Clarence felt the creeps. “But you’ll see.” Clarence nodded and he rather thought he’s lost his appetite. He excused himself to leave the table for school. “You may go,” she said. “But after a moment,” she added as Clarence made to stand up and leave his almost untouched meal. Mrs. Fawcett motioned her son towards her. Clarence proceeded to her nervously. She handed him an official looking letter. Clarence looked nonplussed. “That’s a letter for you Athens from the Board of Administrators and me. Read it.” Clarence read it and as his eyes go through the letter, his expression of terror became more and more pronounced. “Mom!” he said incredulously. “You can’t! If you are only doing this to punish me

for the hiking thing, please not this… I’d rather do the bungee! Don’t put my friends into this also...” “You may go,” Thea Fawcett answered shortly, sipping her black coffee. Clarence looked at her as though he was seeing her for the first time but nonetheless he obediently left the dining hall. “…so that is what happened,” Clarence finished telling the other Athens his story. “Sorry.” “Sorry?” shouted Akira looking at him incredulously. “Why ‘sorry’” “Sorry for putting you into this mess,” Clarence said, looking at all of them desperately. Issabel wrote, So you think we’re angry at you? “Aren’t you?” he said. Akira hit him in the face. “NO, of course we are not!” Ishmaelle told him. “It is about time they’ve got someone to fill in Grace’s absence. “put in Derrick. “It’s only natural.” “So…you don’t blame me?” Clarence asked nervously. “Of course not,” Akira said rolling her eyes. “What would we blame you for? Nothing of it is your fault.” “But we have got to do something,” Cristelle said, her hands on her eyes. She was apparently stressed. “But what?” the Athens asked in complete unison. Cristelle stood up and she started pacing around the greenhouse her arms folded and thinking fast. “We have to contact or reach that student who backed out and was supposed to be Grace’s reinforcement. Or reaching him will be a better move. We must convince him to change his mind. Remember, they said that if he withdraws his decision, Athens can be spared. Can you do that?” Cristelle turned to Clarence. “Do what?” Clarence said vaguely. “Can you take that pupil’s personal files at your mom’s office?” “Uh, I can try,” he said. “but it will be a lot of sneaky business. She mustn’t know anything ‘bout what we’re up to.” “Thanks,” Cristelle smiled. “I better begin planning know,” Clarence said and he stood up and strode to the library to have some quiet. “Cristelle, are you sure about this?” Ishmaelle asked her, totally unsure. “I am, Ishmaelle,” Cristelle answered him her eyes suddenly bright. “Are you?” “I am, of course,” Ishmaelle said putting out his hand and reaching Cristelle's. “Me too,” Akira said, holding Ishmaelle’s hand too. “Derrick?” “Me three,” he said, grabbing Akira’s hand. “Issabel?” Issabel smiled and joined in. They were all in this together. … Three days passed and they were all still unfruitful on their attempt to save their class. Cristelle almost didn’t sleep at night. Clarence wasn’t able to do his part. On Akira’s part, however, nothing can stop her afternoon tea and she also thought that it was this time that the Athens needed tea the most. One afternoon tea… Akira was serving Irish breakfast tea and chocolate French doughnuts when

Clarence began bursting to view jumping with happiness. “I got it! I got it!” he shouted triumphantly brandishing a folder at their midst. “Clarence! You’re ruining the ambience!” Akira told him irritably but the eagerness in her face wasn’t difficult to miss. Clarence handed it to Cristelle and said, “That’s the form of that student. It was hard to get, but I made it still.” He was breathing hard. “Come and have tea, Clarence,” Akira said solicitously, “you seem exhausted. Try my chocolate French doughnuts too.” Clarence looked surprised at Akira’s sudden affection but he looked happy all the same. The other Athens were watching Cristelle as she stared at form. It was named, Ian Brylle Lambert (Transferee) Cristelle dropped the form out of her surprise. She knew that name. It brought back old memories. “Cristelle, something wrong?” everybody was asking, sounding all worried. “No, this is nothing,” Cristelle reassured them, smiling as she bent down to pick up Ian’s form. She opened it. A picture was pasted at the upper left corner of the page. It showed a beautiful boy of sixteen with magnificent golden blonde hair and equally magnificent eyes of liquid gold. How vivid Cristelle remembered that face. Below it was a form. The Athens read it: Name: Age: Birth date: Address: Gender: Height: Former school: Parents: Mother: Father: Blood type: Ian Brylle Lambert 16 November 22 Lambert Marble Manor male 175 cm. Jefferson Private International Academy Adam Lambert Princess Judy Lambert

A

The next page, it showed the grades of Ian in all his subject areas at Jefferson international Academy: Subject Area Grade Physics 320% Algebra 300% Modern Math 405% History 220% Literature 399% International Literature 405% MAPEH 600% Values 500% Economics 400% Chemistry 600% French Literature 500% Biology 405% Extra-Curricular Activities 500% Co-Curricular Activities 500% “Whoa,” said Akira, “Those are the highest grades I’ve ever seen, except for

Cristelle’s of course.” “Well, it doesn’t surprise me anymore that he enrolled for Athen admission straightaway. He really does deserve it,” said Ishmaelle. Issabel nodded, putting up her sketch book, than Grace. He could be real competition for Cristelle. He also looks much better

All the Athens nodded their agreement. “I think we should go now,” said Cristelle, standing up and stowing the form in her bag. “Let’s give Ian a visit.” The Athens stood up also and together they all went out of the greenhouse and left the school grounds. At the school gate, Akira got her phone and dialed a number. “Please I need a ride here at the school gate, pronto.” Five minutes later, they were all seated inside a navy blue limo. Akira, Issabel, and Cristelle were sitting opposite the boys. “Wait, does any of you know where, erm, Lambert Marble Mansion is?” asked Derrick, looking at all of them. All the Athens looked at each other then shook their heads, except Cristelle who said, “I do.” All her classmates stared at her. “Cristelle how did you-?” Akira was about to say, but Cristelle interrupted her. “We’re almost there now. Why I know, I’ll explain it later.” Akira asked her driver to stop the car and drop them on the nearest sidewalk. “Tell him to wait for us here,” Cristelle told Akira quietly. Akira nodded and repeated the words to their family driver. The man nodded obediently and went to park the limo somewhere nearby. Cristelle beckoned the other Athens to follow her. She led them down a lane and walked to a turn on the road. How well she remembers. It’s like I was here yesterday. I can’t believe I can still remember how to get here, Cristelle told herself. But will he still know me, after eight years? They emerged to a lane and the Athens found themselves in front of a splendidly large bronze gate and white brick wall. The Athens weren’t so awed of course, considering that they themselves had acquired such finery. Cristelle went to the doorbell and rang it. She said, “I’m Cristelle Anne Lynden and I am an old friend of Ian. I need to talk to him.” There was an answer. The reply seemed to be from an old man. “I don’t believe it! Cristelle, are you alone dear?” “Thomas, is that you? Um, I’m not alone. With me are my classmates, Akira Prince, Issabel and Ishmaelle smith, Clarence Fawcett and Derrick Clearwater. Will you let us in?” “Of course, of course I will.” And at that precise moment the gates sprang open and all the Athens walked in through a driveway. The marble manor was exactly as Cristelle remembered it though it seemed that it was a tad bigger and there quite a few renovations. Nonetheless, it was as elegant as ever. The façade was an orchard of roses, periwinkle and honey apple trees. They reached the oak front doors of the manor and it was open. Between it was an old man with white hair wearing a tuxedo. His hands were thrown in welcome. “Welcome! Cristelle, I’m pleased to see you again. How long it was since you were here. You and Master Ian haven’t been together for ages. Oh, good to you, young sirs and misses.” He smiled at the Athens. “Everyone,” said Cristelle to the Athens, “this is Thomas Carrey, the butler of the Lamberts. Thomas, this are my friends.” And Cristelle introduced them to the old butler.

“Right, Thomas, we need a word with Brylle. This is really urgent,” “Okay, let me lead you to his quarters. Or perhaps you know already?” he said to Cristelle. He laughed. “I still remember Butler Carrey. I guess we’ll just be there on our own. C’mon guys.” Cristelle beckoned the other Athens to follow her lead. “I used to play here when I was six,” Cristelle explained to them as they climbed up through the marble steps. “Brylle and I, we used to be childhood friends.” “Oh, yeah, I also remember coming to this house,” Akira told them thoughtfully. “Really?” said Clarence, “me also.” “Issabel, Ishmaelle and I too,” said Derrick, “we remember coming in here once.” “Oh, yeah?” inquired Cristelle showing her interest. “The Lambert International Group isn’t oblivious to our companies,” explained Derrick. “They are a powerful and famous company.” “Ah, I see,” said Cristelle, “rich kids are interconnected.” Issabel wrote, Yeah, they are, sort of… They all turned and climbed another set of steps. As Cristelle remembered, the room of Brylle was at the tower. And it was a pretty big one. The Athens were panting already as they (finally) reached the topmost floor. Cristelle led them to a door and she knocked three times. A deep “Come in”, was the answer. She also knew that voice. Cristelle kicked the doors wide open (she always did so) and entered the room. It was precisely as she memorized it in her childhood days. There was a large wooden bed, indigo painted walls, a desk, a door leading to a bathroom and all the furniture. All was in place except that the toys that usually littered the floor and the small boy were gone. Instead were a laptop and a tall boy with a beautiful face that resembled the picture on his form though it was more magnificent in personal, tall and slim figure and a bewildered expression were there. “Hi,” said Cristelle, walking over to Ian and shaking his hand. “Long time no see, Ian. Do you still remember me? Cristelle?” “Uh, sort of,” Ian said uncertainly. “What do you want?” “Brylle, we heard that you enrolled to Acanthia academy last week,” explained Cristelle. “But then, you backed out. Why?” “Why?” echoed Ian, “why? Because I learned that you were in it!” Cristelle was stunned. “Ah, okay,” sighed Cristelle. “What have I done wrong, Brylle? Tell me…” “Um, I think that you’re missing the point,” Clarence said suddenly. Everyone stared at him. All of the Athens were used to Clarence’s habit for interrupting things. “Cristelle, I thought that we are here to convince him to withdraw his dropping out, isn’t it? Now we are face to face with him, why don’t you?” Akira punched him in the face rather hard. Clarence cowered behind Ishmaelle with his hands over his head to protect it from further hits thrown by Akira. “Keep quiet, Clarence!” she hissed. “Can’t you tell that it is serious whatever they are discussing?!” “NO, Akira,” said Cristelle mildly, turning her back from Ian and walking to the Athens. “Clarence is right. We’re here to do what we’re here for.” Issabel put up her sketchpad, Cristelle… “Ian,” started Derrick, “we were here to try if we can convince you to accept your admission to the Athens… or, or else, Athens will be dissolved. We can’t let that happen…” Cristelle walked out of Ian’s room without even knowing why she did so. She desired to hit Brylle as painful as she can muster yet she resisted the urge. She waited outside as the other Athens and Brylle sorted it out. Half an hour

later, they emerged from the room looking particularly cheery. All of them gave her thumbs up and she hugged all of them with joy. Brylle handed her a piece of paper and went back inside. The Athens went out of the house and were celebrating. This is what happened at the room a while ago… “Cristelle!” Akira called at Cristelle’s retreating back that never turned. “Akira, let her be on her own,” said Ishmaelle, “she seems distressed.” “Distressed?” echoed Ian, apparently interested. “Yes, Cristelle values the Athens very much…”explained Clarence. Issabel scribbled, Ian, Cristelle was a friend of yours isn’t it? Ian nodded. Then you would value her feelings even though how many years you have been separated. She was really upset when that letter came. But you know what? She felt very much excited when she learned that you enrolled at our school and we’ll be paying you a visit… “Ian, I always thought you’d be yearning for seeing Cristelle again after all those years… when we were kids, you told me about this girl, remember? And it is only now that I realized it was Cristelle you were talking about!” shouted Akira at Ian. “You know each other?” Derrick asked Akira incredulously. “Yes,” it was Ian who answered. Ishmaelle, Issabel, Derrick and Clarence turned to look at him. He continued, “The Prince and Lambert families maintain a bond between themselves to preserve the old ties.” “Correct,” said Akira contemptuously. “So that meant Ian and I were introduced when we were of a young age…” No one spoke for a moment. There was complete silence. “Oh, alright,” Ian said at last. Everybody looked at him expectantly. “Guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”