Chapter 5:

Over the Top

Good Luck in the Golden Classroom: The Golden Waltz

 The elevator didn’t move when I entered since I hadn’t commanded it to go anywhere. There were thirty floors to choose from. Among them was the ‘Mall’ floor which I tried to press, but the elevator didn’t respond. I noticed that the button was colored red. It seemed unavailable at this time.

So I decided to go to the highest floor, the ‘Sky Park.’ The name was ambitious and piqued my interest. I wanted to see what this ‘Sky Park’ was like.

Was it a park? Or was it another average skyscraper helipad?

Then, the elevator took me there. After thirty seconds, with a chime, the doors slid open.

It was brightly lit with night lights. The sun hasn’t dawned yet, but I saw the purple sky brightening.

From the elevator, a cobblestone path extended. I stepped onto the path flanked by grass.

The elevator closed behind me. I looked around, from the sky to the ground.

There was a building that was a little higher in the distance. The night clouds blanketed the sky.

And, at this park, was an artificial beach with beach-themed stalls and booths. At the opposite end of the beach was an artificial hill with a cliff to one side. It seemed to be a rock-climbing activity.

To another corner were various courts catering to various sports; the largest of which was the football field.

I’ve strayed from the stone path to one of these amusements. I looked at where I came from. I noticed on top of the elevator entrance was a helipad. I supposed rich people found those necessary.

Feeling quite calm and relaxed, I lay on the grassy field I’ve wandered onto.

I noticed that it wasn’t faux grass, but it was true Bermuda. Somebody had to be meticulously tending to these. I noticed some rose bushes acted as a hedge and some cedar trees were planted in an orderly fashion.

Then, an old, raspy voice called me, “Sir, would you kindly stay off the grass?”

I turned my head and saw a thin, old man wearing green gloves holding a spade in his hand. “Oh, sorry.” I quickly left the grassy space and noticed a sign. I came over to read it, ‘Please don’t go on grass.’ Immediately, I realized my mistake and sincerely apologized.

“As long as you understand,” he forgave. “But I’m more surprised that you are awake this early in the morning.”

“Well, it’s my routine.”

“It’s rare for people like you to have such a routine.”

His words had bitterness. In that sentence, there was disdain. Those obvious words gave me a glimpse of his heart——He didn’t like me very much—no, he didn’t like people like me. He disliked meeting people such as me, but his love for gardening overcame his hatred. After all, this place was the only natural oasis in the city.

I came beside him and said, “You care about these flowers, huh?”

“Yeah, these plants have been with me since I was born. They are my life,” he said snubbingly. It seemed that he didn’t want to converse with me any further.

So, I scanned the path looking for a topic, and there was an orange lily. I wondered if the gardener made some mistake planting it here. I kneeled to it and brushed its petals, “Disdain.”

He looked at me, still with his back against me. Pushing up his brittle glasses, he squinted at the flower I touched. “You know the flowers’ language?”

“No, I just thought you had disdain for the students here.”

“What do you mean?”

I stared at him straight in the eyes, “You don’t have to hide it. I’m not one of them.”

He laughed nervously “Surely you jest.”

“What’s your name?”

He hesitated. His eyes looked at me in terror. He was probably thinking that I’d do something to him. “My name’s Washini Kusabana.” He bit his lip.

“Washini Kusabana, fear not. I won’t be doing anything with that name nor can I do anything.”

“I don’t get what you’re trying to get at.”

“I am only but a scholar. I do not have the money nor the power.”

“A scholar? Wait, are you—”

“Am I?”

“Nevermind. Pardon my eccentricity.”

“Your secret’s safe with me.”

“What se—” his eyes widened briefly then chortled. “I’m ashamed that I was grasped so easily, but I’m grateful for your consideration.”

When Washini’s standoffish aura ceased, I followed him as he trimmed the hedges.

“It’s good to be a diligent student,” Washini remarked.

“Is that meant for me?”

“You’re smart enough to know that.”

“I just didn’t want to get the wrong idea.”

“That’s a fair point, but what about earlier? You might have gotten it wrong. What if I was just grumpy?”

“It takes luck and timing to know.”

Old man Washini pondered for a bit, gripping his spade and shears tightly before his face lightened. “I see, so that’s how it is.”

I smiled back.

“Scholar or not, I still think you woke up too early perhaps. You have something in mind, don’t you? I saw you in deep thought while you lay on the grass.”

“You’re sharp for your age,” I joked, and he slightly laughed.

“You have me in debt. Now I’d like to repay you. Tell me your problems.”

I hesitated at first. I didn’t want to reveal myself to him because he might revert to his first bias. I thought about sugarcoating my words heavily, but that seemed hypocritical. So, I decided to divulge the raw truth——to become friends with everyone in the class.

But befriending everyone in the class had its obstacles. Excluding the simple hurdles of fitting in with the class, the situation of the class made it difficult to create strong connections with each one. Maybe except for the kind student who offered me lunch; that was a promising entry.

All of those I told him, and when I finished talking, he concentrated on his work with his brows furrowed in thought.

When he finished the menial task, Washini stored his tools in a toolbox and headed for the elevators. I trailed behind him. The night lights of the rooftop became unlit, making me realize how much time has passed.

The dawn was breaking. The sheet of clouds was separating. The sky’s gradient became orange. It has been several minutes since he last spoke.

The sunlight rose and reflected on his glorious white hair. His diminishing strands showed his age, but for me, that was the crown of glory. I wanted to dye my hair white to emulate him.

Then, reached the elevator, and Washini called for it. While we waited for the numbers to increase, he turned to me. His apron and boots were stained brown, evident from his hard work in the early morning. His eyes looked drowsy as they drooped every passing second. Finally, he spoke.

“I think that’s a pure goal, but it will be a difficult task. I remember my youth when I was satisfied with a few close friends, and attaining and maintaining them was difficult. So much harder is your goal that I recommend abstaining from it. But I know you are determined to achieve this goal, so I should give you one piece of advice.”

The elevator opened behind him, and he went inside. I didn’t follow because I had other plans. I held the door open for him. I wanted him to bestow upon me his wisdom.

“Make it so that you should be friendly——that is being helpful and affable, unlike me. Then, they will come to trust you, and when they do, you have become the centerpiece binding them together.”

I removed my hand from the door, feeling satisfied until a question popped up. “Will this unite my class?”

Washini was looking at the floor with a pensive expression. Since his brain has aged, it has slowed. He reacted a little too late to my question. But just in time, he responded with a nod before the doors closed between us.

Having no chores come to mind, I desired to waste my time admiring the skies while I devised a plan based on old man Washini’s advice.

I had thirty minutes to spare before classes started, but wasting any more time on the rooftop would be foolish, so I went to my classroom.

The classroom was empty, void of people. Every movement I made—a step or a rustle of clothing—echoed through the spacious room. I went to my desk and sat. Then, I saw a pile of books on the desk beside me. It was the desk of the studious beauty I saw yesterday. I remembered the only words she spoke to me yesterday, ‘Disappointed, aren’t you?’ with that proud tone like she knew my thoughts.

More importantly, why were there two stacks of textbooks on her desk? Did she leave them yesterday? No, I remember her taking half of her books inside her large handbag. Or maybe—

Then, a creaking of the door resounded. I looked toward the source. It was coming from the restrooms. Behind the door emerged the topic. She wore a tame dress of the same color. Though the dress wasn’t arousing, it certainly impressed the grandeur of her character. It made me want to place her on a pedestal and worship at her feet. I found the word——a goddess… of intelligence.

But if she were a goddess of intelligence, she shouldn’t be in the lowest class, but there might be some other factors involved.

Rankings were rarely used in the academy, and there were no leaderboards for test scores. The academy encouraged growth, not through competition——something that seemed against the principles of business. The academy leaned on harmony among the students in your classes——something that seemed discriminatory.

But it wasn’t as if your grades were strictly secret. You could freely boast about them. And according to the idle chatter in the classroom, the student beside me, Eriki Miyazono, was the top student in class, scoring an average above ninety across all subjects.

And there was Eriki Miyazono, unfazed by my presence as she sat at her desk. She gracefully took a textbook from one stack, read for a few minutes, and placed the book on the other stack. She had an organized way of studying.

Meanwhile, I just stared, having nothing to do. I did think that wasting any more time was foolish, but I think I studied enough for a few school weeks. And I’d be self-studying during class hours anyways since the teacher was faineant to teach.

Whilst I stared at her, I traversed my mind for an effective plan to befriend everyone in the class. At that moment, I decided that I’d be playing the slow game. But it seemed that the game won’t be as slow as expected.

Liber Mercury
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