The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
An alarm went off with a grating sound which was especially unpleasant in the morning. Gwyn smacked at it until his hand finally landed on the button. He had thought to create an alarm on his phone but hadn’t bothered to set one up and instead relied on the clock on his desk.
He carefully sat up and pulled the covers off his body; a leg wrapped in a cast was revealed from underneath them. Gwyn groaned as he laid his eyes on the sight. Many of his friends had signed it, but he preferred not to need it at all.
“Gwyn!” a shout came from outside his door. His mother had come to greet him. “Your father said he’d drive you to school this morning!” she added.
“Thanks, Mom,” he shouted back.
The boy, who would later become the Nonpareil on Resh, was currently in his last year of high school. He had run in the track team since his freshman year and had slowly worked to become the ace by his senior year. The coach had been excited this final year since their lineup looked like it would be the best since the school’s founding. They were confident they would beat out all competition that year.
Then, Gwyn got caught up in an accident.
He had been walking through the halls at school like any other day. The building had three floors with long corridors that ran down the building. The second and third floors were set up with long balconies parallel to the main corridor.
There had been some incident, Gwyn was unsure of what was going on, but a freshman girl was being bullied by the railing of the second-floor balcony. She was well above average height, on par with the school basketball players, and often got picked on due to that. Gwyn was walking by and gritted his teeth at the sight of it.
The girl was pushed and, though not the bullies’ intent, found herself in an unfortunate posture which allowed her to flip over the railing intended for much shorter people.
The bullies had tried to grab her when they realized what was happening, but she slipped through their grips. Gwyn, on the other hand, recklessly charged forward and leaped over the railing. She was falling headfirst, but he managed to catch her before they hit the ground.
The doctor had said his leg took the brunt of the impact, and they should be glad nothing else got damaged. The girl was fortunate to be uninjured, and the bullies were suspended. The railing of the balconies was raised threefold to the point where it resembled a wall.
Gwyn’s coach and teammates reassured him that he did the right thing, and he couldn’t argue with them, but he would be unable to run for the rest of the year.
As Gwyn reached the top of the stairs, he sighed briefly. He was on crutches, and the stairs were the worst sight to see. He carefully navigated with the supports and slowly descended the stairs.
It was about halfway down when one of the crutches slipped. Gwyn would have tumbled if he wasn’t caught from behind.
“Jeez, Gwyn!” his younger sister shouted at him. She was a freshman in his school and would typically say harsher things. However, since his accident, she had been nicer. He had suggested she was replaced by aliens at first, which only resulted in a jab to his shoulder to reassure him she was the same person.
“Sorry, Sis,” Gwyn replied without too much argument. He managed to navigate down the stairs as best he could and made it to the table. His mother had already set out beans and toast for breakfast.
“Mom,” Gwyn’s sister griped, “We are in the wrong country for this!” The breakfast was the least favorite of his sister, but Gwyn ate without protest.
“Oh, where did we go wrong with raising you,” Gwyn’s father lamented as he entered the room. His voice was sullen but not enough for anyone to think his words were serious.
“Shut up, dad,” Gwyn’s sister said with a roll of her eyes. His dad made a fake sniffle.
Their breakfast went on without incident, and soon Gwyn slowly navigated into his dad’s car for the trek to school.
It wasn’t until they pulled away from their house that his father started to talk.
“So, son, what do you plan to do now?”
“Just finish high school and get into a good college,” Gwyn replied with a sigh as he looked out of the window. His father shook his head.
“Gwyn, I do want you to finish school and get into a good college; your mother will kill us both if you don’t, but I meant more what extracurricular activities did you plan to do.”
“Nothing, dad,” Gwyn replied in a frustrated tone, “I’ll just study or something!” He stared out the window at nothing in particular. He didn’t know how to feel, given that his leg was broken while saving someone.
“I know you’re upset, and I know you’re confused. I could just remind you of the Chinese farmer story, but I know that won’t fix anything.”
“Please don’t repeat that story,” Gwyn groaned in agreement. He had heard the parable of the farmer who answers ‘maybe’ to every evaluation of a situation, good or bad, so many times growing up that he could recite it in his sleep.
“This is your last year of high school, however,” his father continued. “You are still young, and I suspect you don’t realize how you might think of this time looking back. I ask you to at least try to find some activity so you don’t think the time was wasted on sulking.”
Gwyn rolled his eyes as the car pulled up to his school.
“Whatever, Dad,” he replied as he maneuvered out of the car.
They exchanged waves, and his dad drove off. As Gwyn hobbled up to the school doors, he suddenly felt that he was being watched. He turned and quickly located the tall girl, who was poorly trying to hide behind a bush. When she noticed his stare, she sprinted to a side door of the school building. Gwyn sighed.
Gwyn spent the rest of his day with eyes located on him. Wherever he turned, the girl was standing. She would see him and run off.
Ordinarily, he would have chased after her and been fast enough to catch her, but Gwyn’s broken leg prevented such a maneuver. With options limited, he planned with the assumption that she was going to follow him.
In the middle of the day, when students were going to lunch, he would make his way to a secluded corner of the school. There was a stairwell in the back corner, which was open underneath due to past water damage but blocked off by a large curtain. The school’s financial mismanagement had prevented the proper maintenance and repairs for several years. The curtain had been up so long that people walked past without noticing or thinking anything was off.
Gwyn planned to hide in the opening behind the curtain before she came around the corner. Then, when the girl got close, he would reach out and grab her by the arm. She would not be able to run away after.
Unfortunately for Gwyn, he slipped as he made his way down the main hallway and fell backward. He never hit the ground; however, the tall girl seeing his fall, had rushed over and grabbed his shoulders.
They fumbled around for a moment as Gwyn stood back up and spun around. He looked up at the girl, who was easily a head or two taller than him. At that moment, he figured he would likely never meet anyone taller in his life.
“Um, um,” the girl stammered as she looked down at her feet. “Thank you!” she finally shouted out.
She had been trying to thank him all day but didn’t know how to approach him.
“Don’t mention it.” Gwyn awkwardly said as he looked away. The two stood there in silence for a moment until the tall girl spoke.
“Um, um, I’m Maria! I’d like to know your…” her voice grew quieter as she spoke until the words became impossible to hear.
“Gwyn,” he answered while picking up on what she was trying to say. “Well, I’ll see you around.”
“Wait!” she shouted before Gwyn could turn away. He jumped slightly at her sudden loud voice. Maria’s face immediately turned red, and she looked at the ground. “My club members thought we should offer you a position since you can’t run anymore…” she shyly said.
“Club members?” Gwyn repeated.
She nodded and awkwardly gestured that he should go with her. Gwyn shrugged and followed on his crutches. She was headed to the lunchroom, which was also his destination, so he figured he would listen to what she had to say at the least. It was awkward, but she was trying to show gratitude to him, and Gwyn didn’t want to make it seem like he took it for granted.
Two boys sat in the lunchroom, far in the dark back corner where the school failed to change the lights. The first was a senior like Gwyn; he wore large square glasses and had slicked-back hair. The second was a sophomore who was giggling while trying to tell a joke to his spectacled companion. He had already begun laughing before he reached the punchline.
When the glasses-wearing boy saw Gwyn walking up, he flashed a sly, slightly villainous smile.
“Good to meet you, Mr. Gwyn Black, my name is Ruler, and this is my jester.”
“Hey, I never agreed to be a jester!” the sophomore protested with a smile.
“Nice to meet you, goodbye,” Gwyn said as he slowly spun around.
The so-called Ruler suddenly changed in demeanor as he frantically called out to Gwyn.
”Wait, wait! That was a joke!”
Gwyn slowly sat at the table with the tall Maria next to him. On the opposite side of the table sat the other two.
Ruler sat with his elbows resting on the table; he locked his hands together in front of his face and positioned his head just right so that the light from the room created a glare on the lenses.
“You’re probably wondering why I summoned you here! Why you see, we have–” the glasses-wearing boy said in a haughty voice.
“Hey, David,” the sophomore interrupted, “We should probably introduce ourselves first.”
The spectacled boy, called David, grumbled.
“Fine, but you already took my introduction away!” he complained to his companion but was ignored.
“And I’m Casper!” the sophomore said. “I’m sure our freshman Maria already introduced herself as well.” The boy said with a smile. “Right Maria,” he added in a not-so-quiet whisper, “You got to get out of your shell!”
Maria closed her eyes tightly and shook her head.
“I know! I told him already!” she said in a voice louder than Gwyn had heard before but still quiet compared to an average person.
David cleared his throat as he pushed his glasses up in an attempt to regain some sense of order.
“Anyway, Mr. Gwyn Black.”
“You can just call me Gwyn.”
“Gwyn then, I would like to formally thank you for saving our precious club member. We are most indebted to you. With that regard, we have mulled over all possible ways to repay you– “
“And by mulled over, he means thought about it for a couple of minutes last night,” Casper interrupted.
“We have determined that the only way to repay you would be to invite you into our secret club.” The spectacled boy continued as if he wasn’t interrupted, but his left eye twitched under his glasses.
Gwyn nodded and debated which was the politest way to excuse himself. When he saw no easy means to run, given his bad leg, he sighed and replied.
“Alright, what club is this?”
David chuckled like a villain with a secret plot. Casper ducked down to grab something on the floor. He popped back up behind the spectacled boy with a rolled-up banner.
“My friend, we go by many names, but in this corner, we are known as the isekai club!” David said a little too loudly. As he shouted, Casper let the banner unroll, which revealed the club’s name and logo. Some students at a nearby table gave them funny looks before continuing their meals.
“Come again?” Gwyn said after the declaration by David.
“We are the isekai club….” David repeated in a less confident voice as he noticed the stares and laughs headed in their direction.
“What’s an ee-suck-ai?” Gwyn asked while trying to read the word off the banner Casper held.
“You know! Transported to another world by truck-kun!” David added. Gwyn just shook his head.
The spectacled boy let his head hang down.
“You know, the popular fantasy story with the hobbits, and elves, and stuff,” Casper added. Gwyn nodded.
“Yeah, I saw the first film but couldn’t keep watching with all the boring talking trees in the second.”
The isekai club trio gasped in union.
“Putting that aside for later,” Casper said after breaking through his shock, “Imagine if someone from our world could go to that world. That’s isekai!”
Gwyn was only more confused.
“So, you’re a club that’s going to go to other worlds?” he asked.
“No, we are a club that appreciates all things fantasy and sometimes science fiction,” David clarified.
“So why don’t you just call yourself a fantasy and science fiction appreciation club or something like that?”
Casper waved his hand dismissively as David replied.
“That’s too long, and isekai club sounds cooler!” Casper and Maria nodded in unison.
Gwyn shook his head.
“And why do you want me to join your club?”
“I already told you, it was to show our appreciation! You saved a dear club member and were tragically wounded!” David explained, “Since most of your friends are in sports, they will be too busy training and running. We, on the other hand, plan to stay inside and watch anime!
It would be remiss if someone who acted so heroically for our dear Maria was left to wander in loneliness for the remainder of this year! We figured it would only be fitting to offer a hand to you in friendship.”
“Also, if we get four members, we can make the club official,” Casper added. David elbowed him in the side.
Gwyn found himself being stared at intensely by the three isekai club members.
“I didn’t act heroically,” he protested.
David shook his head.
“Tell me, how many would leap over the edge of the abyss to save a random girl?” he declared.
“He considers the whole school a dark abyss; just play along!” Casper added. He received another elbow in his side.
“My roleplay aside,” David started.
“David, you shouldn’t break character!” Maria said in a worried tone.
“So, you admit it?” Casper asked while pointing and laughing at the spectacled boy.
“My roleplay and this pain who sits beside me aside, we do wish to thank you. We are a collection of oddballs—and whatever Casper is—and cannot offer you anything more than company. If you decline, we will respect that, but know our thanks are sincere.
Gwyn looked around at the faces of the trio. He sighed and nodded.
“Fine, I’ll humor you for a little bit.”
The faces of the others lit up as Gwyn accepted.
“Alright!” David declared. “Tonight, we shall meet at Gwyn’s house! The weekend is upon us, and I happen to have the expanded editions in my bag. We will be watching the whole trilogy!”
“What?” was all Gwyn could reply as everyone nodded in agreement.
Gwyn’s dad was going to pick him up from school, but a call from his son had stopped him. Gwyn had news about how he had joined a new club, and the members were coming over for a movie night in the club president’s car.
He joyfully opened the door when they arrived to let the group in.
“Hello everyone! I’m Gwyn’s dad! I work primarily as a historian with expertise in the fields of….”
“Dad,” Gwyn hissed at his father to be quiet.
“Oh, that’s right! I also have been thinking about starting a podcast soon. Are kids interested in ones about history?”
“Dad,” Gwyn hissed again as David politely shut the front door. Casper stood and looked around at all the décor in the house, and Maria shyly looked at the ground.
“Oh, should I go get snacks? I’m afraid I’m not very good at these sorts of things. Gwyn’s mother is better. Oh! I know, maybe I should go get some old photo albums!” Gwyn’s dad hit his fist on a palm like he had reached a great discovery.
“Dad!” Gwyn shouted loud enough for his father to finally get the message.
“Ah, well, I hope you kids have fun!” he said as he excused himself from the hall and went around a corner.
Before Gwyn could get the isekai club upstairs to his room, they were interrupted by his sister coming in.
“I’m home!” she shouted as she walked in. She immediately saw the odd collection of people in her hallway. In particular, the giantess, Maria—who Gwyn’s sister shared a class with but had never spoken to due to high school popularity politics—stood out. “I’m leaving,” she said quickly after.
Maria tried her best to say something but couldn’t manage the words. Casper noticed the tall girls struggling and quickly leaned against the door before Gwyn’s sister could open it. He put a hand on his chin and spoke to her.
“Will you date me?” he said in as suave a voice as he could muster.
Gwyn’s sister quickly retreated behind her injured brother.
“What weirdo did you bring into the house?” she shouted as she began to look on her phone.
“Alys, he’s not… actually don’t do that, Casper.” Gwyn quickly gave up trying to defend his new friend over his sister.
“You’re too injured,” Casper said with a laugh, “If anyone’s going to stop me, it will have to be Maria!” he quickly winked at the tall freshman girl who stared blankly back at him.
After a moment of thinking, Maria’s face lit up like a light bulb had gone off.
She cleared her throat and stepped between the siblings and the sophomore boy.
“That was not funny, Casper,” she said while pointing down at him, “even if it was a joke, you should apologize.”
Casper made a fake, sorrowful sigh.
“I’m sorry, Gwyn’s sister, I was trying to make a joke. You’re actually not my type.”
A vein on Alys’ forehead bulged, and she took a deep breath to collect herself. She gave up on her internet search and crossed her arms.
“I want you to stay away from me,” she said with a ‘humph.’
“What were you looking up anyway?” Gwyn asked.
“Exterminators,” his sister answered bluntly.
“That’s fair,” Casper said with a smile and a nod.
“Anyway!” David interrupted, “the night is still young! We have around 12 hours of content to get to!” He quickly began to run up the stairs to find Gwyn’s room.
“12 hours?” Gwyn repeated with a concerned tone.
Casper nudged Maria in the side and gestured to Gwyn’s sister. The tall girl’s face once again lit up.
“Um, Alys… would you like to join us for movie night?” she asked while staring at the floor.
Gwyn’s sister’s eyes narrowed as she looked around at the others.
“Not really, but it might not be good to leave you with all these boys.” She replied. Maria’s eyes lit up. She was filled with hope that she had made her first friend outside of the isekai club.
The group of five crowded inside Gwyn’s small room and began to play the films. As the movie went on, Maria quietly answered Alys’ questions. Casper made wisecracks about the story, and David tried to keep him quiet.
Gwyn managed to fight off tiredness to watch through the films until early in the morning. He happily reported he had enjoyed them and then was remiss to hear the books were better and he would have to read those next.