Chapter 3:

The First of Many

School of Redemption

               Frankson Dining Court was considerably less packed than the previous day, and the group was easily able to find a circle table off to the side. After getting their food, they began to discuss the class project.

               “I assume we’re all good group together, right?” Hecate asked.

               “I mean, yeah,” Mictian said. Laverna nodded in agreement.

               “I was reading through this project, and it seems…interesting,” Hecate explained. “It’s a little complicated, but the general idea is that we have to get evidence of others committing crimes and put it into a slide show.”

               “Uh huh,” Kasdeya murmured, thinking. Hecate paused a little before continuing.

               “For each person we have in our slide show, that’s 10%, so we need to find 10 people. And each time we are caught committing a crime, 15% is removed from our grade.”
               “I know that this is supposed to make us want to not commit crimes and all,” Mictian responded. “But that just seems excessive.”

               Laverna nervously sat in silence. She already had three burgled items in her pocket from that day. It wasn’t that she needed them or even wanted them. She just sometimes had an uncontrollable urge to take something. She had been conditioned by her youth to take from others the things she needed. She never had enough money to support herself and her brother, so she relied on the little extra she could snatch. That sort of behavior had bled over into her everyday life, and her adventures with Mictian sure hadn’t helped it. In reality, they probably made them worse.

               “Well, we all have our criminal pasts,” Kasdeya said. “We should stick together and help each other. We’re in this together, right?” Hecate sighed.

               “As much as I hate to admit it, Kasdeya has helped me a lot in the past,” she chuckled. “Without her, one of these buildings might not still be standing.”

               “Wow, I didn’t realize you were that bad,” Mictian said, surprised.

               “It’s not that I like burning things down,” Hecate shot back. “I just find fire very pretty.”

               “And that’s exactly why I’ve been helping her these past few years,” Kasdeya inputted. “She’s gotten a lot better, but she still slips up sometimes.” Hecate glared at her.

               “So what’s your story?” she asked, directing her attention to Mictian.

               “Well…” he started. “I like exploring, and sometimes the places I go exploring don’t like me being there. Not my problem,” he said with a smile.

               “That sounds exactly like your problem,” Kasdeya responded. “Why don’t you two help each other like Hecate and I do?”

               “The problem is our…” Laverna paused before continuing. “Our skill sets complement each other a little too well.”

               “You know, breaking and entering, stealing things, the likes,” Mictian added.

               “I get it,” Hecate replied sharply. She took a deep breath. “In any case, we’ll be here to help you.” She gestured to herself and Kasdeya. “For the sake of our grades, let’s hope we can keep each other in line.”

               “It’s worked for us in the past,” Kasdeya reasoned. “I’m sure it’ll turn out just fine.”

               After finishing their meal, the group agreed to meet up the next morning and parted ways. Mictian and Laverna took the short path back to their dorm building while Hecate and Kasdeya decided to go on an evening walk around campus.

               “We’re going to have to stop at the front desk again,” Laverna said reluctantly, pulling a bracelet, a watch, and an eraser from her pocket and showing them to Mictian.

               “Alright, but before we go, there’s this place I’ve been wanting to check out,” he replied mischievously.

               “No,” Laverna commanded. “Remember the project? We can’t keep doing the things we’re doing. I’m supposed to be helping you with this.”

               “Like anybody’s going to see us,” Mictian complained. Laverna gave him a stern glare. “Please, just this last time,” he pleaded. “Nobody’s going to be out looking for stuff tonight anyway. Give me this last time before reigning me in.”

               “Fine,” she said impulsively. “It’s not illegal unless we get caught, right?”

               “That’s the kind of thinking I like!” Mictian exclaimed.

               “Alright, so where are we going?”

               “Just wait and see, you’ll love it.”

               The two made their way back to academic campus and stopped in front of a building. The words “Kuro Hall” were displayed in an arch above the main entrance. It was the same building where the two had their CRI 126 class. Mictian looked over both shoulders, then entered the hall. It wasn’t late enough for the doors to be locked, but it was still late enough for the hallways to be deserted.

               “Let’s hurry,” Laverna said, worried. If anyone saw them there at this hour, they would look suspicious even if they hadn’t done anything yet.

               “It’ll be fine,” Mictian reassured her. “There’s no one else here.”

               “That’s what you said last time.”

               “This time is different.” Laverna let out a small groan. The two made their way up the main staircase to the third floor. Upon reaching the top, Mictian ducked his head into the hallway to check for anyone else. Seeing nobody, he waved for Laverna to follow him as he started to make his way down the hall.

               “So when are you going to tell me where we’re going?” Laverna whispered.

               “We’re almost there,” Mictian replied quietly. “Just around this corner…” He rounded the corner and stopped suddenly.

               “What is it?” Laverna whispered insistently, peaking around the corner herself. Her eyes widened in surprised, and she had to cover her mouth to stifle the sound of the gasp that escaped it. About a third of the way down the hall, a body lay on the ground, twisted and mangled beyond recognition. A deep red pool stained the floor, seeping into the cheap carpet beneath it. Standing in front of the body was Asami with a knife in her right hand. She wore a long summer dress that was once yellow but was now splattered with red. She looked up at Laverna and Mictian, eyes wide.

               “This…” she stammered. “This wasn’t me. Stay calm.” The three stood motionless for a few seconds, not saying a word. Mictian, coming to his senses, bolted back down the hallway the way they came.

               “Run!” he screamed as he ran. Laverna didn’t need to get told another time. She turned on her heel and sprinted after Mictian. She could hear Asami’s frustrated screams following close behind. Adrenaline pumped through her veins as she chased after Mictian.

               “Wait!” Asami yelled, still running after them. “Stop running!”

               “Like hell we’re doing that!” Mictian yelled back. As he yelled, he tripped and fell with a loud thump.

               “Get up!” Laverna yelled, her stress revealing itself in her voice. “Come on!” She reached him and helped him to his feet. Her heart echoed the her footsteps as it beat into her chest. The two bolted out the door and into public space. The sun had almost set, casting a red-orange haze over the campus. There were a couple students milling about, but the academic campus was largely empty.

               “Help!” Mictian yelled at the other students. Either they were too far away to hear or they simply decided to ignore him because nobody stopped to see what the commotion was.

               “This way,” Laverna hissed, her breath labored, as she took off in the direction of their dorm. Academic campus may be deserted at this hour, but there was no way residential campus would be. The two ran for another thirty seconds before Laverna could hear Mictian’s footsteps slow.

               “Wait,” he managed, gasping for breath as he put his hands on his knees. Both were exhausted from their sprint, but adrenaline still pumped through their veins. Laverna couldn’t help feeling nervous and a little jumpy. “I don’t think she’s following anymore.” Surely enough, the only things they could hear were their rapid breaths and the occasional bird chirping. Laverna pulled her phone out of her pocket.

               “I’m calling the police,” she said, dialing the number the fastest she had ever done before.