Aria and the Seven Artifacts
In an ordinary high school on Earth, time seemed to be crawling as slowly as possible. Students idled in their desks, their attention on their lessons dwindling by the minute.
Like her fellow classmates, May was impatiently waiting for the final bell to ring. She tapped her foot on the floor and willed time to go by. She was currently sitting in World History - her last class for the day, but her attention was anywhere but on the lesson.
Her mind was full of blooming wildflowers that had sprung in the local park. By this point, it should have sprung a few more flowers in the bunch. Just thinking of them made her want to smile to herself. There was truly nothing more soothing to her soul than the beauty of flowers.
As soon as the bell rang, she made a beeline for the door, ignoring the grumbles of students she may have pushed aside. Within minutes, she was through the hall and out of the building. The wind rushed through short dark red stands of hair. The smile that she had been suppressing finally found its way onto her face.
To say she had a small obsession with flowers and gardening would be an understatement. Ever since she was young, she seemed to gravitate towards flowers more than people. From the bright colors to their delicate nature, there wasn’t much she could dislike about them. With time, she had developed quite the green thumb and could care for even more fickle specimen.
But it wasn’t like she absolutely hated people, nor that she was unfriendly when she needed to talk to them. She simply never found herself inclined to be in a group of people. She found being sociable to be quite tiring rather quickly, so she avoided it as much as she could.
Furthermore, she had no classmates who shared her love of flowers and gardening. The Gardening Club in her school only consisted of one member; May herself.
When she reached the park, she slowed her pace. A little ways away, there was the bunch of yellow and purple wildflowers that she was looking for by a bench. She made her way over but paused when she noticed someone sitting in the bench. The presence of a person didn’t usually deter her, but the appearance of the person sitting on that bench was what made her stop. It appeared to be a girl close to her age, wearing a small leather jacket over a frilly black and red tank top. Bright lavender hair shined in the late afternoon sun, with the front fringes bunched together and tied at the bottom. Seeming to realize that she was being watched, the girl rose her red eyed gaze from the ground and faced the other girl.
May felt a violent shudder run down her spine. 'She's probably one of those weirdos that dresses up in costumes for no reason' She thought with a hint of disdain. With that, she ignored the girl and began to rummage through her backpack for her watering can.
The girl leaned over the arm rest of the bench. “Why are you bothering with those? They're just a bunch of weeds. They’ve got people for that.”
She pulled the can out and took the cap off the spout. Without looking up, she simply said, “Because I want to.”
“Huh. Alright then.” She kicked her legs. “Not gonna question some weirdo playing with flowers.”
May felt her temper flare at that statement. What she was doing certainly wasn’t as strange as just sitting around in a park and bothering other people. But she bit back the retort that threatened to spill out and continued her work silently. The girl watched her, looking as if she wanted to ask something, but kept dismissing it at the last second. It was just adding to May’s annoyance.
Finally, she finished with the patch of wildflowers and snapped her head to the side to glare at the stranger. “Can I help you? Your staring is starting to creep me out!”
The girl looked shock for a moment, but her smirk quickly returned. “Fine, fine. It’s nothing important, though. It’ll probably just piss you off even more.” Met with silence, she laughed awkwardly and continued, “Alright, so weird question, but has anything weird happened around here?” She held up a hand and waved it around in a meaningless gesture.
“I dunno. Like...” She paused to think about it. “World breaking stuff?”
“You're the weirdest thing I've seen lately.” May was having a hard time taking this girl seriously, so the response slipped out before she could stop it. But she had no regrets for saying it.
The girl huffed and puffed out her cheeks. “Fine. I know when I’m not wanted. I'm leaving!” She hopped off the bench and began to storm off. As she did, she stepped on another patch of flowers. Upon seeing May's expression turn from one of annoyance to pure shock and horror, she flashed a toothy grin.
“Why don't you look up once in a while? There are things far more pretty than some weeds on the sidewalk.” She skipped off before May could think of anything to say. She couldn't even figure out if that girl had been trying to be deep or was just saying that she was prettier than the wildflowers.
She let out a frustrated sigh. “It doesn't matter. I've got more important things to worry about!” With that, she continued with her work of tending to the flowers in that section of the park. When she passed the ones that had been stomped on, it took every ounce of self-control to not start cursing out the girl. She tended to them the best that she could, but even she knew that there was little she could do to save them. She would have to remove them tomorrow.
Encountering that bratty girl had left a sour taste in her mouth and it didn't quite leave until she'd finally finished and went home. From the kitchen, she could smell lemon pepper chicken cooking. Her mom stuck her head out when she heard the front door open. “Oh, welcome home! I'm about ready with the food. Your dad's gotta work late tonight.”
“Alright!” May threw her bag onto the couch and flopped down right beside it. She glanced over at the calendar hanging on the wall. In a couple of days, her brother would be visiting from college. Knowing that made her happy, and she was almost able to forget about her encounter from earlier.
That was, until later that night. As she prepared for bed, a large crashing from outside made her freeze up. She chalked it up to being some mischievous street cats, but then there was another crash. She grabbed the closest thing to her – her math textbook – and ran out of her room and outside. Her mother looked a little surprised as she passed, but she said nothing.
At first, she saw nothing but the empty street.
She let out a humorless laugh. She turned to go back inside, but her gaze fell to the trashcan next to her house, fallen over. Sticking out from under the trashcan were two tiny feet wearing flat heeled sandals.
'Is that... a body?'
A dam in her mind broke, and images of someone killing someone and dropping off the body flooded in. Shaking off those daydreams and steeling herself, she slowly made her way to the trashcan. The feet hadn't moved since she'd first laid eyes on them, making her theory seem more real by the moment. An eternity later, she'd finally reached it.
In the back of her mind, an alarm sounded off. It tried to warn her to turn herself right around and go inside. When the police started knocking on everyone's doors to ask questions, act dumb. Don't get involved. It wasn't any of her business.
But with the noise of thoughts in her head, those warnings were lost. She gripped the side of the trashcan and ripped it off. When her eyes adjusted, she saw the shine of purple hair. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing slow and relaxed. While she was relieved that it wasn't a dead body, she still wasn't happy to see that it was the girl from before.
Something brushed her ankle, so she looked down. What looked like a long thin snake with an arrow on one end was trying to wrap itself around her leg. It seemed to be attempting to escape from the sleeping girl, who looked like she was sitting on it. But taking another look at her, May gasped and felt the blood in her face drain.
Protruding from her head were two tiny black horns. And the thing trying to attack her leg was a tail. While she stood there and contemplated on what to do, a pair of red eyes slowly opened.
A moment of silence passed between the two.
Then without a word, May threw the trashcan into the yard and ran back into her house. She made sure to lock the door behind her.
“The hell kind of grades are these?”
A sheet of paper was forcefully shoved into the chest of a teenage boy. He quietly grabbed the paper and said nothing. The paper he held listed his grades for the month.
There was nothing above a C, and the one C he had managed was out of sheer dumb luck.
It wasn't that Randolph didn't understand the work he was given. He just didn't want to do it. He was a junior in high school, so he couldn’t blame this lack of motivation on senioritis. Clubs couldn’t be used as an excuse either, as his parents were well aware that he never stayed after school for anything.
“Are you going to say anything?” His father stood over him, arms crossed tightly and glaring down at him.
“We just want to understand what's wrong, dear.” His mother, standing behind her husband, said quietly. But her glare cut even deeper than his father, icy eyes shooting daggers.
“Sorry. I'll do better next time.” Though the words came out easily, he didn't believe them for a second. He'd just do a better job of intercepting his report card next time.
His parents didn't seem to buy it either. “Like we haven't heard that a dozen time already! What's it going to take to make you learn?”
He turned to look away but found himself being grabbed by his collar and lifted off the ground slightly. “Don't ignore me, you little brat!”
'Don't engage,' he thought to himself. 'He's just looking for a fight.' He maintained eye contact with his father, forcing the fear as far down as possible. When his father realized that his scare tactic wasn't going to work, he was abruptly let go.
But where his father failed in instilling fear, his mother came in clutch. “Maybe a year at a military school will straighten you out.”
Randolph felt the blood drain from his face. His mind eye was filled with images of sergeants screaming at him, early wake ups at 4AM, and running endless laps. For a boy that was not in the best of physical shape, the prospect made his blood run cold. “No need... I'll do better. I promise!”
“You always say that.”
“I will this time!” His voice rose in volume. His mind was full of nothing but the desire to avoid that place. “Don't send me to some boot camp!”
His mother then smiled. But there was no warmth. She looked like a predator who had finally captured her prey in her trap at last.
“Then show me that you're going to apply yourself. I expect all A's next time.”
There was no room for argument.
“So I hear you're having issues in school, Randy?”
After that confrontation with his parents, he was sure that they were going to cancel his birthday party. But they eventually decided to let it go on, if only because the only people who would attend were his grandparents on his father's side.
And the only thing more important than instilling the fear of punishment in their son seemed to be making his grandparents happy in their twilight years. Randolph had a sneaking suspicion that they were more afraid of them than he was of his own parents, but kept those thoughts to himself.
After a hasty round of “Happy Birthday” and cutting into the plain white cake, Randolph was sitting in the living room with his grandfather. He had slicked his gray hair back to look presentable for his grandson's 15th birthday. Large bifocals sat on his nose, threatening to fall over at any time.
His parents were one thing, but Randolph always felt genuinely bad for letting his grandparents down. If he was sent off to that military school his mother was threatening him with, he wouldn't be able to spend time with them anymore. He would lose the one beacon of hope and light in his otherwise rigid and hyper-structured life with his parents.
But even with that, he couldn't feel that heavy feeling of nothingness lift off of his drive and motivation all that much.
“I guess I am, a little...”
His grandfather laughed heartily. “No worries, my boy! High school is a pain in the neck at any time!”
Randolph felt a smile reach his face. He knew his grandfather would understand.
Seeming to remember something, his grandfather reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small box, wrapped in gift wrap and sporting a little bow on top. It was very over the top for such a small box. He seemed to read Randolph's mind, “Yeah, I know. Your grandmother insisted on decorating it. Told her you'd just rip it off anyway.”
He handed the box to Randolph.
Carefully pulling at the paper as to not tear it, he opened the box to find an old fashioned silver watch. In the middle of the clock's face, sticking out of the protective glass slightly, there was a black stone of some sort. The numbers were ingrained with roman numerals, so it took a moment to decipher the time on it.
“We found that at some pawn shop.” His grandfather laughed sheepishly. “I wasn't planning on heading that way, but we somehow found ourselves at the storefront. Almost like we were led.”
“I love it.” Randolph fumbled a bit, trying to place the watch on his wrist. Once he slipped it on, he rotated his wrist, admiring it from any angle he could manage. “This is really cool. Thank you!”
“I'm glad!” Appearing out of thin air, his grandmother sat beside the two. “I don't think your parents would have an issue with that nice little watch.”
Even with such a small and simple gift, Randolph was content. They ate the birthday cake in a comfortable silence.
“Just a dream.. yeah...” Walking down the hallway of her school, May was still rattled by that 'dream' from last night.
Little devil horns. A snaky tail. Blood red eyes...
“Nope!” She slapped herself to wake herself up. A few passing students slowed to stare at her, but she was ignored otherwise. There was no such thing as a devil girl. She was clearly projecting the idea of a demon on her, since she didn't like her much as it was. That was the only thing that made sense.
Walking into the classroom, she noticed a few classmates gathered near her desk. Sighing, she made her way to her desk and loudly scraped the chair against the floor as she pulled it out. That earned her a glare from one of the kids.
She pulled out a textbook from her bag and began to flip through it. If she was right, there was going to be a pop quiz in her biology class next period. And it was something to do while the other kids whispered amongst themselves.
Something about a new kid transferring into their class, or something. It was certainly strange for someone to transfer in during March, but she didn’t think much of it. While she secretly hoped for the new kid to be into gardening, she wasn’t going to hold her breath over it.
Before long, the homeroom teacher entered the room, followed by a significantly shorter girl. The teacher cleared his throat, quieting down the chatter.
“We've got a new student joining us this year. Make sure you make her feel welcome.” At these words, the short girl stepped forward.
“Yo! The name's Aria Montgomery! I look forward to getting to know you all!”
Lavender hair glowed in the sunlight. Her mouth morphed into a toothy grin.
Red eyes sparkled with malicious glee.
May's eyes widened in recognition.
Any lingering doubts of the previous night’s events evaporated. Standing before her and the rest of her classmates was the demon from the trash. And her gaze was locked on to May.
Not noticing the tension that suddenly filled the room, the teacher continued. “Aria, you can sit in any empty seat you see.”
“Thank you, sir!” She sounded absolutely giddy as she skipped over to a seat by the window. Directly to the right was May's seat. Taking her seat, she turned her attention to the front of the room.
For a second, May thought that maybe Aria hadn't recognized her. Maybe she could get by the year without having to get involved in whatever the demon girl was in. Although recalling her comment about the “weeds”, she felt her mood flip back to anger.
She couldn't see herself ever getting along with such a bratty, arrogant girl.
As the bell rang to signal the end of homeroom, May stood up, only to find a small piece of paper on her desk, folded up. She wasn't sure how long it had been there. Opening it up, it only said “Meet me on the roof during lunch.”
It didn't take a genius to know who had written it. But the culprit was no longer in the room, having already left for her next class.