5 | A Black Unicorn

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Hiyori Inoue finished taking attendance and surveyed her class through her square glasses. Then she stood up and cleared her throat. The ambient noise dipped as many faces diverted their attention to her.

"Well, you've made it to A Levels." She smiled. "Congratulations."

There was a smattering of laughter.

"My name is Hiyori Inoue. You may call me Miss Inoue. I will be your homeroom teacher for the next two years—two years that will prove to be pivotal in your life. If you got good grades for your O Levels, I suggest you don't let that get to your head. The two years ahead of you would be the most taxing and also the most rewarding...since they will decide your life and career. So, I advise you to not play the fool and focus on your work."

Evanna just slumped on her chair right in front of the boys' seating. She wondered if the former was an option to begin with, given the iron rules that manacled them.

"As you might already know, I'm the head of Tsunokory." Inoue adjusted her glasses, which reflected turquoise and gold from the dichroic glass sections of the enormous windows—a dash of color in the monochrome room. "So I expect you to do your best not just for yourselves, but for your house."

"Glory to Tsunokory!" a sandy-haired boy announced in a loud whisper, followed by hushed laughter.

"Why, thank you for your input, mister..."

"Tom Lamrin."

Inoue continued, "Tsunokory has garnered a certain notoriety over the years. I've felt it is somewhat uncalled for, since some of the more...misunderstood or eccentric students are concentrated here. We have repeatedly secured first place in creativity throughout the years, but I want us to work together to try our luck at winning the house cup this year. That means you will have to be on your best behavior, abide by the rules and of course, excel at academics and sports."

When no one reacted, she added drily, "I would like to stress on good behavior and sports, since we lag behind in those the most."

A barely suppressed smirk appeared on quite a few of the upturned faces.

"For those who are taking physics, I'm your physics teacher. Before some of you scatter away to your respective classes, I'd like to congratulate Aidana Aliyev, our newly appointed class monitor, for being chosen to join the ranks of prefects—the only prefect in this class."

Aidana, a chubby girl on the front row, stood up to thank the teacher amidst polite applause. She bestowed a pleasant smile on her classmates and sat down.

"And one last thing..." Inoue's gaze moved over the students before coming to rest on a seat by the window. "We have a new student, who's also new to the city. She's from Nuara."

Evanna jerked at being addressed. All heads turned to survey her.

The teacher gestured to her. "Do come and introduce yourself to us."

Tendrils of nervousness curled inside as she passed the empty seat beside her and glided to the front of the classroom. Please let the Earth devour me now.

She positioned herself next to Inoue, her hands behind her back, and tried not to make contact with the many eyes staring at her—especially the set of eyes that had been trying to catch hers for a while now.

Evanna had loitered in the stairwell to evade Anukie and slipped into the classroom only when the teacher started taking attendance.

"Go on," Inoue said with a hint of encouragement.

"Hi, I'm Evanna Zeller."

"Speak a little louder."

"Hi, I'm Evanna Zeller—you can just call me Evie."

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