I don't know what to put here at the start, so I'll guess just begin by thanking you guys for sticking with this story so far. You're awesome. :)
Also, since some of you might be curious; Ronnie Anne's Epithet is "Home", while Paige's Epithet is actually "Warm."
But now, let's answer some reviews:
* I believe I added a bit to explain this, but the amulet isn't with Lincoln, Mera, and Indus anymore; Mera delivered it to the police station sometime before Molly arrived.
* I was wondering when someone was going to notice XD but anyway, for now, I'm just putting it there as a reference. Whether I do anything with it, is yet to be seen.
And now, to the chapter!
"And that's how my first day went."
Luan hummed as she processed the information Molly told her, standing up and pacing around as Molly watched her with a worried look.
"I see, so Lincoln managed to enter the academy after all," Luan remarked, gaining a smile as she scratched her chin. "I mean, I had a feeling he'd enter anyway, but I thought he'd join it when he was a teenager."
"You... know Lincoln?" Molly asked.
"Well, of course I know him," Luan sat down. "I'm his sister."
"His sister? So, you're a part of his big family, then..."
Luan raised an eyebrow. "Is that a problem?"
"N-No, not at all! It's just, I'm amazed at how big your family is," Molly clarified hastily. "I mean, you got your brother, you probably got a sister too, right?"
"Yup, nine sisters, in fact."
"So that would be..." Molly grimaced. "Eleven kids..."
"Yeah, Mom was real fertile. Either her or Dad," Luan shrugged. "I dunno, I never found out what their Epithets were before we were put in adoption."
Molly tilted her head. "Why do you think your family's size's related to an Epithet?"
"Eleven kids, Bear Trap. Eleven. That doesn't sound like something a normal person would do without an Epithet's help, right?"
"I guess you got a point."
"Naturally. But we're getting sidetracked," Luan clasped her fingers together. "You said he's currently living with Mera and Indus?"
"You know them too?"
"Old operatives from an enemy group, though I don't know which. All I know is that they, just like us right now, were after the Arsene Amulet..."
Molly blinked twice, and at Luan's continued silence, she shivered. "A-And? Why did you suddenly go quiet?"
"Judging by what you said, there's reason to believe they already got the amulet."
"Think about it, you said that Lincoln dislocated his shoulder by bumping into you, right?"
"It's fine, let's stay focused. I know Lincoln better than anybody else-"
"What about your sisters?"
Luan rolled her eyes. "Yeah, they know him pretty well too, but again, let's stay focused."
Molly nodded and kept quiet as Luan continued:
"Lincoln's not the toughest person, but he's not made out of cardboard either. The only way he'd suffer such a big damage from a simple things like bumping would be if he was weaker than usual. And I know someone who, by coincidence, is weak enough to suffer the injuries he does: Mera."
"Whaaaaat?" Molly crossed her arms. "That's impossible; she's an Epithet Coach, why would she take such a physically demanding job if she's so weak?"
"She would take it if she was no longer weak or hurting, wouldn't she?"
Molly began connecting the dots. "Which means, the effect of her Epithet either wouldn't affect her as much, or she handed it to someone else."
"Which means, that Mera's Epithet must've been handed to Lincoln somehow," Luan pointed at Molly with a smile. "And so, by simple deduction, we find out-"
"Lincoln's family has the amulet!"
"Precisely!" Luan rubbed her hands together. "Oh, this is just great! Lisa would be so jealous if she saw me right now! But now that I mention her..."
Luan reached for her back, and took out a mechanical cube.
"It's a little gadget made by Lisa to recreate a Christmas-ish atmosphere, since the orphanage we were at was in a place that rarely snowed," Luan smiled wider. "With this bad boy active, Lincoln will feel compelled by nostalgia, and he'll have Indus and Mera go down for some family bonding. And while they bond, we'll take the chance to enter their house, find the amulet, and snatch it for ourselves!"
Molly stared blankly at Luan as the girl unleashed her best evil laugh:
"Ahahaha! Ahihahaha! Huhahihuhahuhaha! Hyeeehaaa!"
Molly held back her laughter by the end of it, covering her mouth as she did.
"Finally! About time I got a laugh out of you!" Luan lowered her eyelids. "Now, to discuss the more important matter at hand."
Luan put a hand on Molly's shoulder and smiled.
"You need to gain their trust first."
Next day, Lincoln slowly woke up and stretched, making sure not to put too much force into it.
He got off his bed, changed to his normal clothes, and left his bedroom, finding Indus cooking breakfast and Mera reading the newspaper.
"Good morning, Lincoln!" Indus responded, focusing solely on his food. "Breakfast will be ready soon! Please sit down until then!"
The boy obliged and sat right next to Mera, who glanced at him before returning to the newspaper.
"So, how did you sleep, Mera?"
"Fine, I guess," Mera flipped the page. "How about you? Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, I guess. I mean, my body's still sore from all the exercising we did yesterday-"
"Which reminds me," Mera closed the newspaper and put it down. "Lincoln, you're skipping gym today."
"You literally just told me you're still sore from yesterday; if you exercise today, you're gonna snap in half," Mera explained sternly. "So, when gym comes, you're gonna sit on the benches and watch everybody else, got it?"
"Do I have to? I'm sore, yeah, but maybe I can last a little more before my body stops working?"
"Don't get cocky, kid, you're talking to someone who had to live with the Epithet you currently own for most of her life, I have a sixth sense for these kind of things."
"BREAKFAST IS READY!"
With that thunderous proclamation, Indus went to the table and served breakfast, which was when Lincoln noticed something... peculiar about him.
"Why's Indus cooking with only an apron and no shirt?"
"No reason, really," Mera said with a sultry smile, her vision focused on Indus' muscular body. "No reason at all."
"Okay then, I'm gonna go get ready for school."
"Yeah, you do that, kid."
Later, while walking to the academy, Lincoln scanned his surroundings, trying to find Molly among the sea of students nearby.
"Uh, hi, Ronnie Anne," Lincoln answered as the tomboy walked to his side. "Do you remember what we got today?"
"I think it's an Epithet Imbuement Test, but I can't think of anything else," Ronnie Anne shrugged, then out her arms behind her head. "Say, how's that supposed to work, anyway?"
"Okay, so, Epithets can be imbued into objects, but this is something that requires a lot of focus and practice. An Epithet Imbuement Test is primarily-"
"I know how the test works, Lame-O, what I don't know is how we're supposed to pass it," Ronnie Anne clarified. "You just said it: imbuing an Epithet or whatever to an object is something that needs focus and practice. How are we gonna do that if we're barely on our first week of high school?"
"We see a demonstration, and then we try to repeat the motions demonstrated."
"Ah... I still think it's a bit too early for that."
"Maybe, but we don't decide how the school rules itself, we just grin and bear it," Lincoln began looking around again. "Say, have you seen Molly anywhere?"
"The transfer student? Not really," Ronnie pocketed her hands. "Why do you ask?"
"Last time I saw her, I could see her among the crowd, but now she's nowhere to be seen."
Gaining a sneaky smile, Ronnie Anne grabbed Lincoln's shoulders and brought him to a corner near the entrance.
"Okay, Lame-O, be honest," Ronnie tilted her head. "What's going on between you and the transfer student?"
"Nothing's going on," Lincoln lowered his eyelids. "We just met yesterday."
"A single day's all that's needed for a certain little something to develop."
Lincoln blinked twice.
"You got a crush on her, don't you?"
Lincoln rolled his eyes. "Oh lord, not this again."
"Yes this again; it happened during kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and now high school! Or, Academy School, whichever's the right way to put it. Anyway, you can't lie to me, Lincoln; admit it, you think she's cute."
"Of course she's cute; all the girls in this Academy are cute. Heck, even you're cute in a way!"
"I'm especially cute," Ronnie Anne said cockily. "But you know what I mean, Lame-O. You don't just think she's cute; you want to be by her side all the time. Protect her, love her-"
"Do I look like Cristina to you?" Lincoln sighed and checked his watch. "Anyway, we don't have time for this."
"Don't be so shy, Lincoln, you can tell me everything."
"No, we literally don't have time for this," Lincoln showed the watch. "The bell's about to ring!"
"Don't worry, I got us covered."
Ronnie Anne wrapped her arm around Lincoln and pulled him up close.
Ronnie Anne raised her arm, and as the shield formed around them, she edged her arm forward and exclaimed:
"Home in on the classroom!"
"Ronnie Anne, wait!"
But it was too late: the duo were shot straight into the classroom, crashing through a wall just as the teacher entered.
"Hey there, Ms. Johnson!" Ronnie Anne chirped as the Home Base dissipated.
"Oh lord, not again," the woman sighed. "Well, I'll let the principal know about the damages, for now, just take your seats."
"Right, sorry again."
"Ms. Johnson, have you seen Molly anywhere?" Lincoln asked as he stood up and stretched. "I didn't see her with our classmates while we were coming here."
"Really? That's odd?" Ms. Johnson hummed. "I didn't see her earlier either, and she doesn't seem like the kind of person who'd arrive late-"
The trio turned towards the source of the scream, and after exchanging worried looks, they ran towards the gym, and once they arrived, they stood agape at what they saw.
On top of a giant red robot stood Luan, who laughed maniacally as one of the robot's gigantic hands tightly gripped Molly, who tried as hard as she could to break free from its hand.
"Luan?!" Lincoln asked in disbelief.
"You know who that is, Lincoln?" Ronnie Anne asked.
"I'm... afraid I do..." Lincoln sighed as Ronnie Anne and Ms. Johnson's eyes looked at him. "That girl is... ugh, she's one of my sisters."
The duo looked back at the cackling villain, who stopped laughing to shot a serious, sadistic grin at the trio.
Eventually, it was Ms. Johnson who said what they were all thinking:
"Oh. My. Writer."