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New Dogs, Old Tricks

Intro 2


Stand alongside me at the very top of this world...

Breathe in this gorgeous air... breathe in this stunning victory...

You've fought so hard for this... for so long... haven't you?

Then allow me to be the first to say: You've earned this, my great leader.

You're the ruler of the world.


Leader Of The Talented


My first step towards greatness started on a most mundane day just like any other.

The weekend had arrived, but it had been so busy that I walked home exhausted from the week's labor. The first two days were filled with filing reports on all the class averages with the teacher's help and acting as their assistants. After that, I dealt with budgeting for many of the core activities taking place next month, and then I was organizing the schedule for the club fair next week. I'm pretty sure I would've perfected it had I not spent an extra hour after school dealing with conflicts between club leaders over petty issues.

I was still able to get everything on my checklist done as requested, but at the same time, I didn't feel as accomplished as I would like given these talentless nobodies holding me down. I just had to wonder... when would I eventually be scouted for a school myself and finally get a title?

Dad said it took a while for such greatness like me to be found, but there was this twisting feeling that made me sick as I walked home... that I was running out of time to be recognized. It couldn't have been that hard, just one letter from any GHA school, anyone that would acknowledge my efforts. Lord knows the school I went to didn't care...

...so I was wondering when it'd be my turn to be recognized as I walked up to our old house.

It was the smallest one on the corner, but it was also the nicest compared to the dirt-stained homes around us. This made it easy for me to spot as I walked up and checked the mailbox as mom asked me to. Bills, lottery tickets, infographics. The usual filled the box, and I was ready to collect it with nothing but a simple huff.

And that's when I saw it.

Amidst the clutter of papers was an envelope with a golden stamp... and on it were written words that made my heart stop.

'Could it be...?' I picked it up, tense as I read the words carefully. If I even dared to blink, it might turn out to be an illusion, and I'd be forced to go back to that talentless school.

But no, the words shined brilliantly in the sun, confirming that yes... what I was seeing, was actually real.

"Addressed to... Kokoro Takano."

"The GHA proudly scouts you for the position of SHSL Student Council President for Monarch Academy! One of the many acclaimed talent schools in your region! Please look into the letter for more details…"

...

...

... it was about time!

My heart pounding, I ran inside with the envelope, already knowing the first person I had to show it to, "Dad? Dad, where are you? I finally got it!" He was right in the living room, concentrating on one of his commissioners' outfits with his old sewing machine. I couldn't wait, I eagerly pounced next to him and exclaimed, "DAD! It's here!"

My voice startled him out of focus, causing him to accidentally tangle up his work into the sputtering sewing machine, 'uh oh... um... w-whoops.' I wearily thought.

"W-Woah, that one was a doozy." Dad chuckled nervously and as he turned my way, "what's that racket about, sweet pea? Remember what I said about indoor voices?"

"Of course. I apologize, dad," I simmered down a little bit on my energy and cleared my throat, "it's just, they finally sent one! I got a letter from a scout, look!" I showed him at once, my own hands shaking in anticipation as I watched him read my greatest accomplishment.

He froze in place, fixing his glasses as he stared at the letter in awe, "...you're pullin' my leg."

"Never dad." And I meant it. The cruelest joke of all would be to not take this seriously, "I finally have a title officially, and a GHA school WANTS me! They want me there!"

"Oh, sweet pea! You've finally been noticed for your efforts! I'm so proud of you my little ultimate!" Dad beamed. The fact he was saying that put the whole thing into perspective, it was all real. "But. you didn't have to wait to show your old man this before reading it though. This is your success to celebrate. You made it to the top!"

"But I had to wait," I said assuredly, "you got me to this point... and I would never want to take this next step without you helping me with it."

Dad looked surprised at my take on things, but then he softly smiled, his old eyes flashing a potential life, it seemed, for me. I could honestly see that life myself and shared it with him. The life... of being an Ultimate.

"Well then," he chuckled, taking out a small box from out behind him, "if you trust your old man that much, I have one request before we read this letter. This sucker took many days and nights, but I got a present for you.

"A present?" I questioned as he opened it for me.

Inside was a red tie, stylized in a sleek manner with faint dark red lines in the background. It was cut evenly at the bottom and had a golden outline stitched purposefully together. There was a symbol at the end of the tie: the Global Hope Association symbol, which he clearly spent the most time on given how precise it looked.

This gift… it was too perfect to put into words, "dad… this is..."

"Not my best work? Yeah, I know…" he joked and forced me to laugh, "but I wanted you to have it, as a token for all you've done and where you want to go. A present from your old man."

There was no refuting such a gift, I instantly put the tie on like how he taught me, even though I struggled a bit with it. But even if it was hard to put on, it was worth it. Given dad's amazing talent, I already felt more like an adult wearing it. It made me look more like... like...

"Just like a Supreme..." My eyes shined as I stared in the mirror. I wasn't quite at that level yet, but the idea that I looked like it… I could only hope that came true one day.

"Yep. Now you mean business, my little scholar," dad affirmed, "you look like a perfect fit in the GHA's chair already. I just know that school will accept you."

"You think so...?" To potentially be on the same level with the greats was a dream I wanted to see realized no matter the cost, "when I get there, I promise I'll work hard with everyone, and after I graduate, maybe I'll become a Supreme Level like you and change the world!"

My heart swelled with pride as dad sweetly smiled, a hopeful look in his eye, "...I know you will sweet pea, you're destined for great things… and I can't wait to see what you do…"


...


"You're s-so mean! I only made one mistake! I-I hate you!"

If you were more diligent you wouldn't have made any mistakes...

...

"Screw you! You think you're better just 'cause you're the president? Newsflash, we're all Ultimate's you idiot!"

You clearly don't deserve the title... if you listened to me then you might have a chance to lead alongside me!

...

"She's such a stickler for the rules, a real pompous prick I tell ya."

Because delinquents like you are a plague on society!

...

"No one wants to be around you."

Well, I've never needed any of you in the first place! You're all useless! EVERYONE!

...

"...Kokoro... was it worth it?"


...


"Hey! Pipe down back there, would ya!?"

'W-What in the?' A grimy shout snapped me out of my thoughts. I was worried I'd still be in that same suffocating classroom, but one look around confirmed I wasn't at that trainwreck of a school anymore, rather I was inside a crusty-looking taxi driving on the highway.

Oh yeah, I was heading to the airport. I was finally moving ahead with my life, taking that next big step from that incident.

"Ya shellshocked back there or somethin'?" The grimy voice shouted again. I only just realized it belonged to the taxi driver who I'm positive broke around ten traffic laws at this point, and yet he was glaring at me in the mirror as if I somehow disturbed him. "God… kids these days are obsessed with themselves, it's damn irritating if ya me."

Wait, was I mumbling all that talk before out loud? Ugh, I need to stop mumbling aloud, but even knowing that, who was this man to interrupt me in the middle of my thoughts? I was taught to know better as an Ultimate than to let such disrespect pass without instant retaliation.

"And? Do you have a problem with that?" I rolled my eyes, making sure to give him an even nastier glare in return. "Seeing that you have about as much driving talent as a blindfolded rat, I would suggest you put ALL your attention on the road and actually do the one thing society expects from someone as worthless as you," I advised sternly, making sure to emphasize each word so he got the point.

"Blah, whatever…" The man simply rolled his eyes and looked ahead. "With that attitude, I'll make ya walk the rest of the way to the damn airport. I swear, you Ultimate snobs always ask for trouble in my damn car."

"Maybe it's because, unlike you, we have important things to focus on," I stated forcibly, "your one job is to drive, isn't it? SO drive, and keep your eyes on the road. I'm not paying for you to potentially get into an accident."

The driver gave a heated glance, but regardless of whatever useless thoughts he had, he continued driving, pouting like a baby the whole way. He was just like my old colleagues, except probably more upset given his lack of talent. But it wasn't my problem that they were always so sensitive when it came to the topic.

I leaned back in my seat and stared out the window once things calmed down. Cars were swarmed together trying to get to the airport, honking indiscriminately like an angry mob. It was like this yesterday to if I remembered correctly. You'd think with more Ultimates out there the world would be getting calmer, but it looks more hectic if anything, with everyone trying to find their own path as more talent popped up around the countries.

But most of that talent nowadays is wasted on childish things that aren't practical for the world's betterment, and it didn't help the talentless drones saw this and pushed for the GHA's downfall. I would've thought we knew better than to forget why we NEED talent in the first place, but I guess the tragedy has become a faraway dream now that everyone hopped on the new trend to disrespect Ultimates.

I gripped the tie dad gave me with care and sighed. I'm grateful he didn't have to see the state the world was in now... but I would fix it back to the way it was for him. When I finally can go out and put my talent to use... I'll be able to change this messed up world, back to its golden age.

And my first step toward the path is this very acceptance letter to the institution of my dreams…


"To Kokoro Takano… the Super High School Level Student Council President."

"After careful review of your application, we've deemed you exceptionally worthy of attending the most prized program the Global Hope Association has to offer: the Sanctuary Of Talent Development Program at the prestigious institution, Golden Laurel Sanctuary, known for being a cut above many GHA establishments."

"The Golden Laurel Sanctuary will offer you opportunities to expand your connections into the growing talent of the youth, as well as meet the faces of talent in the form of your mentors, Supreme Levels. You'll be assigned a mentor in close relation to your talent. With their guidance, you'll be rigorously trained to become a Supreme Level yourself, along with the other candidates."

"Kokoro, your accomplishments have been met with great respect, and we anticipate your arrival as soon as possible. Your mentors being that of Supreme Levels will help cultivate you into a Symbol Of Hope prepared to take on the world's challenges. Included in this letter is your travel ticket, and a card for all necessary expenses for your journey."

"We can only hope to see you attend."

"The Global Hope Association (GHA)"


I hate to admit it, but I couldn't help but sing the words of the letter.

After spending months perfecting the application, making sure every last detail emphasized how promising of a candidate I could be for the sanctuary, I finally had it. Just like how the last letter declared my talent, this one was now deeming me capable of changing the world. And to be taught in Golden Laurel Sanctuary, of all places… the very first GHA school of all time.

Now that was just the cherry on top.

Only the true elites were invited there. Unlike that last joke of a GHA school I attended, the sanctuary truly saw me on the pedestal with other Supreme candidates. I could see myself so clearly there, actively leading those talented peers toward a future built with purpose.

Obviously, I had to remain professional about it all. A leader does not show such manic emotions and aspirations to things like this, I had to be composed as mom taught me. But... that young girl inside me couldn't help but be excited as the airport came to view.

The taxi driver miraculously didn't manage to crash into anything as he harshly turned to the nearest drop-off point at the airport. It was predictably busy there, with families and business people traversing in swarms. The car was parked far away from that worthless noise, so I readied myself to leave.

'Finally! I couldn't get out soon enough,' I thought eagerly as I left the car and breathed in the pure air…

…actually, it smelled mostly sputtering gasoline, but at the same time, it was a new pure air of freedom. This wasn't at all like my hometown, so small and dirty with my mom watching me twenty-four-seven. Now I was on my own, ready to meet other talented peers who hopefully had the same desire I did for change in this society.

"And where do ya think yer goin'?" Suddenly this agitating, grating voice called from behind me. Yep, it was that annoying driver, who raised an eyebrow at me.

Ugh, the moment had to be ruined by someone who still didn't know their place, "what is it this time? I already paid you for your services," I flatly pointed out, not in the mood to put up with his talk.

"Come on, not even a tip though?" The man questioned with a shrug. "Ya got here in record time, didn't ya?"

...he had to be joking.

"Why would I pay you more than what's required of me?" I laughed, not even desiring to hold back, "I only hand out tips for exceptional service, and you broke around ten traffic laws on the way here." I counted each with my finger and scoffed, "maybe clean up your act and your next customer might be a bit more agreeable with your request, that's all I can give in 'payment' to you sir."

The man's face turned red, and I couldn't help but grin a tiny bit as I went to grab my bag with my letter in hand. Once again, that driver simply needed to learn his place. He had a disagreeable attitude and used downright criminal methods to get me to the airport. That had no place in this society. Or at least, in the one I was going to create.

'Criminal actions like that... people who take shortcuts,' I scoffed at it all and grabbed my luggage, 'he simply needed to clean up his attitude, and only then would I consider- W-WAH-!?'

The man suddenly sped his taxi up, forcing the luggage I barely had in my hand to fly out. I screamed and jumped back, losing grip on everything in my hand as the zipper of my withered bag snapped and everything fell! All of my clothes! My awards! The pictures of my family!

'That driver-?!' My shock at the event turned into pure rage as I glared at the madman, "um? WHAT WAS THAT?!" I shouted. I definitely earned it I think.

"Oh, my bad. Forgot ya were back there," the driver said nonchalantly as he checked his mirror. The way he said it was entirely unconvincing though. He knew exactly what he was doing!

"You could've seriously injured me! How dare you be so reckless you-!" But then I realized, I had lost my letter. I couldn't even feel it in my hand anymore! No, no no NO! I desperately looked for the letter now missing from my person, "ugh, everything's a mess! Where is it?" I snapped back at the driver, "are you going to help me pick this up or what?! I demand you get out here!"

The driver watched me, deep in thought for a moment before laughing. "Nah. My only job is to drive… remember?!" And then he sped off, leaving me in the dust of his disgusting car.

Great, this was just great. I looked like a common beggar with how much of a mess my belongings were, and everyone was giving me looks I didn't want to deal with. As for that driver, talk about an extreme overreaction. He completely embarrassed me, and for what? To get to a point? What a waste of my time having to deal with that.

The annoyance lingered with me, but I couldn't stay mad forever. I had to get my things. My clothes and awards were slightly messed up from the fall, but compared to all of that, the acceptance letter was way more important. I had it in my hand, but it fell somewhere. Oh no… if that letter got ruined...

Wait? Oh, it was right there amongst all the clothes that fell. I sighed with relief as I reached out to grab it. Had I lost that letter, I wouldn't have known what-

'Oh-huh?' As I reached out, a large hand suddenly snatched it away from me. "W-what in the?!" Was the universe wishing to see me humiliated like this?! I turned to glare at whoever stole my letter, "hey, give that back-!"

Before I knew it, my tongue was caught in my throat as I realized a much older gentleman was analyzing the letter and my plane ticket. He was very large physically, towering over me with a muscle-like physique that was chubby, and holding rough-looking features on his heavily bearded face even though slight wrinkles were all over him. He looked really old, probably in his fifties, so how come he was so big?!

I didn't dare ask such a question considering the irritated expression he had. If looks could kill, I was sure even a bear would drop dead in fear of him. But, I couldn't let that phase me! I mean, he just snatched my ticket, a random person like him had no right to hold onto something I worked so hard for.

"Excuse me, sir," I called out, attempting to not instantly lose my cool as I spoke clearly, "that letter belongs to me. If you could give it back NOW- that'd be appreciated."

The large bear of a man finally seemed to acknowledge my presence and narrowed his heavy brown eyes at me. Was he sizing me up or something? You know what? I didn't care. At this point, I was prepared to rip the darn letter out of his hands if I had to.

But then, with little more than a sigh, reason finally came to him and gave me the letter with no issue. I snatched it from him, relieved as I studied it, 'okay, everything is still in here! My card, my ticket! Thank goodness… he didn't seem to tamper with it. Still, how rude can you get around here now.' I turned to him again, ready to give him a piece of my mind over his conduct.

"Here." I paused in shock as the man's deep voice interrupted my thoughts. He only muttered out the words, as if utterly tired, but it was somehow loud enough to completely overtake the background chatter around us.

"Excuse me...?" I asked, taken aback by his blunt words.

"Your bag. Take it, kid." Suddenly, I noticed that he was holding my empty bag, and he placed it back into my hands as he went to pick up a few of my things.

"Oh! …thank you..." I grabbed onto it tightly, recovering from the man's demand as I studied him. He had so rudely taken my acceptance letter before I could grab it, but now he was helping collect my fallen items, 'or perhaps, he was picking up the letter for me when it originally fell to give back?'

I thought about this and narrowed my red eyes at the man. He was very strange, but maybe I shouldn't have been so quick to judge. He is my elder after all and he'd done nothing to disrespect me, so I should be formal with him even if he is a talentless citizen.

...

…or atually, maybe I was RIGHT to judge as the man started tossing stuff into my bag carelessly as if they were pieces of trash?!

"W-Woah, hey wait just a second!" I called out, my face hardening at the utter disgrace I was witnessing. "Don't toss my things so carelessly, do you even know how to handle my things? It's all very important!" So much for trying to think positively about this man earlier.

The man, however, grumbled something under his breath, "jeez, you're noisy. Is this seriously how you act when someone tries to help you? I'll handle this stuff how I want," he grumbled as he continued to toss clothes into my bag.

'T-The nerve-!' I huffed at his blatant disrespect and quickly went to pick up some of my things CORRECTLY, "Well, if this is how you handle your belongings, you sure are sloppy," I pointed out with an annoyed look, "but this isn't your luggage, it's mine, and I keep it organized. Do it exactly as I show you!" I grabbed a top and folded it neatly before placing it neatly in the bag. There, that example should be easy for him to follow.

The man watched this and then threw another piece of clothing in my bag like a crumpled piece of paper. "It ain't exactly organized anymore, kid. Get used to it."

"Ugh…" The way he talked down on me was simply too much! And I still couldn't get over the fact he just took my acceptance letter so aggressively before…

But strangely, now that the chaos had passed, he looked familiar to me. I couldn't remember exactly where I'd seen him, but now that I was closer to the man, he seemed important with his formal... enough-looking clothes and intense aura. He had this white button-up collared shirt, the sleeves rolled up, with a gold-outlined vest on top. It was done in fading purple and pink squiggly lines that faded into each other, giving off a regal, yet popping look. Honestly, it looked bizarre, given his huge size.

Hmmm, he clearly wasn't a nobody, but he didn't dress like someone entirely normal either. Maybe he was an Ultimate too...? The style of his clothes reminded me of the clothes my dad makes for the GHA. I subconsciously touched my tie and my heart ached.

Maybe, just maybe... he could've been a Supreme Level like dad was?

That thought stuck with me as he helped me pick everything up, "well that's everything," he shrugged, picking up his fancy luggage carrier, "I'll be going." And just like that, he turned to leave.

"Hold on a second," I stopped right in front of him, "you look familiar. Considering you were useful and helped me out, I have to know your name at least to address my thanks properly."

"I look familiar eh?" The man waved his hand dismissively, "well you must be thinking of someone else, and I don't need your thanks kid, I don't accept that kinda payment for annoying work." He spouted as he continued to walk.

"Annoying work?" I repeated, narrowing my eyes, "from what *I* recall, you helped me of your own free will."

"I regret it now considering you're so nosy," he answered bluntly, "you gotta issue with folks who help you out?"

"Of course I don't," I stood tall… enough… to him and crossed my arms, "frankly there are not enough useful hands nowadays treating Ultimates with respect," I recalled bitterly to the encounter moments ago with the driver, "however, forgive me if I'm… weary about you. I mean the way you snatched my letter didn't really do you any favors to make me trust you, and I have a suspicion I know you from somewhere… so talk."

The man eyed me up and down, looking a little surprised. He looks like the type who has things handed easily to him, but he should know that won't work with me.

His brown bushy eyebrows furrowed harshly and then he suddenly shrugged, "you're a stubborn one, I guess that's why you got picked for the sham of a program, eh Kokoro?"

'H-Huh? He knew my name…? Wait a second, he got that from the letter, didn't he?' I scoffed, "so you did read my acceptance letter? Those were for my eyes only you know. You don't just read someone's document without their knowledge," I lectured, "that's considered disrespectful. Do you honestly have no manners?"

"Was it supposed to be a secret?" The man shrugged as he scratched at his beard. "It's not like that program's confidential, kid."

Ugh, the way he was talking down on me was REALLY starting to tick me off now, "I'm sixteen you know… so I'm not a kid. I'm classified as a teenager."

"Nah, that's a kid's age, kid," he shrugged, "your mommy or daddy around anywhere-?"

"Stop saying that! Even if I'm young, I'm an Ultimate!" I shouted, unable to hold back my emotions after his comment about him, "and second of all, that program is not a sham! It marks achievement amongst the best of the best, where you're taught by the Supreme of society! Once I'm done there, I'll be just as special as them and do some actual good in the world!"

The man looked at me, still stone-faced as if he was playing poker, but he had a pause that at least indicated some surprise. Good, he should learn to be quiet... rambling to me like he knew it all and I was someone dumb. I wasn't like that. I was better than most people!

"So that's how you see it…" suddenly the man crossed his arms and seemed to frown, "well, to give you some info on myself since you were so desperate to learn something, I see your little invite turning into a shitshow, it'll never produce a real Supreme candidate."

Ignoring his… foul language, that was a strong reaction I didn't take kindly, "oh so you're an expert on all things talent related?" I questioned harshly.

"Nah, but I don't pretend I am like the GHA does," the man laughed as if he was in on some private joke over the whole matter, "every year that program just brings out a new bumbling group of morons who think they're on par with the Supreme's, but they don't make it far." The man then looked me up and down, and that disappointed look came to his eye again, "guess you're the new sucker they roped in to believe that this year."

Okay, nope, I don't know why I thought this guy had a talent like me. There was no way someone this standoffish could ever be accepted by the GHA…

...also, he was just personally annoying. He was just another person who didn't know their place when talking about a future Supreme Level like myself.

"I'm not a 'poor sucker' as you claim," I declared as I held the letter close to my chest. "I applied to be in the program, and they saw me as worthy which automatically puts me on a higher pedestal than you'll ever achieve. And second, whatever groups you've seen previously are nothing in comparison to me! No one works as hard as I do when it comes to education, and by the time I'm done with this program, I'm going to change the world and sit with the greats..."

I thought of dad briefly as those words came out, and my resolve grew stronger. "And I WILL achieve that goal, unlike you, who will probably amount to nothing out here. So… I change my mind, I don't want to know who you are. I want you to remember my face well, sir, for I'm going to lead a new society and bring sad people like you out of the gutters once I become a Supreme Level!"

The man raised an eyebrow, but his frown only deepened as he looked away. Ha, it seemed like he got affected by that comment.

Except he yawned. A loud… bored yawn, as if he wasn't listening?!

"Hey? Are you even paying attention right now?" I yelled.

"Jesus... yes. I'm not deaf, kid," he grumbled as he tiredly rubbed his head. "I just don't feel the need to reply to such a hopelessly loaded statement. There's no merit to someone who's all talk. Experience is what gets you to be a Supreme."

"I'm experienced," I argued, "how else do you think I got that letter? It's because I'm-"

"No, I mean real experience," the man interrupted, his eyes dead serious as he stared down at me in a way that was hauntingly familiar for me, "the experience you acquire from the weapons of reality and the tragedy," my blood ran cold at the mention of that historic event as the man's eyes went cold, "you think you know what it means to be talented, but an actual Supreme gamble every day for a chance to use their skills...

...but kids like you, thinking with your stupid titles instead of your brains," he let out a mixed sound between a condescending laugh and a bitter sigh, "you don't even realize the risk you're taking by wanting to be like them. To blindly jump into that acclaimed life, heh, a gamble like that only brings pain."

The statement stunned me into silence, but not because I was stirred by his words. Who did he think he was? Talking so confidently about "pain" when he knew nothing of what I went through, "you don't know me..." I dismissed, "and that pointless talk you're spitting out won't deter me from becoming the best. Even if the road is painful, I'll take it. I don't need people like you to tell me to stray from it."

...

The man disapprovingly shook his head, "fine, don't say I didn't warn you," he turned to leave but then looked back, "if I have the misfortune to meet you again, I might be generous and tell you my name anyway. Need to build those experienced connections early, yeah?"

"I don't need your name or whatever you have to offer," I said adamantly and grabbed my things, "now if you'll excuse me, I'm sure I took up your precious time, so good luck with whatever flight you have to go on. I just happen to have one myself." And just like that, I left the man and his nonsensical worldview behind. No matter what he said, I had only one path to follow... my dad's path. And even if that path brought pain...

I had already experienced the worst kind to know I could handle such a thing...

Attempting to stand up straight, I continued forward so no one could guess I was upset. Although it was clear no one would be paying attention to me considering how clustered the airport was. Every demographic of people seemed to be here, barking at the airport attendants simply doing their job.

But I couldn't focus on them. I had to hurry to the terminal, and luckily since everyone else was NOT going where I was going, it was easy to spot the register line. The GHA terminal was completely empty and split off from the common people's line, giving me easy access.

I'm not going to lie, I felt a little prestigious not having to wait in any lines. I could get used to this perk of being a Supreme as I headed toward the attendant of the line.

"Good morning!" The woman beamed, her smile so fake I could practically feel the awkwardness. Why was she so chipper? "Are you another Ultimate partaking in the Global Hope Association airline?"

"Yes, I am…" Although this woman was still below me in terms of talent, she hadn't said anything rude that warranted me pointing out her horrible acting on the job. And to be frank, after the last two encounters, I would take whatever fake professionalism I could get.

"That's great to hear!" She clapped, "tell me, are you heading to the North American GHA airport? Or perhaps you're going to the main HQ in Japan where the original Hope's Peak is running!"

"No, it's neither of those locations," I sighed and pulled out the acceptance letter with my ticket, "I received this ticket to a program of theirs. I believe you know about it, the one of the Golden Laurel Sanctuary?" I handed the ticket with extreme care.

The attendant looked it over. Her smile somehow grew three times as wide. "Oh yes! I know exactly where you're going! The first institution the GHA ever made after the tragedy in response to Hope's Peak reconstruction! How lucky you are to see such a place! The gate there is right down that hall, and you'll be taken into the acclaimed GHA's private jet! I will tag your luggage and it'll be put onto the plane shortly!"

"Finally," I breathed out. Although there were some bumps with those two men from earlier, now I could finally prepare myself to take on the challenges the program would put me through.

"Alright, we just need your picture ID, so smile for the camera!" The attendant chirped brightly. "How exciting is this!?"

Okay, I had to roll my eyes at that. No one is that happy to take someone's picture.

But I complied and stood up tall as a flash blinded me. What the attendant handed back was a perfect image of my dark features. My evenly cut bangs rested above my arched eyebrows, framing my diamond face with two other pieces of hair sharply pointing down on the side of my cheeks. My slim eyes glimmered a crimson red, a color that matched my outfit's stockings that went up to my knees.

I dressed to impress with my dark uniform shirt, with not a single crinkle anywhere to be found. Overtop it was a gray sweater vest, and then over that was an open suit jacket, designed with faint, perfectly straight vertical lines. The dark navy suit jacket was buttoned up. It had my old school insignia on the left breast pocket. I wanted something a bit newer, but mom annoyingly insisted I'd wear it, along with two red ribbons she had personally tied for my shoulder-length twin tails.

Thankfully, mom didn't object to the tie I put on myself. The same one dad had gifted me...

It looked just as shiny as it did that day, stylized in a sleek manner with faint dark red lines in the background. It was still cut evenly at the bottom and had a golden outline. There was a symbol at the end of the tie: the Global Hope Association symbol. I made sure to take great care of this tie, I'm glad it's come out alright despite how many years it's been.

Finally, I had on a normal black skirt with black loafers on my feet. It was presentable enough, as it was all I could whip up from the sparse closet. With this outfit, I'd stand out from the rest of the candidates in the program. Like a true leader would.

The woman seemed to think the same way as she seemed touched by my outfit. "You simply look stunning, Miss Takano! A true Ultimate, if I've ever seen one!"

I was a little shocked by her remark. I've dealt with people who have been talking down on my talent all day, but I've finally met someone a little more respectful! This was more like it. I blushed and smirked proudly, "well thank you, ma'am," I responded, "it's good to see people still understand the importance of Ultimates ."

"Of course, Ultimates are nothing short of a miracle to society!" The woman kept smiling, but something changed as a softer look overcame her, "to be an Ultimate, to be talented... hm, that sounds like a beautiful dream. One day, maybe even I can become the best like you all."

I stared at the woman and sighed. Although there were college programs for adults that wanted to be in the GHA, the prime time to be properly scouted and taught was in much younger years. She was a talentless nobody, it was as clear as day, but maybe I could lead her in the right direction, "listen, it'll be hard for you, but as long as you continue to work hard in bettering society, you'll be appreciated for your efforts by the GHA. I mean, you're hired under their employ, so they clearly see something in you."

"Y-You think so?!" The woman gasped. To anyone else, me giving a pep talk to a grown-up definitely would look weird, but I didn't mind the conversation at all as I nodded in affirmation.

"Just don't slack off, that's the last thing this society needs," I addressed, "and make sure to never give up on that hard work. You may be a lowly attendant now, but if you actually apply yourself, you'll make it one day. Even if you feel tired on days, you have to keep working, put your best foot forward, and don't make any mistakes." I said from the heart, "if all goes well, you might be another Ultimate that will be helping me on my quest to change the world.

The attendant smiled happily and bowed, "of course! I'll continue to do my best then Miss Takano."

She actually seemed passionate enough, even if she was overly positive. Despite that, the world needed more like her, people who still believed in Ultimates... who kept things exactly as they were.

And speaking of Ultimates, I stared down the hallway next to the terminal. There were two signs separate from the rest reading "Supreme Hall" and "Student Hall." I assumed I'd be going down the latter, but it got me thinking.

"Excuse me, ma'am. I have to ask, have any of the other students and… supreme teachers arrived yet?" I asked formally, "I know they recruit from all over the world, but I wanted to be sure if anyone else was here."

"You're one of the first ones believe it or not!" The lady said cheerfully, "so congratulations on being early!"

Hmm, that was to be expected. I wanted to get here early after all since a leader is supposed to be punctual. But I still couldn't help but wonder where my potential mentor could be, as well as my peers. I had assumed they'd be just as organized with their time, but perhaps the traffics holding them all up... or some of them were slackers.

Ugh, that would be the worst thing of all. If any of them were as worthless as my last GHA class, I don't think I could take it. But I had to factor in the possibility some of them could be worthless.

I just had to hope, my mentor isn't like that at least. I'd rather be assigned someone just as diligent and smart as dad was. But... I couldn't get my hopes up on that idea, I just had to wait to see.

"Mhm, thank you for the information," I replied respectfully. "I'll be taking my leave, so I'll see that ticket now."

The attendant quickly gave me the ID and plane ticket, though she seemed a little sadder as she did so, as if holding it also gave her some amount of prestige. "Please enjoy your flight, Miss Takano. And I promise to work hard myself to be just like you."

Her sincere passion... reminded me a little of myself back then. So with a nod, I waved her goodbye and walked off toward the hallway to where my plane was, not even bothering to look back as the voices of the masses faded.

It was quiet in the hallway, with the only sound being the small "clicks" of my heeled loafers. But I wasn't deterred by the isolation... for I knew I'd be joined by others striving for ambition. What they'd be like personally, I didn't know, but the fact they were all pursuing to be a Supreme had to mean something.

No, it definitely means something.

It meant that... I wouldn't be alone anymore.

It meant I'd be appreciated for my talents as they truly are.

It meant I'd finally be fulfilling my promise to change the world, just like dad would've wanted.

"Oh, Miss Takano!" Suddenly, I heard the attendant's voice from behind me. Why was she coming down this way?

I turned around briefly, "hm? What is it-? A-AH?!" Before I could see her, a sudden hand reached out and pulled me into a closet door!

I screamed, and all that talk about my future suddenly transformed into an animalistic need to survive whoever was dragging me into a dark place! "No! Let me go! UNHAND ME!"

I was not going down like this! I squirmed and kicked, genuine panic overtaking my senses as something soft pressed against my nose. This smell? Oh no... it was a rag dosed with-! "NO-! No! No… n-no…"

"Sleep..." someone whispered. A man? I couldn't tell... no...

As if on command, I was forced to breathe in the chemicals and felt the fight leave my body. My fear grew dim as I watched my future slowly drift away.

I tried to think of something good then. Of dad. Of my accomplishments. Of anything really... but the only thing that came to mind was that... strange man's words.


"By blindly jumping into that acclaimed life, heh, a gamble like that only brings pain."


And the worst part was… he was right.

It sure did hurt… it hurt so… so much…


{Author's Note}

This is the first MC of the story Kokoro Takano, a no-nonsense leader who has a desire to change the world, she's whisked away into meeting multiple perspectives of said world... and finds herself being pulled into an unfamiliar situation. I wonder if someone of her caliber will be able to truly survive the hardships ahead.

I hope you all like Kokoro! Contrasted to Prince I wanted her to be a lot more engaging... story wise, or at least in a character sense. While Prince is baby, Kokoro is... bitchy. JK JK JK. I hope I captured her in a way you all can analyze in some capacity, and when making your OC's I hope you have fun imagining some hilarious souls to torment her with! She values talent and leadership above all else after all, so why not give her some trouble with that task, hehe.

This chapter took a bit of time for me to rewrite and it ended up being longer than I wanted, but I'm proud of it. I hope there was a lot to chew on! The next will NOT be anytime soon, but most likely near the end of next month, so April. Gold House will have a chapter this week, pushing to this weekend, so we will see!

As for submissions, they're going well! Thank you for everyone who submitted despite the deadline being MONTHS away. They're a pleasure to see and I've read them! I'm holding off on instantly picking characters though like I did for Gold House, and the cast like of 16 will NOT change under any circumstance. The gender ratio will be uneven though, so don't worry about that. These forms will be judged on their merit to fit into the story, so please come up with some wacky concepts! You have a lot of time, and I really appreciate your efforts!

With that, I now go to sleep! Thanks again for Fee5 for helping me realize my true vision with this chapter.

Take Care
Candlefire45