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Jan 26th, 2019
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  1. "The various rules and regulations for what will be allowed in the District Science Fair. Please turn to page 15.."
  2. Claire slowly turned through the pages of the thick packet with melancholy, her normally perky flames significantly dampened. Each line of small black text in each pale page seemed to bleed into the next, an endless parade of useless bureaucracy.
  4. A low groan escaped her, and her ears flattened against her head. When would the teacher stop uselessly droning on?
  6. Looking around, the Lich teacher Mrs. Goul (Quite frankly, Claire was not at all surprised that a member of the undead taught her most boring class) regarded the disinterest of the majority of the classroom. Her gaze then shifted to a sight for sore eyes- the class prodigy, Emi Klop, staring at the teacher with her utmost attention. Coughing, she continued. "...and with a grand prize of a fully paid scholarship..."
  8. A scoff escaped Claire, despite herself. Wonderful- A once in a lifetime opportunity to let the government fund her her inevitable failure!
  10. " well as 100 grand in cash."
  12. Claire's heart stopped. 100 grand. One hundred thousand dollars. That...that was enough money to...
  14. Claire sat up, taking notice. The teacher grinned smugly, noting the immense jump in excitement from her words. Casually setting down the packet, she addressed the class.
  15. "Your projects for the Science Fair will be prepared by partners. Each one of you is to find someone who will agree to be your partner, and to then work with them for the remainder of your time together to produce a project for the Fair." Narrowing her eyes, she cast her gaze at the back row. Cleo, the designated "Mean bitch" of the class, stared right back.
  16. "Any and all violations of either school rules, or the guidelines in this packet, will result in immediate disqualification."
  18. Mrs. Goul nonchalantly waved her hand.
  20. "Now go find partners. Remember, you cannot go back on your choice!"
  22. Claire turned to go towards Emi, already preparing the fast talk she was so well known for to win her nerdy brain over, only to stop in dismay. It seemed more than half the class had the same idea- A small hub of students surrounded Emi, and Claire despairingly noted the dismal chance of Emi preferring her over, say, the second smartest.
  24. Claire huffed, and turned to the first fat block of text on the first page of the packet. Well, she didn't need Emi's help anyways! She could very well make a perfectly jaw-dropping, show-stopping Mother of all Science Fair projects on her own! She just needed to...Maou, was this packet really a hundred pages..?
  26. A tap on her shoulder.
  28. CLaire whirled with all the pent up frustration of a desperate middle schooler. It took her a minute to recognize the cool and even gaze of a certain brainiac mummy.
  30. "You," Emi rasped out. "A partner?"
  32. Claire blinked for a few moments, utterly dumbfounded. She then sprung up with unholy vigor, flames bursting up. She seized Emi's cold palm with both hands before she could stumble back in shock from the sudden reaction.
  33. "Whyno,noindeeedIhavenopartnerandwouldIbecorrectinassumingyouwantmemilady?" Claire tumbled out words faster than she could think, this was insane, how could this be real?! She had never spoken to Emi before, she only knew her name through the constant flow of praise flowing from Mrs. Goul whenever Emi did quite literally anything.
  35. Emi stood with wide eyes, words briefly escaping her already feeble grasp on vocabulary. "....Yes. You will be partners with me?"
  37. Claire resisted the urge to shout in joy. "Yes!" She managed to keep her affirmation to a decibel that could be heard. "When do we start?"
  39. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  41. "Behold, the ultimate firecracker! Absolutely Resistant to any means of containment, this unique invention will blow no matter where it may lie, so long as a certain sequence of sounds at particular decibels reach it! Underwater, underground, even in space! No matter where you place this, rest assured it won't fail to enka....enko..."
  43. "Enkindle".
  45. "Is that even a word, Emi?
  47. "En.Kin.Dle."
  49. Claire felt herself spine shiver at Emi's withering gaze. Turning her attention back to the script, she continued reading out.
  51. Earlier that day, Emi had revealed the truth- She had long completed her science project, and really only required someone to help present her hard work. She had simply chosen the most talkative person she could think of- The Hinezumi, Emi. And that's all they had been doing for hours- Emi simply sitting on her chair in a spare, empty classroom, and Claire roaming the room as she did her absolute best to memorize the script in time for the Fair next week.
  53. "Repeat."
  55. "Actually, I think I need some water!" CLaire scratched the back of her head, and giggled nervously. "I really need something for my-"
  57. "REPEAT."
  59. ""Behold, the ultimate firecracker! Absolutely resistant to any means of containment..."
  60. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  61. Claire sunk to her knees in despair, as Emi stood with no visible shock.
  63. "It's over...It's all over..."
  64. The locker holding the cases of firecrackers for the project had been smashed open. The script was stolen, as well as the project itself.
  66. "No worries." Emi coughed harshly, then unlocked an adjacent locker. Inside, miraculously, was another set of firecrackers, as well as another script.
  68. Brandishing the script, Emi shoved it into Claire's disbelieving paws.
  70. "Rehearse. I will return."
  72. She marched off, with the same expression as always, but a fierce staccato to her steps.
  74. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  76. "..well?"
  78. Emi looked at Claire with contempt.
  80. "What?"
  82. Claire sputtered in disbelief, her flames flickering to reflect her outrage.
  83. "What do you mean, 'what'? SOMEONE STOLE THE PROJECT! WHO WOULD DO THIS?"
  85. Emi glanced away.
  87. "....The pharaoh. She...believes I am her sycophant. Her willing slave."
  88. Emi smiled, despite her words. "She will soon be in for a surprise. Let her have a few firecrackers- We are the ones who know how they work."
  90. Claire took a good look, a long good look at her partner. The light of some dark intelligence seemed to dance in her eyes, and even her normally blank slate of a face had a smirk planted on it, her equivalent of a full on shit-eating grin.
  92. Despite the small pang of fear, Claire couldn't help smiling back.
  94. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  96. Claire struggled with the full weight of the water tank, lugging it along with the cushioned cases for the fireworks. Dragging it into the auditorium alongside a nonchalant Emi, she noticed how early they were.
  97. "Hey! I was right, the damn Fair preparations don't start for another hour!"
  99. Emi ignored her, and pulled out some gadget from her pocket. Extending a metal rod on the end, she waved it around as she patrolled the auditorium.
  101. A muffled crack sounded.
  103. Moving over to an overlooked corner, Emi and Claire both found a small pile of ash, still smoking.
  105. "Now do you see why?"
  106. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  108. Claire desperately eyed the water in the tank used to exhibit the power of the firecracker- she had already repeated her spiel for onlookers a gajillion times, and just about any water was looking fine right now.
  110. "Thank you all for coming!" The Lilim school principal, Miss Vic announced. "Sadly, the kids need some rest! Thank you all, and be sure to vote for best exhibit on your way out!"
  112. "IT'S OVER!" Claire slumped with joy upon the exhibit counter, and felt a cold palm settle on her back, and rub in small circles.
  113. "You did good." CLaire turned, and Emi...was smiling? "Thank you. Can we work together again, sometimes?"
  114. "Do I have a choice?"
  116. Still beaming, Emi shook her head.
  118. Claire suddenly, acutely understood why Emi chose her.
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