EXTRA/NORMAL | Chapter 8 – Worker and Queen

Few sounds rattle the bones of the average high schooler more than the cacophonous arrangement of vicious snickering amidst a crowd of grinning peers. Such is the case of a young man who stumbles backward and trips, hitting the ground and scuffing his hands in the dirt. The people standing around him – looking down on him – they’re just an undefined mass of mocking laughter. All save for the person at the center of it all. It’s impossible not to see her for every detail, looking down on him with a face contorted by repulse. Like some sort of bug.

Diana turns her disgust to her hand. “Ew, I touched him. Now I probably went and made his day.” The remark invites equally nauseated groans from the rest of her posse, followed immediately by more sniggering. But the boy isn’t laughing. He can’t even tremble. “That excite you, freak?” Diana turns on him and, with a crooked grin, snaps her fingers. Instantly Honey Bee materializes and darts at the poor thing like a bullet, jamming one of its spear-like stingers straight into the pavement just between his legs and prompting him to scream out.

The hushed snickers of Diana’s posse erupt into full-blown laughter. All the while the young victim loses all color. His pants, however… Among the bunch, Maddie steps up, a hand to her chin as she levels an icy gaze upon the boy. “Heeeh? No way. Did he seriously piss himself?” Oh, that does it. The laughter turns uproarious in a heartbeat as the boy scrambles to cover his crotch area. But Maddie keeps pressing, opening the camera app on her Link. “He’s gross in all kinds’a ways, right? We should totally warn everyone to stay away.”

Diana brings her hands to her hips and cocks her head. “Yuck! Who still wets themself in high school? Well, maybe we can be nice and help him out with that. He can’t do it again if he doesn’t have one anymore, right?” Wait… is she saying…? She is. With just a slight nod, Honey Bee rips its stinger out of the pavement and plunges the other between the boy’s legs again, forcing him to shuffle back along the ground. Then again. And again. It continues until he backs himself up against a wall. But then…

“Diana!” A firm voice. Charlotte? No. Authoritarian, but not high and mighty enough.

Diana reaches up, brushing the honey blonde locks from over her typically covered right eye. Then a sigh as something seems to catch her attention. So that’s how it is. She glances over her shoulder to find a young lady in a neatly kept school uniform standing behind her and her clique. Her eye finds the sash around the girl’s arm and a lazy, insincere grin forms on her lips. “Oh, hey Gloria. Something I can help our esteemed Disciplinary Committee with?”

“As if you didn’t know! What are you doing to that student?!”

Diana turns back to her victim, cowering beneath her. “What, this? I was just playing with him. He was having so much fun, he even went and pissed himself like a toddler.”

That’s it? That’s her defense? How brazen could the girl be? Gloria tightens her fist, a vein popping in the back of her hand as she seethes in place. But she pulls herself together. “Tch. All of you, classes are over. Go home or to your clubs. Diana, you stay.”

No one need tell the humiliated victim twice. Up he springs and off he scurries, leaving the gaggle of high school girls behind and not daring to look back.

“Hooo?” Maddie strolls over to the adamant girl with her hands playfully behind her back, aiming that same malignant smirk her way. “That’s way funny, isn’t it? The girl scout giving us orders? You’re not even our class’s committee rep.”

Gloria winces, stepping back from Diana’s second-in-command. “T-that has nothing to do with…” No. Now isn’t the time for her to lose her composure and get dragged down to their level. A fist to her mouth, she clears her throat and continues with as demanding a tone as she can manage. “Whether I’m in your class or not, I’m a member of the Disciplinary Committee.”

Maddie shrugs with a little chuckle that stabs into Gloria. “So what? Why should we listen to you? Isn’t that, like, super full of yourself?”

Gloria’s teeth clench. If she can’t even handle Diana’s sidekick, how…? Then she looks up and the world holds still. Right. Diana. There the honey blonde alpha stands directly before her with that phony smile across her mouth, completely at odds with the chilling gaze in her eyes, keeping her hands in her pockets. “D-Diana?”

“Little workers shouldn’t pretend to be queens, you know? It’s seriously annoying.”

The sniggering of Diana’s posse resumes and Gloria bites her lip, knowing not a single audible sound from her mouth would even come close to resembling a word. The dry mouth doesn’t help. Nor the distraction of the lump in her throat. These people don’t take her seriously at all. It leaves her with a sensation somewhere between blood-boiling and spine-chilling. Still, she can’t leave it like this, right? It’s her job, after all. And there is that… other matter. She takes a breath, but…

“Well, whatever. Go on ahead, girls.”

“Eh?”

The rest of Diana’s little gang groans. Maddie, though, only has an eyebrow to raise, folding her arms. “You sure, Di? Alone with the girl scout is…”

Diana steps around Gloria with a nod and a wave of her hand to shoo off her cohort. “Go, go. I’m just gonna have a little woman-to-woman chat with her. Don’t worry. I’ll catch up with you guys in a minute.”

Maddie sucks her teeth and nods for the rest of their group to follow. Only one girl remains when they disperse. A small thing, strangely out-of-place among that particular crowd. She even tries to speak up, but one look from Diana tells her everything she needs to hear and she’s gone in a heartbeat.

Now only Diana and Gloria remain, the former pulling her left hand out of her jacket pocket. “All right,” she says, brushing her hair back with her hand again. The sleeve slips down her arm, revealing the red glow of her Link’s LED. “Let’s get this over with, huh?”

Inhale. Exhale. Gloria looks Diana dead on, her posture stiff as a board. “W-why… did you send them off?” She brings her fist to her mouth and coughs upon the realization that her voice had cracked. This isn’t a situation where she can afford to sound uncertain, is it? This is Diana, after all. Confidence. That’s how to handle these types. Even though her heart is about to achieve liftoff. Even though her face feels like she’d just stuck it in an oven. “I guess you didn’t want them to have to see you lo-?”

“Hey. Hurry up and bring out your Familiar.”

“H-huh?”

Diana returns her hands to her pockets as Honey Bee hovers just over her shoulder. “I told them I’d catch up in a minute.”

Gloria blinks. There it is again. The cold gaze from those deep blue eyes of Diana’s. But she can’t let this intimidation work… right? Gloria steels herself. The realization sweeps over her like a breeze, but she stands firm regardless. “Then when you do, you can tell them… that you’ll be leaving soon. Someone needs to knock you down a peg.”

“I’m not gonna go easy on you.”

“I know…”

“You’re gonna lose.”

No reply.

Diana sighs and, with but a snap of her fingers, Honey Bee charges forward, conjuring a huge cloud of swarming bees that descend on Gloria as her own Familiar sparks into existence at her side.

The match ends in under a minute, Diana hardly moving at all during its course, letting her buzzing Familiar do the work. On the ground across from her lies Gloria, covered in stings and bruises, watching as her Familiar scatters into particles of shimmering pink light that drift away on the wind. Then that cruelly indifferent, computerized voice speaks out from both Links, confirming the result.

Diana stands over her defeated opponent, looking down on her. “It’s my win. Hope you’re not expecting me to feel sorry. So… you still gonna knock me down a peg from on the ground like that?”

Gloria clutches grass and earth between her fingers. Everything hurts. Streams flow down her cheeks and she curses her legs for not having the strength to let her stand anymore. “I get it. I was never going to win. I knew that. I thought I was prepared for it, but still…”

Diana stares flatly at the pitiful sight, then steps around the girl, stopping once her back is turned. “Whatever. You faced that loss with some dignity, at least, so these waterworks aren’t too ugly. I’ll let it slide.”

And thus, Diana departs from the scene as she said she would. Along the way to the station, she pauses. A familiar chime. Her Link going off? Checking closer, it’s a call from… Ragyou? “Great. What does that airhead want?”

Yet before Diana ventures to answer it, something else draws her attention. Waiting under a street light with her school bag in hand is the same small girl from before, who’d been hiding among Diana’s clique. “U-um… Diana?”

“You’re not gone yet?”

This… is awkward. Several seconds pass by with the poor thing not breathing a word. Eventually, Diana grows tired of waiting for her to speak up. But just when it seems she might get away, the girl drops her bag and reaches out, grabbing Diana by the arm. It brings a sigh out of the unscrupulous queen of the first-years. “Are you all right?” The girl nods. “Then beat it. I wanna hurry up and go home, already.”

When Diana yanks her arm free, the girl reaches out. “Ah! W-wait!” Sure enough, Diana stops with her back to the girl. “I’m… Leena. Um… I just wanted to thank you. For helping me, back there. If you hadn’t shown up-”

“Don’t. I wasn’t trying to save you. I just think pervs like that are gross.”

Leena bows her head. “Yeah. That sounds about right. You’re Diana, after all.”

What’s with that satisfied look on this girl’s face? Is it really that surprising? Or maybe it’s an honor just to meet Diana. They’re not in the same class, that Diana can remember. Well, it doesn’t really matter. “Whatever. But hey, since your voicebox actually works, I have some advice for you. Next time some creep tries to molest you, don’t just sit there and whimper. Say something. Speak up. Scream for help or whatever. You’re lucky me and my girls were around to scare that guy off.”

“Y-yes!” Leena practically bends herself in half, bowing to Diana in her show of respect.

“What the hell… are you doing, you weird girl?”

But then Leena pulls herself up. “But, um… Diana. Do you think you might’ve been a little too hard on that member of the Disciplinary Committee? There was clearly some misunderstanding, right?”

Of all the things to make Diana think about, this girl had to pick something she was so ready to wash her hands of? “Holier-than-thou types like that, and especially people who don’t know how to mind their own business… they really piss me off.” Leena tilts her head with a quizzical look about her. But before she can open her mouth again, Diana raises a hand for a singular goodbye wave. “Anyway, I’m gone. Get home safe.”

“Ah, y-yeah.”

That’s dealt with. Now that only leaves… Diana reopens her Link display and stares at the name, flashing in her face. Then the most protracted sigh yet. “Ragyou…”


Author’s Comments

So yeah. Diana. How ’bout that. Honestly, if I had to pick a character that’s the most rewarding to write, it’s probably her. Her characterization just creates a lot of opportunities for me to play around with different scenarios and stretch myself a bit as a writer when I think about how she’ll react to things. How she’ll approach different situations, all of it. This particular chapter was a good time to write because I really wanted to push it. To see exactly to what extent I could reasonably make people hate her before I gave them that “Aha” moment about her. Leaning on external perspectives is a big part of this. In a lot of Diana-centric scenes, you’re seeing her through someone else’s eyes. Other characters’ perception of Diana plays a major role in her characterization, I think. It makes her very interesting because you’re not really getting the whole picture, either way. At least, that’s the intent I hope I’m realizing. What do you think?

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