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[fic] Fulfillment of Regrets - Part 1

Title: Fulfillment of Regrets - Part 1
Author: absolutehymn007
Recipient: fivedayslater
Genre: Friendship/Romance
Ratings/Warnings: PG-13 (Arthur uses the word 'bloody' and Gilbert swears occasionally)
Characters/Pairing: USUK, various Hetalia characters
Summary: Arthur Kirkland, who has the ability to see ghosts and other non-living beings, is entering his first year at Creston University. Alfred F. Jones is a newly created ghost who happens to have a strong phobia of ghosts. Arthur meets him in his first week and decides to lend a hand to help him get over his fear. He also finds himself wanting to give Alfred a second chance at the life that he should have lived before it was abruptly cut short.
Notes: Many thanks to perkyandproud and feihu for being my beta-readers. To my recipient, I do hope you enjoy reading the story I have written for you! ^^ The prompt was interesting and I had a lot of fun with it!



'Phew, finally finished!' Arthur Kirkland thought to himself as he collapsed onto the firm mattress of his dorm room bed. 'That leaves me plenty of time to relax before school starts tomorrow.' He looked around his room where all of his belongings were neatly organized into the appropriate spaces - his clothes were sorted by style in his closet, his large variety of office supplies were in different drawers in his desk, and his elegantly designed crimson covers and pillows were set perfectly on his bed.

The room adjacent to his was his study area, which had a comfortable black leather love seat, a rich mahogany coffee table, and a moderately sized TV. On one wall was his massive bookcase, stuffed full with books of all different types of subjects. It was a ridiculous hassle to get into the room and it was very time-consuming to pull all of the books out of the boxes and put them on the shelves. He had also set up two tall lamps in the room and one small one on an end table to create a warmer and more comfortable glow in the area.

"Hey Arthur!" a voice called out, shaking him from his thoughts.

"What is it, Flying Mint Bunny?" he asked the spirit that was currently hovering above him.

"What do you want us to do with your United Kingdom flag?"

"I can't believe I forgot!" Arthur exclaimed, sitting up. "How about you hang it in the study?"

"How did you forget one of your most prized possessions?" Flying Mint Bunny asked exasperatedly as he flew over to the desk where it lay folded and picked it up. "I'll go get the faeries to help."

"Okay, thanks," Arthur said gratefully as Flying Mint Bunny flew out. He sighed and laid back down on his bed, thankful for all of his mystical friends that helped him out today.

He was the only one he knew who could see them - spirits, mystical creatures, and ghosts that is. Earlier in his childhood, other students thought he was nuts or bizarre when they heard him talking to what only appeared to be himself or if he asked them if they could see them. His parents had taken him to a few therapy sessions as well to see if he had any repressed problems or other causes for his apparent madness, but they found none. Arthur knew that he had to lie about being able to see non-living specters from then on to make everyone feel that he was normal, and they forgot about the old Arthur and accepted the new in a very short time.

There were only a few times where he actually thought that he was bonkers, but after his mystical friends reassured him that they were real by showing that they were able to move some heavy objects around in his room, he accepted that he was born with a special ability to talk with and see non-living beings.

"Flying Mint Bunny!" he said as he got up from his bed and straightened out his light blue polo shirt and khakis. "I am going to the lounge for a little bit."

"Have a good time, master," he said as Arthur walked into the study, put his shoes on, and headed out into the hall.

The hall was devoid of people and of sound - Arthur wondered if it was because they were out visiting their friends or if the doors were amazingly soundproof. It didn't bother him since he didn't feel like socializing at that moment anyway. There were name tags on the doors in the shape of different countries and Arthur read a few of them as he walked.

The lounge was just down the hall, located to the side of the central commons area. It had large windows and Arthur went up to one to look inside. He saw that it was handsomely finished with couches and tables and a magnificent fireplace. There was a large TV as well with several pool tables, an air hockey table, and a dartboard for entertainment.

There were two occupants in the room - one male with brown hair and glasses playing an upright piano, and the other was a female with long, blond hair that cascaded down on her back in waves, floating behind him listening. Arthur's mouth dropped when he saw that he was looking at a human ghost and he went to the door and opened it, stunned. He had never seen a ghost like that before, but then again, he did live in a small, quaint village and didn't get out much.

The piano playing halted immediately and the player turned around towards the entrance. Arthur immediately bowed in apology and the male smiled gently.

"It's perfectly alright," he said in a high tenor voice as he motioned for Arthur to come closer. "Usually no one comes in at this time the day before classes."

"I understand," Arthur said as he pulled up a seat next to the piano bench. "I'm new so I wanted to explore a little bit. I'm Arthur Kirkland."

"Please to meet you," he said, extending his hand. "I am Roderich Edelstein - a second year majoring in music performance." Arthur took his hand with a firm grip and shook it.

"I am majoring in English Education, hoping to become a literature professor."

"I wish you the best of luck," Roderich said as he sat back down and flexed his fingers. "I am sure you will find a lot of success at Creston University."

"I am sure that I will," Arthur said as he also took a seat. "Do you mind if I listen to you play? I play as well, but I am sure that I am not as good as you."

"I don't mind," he replied kindly. "I feel like playing some Chopin tonight…" He started and Arthur immediately felt drawn into how his fingers flew across the keys and to the honest nuances and inflections that he was putting in. He saw that the ghost had drifted closer, smiling, also enjoying the music. She was just like a human, but was very glowy and semi-transparent.

Arthur wanted to ask her some questions, but that probably would have scared Roderich, who was currently absorbed in his own world of music. She noticed that he was looking at her and she slowly mouthed that she would see him again soon. Arthur nodded back to show her that he understood and then the ghost quickly floated away.

The reason was that another male was hurtling in their direction and grabbed Roderich from behind in what looked like an extremely painful hug.

"Roddy! It's nice to see you again!" the male with almost white hair exclaimed as Roderich tried to shake him off.

"Please release me this instant!" he ordered stiffly, but the other person did not oblige.

"Aw, come on Roddy! You didn't write all summer or call or anything and you greet me this coldly?!"

"I would have greeted you more politely if you didn't surprise attack me from behind!"

"Why didn't you say so earlier?" he commented, releasing him and standing back. It was then he just noticed there was someone else in the room who had not moved an inch.

"Oh… who's that?" he said, peeking at him with a sideways look. "I don't think I've seen him before."

"His name is Arthur Kirkland. He is a new student."

"Nice to meet ya," he said with a salute. "I'm Gilbert Weillschmidt."

"It's nice to meet you as well," Arthur responded as politely as possible even though he was wondering why the other was so spastic. "Are you a second year like him?"

"Yup! Only my major is in supreme awesomeness!" he said proudly, assuming a superhero stance with his hands on his hips and his chest thrust forward.

"That means he's undeclared," Roderich said in an undertone and Gilbert slapped him over the head, causing his glasses to become askew.

"Geez, you didn't have to tell him!"

"The entire world doesn't need to think that you are awesome," he noted, shutting the lid of the piano harshly on GIlbert's fingers that had just reached for the keys.

"Owww!"

"If you need anything, Arthur, we're on the floor directly above you," Roderich said as he stood up gracefully, unrolling his sleeves so that the cuffs were back at his wrists. "Have a good day of classes tomorrow."

"Roddy, I hate you!" Gilbert huffed in pain. "And yeah, Arthur. Anything you need, come and see the awesome me!"

Arthur couldn't help but smile at what had just happened. Roderich was a very nice and talented person who was serious and disapproved of nonsense, just like Arthur was. Gilbert was on the opposite end of the spectrum - he was loud, conceited, and wild, but Arthur actually didn't seem to mind. It was probably because he could tell that the two were good friends despite their bickering, and because Gilbert seemed like someone he would have a good time competing against.

"I will keep it in mind. I hope that you two have a good day tomorrow as well," he wished genuinely and they both smiled back. Arthur couldn't wait for what the next day had in store for him.
-----

Arthur was definitely a morning person. He awoke at the same time every morning without struggle or even thinking of going back to sleep. His first objective was to turn on the electric kettle so that the water would boil by the time he was done brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and changing his clothes. As usual, he paused to look in the mirror, frowning at how his blond hair always looked a little messy no matter how hard he tried to tame it and how unbelievably bushy his eyebrows were. The only feature that he liked a lot were his  emerald green eyes that seemed to have an ethereal glow.

Going back to the living room, he would make a wonderful cup of tea and have biscuits, scones, or mini muffins to go with it. He never watched TV in the morning, but he always put on classical music to listen to for relaxation. His mystical friends would join him for tea time, even though they couldn't actually drink the tea or eat the food. They would exchange light conversation about the day prior, talk about current events, or sometimes joke about Arthur's eyebrows, his inability to cook, and his mean temper. Even though he would get annoyed sometimes, he knew they were only teasing and let them be.

His very first class was Shakespeare, which was required for all English Education majors. It was something he enjoyed taking in high school and something he enjoyed reading in his free time. In fact, he had read every Shakespeare play published at least three times and knew them like the back of his hand, and he was currently on working on getting through the sonnets. This class was something he knew he was going to excel at without struggling at all.

When he had first came into the room, he noticed there was a light smattering of ghosts, which caused him to smile amusedly. His mystical friends had explained to him that morning that human ghosts existed because they were filled with regret and were not at all ready to move on until their lives were fulfilled. Arthur wondered if they regretted not appreciating Shakespeare, not passing a easy class, or simply had nothing better to do to pass the time. He had spent a bit of time taking in the details of every one of them, and when they caught on to the fact that he was able to see them, they waved shyly back and he smiled.

The professor was an avid Shakespeare fanatic to put it lightly. She even spoke in Shakespearean tongue from time to time, which easily lost more than half of the class, but not Arthur. She handed out the syllabus as she talked, and after Arthur had skimmed through the text, he knew that an A was definitely in the bag.

He had Pre-Calculus after that class, which fulfilled his math general education requirement. Arthur supposed he could have taken an easier math class, but he had a strong work ethic and was proud of his academic strengths. There were no ghosts present in this class - it was obvious that either they found math incredibly boring or they had taken the easy way out. The math professor was extremely fast-paced and scholarly, and Arthur knew that he would have to be on his best game to get the grade that he wanted.

Lunch was the next thing on the agenda, and he remembered seeing a large pond near a patch of woods on a campus tour a few months ago. It was a really nice day so he grabbed lunch from the cafeteria and went out to sit on a bench near the water's edge. Hardly anyone else was around, and the people who were, were quite a distance away.

His mystical friends had appeared from behind him partway through lunch and startled him. They told him that they were having a good time exploring the campus and meeting a few of the ghosts around before they asked him how his classes went. He kept his voice to a whisper and kept scanning the area for people as he talked, anxious that someone might accidentally think he was crazy on his first day.

Then something caught his attention on the outside of the pond - a lone ghost that was sitting on a rock, backdropped by the forest. He had his arms wrapped around his knees and was staring at the water idly. Before Arthur could get up and move closer to look at him, his watch alarm went off to remind him that he needed to head to his next class, which was French.

He sighed and shut his watch off, swinging his school bag onto his shoulder and straightening his clothes. Arthur snuck one glance back and saw that the ghost was still there, unmoving, and intuition told him that he would see him again.
-----

Arthur's first class the next morning was Classic Literature, which fulfilled another one of his major's requirements. It was also a general education credit so he knew his class was going to be an interesting mix.

When he arrived, he saw that the room was comprised of many small tables with three or four seats at each. He was pleasantly surprised because he was expecting the auditorium-type setting for a large lecture class, but this made things more personal. It also meant that there were probably going to be a lot of group activities, which Arthur was not fond of.

He spied an empty seat towards the side of the room with two boys chatting quietly - one with long, sort of wavy blond hair and bright blue eyes, and another with dark brown eyes and black hair in a precise bowl cut.

"Excuse me, may I sit here?" Arthur asked politely and they nodded.

"Are you new here as well?" the one with the blond hair asked in a rather sweet tone - it was a bit too sweet for Arthur once he saw that it was coupled with an intrigued stare.

"Yes, I'm Arthur Kirkland. English Education major," he said, taking a seat and placing his bag on the floor.

"I'm Francis Bonnefoy. I am a first year majoring in Creative Writing," the blond boy said with a flourish of his hand. Arthur was afraid he was going to be sick.

"I am Kiku Honda," the other boy said with a  bow. "This is also my first year and I wish to become a civil engineer."

"Wow," Arthur acknowledged, already liking him more than Francis. "But do you have an interest in classical literature or are you just here for the credit?"

"I have a very large interest in classic literature," he replied as he carefully placed his book on the table. "I have an interest in literature in general as well as music, art, and math."

"If you don't mind me asking, which math class are you in?" Arthur asked, not recalling if he was in his math class.

"Calculus III."

"Incredible!" Francis said, jaw dropping along with Arthur's. "At such a young age!"

"What about you, Francis?" Arthur inquired, closing his mouth and also taking out his book.

"Not taking math this semester. I'm horrible at it anyways."

"What are your strengths?" Kiku asked politely and Francis smiled brightly.

"Oh you know… literature, art, theatre - the fine arts," he said, once again looking at Arthur with a rather inviting stare. "As well as cooking, being beautiful, charming others…"

"Looks like the teacher is about to start," Arthur interrupted, promptly looking away from Francis's piercing, unblinking stare. He felt extremely hot and uncomfortable and he made a mental note to not sit near him again if he could avoid it.

The class progressed exactly like a traditional first class - an introduction from the teacher, the explanation of the syllabus and classroom expectations, and some activity that allowed everyone to at least figure out each other's names. They were left with some time to spare and everyone chatted quietly at their tables. Somehow the conversation at their table turned to the topic of Japanese Yuurei. It was intriguing to hear about how similar their ghosts were to the concept of American ghosts and also how much they were different. He was reminded of the ghosts that he had been seeing around campus during the conversation and thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

"Hey, can you see Yuurei?" Arthur asked Kiku. "Like personally?"

They both laughed and Arthur joined in as well so that they would think he was joking around.

"It isn't possible to see ghosts," Francis said, clutching his stomach. "And wouldn't you be freaked out if you saw freaky specters around?"

"I've never see a Yuurei," Kiku said. "It's one of those things you shouldn't be able to see, but I know that it's possible to know if one is haunting a place. Or at least, that's what folklore says."

"Right, right," Arthur said with a pretend smile. "You would be pretty strange if you could see ghosts, considering the fact that they might not be real."

They all laughed again as they stood up to leave class. Arthur couldn't help but wonder if he was the only one who could see things that normal people couldn't see. He was also glad that they all played it off as a lame attempt at a joke - being labeled as a freak within Day 2 of a new environment would make his time at the university very depressing indeed.
-----

Arthur sprinted to the cafeteria to a grab a lunch to go, swiping his card without delay to get in. Some of the students gave him funny looks as he seized food left and right and threw it onto his tray in an impeccably organized way. After he poured himself a cup of tea into a cup with a lid, he tore out of the door and back to the pond.

He couldn't wait any longer to see if that lone ghost was there. Arthur had no idea why he was so curious about this particularly ghost, but something about it drew him in. It may have been the fact that he never really got a close look at him yesterday or the chance to ask why he was by himself.

When he reached the pond, he saw that the ghost was not there and his heart sank like a rock thrown into the water. All of his running was for naught and he panted heavily as he sat down on the same bench from yesterday.

"Well, screw you, intuition," he said sardonically to himself as he tore into a sandwich. "You did tell me I would meet him again." He chewed it quickly so that he could take a long, careful draught of his tea, wincing slightly at the over-sweetened taste.

He continued eating, never taking his eyes off of the rock for longer than a second, watching in case the ghost did show up. Some short time into his lunch, he heard a pair of voices approaching - one that he recognized and one he didn't.

"Come on! It's great outside today!" the unfamiliar female voice urged. She sounded rather tomboyish and he wondered if she had short hair and was dressed in manly clothing like he was imagining.

"Elizabeta! I refuse," the male voice answered curtly and Arthur recognized it as Roderich's voice. "I have simply too much practicing to do."

"What is one hour or so going to do to you?"

"… Possibly nothing."

"Exactly."

"But I can simply eat my own lunch in the practice room like I always do…"

"Hey there," Arthur said, turning around and greeting them. The girl was very surprised and Arthur was taken aback to see that she had long, sandy brown hair with an orange flower clipped on one side and was wearing a summer dress. Roderich looked flustered and uncomfortable outside in a short-sleeved white button down and black trousers.

"Uh… hello?" the girl greeted shyly, the confident tone gone from her voice.

"Arthur, is it?" Roderich asked, thinking back to their previous conversation.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Oh wait? You know someone outside of your stuffy School of Music?" the girl asked and he huffed in indignation.

"Yes I do. And besides, I know Gilbert."

"He's an idiot so he doesn't count."

"My apologies, Arthur," Roderich said and Arthur waved it off. "This is Elizabeta Héderváry. She's a 2nd year culinary major."

"Nice to meet you," she said, extending her hand. Arthur took it and shook it firmly.

"Pleasure's all mine."

"Well, since you know him, you should eat lunch with him," Elizabeta suggested to Roderich, who really looked sorry to Arthur.

"It's not a problem," Arthur said, moving over on the bench. "It would be nice to get to know more about you guys."

Over the course of the next ten or so minutes, he found out that they were childhood friends who lived on the same street. Even though Elizabeta picked on him and shoved him around, they really did value each other's friendship. It was interesting to see again how two almost polar opposites were able to get along so well - Elizabeta was outwardly confident and competitive while Roderich preferred to keep to himself and his studies. 

They ended up looking over at the pond at some point to talk about the beauty of their surrounds and Arthur caught a semi-glowing figure just coming out of the woods. It was definitely that ghost that he had been searching for and he stood up absentmindedly to take a closer look.

"Arthur, what is it?" Roderich asked curiously since Arthur abruptly stood up in the middle of the conversation.

"Nothing. Just… needed to stretch my legs," Arthur lied as he drifted over to the water's edge. The ghost had found a seat on the same rock as yesterday and wrapped his arms around his knees again. He had short, darker blond hair and a large strand of hair that stood up in the center of where his hair was parted. He had piercing blue eyes that were behind rectangular, half-framed glasses. He was dressed casually, just a white shirt with an eagle in the corner, and semi-baggy jeans of a medium blue hue.

'If he smiled, he'd be pretty handsome,' Arthur thought to himself as he observed the male. 'Especially with those eyes.' It was a bit strange for this ghost to be catching hie eye - Arthur was usually drawn to more formally dressed guys that were mature and had a taste for finer things. Yet he couldn't shake off the fact that he was more drawn to him than anyone he had ever seen living.

"Roddy!!!"

"Oh no…"

"Don't, 'oh no' me in that ungrateful, pompous tone of yours!" the newcomer continued and Arthur recognized the voice as Gilbert's. "Just got up from a nap and wanted to go feed the birds. Then I saw your hair and was all excited."

"My apologies Gilbert. I thought you had come to pester me like you do almost every day," Roderich said stiffly and Gilbert laughed loudly.

"No, not today. I really did come for the birds."

"Then get to it," Elizabeta urged coldly and Gilbert blew a loud raspberry at her.

"Roddy, your annoying babysitter is with you again?"

"She's not my babysitter!"

"I resent that!"

"Just like you resent your own personal looks.. not that I blame you 'cause you are pretty damn ugly…"

"Gilbert! You get back here right now!" Elizabeta yelled.

"Can you bloody be quiet?!" Arthur yelled out irritably, whipping around and seeing only a stunned Roderich sitting on the bench with his food resting on his lap. Arthur gave him a questioning look and he pointed off vaguely behind Arthur. He turned around again and saw that Elizabeta was angrily chasing Gilbert with a frying pan that she apparently had stashed in her bag. Or at least, that's where Arthur hypothesized she got it from.

They made it around the pond very quickly and the ghost looked to his side when he heard them approaching. He jumped off his rock and fled into the forest before the pair of them reached the area, bickering at each other as they ran. Arthur sighed and walked back to the bench, spying the bag of bread crumbs on the grass.

"Arthur, I'm sorry about those two," Roderich said, pushing up his glasses. "They are quite loud and explosive when they're near each other."

"It's not your fault. They seem like they would be intense rivals."

"What will you do now?"

"Feed the birds," he said, reaching for the bag. "Gilbert will thank me later when he recovers from being knocked unconscious by that frying pan… if he remembers. If not, then at least the birds will be happy," Arthur explained dryly as he left Roderich and headed to the pond's edge where a variety of birds were gathered, either swimming in the water or walking around on the ground.
-----

"Hey, Flying Mint Bunny! I'm going down to the lounge again," Arthur said, rising from the couch and stretching out his arms.

"Master, you do not wish to stay in your room?" he asked and Arthur held out his arms to give him a hug. For some reason, his mystical creature friends always felt solid to him, but he never asked them why.

"There's a piano downstairs. I want to play a little bit on it."

"Okay, we'll see you when you come back."

"Make sure that the unicorn doesn't take up all of the couch the whole time."

"Will do, master."

Arthur smiled and left the room, heading down the hall and looking at the name tags on the door as he did so. He saw that Kiku and Francis lived in his hall and suddenly remembered that Roderich mentioned that he lived on the floor above him with Gilbert and the rest of the second years. He would have to venture onto their floor at some point to say hello.

When he made it the lounge, he saw that it was completely deserted, which was rather strange since he had suspected that it would be occupied at night with people wanting to study in comfort or to watch TV together. It was around 12:30am too and Arthur scoffed at the ridiculous notion of students of wanting to go to bed early, especially on a Tuesday. He should have been in bed two hours ago, but he had a lot of homework and lost all urge to sleep.

He came in and headed over to the deserted piano, lifting the lid that covered the keys and stroked his hand across them lightly. He sat down and flexed his fingers, a little apprehensive since it had been so long since he had played the piano. Arthur warmed up slowly by playing a few scales, letting his muscle memory take him through as he thought about a few pieces that he wanted to play. 

Before he even got the first note of a piece down, the door opened and he instinctively turned to look to see who it was. It was a male ghost carrying a few real billiard sticks and he was wearing the same sort of stunned expression that Arthur was.

"Uh, hey?"

"Whoa! You can see me?!" exclaimed the ghost, dropping his sticks to the carpeted floor in shock.

"Yes, I can."

"No way! What am I wearing? I have to make sure that you can actually see me instead of knowing that I'm a ghost and just seeing the previously floating billiard sticks."

"You are wearing a black vest over a white button down shirt with your sleeves rolled up. You are also wearing black pants with pinstripes and your hair is combed rather neatly."

"Wow, you weren't lying!" he said as he bent over to pick up his sticks and drifted over to the pool table. "Don't let me keep you from your music playing."

"No, it's okay. I can just play some other time."

"Embarrassed?"

"Shut it," Arthur said, crossing his arms. He didn't like to feel embarrassed about his skills and he had a feeling that this ghost was the teasing type of person. "So, how is it that you are able to touch objects?" He knew his mystical friends could as well, but he wanted to see how similar they were to these human ghosts.

"Dunno, but they have to be inanimate," he said as he started pulling out pool balls from the pockets and putting them on the table. "You see, when you become a ghost, you don't question what you can or can't do. It kind of just is. Just like changing clothes. You kind of just will them to change… it would be kinda boring if we wore the same thing every day."

"Yes, I suppose that's true," Arthur said, acknowledging his words with a smile.

"What's your name, man?"

"Arthur Kirkland."

"Well, Arthur! Nice to meet you!"

"It's nice to meet you as well," Arthur said as the ghost stretched out his arms. "You are wondering how I can see you, right?"

"Definitely, but I didn't want to be rude and ask you right away," he said, now picking up a billiard stick and twirling it.

"I don't really know why either, but I've always been able to see non-living things like ghosts and spirits," Arthur said, sighing. "I wish I had a better answer."

"No worries man. There aren't always answers to everything."

"Thank you for understanding. So… there is a specific reason this lounge is empty right now, isn't there?"

"You guessed right! Ghosts from all over campus come into the lounge around this time 'til 4am to play games and relax and whatnot. Thursdays too."

"So normal students would be spooked out by all of the noises and floating objects," Arthur deduced and the ghost nodded. "And the first years would have heard something about the lounge being haunted from an older student or their orientation session, right?"

"You got it buddy! If you heard about the lounge, what brought you down?"

"I didn't attend an orientation session," Arthur mentioned, uncrossing his arms, turning around, and closing the piano lid. By the time he stood up, the door had opened again and more ghosts came in, quickly developing that stunned expression that he was wearing a few minutes ago.

"Good evening," Arthur greeted warmly and more objects, including ping pong balls, darts, and video game controllers, fell to the floor. "If you will excuse me, I will be off to bed."

"Uh… Have a good evening, sir," a formally dressed ghost with mutton chops said in a low voice.

"Wait… he can see us?" the other ghost with the backwards baseball cap and freckles asked. "How?"

"I have absolutely no idea how, but I shall see you all again Thursday night," Arthur said with a smile. "I have to get some sleep before my classes tomorrow." He strode out the door just as a large crowd of ghosts were coming into the central commons area, who instinctively hid their belongings behind them even though they were semi-transparent and Arthur chuckled to himself as he gave them a merry wave.
-----

World History class was his last class of Wednesday and it was one that he did not expect to look forward to. Monday, of course, was an introductory class, aka the traditional reading of the boring syllabus and classroom guidelines, but the small taste that they had of what was to come, everyone was excited about. The professor was certainly archaic enough to have lived through several major events, but he was still as passionate as ever.

The class also had everyone he had met so far - Roderich, Elizabeta, Gilbert, Francis, and Kiku. They all sat together in a section of the really large room today since they now knew that they had the class together. It was going to be an interesting semester to say the least, especially in that class.

Francis seemed to have gotten around a bit by Day 3, although it may have been that Arthur didn't get out much at all. He pointed out the names of the people in a two rows in front of them (Ludwig, Feliciano, and Ivan) and gave a brief explanation of who they were. Ludwig was a fourth year  and a dorm leader, Feliciano was a fourth year majoring in art and was his companion, and Ivan was a third year majoring in political science that had a friendly aura on the surface, but a darker personality hidden within. Ludwig and Gilbert were also cousins, which Gilbert chipped in proudly with a big smirk.

Arthur had been looking around the room while he was talking and saw a group of five sitting in the front of the room, wearing similar clothing, but all had the same air of mysterious superiority. When Francis was done, he had to ask who they were. It turned out that they were an unofficial student council, nicknamed, 'The Nords' (short for Nordics) for being distantly cold and mystifying. They definitely gave off the feeling of being the elite of the school and that they were widely respected.

Arthur noticed that one of them had a mystical creature floating behind him and he found it peculiar. It seemed as though he was its master, but Arthur's friends did not follow him out into public unless he was alone. As the class was about to start, many ghosts started to find seats on the high window ledges, talking amiably with each other. This class had far more ghosts than any other of Arthur's classes and was comprised of a lot of different ethnicities and ages.

He found himself wondering if all of the ghosts on campus were in the history classroom. All of the lounge ghosts he had seen seemed present and any other ones he had seen around campus or in his other classes save one were also present. The lone ghost by the waterside was not there, and he settled back in his chair with a disappointed look. He had gotten his hopes up for nothing.

However, he kept periodically scanning the windows during the lecture and was lucky to have not attracted the curious attention of those around him. Arthur was starting to develop an obsession for him, but he tried to think of it as rather intense curiosity. At long last, his efforts were rewarded when he saw the ghost with blond hair and blue eyes appear in the closest window.

He looked extremely uncomfortable and high-strung, eyes darting around the room at an alarming rate. He seemed to have attracted the attention of a few of the nearby ghosts and they gave him comforting smiles before not looking at him. The smiles seemed to have the opposite effect on this ghost - he looked even more pale and nervous than ever before. After about twenty minutes of the lecture, one of the other ghosts floated off of their ledge in his direction, and he fled like his life depended on it even though the other ghost was simply going to sit with his friend on the opposite side of the room.

It was then that Arthur wondered if this particular ghost was afraid of ghosts, and he knew just the person to ask. Unfortunately, it would have to wait until Thursday night, but he could certainly try to find out earlier.
-----

The next day, the party at the pond had expanded to include Kiku, Francis, Ludwig, and Feliciano with Roderich, Elizabeta, and Gilbert. How all of their schedules somehow aligned to give them all the same lunch break, no one really knew, but no one was complaining either. They still used the same bench, but since not more than three people could fit, Elizabeta brought a large picnic blanket with her so that the others could sit on the ground. 

Arthur chose a spot on the blanket where he could see the pond and started digging into his salad. Classical Literature was simply a lecture on a book that Arthur already had read so it was easy, but Greek and Roman Mythology was definitely new and the instructor was crazily fast paced. He had already been assigned a paper for that class as well and sighed knowing that he would spend more time on it than he should to make sure he got every little detail right.

"That salad looks very good!" Feliciano commented and Arthur smiled.

"Thank you. Elizabeta made it for me last night. It was a nice, friendly gesture."

"You're very kind, Arthur," Elizabeta said behind him and Gilbert rolled his eyes as he munched on a hamburger in front of him.

"Hey, Gilbert, be nice," Ludwig commanded and Gilbert nudged him in the arm with his elbow.

"Don't tell me what to do, cousin. I am much too awesome for that!"

"And what Kiku has looks delicious too!" Feliciano continued, gawking over at Kiku who was kneeling on the blanket with a rectangular box resting on his legs.

"It is my bento for today. It is very delicious," he explained as he picked up some rice with his chopsticks. "Perhaps I can make you one during the weekend?"

"Really Kiku? And we just met! You are the best! Let's become the best of friends!"

"Feliciano, is there no end to your energy?" Ludwig grumbled and Francis issued a happy sigh as he gazed up at the sky. Arthur pointedly ignored him knowing that he was probably going to say something about Ludwig's strength that he found comparable to the strength of Hercules or something ridiculous like that in a sickeningly loving way.

"Hey Roddy! Aren't you stuffy in those clothes out here?"

"No, they are rather comfortable."

"You're kidding!"

Arthur finished his salad as he listened to the exchange of conversation, ranging from amusing stories to fairly tame bickering to complaints about coursework. As usual, he kept his eyes peeled on the large rock by the pond, hopefully he didn't look incredibly suspicious staring between the heads of Ludwig and Gilbert. He had to remember to look to his side once in a while where Francis's hand seemed to be creeping closer and closer to his thigh, but would retreat when he sensed Arthur was looking.

Partway through lunch, the ghost appeared again, looking down at the ground as he walked towards his rock. When he reached the place, he turned his attention to the water, staring into its depths as he continued fathoming his thoughts. Arthur wanted to see if he could get his attention so he could acknowledge that he could see him, but the ghost never really looked across the pond.

He sighed as he started eating his slice of apple pie and joined in the conversation when it was appropriate. It seemed as though they were thinking about planning a movie night on Saturday in Gilbert's, 'super-awesomely-cool-decked-out-room-of-awesomness' to use his exact wording. Roderich was his roommate, but their bedroom was simply called, 'the room of pristine cleanliness'.

A group of ducks were paddling around the edge of the pond and two of them decided to splash some water for fun. As they came within the ghost's view, his face broke out into the most dazzling smile Arthur had ever seen and he found himself immediately captivated. The smile didn't last very long since the ducks were just passing by, and he turned his attention towards the sky to watch the clouds. Arthur knew he needed to try at least to let him know he could see him, even if it would raise some awkward questions.

He jumped out of his spot on the picnic blanket and tore towards the pond's edge. Arthur searched from some rocks he could throw and found some nearby in some thick mud. He grimaced as he stuck his hand in the goop, but it was all for a good cause. His first few throws were kind of poor attempts, but he managed to send one flying really far across the pond. However, the ghost didn't see it since he was focused at the sky.

"Arthur? What are you doing?" Elizabeta asked in concern.

"Uhh… exercising? Lots of pent up energy you know!" Arthur lied loudly, hoping that his voice would attract his attention.

"So you're throwing… stones?" Kiku questioned, also in an uneasy tone.

"Yeah… good arm workout," he responded, spying a larger rock and heaving it up with two hands. He did a few quick turns and then released it, sending it into the water with a really loud splash. Finally, the ghost heard the noise and looked quickly to see what it was. He tried to make eye contact and waved with a smile, causing the ghost to look at him with a puzzled look. Arthur gave him a gesture that meant to wait and started to take off at a run, but the ghost fled after he was only a few steps in. It was obvious that he was a bit intimidated that he was seen, but Arthur was sure he would be back out of curiosity.

Smiling, he walked back to his friends and bent down to collect his belongings without stepping on the blanket with his now muddy shoes. No one said a word as they all watched him pack everything up neatly, grin still firmly plastered on his face.

"Well, I must be off to French class. Have a pleasant day everyone."

"… Arthur?"

"Hmm, what is it?"

"Have you gone completely mad?!" they all yelled in unison and he let out a hearty laugh before taking off. It wasn't the first time anyone had asked him that question, but he was sure he was a little bit sane somewhere still. It just needed a bit of digging to find, that's all.

-----

"Had a good day, man?" the pool ghost asked as he swiftly moved his billiard stick to break. Arthur had came down to the lounge like he planned and found himself in a game of pool as he waited for who he was looking for.

"Yes, I did. Thank you for asking," Arthur said as he sank one of the solid balls and proceeded to go for his second.

"Saw you in history class the other day," he continued, watching Arthur size up his shot.

"I saw you too. You were with that ghost that appears to have been a noble from the medieval era."

"Good archer, that man. We go target practicing once in a while," he said as Arthur put in another ball and was getting ready for his third. "Anyway, seems as though you were a bit preoccupied during the class…" Arthur scratched badly as the pool ghost chuckled. "Seems as though I was right."

"Why were you watching me?"

"Sorry mate, but since we all now know that you can see us, it's hard not to observe you for a few days to see how you are," he said and sank one of his balls into the pocket without taking much time to line up his shot. Arthur knew he was going to most likely lose, but he did wonder how many years of experience he had.

"Well, that makes sense that I would be watched."

"What was on your mind, if you don't mind me asking?"

"It's… I'll tell you soon, okay?" Arthur said hesitantly as he got ready for the start of his turn. "I need to talk to someone first."

"You like someone then?" he asked and Arthur shot the cue ball off of the table.

"Stop messing me up!"

"Not trying to on purpose, man," he said, picking the ball up and setting it down. "But you get angry so easily…"

The door opened and a group of ghosts came in and waved to him and the pool ghost. Among the group was the piano ghost that he had saw listening to Roderich on Sunday and she smiled warmly.

"Hello," she said sweetly and Arthur waved in response. "How are you this evening?"

"I'm doing well, thank you."

"Except for the fact that he's losing right now," the pool ghost pointed out and Arthur frowned. "Just yanking your chain. You're alright."

"Did you want to talk to me still?" she asked in her melodic voice with a nice smile and Arthur felt his heart skip a beat. If Arthur wasn't so attracted to the ghost by the pond, this ghost would have had a strong chance of winning him over.

"Let me finish me game first?" he asked politely and she nodded.

"I'll be watching TV if you need me," she said as she drifted off with her friends towards the couch. Arthur turned back to the pool ghost only to see him in a daze with a grin on his face.

"Not you too."

"Sorry man, but that woman is a real beauty," he said as they resumed the game. "Sweetheart too."

"Trying to get her attention?" Arthur asked as he moved his billiard stick swiftly and sent a ball flying towards its target.

"Not overly so. Don't want to scare her off you know? We're good friends though."

"Take her on a date," Arthur suggested just as a rowdy group stormed in and started playing at the air hockey table. "She would enjoy a music recital or theatre production I'm sure."

"Thanks for the advice man. You're really alright. I just need to work up the courage to ask, that's all."

"When you get some of that, let me have some," Arthur said with a smile. They continued on with the game in silence, but threw each other glares when things were not going their way. Arthur was a highly competitive person, but he had to tell himself that it would be okay if he lost. No one living would know anyway.

"Close game, but looks like I will win in the end," the pool ghost said as he sank the eight ball into the pocket he had called. "Nice playing you."

"Pleasure's all mine," Arthur said, leaning his stick against the table. "We'll have to play again sometime."

The ghost waved him off with a cheery wave and some other ghosts joined him as Arthur left. Arthur went over to the couch to find the piano ghost with her friends watching an opera on TV.

"Pardon me."

"Hello dear," she greeted warmly. "Have a seat."

"I don't want to interrupt your show…" he started and the other ghosts giggled.

"It's fine, I've seen many versions of this opera," she said as she moved over to let Arthur sit. "It's nice to be able to finally talk since I saw you on Sunday."

"It is. Do you like listening to Roderich play?"

"Yes, I do. He has a lovely way of playing the piano that I'm rather jealous of," she said in an admiring tone and Arthur smiled.

"Do you play the piano?"

"I still do. I am not anywhere near as talented as he is though. Plus my songs as of late have this melancholic tone to them."

"I am sorry to hear that, but I would love for you to play me something in the future," Arthur said, which caused the ghosts listening to dissolve into giggles.

"What?!" Arthur asked hotly.

"Dear, you are very kind," she said, also laughing. "I will oblige your request. Is there anything else?"

"Yes, actually, there is," Arthur said, getting to business. "You see… there's this ghost…"

"Ooo… the one by the pond?" one of her friends said, perking up. "The one with the dark blond hair and the adorable face?"

"He's such a cutie! I just want to hug him!"

"Ignore them," she said exasperatedly when she saw Arthur's aghast expression.

"How do they know?"

"It isn't you. That ghost is the topic of a lot of conversations around here."

"What do you know about him?"

"His name is Alfred and he was a student here. I've seen him a few times last year eating lunch sprawled on the grass by the pond or having a movie night with his crazy friends in the lounge."

"Do you know why he's all alone?" Arthur inquired and she shook her head sadly.

"I, myself, tried approaching him the first day I saw him, but he fled like someone unleashed a group of hellhounds after him," she said as she stared at the ceiling in thought. "Some ghosts need a little bit of time to get used to the fact that they are a ghost… and to get over that need to haunt people and places. He's different."

"Why?"

"He was a friendly and popular person from what I observed and your traits don't change when you become a ghost. However, he avoids us like the plague and secludes himself to the forest. I don't have a concrete answer for you as to why he acts this way, I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay. You've been very helpful," Arthur reassured. "So everyone just leaves him alone, right?"

"Yes. We want him to have his space to figure out things," she continued, sighing. "He just looks so sad though… I wish there was something we could do for him…"

"Yeah," the other two echoed in a gloomy tone.

"I think I have a plan," Arthur revealed and they all zoomed towards him with very interested expressions. "Err… it's nothing elaborate or anything."

"Tell us!"

"I'm just going to talk to him. I got his attention earlier today so he knows I can see him."

"And you didn't scare him off?"

"Yes, I did, but not like he was running for his life exactly. He'll be back tomorrow I'm sure."

"Ooo… Good luck!"

"Thanks girls," Arthur said, with an embarrassed grin. "It does help to know that he's a new ghost though and how he reacts to you all."

"You're very welcome Arthur," the piano ghost said, moving away from him. "It's getting late. Why don't you get some rest and let us know how things go the next time you see us?"

"Sounds good. Thank you for your time."

"Wait, wait, Mr. Arthur!" one of her friends called out.

"What is it?"

"If you find out some of his interests, can you share that with us too?" the two ghosts friends asked with wide-eyed expressions. "We want to be able to make him happy too!"

"If it comes up…" Arthur said and the piano ghost rolled her eyes. "Lots to do tomorrow. I'll be seeing you all later."

As he departed the room, he started formulating plans about how to let Alfred know that he wanted to meet with him without scaring him off and what to do with him after their first conversation. He also thought over the possible reasons for his behavior and he came to only one conclusion that made any sense: Alfred was afraid of ghosts. He wondered why he would still be afraid of ghosts that looked human (it would be a different story if they were the scary kind found in movies), but if he had a deep-rooted phobia, then that explained why he looked so miserable and why he distanced himself from any situation that would involve any of the campus ghosts.

'Arthur, you're way too interested in this ghost for your own good,' he told himself as he walked down the hall. 'But everything about him that draws me in…' He would make absolutely sure that they would have a conversation by the day's end tomorrow so that things could start changing for the better.



Part 1 continued...

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