Counter 10: Dark Clouds
After lunch, quarter to one
Nineteenth day of Sapta’xahr, 4044
AB Academy grounds, fourth watch tower
“We have already talked about this. We planned enough. I believe.” Tristan bites his lip.
Tristan and Azalea has learned about this assault by looking into the memories of that card. Tristan alone would not have been able to interpret this much. Within that pool of images, Azalea is able to catch the important pieces that fit right in the puzzle they are trying to solve.
“What do you want to do, prez?” Azalea asks while wearing a flat smile on her face.
“She really is cunning,” he tells himself. Azalea already knows that he cannot ignore the situation. She is asking that kind of question after knowing what kind of threat will come.
“What kind of answer does she want to hear from me?”
All members of Asylum, except Evan who is currently absent, are sitting comfortably on their usual space. They look at him as if they are anticipating a mind-blowing answer.
“I do not have any other choice, do I? I do not think that my opinion is really needed at this point.” Tristan hangs his head low.
After all, Azalea can very well decide everything on her own. She is the one who sew up all these tattered pieces of information. To even plan out in detail the action that they should take today by predicting what the enemies are planning is like playing a game of chess for her. She can see all of the opponents’ pieces and she is able to determine all of the possible attack point. Because of this, she is able to prepare a counter attack for each one.
The card does not contain all the information that would have given Asylum the knowledge about the enemy’s whole plan of action. However, after lying out the information that they have and by factoring the best time for an attack of that magnitude, Azalea has figured out it could only be on this day.
The nameless enemy is going to attack once the academy’s defenses falls on its weakest. Their possible target is an ancient item hidden in the campus, and maybe the academy’s defense system itself. Furthermore, it seems that Azalea has already anticipated an attack since they have strolled around inside that cargo ship. She simply used the card to add up some missing pieces. Everyone knows that the Student Council had been busy organizing a couple of events. In this event the juniors and the seniors are going to be outside of the academy for more than three hours. Azalea believes that if someone wants to launch an offensive on AB Academy, then the best time is when the higher level students are not around. They are more trained and probably have more experience compare to the sophomores and freshmen. During this time, the forces that could oppose them have been significantly diminished without having to lift a finger.
“All right!” Azalea raises her voice, trying to sound enthusiastic. “We’ll go and beat those intruders’ arrogant asses!”
“Can you not say it that way?” Tristan mumbles.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry!” She says with cheerful tone. “We are done with the preparations. We just wait for them to grab the bait.”
Blair leaps closer and interrupts. “Do I get to fight the robots?”
“Listen here, mountain idiot.” Azalea sighs. “I’ll explain this one more time, you better not forget.”
“Bitch, I just have to beat them up, right? What’s so complicated about that?” Blair replies with a careless attitude.
“Oi-” She clicks her tongue before pulling Blair to the side.
“A week ago,” Tristan recalls. “Azalea called all of Asylum during our time for the club.” He notices that his hands are shaking nonstop. “Back then… We spent two hours of discussion about what we should do on this day. We are prepared for this but there is no way I could easily cope with this absurd event. I am especially worried for those who are going to be facing the enemies out there.”
Now, they are here, sitting inside the second floor of the fourth watch tower while everyone else returned to the dorms as instructed by the professors. Aside from a few select group of students and faculty, nobody else have any idea of what is about to come down today.
“Will those people really come?” Emil crosses his legs while looking outside the window.
“Don’t get too excited,” Azalea’s voice rings while she walks towards the old creaky cabinet.
“Our package arrived yesterday, check out that box at that side.” She points at the huge wooden box beside the old cabinet. “Blair, Emil and Tristan, your stuff are inside.” She smiles at the people mentioned with uncanny look.
“I have a feeling that whatever this is, it is something that I would not like to see.” Tristan mutters while shaking his head.
“I already got mine ready.” Then she opens the creaky cabinet.
Meanwhile, Blair, Emil and Tristan are opening the box. Inside, there is a pair of vambrace with blades attached, a set of heavy male armor and a sniping rifle waiting to be assembled. The three are speechless for a moment. Blair tilts her head to the side with furrowed brows. Emil scratches his head while staring skeptically at the armor.
“What in the world are these for?” Tristan turns his eyes, questioning the person who ordered the box.
Azalea takes out a set of robe and light armor from inside of the cabinet. Without diverting her eyes from her robes she answers, “To enhance your abilities.” Nonchalantly, without any particular expression showing on her face, she keeps her eyes inside the cabinet, inspecting her armor.
While Tristan is thinking of how to respond to her sudden change in demeanor, Primrose grabs the scope of the sniping rifle to use it to look outside the window.
“I can see the ocean from here,” says she. “Didn’t you prepare any for me?”
“Do you need anything?” Azalea responds rather oddly.
“Some delicious, rare, exotic delicacy.” Prim raises her thumb.
“I’d rather not have you die of food poisoning before the battle.” She replies casually.
“I have a strong stomach.” She raises another thumb up.
“There’s nothing to worry about.” Duke smiles while patting Prim’s head. “Wrie and I will be the one fighting.”
“But without Prim, you won’t be able to fight too.” Azalea then pulls out the huge spear-like staff inside the cabinet.
Duke and Prim suddenly pauses. They both look surprised. Prim puts her arms down while tilting her head. She furrows her brows giving Azalea a weird look.
“What are you doing, Tristan? Hurry up and assemble your rifle.” Azalea turns towards Tristan who is spacing out.
“W-what?!” He feels perturbed snapping back to reality. “There is no way I am going to use something like this!”
He then looks around and notices that Blair is already wearing her vambrace, while Emil is examining his armor.
“If you don’t want to use it,” she smiles teasingly. “Just put it up as a decoration. Though, I sincerely believe that it’s better to have something handy just in case.”
“Sincerely, she said.” Tristan mutters while gazing at the rifle.
“Oh, so you also remove these straps. Hm…” Emil picks up the leather straps that are usually wrapped around Blair's arms. The moment he lifts one of them he notices that it is quite heavy. “What the-… hell are these?”
Blair grins at Emil’s surprised reaction. “They're weights. You know, I always have to keep my body in shape.”
Everyone else looks at her with mixed emotions. They are kind of surprised, amazed, and confused. Nobody is able to say anything. They kind of want to ask questions but also feel that it does sound like something she would do.
“Also,” Azalea breaks the silence. She points at the wooden box again. “You all shouldn’t forget your earpieces. It’s troublesome if we can’t communicate when something unexpected suddenly happens.”
“That’s true,” Tristan agrees but he suddenly remembers that they are missing one person. “What about Evan?”
“He should be fine.” Azalea answers coldly.
“Where is that shitty noble by the way?” Emil suddenly asks.
“He was called for some sort of blue-zone business.” Azalea responds. “It seems that he won’t be playing as a team with us. Not that it matters… The headmaster already assigned him a position. It shouldn’t be a problem on our side.”
“Alright!” Blair shouts enthusiastically after putting on her earpiece. She cannot hide her excitement. “How should we proceed with this plan?”
Duke taps Blair’s shoulder twice. “We still have a bit of time.” He then picks his and Prim’s earpiece. “Your enthusiasm is admirable,” he continues while helping Prim put her earpiece.
“However don't let it distract you. This is a real battle. You'll get real injuries or worse…”
He decided not to continue after feeling the serious air around Blair. He simply smiles gently. He knows that this person is not someone new to fights.
“It feels light and not too stuffy.” Emil says while getting a feel of his armor.
“It’s like novice armor. So, it’s not that expensive.” Azalea responds.
“Hmm.” Emil crosses his arms.
“It goes well with your magic type.” She continues to explain. “Aside from surface hardening, you haven’t even mastered basic magic principles. It’s okay to sacrifice a bit of your mobility and speed in exchange of stronger defense and higher attack power.”
“Well… I can’t argue with that.” Emil answers while picking up the helmet. “I didn’t have any magic teacher so I didn’t learn anything farther than what I already know.”
“Your stuff looks really cool!” Blair peeks beside Emil. “Hurry up and put it on!”
“I have no idea what they are talking about…” Tristan mumbles as he picks up the pieces of the sniping rifle. “I guess I should at least assemble this thing.”
Azalea laughs a bit as she turns slightly away, just enough that they could only see part of her face. “Let’s talk about it afterwards.” Then she walks down the ground floor carrying her robe and armor.
“Okay.” Emil says while taking off his shirt so that he could wear his armor properly.
“Hey!” Duke yells at him. “Don’t just strip just because you feel like it!”
“Come on, Duke, it’s not a big deal. Right?” He answers wearing a big smirk.
“Wait-!” Blair interrupts while staring at Emil’s buffed body. “You got an awesome scar on your chest too!”
“I believe that’s not something one should say.” Tristan says softly while looking at them with dismay. “But now that she mentions it…”
They look at the huge line on his bare body. A long scar on his right chest extends down vertically to his abdomen.
“It looks like an extended wound from the one on your eye.” Blair inspects the scar curiously.
She shamelessly stares at his bare torso. “Hey, hey, were they from the same weapon?” She asks while drawing closer to Emil.
“Stop staring, will you?” Emil grumbles. His cheeks blush but at the same time there is also a faint tone of melancholy in his voice. “It’s a very shameful scar.”
“Why?” She continues to ask inconsiderately. “Is it part of the reason why you’re in the red?”
He stares down at her and then quickly averts his face, as if he is pondering how to respond to her. “No,” he answers while keeping his gaze away. “It’s something from long ago, when I was still with my mom.”
“Okay,” Tristan purposely cuts in. If he does not mediate between them now, who knows when their question and answer portion will end. “Let Emil wear his armor now.” It appears that she wants to complain but she keeps quiet instead. “You too. You should be going now.”
“Alright then,” she answers casually while cheerfully running towards the window. Tristan wants to stop her but it’s too late. “Later--!” She waves her hand before quickly jumping out from the window.
Emil clicks his tongue. “That idiot-!... again…”
“Why is she getting herself in trouble this early?” Tristan sighs. He lifts the rifle that is almost complete. “The specs are quite good. Where is she getting all of these?”
“You can actually stick that thing together.” Emil comments while watching Tristan.
“I’m not sticking it…” He mumbles.
“We should get to our spot as well.” Duke says while escorting Prim to the stairs.
Tristan waves at them. Then Wrie suddenly materializes beside Prim following them down the stairs. As they are about to go, they met Azalea who is now returning up.
“Whaaaat?” Azalea says while looking around. “Emil, you still haven’t finished putting on your armor?”
“Ah- I got distracted.” Emil replies then he picks up the chest armor and starts wearing the rest.
“Where’s Blair?” Azalea asks.
“She just ran off… out the window.” Tristan answers with a small voice.
“Seriously?! That idiot…” She leaps to the window and then looks outside. Blair is no longer in the watch tower's vicinity.
“This armor is really hard to put on.” Emil grumbles while fastening the breastplates and back plates.
“By the way, Azalea.” Tristan calls shyly. “That armor design… Isn’t it a little…”
“What?” She turns towards him.
He clears his throat. “Doesn’t it defeat the entire purpose of an armor? I mean… Does it have to look like that?”
“Well, of course. Because…” She looks at her reflection in the glass window. She tilts her head and grins. “Holy shit! I’m gorgeous!”
“I don’t actually disagree,” he says softly. “But still… how shameless.”
“Let’s go down, the prof will be coming soon.” Azalea leads them towards the stairs.
“Wait, I’m not done yet!” Emil raises his voice while struggling to put the boots on. “This damn thing is fucking heavy! Goddammit!”
Past two o’clock in the afternoon
Nineteenth day of Sapta’xahr, 4044 AOT
Administration Building, Headmaster’s Office
By the grounds near the second watch tower, Professor Crownheit is fighting against two ki masters. On the other hand, Professor Zhu is up against a mage near the shores of Nalkad Island. Both professors are pretty occupied while the intruders are advancing deeper into the academy grounds. It seems like the groups of intruders that faced the professors are headed in the same place.
Meanwhile, Headmaster Dimasalang and Miss Malupit are overseeing the whole situation on the roof top of the admin building. The headmaster is using binoculars to see each point where every battle is taking place. He appears very calm as he peers through the lenses; his left hand resting inside his pocket while the breeze blows swaying his gelled hair a little. The guidance counselor stands composed three feet away beside him. Her arms are crossed above her chest, her eyes burns fiercely as she looks down at the crashed plane by the garden.
“Did you expect for this to happen?” Sadi asks without turning her sight towards the headmaster. “Did you expect Asylum to act like this?”
Oryx puts his binoculars down and then gazes at the chaotic ground with his bare eyes. “Did I?” He answers teasingly feigning ignorance. “Since they knew about it, then it’s already a given that Azalea will act. But then again, I would prefer if they could retire themselves once this situation turns for the worst.”
“And here I thought you know that girl well enough.” She rolls her eyes towards the headmaster.
He snickers upon hearing her comment. “I’m just being optimistic.” He puts the binoculars away. “Let’s go to the monitor room.”
“Are you planning to just watch until this mess fixes itself on its own?”
“I have no choice but to watch.”
“How about the reinforcements?”
“They’re coming… Well, I hope they make it on time.”
Ten minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon
Nineteenth day of Sapta’xahr, 4044 AOT.
Nalkad Island, AB Academy grounds
By the shore, Professor Zhu finds herself facing two reveils and four armed ubliss. She is very sure that she can take them out even if all six attack her at once; however the problem is that they will not. One of those intruders poses and faces her upfront while the five others are hurrying to unequip their diving gears. Without a doubt, they are planning to let some run away.
“Everyone!” One of the intruders shouts. His voice sounds firm that it echoes for some time.
“Take off all unnecessary equipment on you as fast as you can! Run towards the forest!”
He points toward the forest and then his comrades start removing their gears quickly. With his lead the other four are following his command while one is staying behind to face the female professor.
“C36,” he calls again looking at the man who blocked the professor’s attack earlier. “Stall for as long as you can.”
The man nods reassuringly.
“You think, I’m letting you?” Xiao Feng says with a relaxed pose.
The moment she moves her foot to take a step, the man leaps and then spins a kick in mid-air. Xiao Feng has no choice but to block the attack with her arm strengthened by her ki. While she is being kept busy, all of the five have managed to go ahead and leave. She attacks to push her opponent away to put some distance between them.
“I’ll be your only opponent now.” He smirks as if bragging.
The man glares at her, observing her stance. His eyes are focused but for a moment he seems to have been distracted.
“Are you just going to stare at me?” Xiao Feng clenches her fist preparing to attack.
“Xiao Feng Zhu?...”
“Mhm. What’s wrong?”
He knits his eyebrows. His lips frown. “I’ve seen you somewhere else before. Like, a very long time ago…”
Xiao Feng looks concerned for a moment. “A long time… C36?...”
“But… this doesn’t make sense…”
“I see.” Her voice sounds grim, her tone deep. Her eyes are becoming even more emotionless. “You must really have a terrible luck.”
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