Counter 15: Roar of Thunder
Thirty-four minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Duke wonders why Azalea has assigned him, Prim, and Emil in front of the library. Is it really fine to let Blair go on her own? She is near the dorms so maybe she could get help if needed.
However, there’s that magic barrier that Azalea put around the dorms. Furthermore, Blair gets too easily taken over by her anger and then loses reason to the point of going berserk. In the worst case scenario, will her enemy not suffer too much?
“What’s next?” Emil suddenly says upon reaching the front door of the library.
“Wait here?” Duke rubs his nape. He is keeping his senses on full alert. There must be a reason why Azalea sent three people here. Of all the structures in this academy, this library seems to be the most ancient. It is as if any form of renovation is deliberately avoided.
“Maybe I should just go check on Blair.” Emil mumbles worriedly. “If the enemies enter through the beach, Blair is sure to encounter them.” He looks at his green and black colored armor and then he fixes the gauntlets making sure that they are fitted tight on his arms.
“You are being a worrywart,” Prim says frankly while opening her bag of treats. “Even if Blair is an idiot, she is still a strong muscle-brained idiot, so rest assured that she won’t be beaten easily.”
“Prim, that’s not helping at all.” Duke taps his little sister’s shoulder. “In any case, we should--” His is unable to complete his sentence because the door of the library suddenly creeks while opening slowly. From behind he can sense someone peeking and it is creeping him out. “H-hey, are you a ghost?” He tries to joke about it but then it suddenly returns back, shutting the door with force.
“You know that wasn’t very nice of you, brother.” Prim says in monotone. She then nonchalantly pulls out something that smells like a bun and meat from her bag. “Zat wash a jurl vehind za jhoor. Itz vrud tzo call zher za jhuszt.” She talks while her mouth is still full.
Duke chuckles. “So it was a girl, huh? I guess, it was indeed rude to assume that she’s a ghost.” He walks closer to the door. “Excuse me,” he knocks twice.
“HEY!!!” Emil suddenly shouts from behind. “Some people are hiding sneakily over there!”
Duke turns but he cannot see where he is pointing. If he could get the direction and get close enough then he will be able to sense how many there are and if they are enemies indeed.
“Prim, stop eating and pay attention to your surroundings!” Duke warns Prim, who is not bothered one bit, rather she is still eating.
“Hey, Duke!” Emil sounds grumpy.
Duke turns around to look for those people. If he cannot sense their presence, it means that they are beyond two meters radius from where he stands. Before he could walk far from the library’s building, Prim grabs his arm.
“Brother,” she calls, “I have sent Wrie. Please be mindful of your current form. You are highly vulnerable, call your armor.” The tone of her voice, though it may sound the same to the normal ears, Duke is the only one who could discern the sudden tension it contains.
“I’m sorry,” he smiles at her to ease the tension. However, he can still feel his sister’s anxiety. “Come forth, Beetle Armor.” His sister will not be at ease unless he is in his best condition. “It is a must for me to use this now.” He mumbles while taking a step forward. “There’s no hiding it. This exoskeleton that acts as the finest armor anyone could have.”
Duke's body glows for a second. The light completely covers his body like the embers on a scorching hot metal work. When the light subsides; his body is suddenly covered by armor. The plating looks very sturdy and it is sparkling with gold and black color. It looks as though the armor is a natural part of his body.
Emil stays in his guard while keeping his attention to that place. On the other hand, because of Duke’s summoned beetle form, he is now able to expand the area that his senses can cover. From here on, he can sense things around fifty meters radius around him.
“Aren’t I useful?” He tells himself.
Regrettably, while he is transforming, Wrie has already caught the enemies. She throws the three guys she caught from the side of the library in front of them. Their pulse is normal but they are not moving. He took too much time transforming that Wrie had all the time she needed to knock all three guys unconscious.
“I am such a disappointment.” Duke mumbles while slouching due to frustration.
Thirty-six minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Fourth Watch Tower, Second Floor
Tristan and Kris are sitting close to the window observing the movements outside. They both hide by the side to avoid catching unlikely attention. The sound is faint but they can hear the rumblings coming from something huge that have arrived in the island. They can feel the building softly shake every now and then. It seems that whatever cargo that ship they entered back then is going to be used against the academy now. Those things must have been dropped at the bottom of the sea and then mobilized when the time to attack has come.
At this point, Tristan can no longer tell if the ground or his knees are shaking. He grips the body of the rifle he keeps close to his chest while contemplating looking outside every now and then.
"You know," Kris' voice has made Tristan jolt. For a second, he almost laughs at the young man’s reaction but he stops himself so he can continue what he wants to say. "I think this is the first time that the scholars of Dimasalang Foundation have gathered in one club."
"Yes." He responds with a gentle smile. "There are three in this club. There would always be two to five scholars every year."
"I didn't know anything about that." Tristan's curiosity is piqued. "They must be very smart."
Kris chuckles. "Dimasalang scholarship works differently unlike the standard scholarship common ubliss gets."
"Oh… So does it have something to do with the reveil's ability and power?" Tristan thought that it will make hin less anxious if there is something for them to talk about.
"You are very sharp. Though there something unusual in this year's scholars."
"I don't get it. Who are they?"
"Azalea Blakewood, Blair Lisiantha, and Primrose Saintgregor." Kris pauses to look outside for a moment before continuing. "All scholars are always arranged to be in the green zone.
This is the first time I see a scholar not only in red but also wearing a collar. I'm not against it… It's just that, for the headmaster to fail to put her in the greens means that someone high in ICA is very against it."
"Will that standing put her in danger?"
"Not really. The scholarship gives them protection… As to what kind, it's kind of complicated. By the way, I used to be a Dimasalang Foundation Scholar too."
"I see. I'd like to know more about it. Like, how does a person apply for it?"
"Oh. The thing is one can't just apply. Scholars are chosen carefully. Special agents are scattered around the world to look and scout for talents." Kris turns his gaze at him. "Even I am not sure how they pick them, but one thing is for sure… These scholars must have some amazing ability that can attract the Seven Noble Houses' attention."
For a moment, Tristan felt his mind go blank. He thought about Azalea, Blair, and Primrose. For him, those three are just simple people who love fool around as often as they can. What could the most powerful members of ICA want with those dorks?
"Won't something like that be dangerous? I heard that those nobles would go far just to add more skilled recruits into their clans."
"That's why Dimasalang Foundation Scholarship exists. It comes with a lot of benefits, as well as protection against the nobles' crazy whims."
Tristan's expression softens after hearing him. It seems that he is feeling reassured by those words.
Kris then smiles gently as if recalling something. After a moment of silence, he continues by talking about how he became a scholar. That time the head of Dimasalang Foundation and the headmaster of AB Academy are different persons. He owes his life to the previous head of Dimasalang Foundation, Oryx' father. That is also the reason why he did not choose to serve any of the nobles but rather he decided that he wants to remain in the academy and become an agent.
He comes from an ordinary family that have just enough to get pass each day. Two years after he awakened, a special agent came knocking to their house and then invited him to attend AB Academy as a Dimasalang Scholar. Even though he is not entirely familiar with how rough the world beyond what he already knows is, he thought of it as a good opportunity.
He does not know the specifics as to how the scholars are picked or how they are found. Maybe there are a lot of agents around the world, observing and reporting potential candidates. They are probably an expert when it comes to information gathering to find even the reveils hidden in the most remote locations. For every scholar, an intensive investigation must have been done to get them.
Once the student becomes a Dimasalang Foundation scholar, aside from financial assistance, he and his relatives are also provided protection from getting used as blackmail pieces. The scholarship specifically protects the student's will. Some nobles could use some underhanded methods to threaten a talented student to join them. With DF scholarship, even the nobles will not act as reckless and risk offending the foundation. If they want to recruit a student under DFS, the person must be willing to join them and all involved party must be present during negotiations.
The scholars are not openly announced but they are not top secret either. To know if someone is a scholar, one must check into their student profile and look in their "affiliations."
There, they will find "Dimasalang Foundation" which puts them under their protection.
"This scholarship is usually given to those who need them the most." Kris continues. "As I can see, the one who will most likely attract the nobles’ attention is Blakewood. She’s openly showing off out there. But with the scholarship she's going to be fine."
"But what if those who doesn't have this scholarship gets the attention of a noble?" Tristan asks softly.
"Well, that's gonna be pretty hard to deal with. The easiest way is to just accept whatever offer they are giving or try to negotiate to get something you really want in exchange of the service."
"What if they approach with bad intention?"
"That's a very rare case. Nobles do not want to deal with small fries. If so, that person must have really pissed them off." He smiles at the student to ease his gloomy aura. “Many students consider being chosen by the nobles as good luck. With a noble house backing you, you can earn great fortune or gain more influence.”
Tristan falls deep in thought. He is thinking about what Kris just explained to him. To be a scholar, there must be something about them that would make the nobles really want them to be under their house's name. He does not believe that those three would want any of the rewards the nobles can offer. They probably would not even think twice about rejecting those kinds of offers.
Thirty-six minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
“Damn it! I cannot believe that I let that Will-guy run away. I gotta find him quick.” Blair curses while running around the recreation area.
Since she is unable to find him after looking so hard, there is a possibility that he has already left the area. Now, how is she going to figure out which way that Will-guy went to? Judging from how they acted a while ago, that group must be moving forward. Forward? Forward left? Forward right? Forward a little bit to the left? She has no idea. Maybe it will be fine as long as she goes forward. At least she has a direction to follow.
But then again, this girl is directionally challenged.
From the recreation area, if she takes the route straight forward then she must be going near the green dorms. She looks around one more time before running towards the direction she decided to take.
“Might that be too dangerous for a lone ubliss?” Blair’s mind wonders off while running.
Without even realizing it, she finds herself back in the recreation area. She scratches her head as if she is confused as to why she is back there again. But never mind that, she just have to try again. Getting lost once cannot stop her from running around in circles.
The moment she takes a step forward, she hears something mechanical from behind her curiosity, or rather her instinct hinted her that she must be wary of those that are coming her way.
“Robots?” She asks herself. She does not know if she should feel excited at the thought or not.
“I really wanna see one.”
She can slightly hear the sound of gears and mechanical joints rasping at each other. From the dimly shadowed forest far ahead, little round glows sparks one after another like the eyes of ferocious beasts dwelling in the wilds. The banging sound of their footsteps followed by mechanical frictions clearly spells out how large those things might be. From the end of the forest to the boundary of the recreation area, she gazes at those large humanoid machines marching slowly like a foreboding warning to whoever lays their eyes upon them.
One step makes the concrete flooring of the recreation area crack. Now that they are closer, she can feel slight tremor from the ground every time they move. Even if they are huge, they are too heavy that is why they move as slow as snail. There is nothing to be afraid of; for her they are just piles of junk now. She takes on her fighting stance and prepares herself to see how it will attack.
When one of those machines becomes clear in her field of vision, it suddenly rotated its torso while its metal arms are stretched at its side. It spins like the helicopter’s rotor blades. It must have detected her presence and classified her as an object to be eliminated.
“I’m in deep shit if I get hit by those.” She tells herself while anticipating the rusty junks closing in. One after another, they are moving in the same manner. “I wonder if they could identify me. Well, as long as I time my D-shift, it’s not a problem. I just have to pass through and mess up the circuits inside. Here it comes--!!”
She runs towards the giant machine's direction. She is sure that her D-shift is on so it should not be able to land a hit on her… but then the next thing she knows, she is already rapidly flying backwards. It is a short dash mid-air then she crashed in the wooden stand of a closed food booth. The crashing sound of the wood and few utensils falling keeps ringing in her ears while she lies half-awake covered by the rubles. She cannot understand what just happened.
“I have to recover my strength.” She does not know how that huge metal junk is able to hit her despite using D-shift. As far as she knows, the only times her D-shift will not work is when the object is imbued with magic. “Crap, does that thing use magic?” She grumbles while she struggles to move.
She watches the machines pass. Her gut-feeling is telling her that that thing cannot possibly be using magic. Her gut-feeling is usually right. It saved her many time from danger, but sometimes it also cannot stop her from rushing towards trouble.
She feels horrible. Blood pours down from her forehead, and it is slightly obstructing her vision. As she sits up to reach for the broken wooden block in front, it is as if she could hear her back bone crack. No, actually her lower ribs are throbbing. Well, they must be broken. She grits her teeth. She reaches out to the front grabbing the wooden foundation to help her get up. She looks straight ahead; her eyes burning with fury.
“Whatever you are… I’LL FUCKIN’ RIP YOU TO SHREDS!”
But what bad luck she got right now. Before she could even stand up, one of those giant machines is already positioned in front of her. With an old creaking sound, a window-like space opens in its body. From within, a machine gun-looking thing –perhaps it really is one– peeks out and is pointing at her head. As she looks into the barrel, an image of her brain getting blown away suddenly flashed in her mind.
“W-what?.. ‘tis bad omen?” She almost scoffs at her misfortune.
Emil fullplate armor design
Duke full yashou form design
Support the artist
Asylum's Counter Attack
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission/consent by the author.