Counter 16: State of Calamity
Twenty-nine minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
The rooftop of the gymnasium
The intruders have entered the academy grounds through three different routes.
The first is through the airspace using a plane that has crashed near the admin building. Three intruders, Elen, Gaozu, and Taka, have dropped down from the plane taking the gym’s roof as their base of operations. Unexpectedly, Azalea has also chosen the same spot to monitor the situation inside the academy.
The second group has come through the beach side of the island. There Xiao Feng confronted them but most of the intruders have passed through leaving only one to impede her from pursuing the others. Meanwhile, Blair has already made her way to the recreational area and is waiting for the intruders to arrive. She battles with two of them while the others hurriedly escape. After Xiao Feng defeats C36, she comes across another problem. A horde of unknown machines are rising from the sea and have started to enter the island through the same beach side.
Another group has entered AB Academy grounds through the southern cliff side. They used boats to get near and then climbed the cliff. A pair of them is taken care of by Isaw Crownheit. A group that has split up to proceed towards the admin building is stopped by Evancross and Keito. Another separated group encounters a group of BK and gets completely annihilated.
Azalea has expected that there would be more than one organization targeting the academy on this day. Yet, there are some things that do not fall right within her calculations.
These two guys suddenly decided that they want to break through her barrier. It is not like they could though. With their next step in progress, she has to move forward as well. With those so called Metaghosts on the move, she has to send the data she gathered to everyone else. With the help of Tristan's power, she is able to anticipate that something like those machines made of trandium is going to be mobilized; however she could not figure out which model. Now that they have appeared, the information she needs are all gathered. It just needs to be distributed.
Then there is the issue with the dorms and the students being sheltered. She cannot keep them inside for too after all. But the timing of release is also important. She cannot just remove the magic barrier randomly… even though it keeps draining her mana.
Those guys keep on hammering their fists on the barrier. They are wasting their time. Elen should already know that.
"Why?" She asks herself. "In any case, I cannot let myself stay idle any longer." She moves her right hand to touch the crystal in her collar.
Right after the aircraft crashed near the admin building, Azalea has activated the barriers she set up around the three dormitories. One elite-tier barrier for each dorm. It is an area effect spell that she can maintain as long as the area is within her range of vision. Adding the magic barrier she has around herself makes four spells being active at the same time. It is not something that just any elite-tier mage can do. Keeping this many spells that needs a lot of concentration and consume large amount of mana pretty much puts her above some god-tier mages.
No matter how strong she looks right now there are still some downsides to this strategy.
One of which is that the barrier does not only keep the enemies outside but it also locks the students inside the dorms. As long as the magic barrier is up, only students that are already outside can fight against the intruders. If anything happens, they cannot expect reinforcements from those inside the dorms.
Aside from that, there is also the problem on her inexperience in using defensive spells. For the past years, she can only practice her offensive and destructive magic due to her occupation as a Demon Hunter. She did not have much opportunity to hunt with a group and that resulted in her learning defensive magic lag behind. Though, the biggest reason why she is so bad at defensive magic is mainly because of her master’s insane ideals. Her master did not teach her defensive spells because she is someone who purely relied on destructive and strong damage dealing magic. Her master had a crazy belief, that the best defense is eliminating the threat before it could become one. Since the moment she has learnt how to use her magic, this is the first time she is doing something this daring. This is also the reason why she cannot say how long she can hold on keeping those barriers active. Furthermore, this new area effect magic barrier is only something she crammed to learn in the past weeks. Without proper mentor and enough practice, the spell is still incomplete and imbalance. The imbalance in the formation of the spell makes it waste to much mana which is the reason why it consumes more mana than it supposed to while it falls behind in durability compared to how it is meant to be.
At this rate, Azalea might as well just exhaust her mana and then collapse before this battle is over. This is a very reckless gamble on her side.
“Why does she keep on ignoring us?!”
Azalea can hear the boisterous voice of the two while she keeps her eyes fixed at the direction of the dormitories.
“It’s no use targeting that barrier.” Elen’s voice rings sounding so annoyed. “There’s got to be a weak spot somewhere. Focus your attacks on one place.”
Then the attacks start to become more coordinated due to Elen’s instructions.
"I have to stay focused."
The magic barrier that Azalea has casted is one that hides human heat energy from getting detected by the sensors of the approaching metaghosts. It makes everyone inside the dormitory invisible to these machines.
“Are you sure about this move?” A familiar man’s voice suddenly rings beside her. “Are you not going to let them fight? At this point those proud students are nothing more than a liability to you.”
There is no one around. But the voice sounds so close. Her spell, Pulse, is also not detecting anyone around her except Elen's group. The one talking is not one of them. A sudden rush of anxiety creeps at the back of her mind. No one is supposed to be able to get inside the barrier. For a moment her distracted mind almost makes a slip that could have broken the magic barriers. She takes a deep breath and calms down.
Azalea looks around trying to find the source of the voice she just heard. She wears a confused expression as she turns her head around. She pauses and ponders for a second doubting her own mental state. Maybe she pushed herself too much these past few weeks. Her extreme lack of sleep is making her hallucinate and hear non-existent voice.
“Am I hearing things now?” She asks herself while gathering her composure to normal level.
“That’s rude, Azalea. I’m right here.”
She can see no one, but she is sure that someone is beside her. Furthermore, the voice she is hearing sounds so nostalgic. A tone so comfortable. It is something she believes she will never hear again in this life.
“There is no way, right?… I can’t even remember his voice anymore… But why does hearing it take me back to those times?.. Father?..”
Forty-one minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
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.
Blair still cannot move right now. It is true that she is somewhat screwed. As she thinks things that way, stranded on her knees, something smears her view and then it is immediately followed by a loud crashing sound.
“Hit two birds with one stone,” a familiar man says enthusiastically while standing in front of her. “I decided to come out because it looked like you needed help.”
Blair then moves her eyes up, to the side where the crashing sound originated; the machine in front of her a while ago has crashed smashing with another machine causing them to cease operating. This guy just kicked one while purposely targeting another.
“Aaah--!!” Something snaps in her memories. “You’re that guy from before! D-dai… Dice?”
“It’s DAISUKE!” He growls. “Daisuke Nekogami, from Smash!”
“Yes, Dai!” She says while standing up.
He suddenly steps back with a surprised look on his face. “Don’t call me by my nickname, we’re not that close. WAIT--!! You shouldn’t be moving yet! You might have broken several bones.”
“Don’t worry, I’m fi--” She responds with a cheerful look but suddenly she feels hard to breath. She grabs the center of her chest before starting to cough uncontrollably. Perhaps by mistake, blood is also starting to pour out of her mouth. “I-I’m fine.” Her voice shakes and rasps while she shows one thumb up.
“NO! OBVIOUSLY NOT!”
“Like I said, my body is fit and healthy. I exercise every day.”
“That’s totally irrelevant to your injuries right now!” He growls then he notices something at her side. “I think someone’s calling you.”
She takes her phone out and then looks at the name displayed on the cracked screen. She then recalls that they are supposed to report their situation to Azalea every now and then.
Reporting also becomes a priority when a major change happens. In this case she should have called her before acting on her own to fight the robots. Well, she cannot help it because she cannot even remember when and how she lost her earpiece which is supposed to be a convenient way of communicating.
“I feel dizzy.”
This person calling must be really angry now. Blair does not feel like answering the call but she has to. While she is pondering whether to take the call or not, Daisuke is kicking other machines that are closing in on them.
She gulps. “Hello Az?”
There is a long silence from the other line. It makes her feel nervous.
“Blair?” The voice quivers from the other line. “How are you? No—if you can answer the phone just do it quickly, mountain idiot.”
A solemn voice, it does not sound angry. A nostalgic feeling refreshes Blair’s mind. She has heard this tone before.
“I told you not to rush things. Stay put and check the mail I sent you. Hey mountain idiot, are you listening?”
She remembers how her mom would talk to her every time she comes home late and full of bruises. It is a voice with a fleeting sound of relief.
“S-sorry,” she answers instinctively. She pulls her senses back together. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. I can at least still wal--” A sharp pain erupts from within her chest as if something is screwing with her innards. Bragging does not help when she needs it the most. She falls on her knees clutching her abdomen with her hand while her body twists in agony.
“Oi, what did you just do?” Azalea’s faded voice growls from the phone that she is still holding.
Blair struggles trying to position her phone closer to her ear. She gives up on standing or sitting and just lies down on the cold concrete.
“Stay put for god’s sake! Is it that hard for you to understand, stupid mountain idiot?”
She grits her teeth. “Bitch, I’ll really kill you later!” She answers with her pained hoarse voice.
“Do they get along? Or do they not?” Daisuke mumbles as he listens to their chatter. “For now, I have to guard… and make them owe me.”
“Yeah, I’ll be waiting.” Azalea responds with a snort. “Okay, tell me which part of the recreational area you are right now.”
“Somewhere close to the food stands.”
The line is suddenly cut off. Not long after that a magic circle unexpectedly glows on the place where she is lying. The circle is around ten meters in diameter and is covering a large part of the food stand area. Then, above that big circle, around five or more magic circles glowed for a fraction of a second. Feeling amazed by it, Blair forces herself to sit up and then she notices small sparks of light over her wounds. Her bruises are disappearing one after another. There is a sudden surge of refreshment. The pain she felt a while ago is slowly declining. She can feel her larger wound getting healed. She stands up while looking at her revitalized body. Her supposed to be fractured ribs feels like it never even had the slightest crack.
Meanwhile, not far from her, Daisuke witnesses the miracle happen making his jaws drop.
One glance and he can tell that that is an area-effect healing magic. It is an elite-tier spell that takes years of study and practice before someone could perfectly use it that way. The only mage present in this academy who can possibly use it in this timing is that person. The one who called must be Azalea Blakewood. She just casted an elite-tier magic making it look so easy. When did she learn such magic? Not only that she just turned sixteen this year, there is not really a need or opportunity for her to use it back when she was still a demon hunter. She used to travel and hunt alone.
“All right!” Blair exclaims while doing warm-up exercises. “I’m ready to beat the shit out of these robots!”
“Seriously? This violent woman.” He mutters after kicking another of those machiines away. “Is she fully healed already?!”
He looks at Blair with unbelieving eyes. She just got herself knock into that wooden wall by that rusty machine yet she still have this much energy to goof around. She may not know it but that wood is one of the finest and toughest woods that rich facilities use nowadays.
“Red head, what kind of exercise were you doing before you got in the academy? You did not train to be some kind of hunter, did you?”
“Huh? No.” She answers casually. “I used to wrestle with Ursas. There were a lot of them back in the mountain area in my village. I don’t get along with other kids so I spent most of my time with the animals in the mountains.”
“Eh? Ursas are not animals, they are categorized as monsters.” Daisuke’s eye twitches while listening to that nonsense.
Those large bear-like beast with sharp claws and teeth, toughened by its mana coated furs and incredible strength that could throw at least thirteen men into the air. She just said casually that she wrestled with those monsters?
Blair is about to charge forward when he grabs her shoulder putting a stop to her reckless attempt.
“Did your leader tell you anything about these rampaging machines?” He asks while wearing a forced smile.
“Ah, that-!” She pulls out her cracked phone and then starts looking for something.. “Az sent me something. Here, check it out.”
Then she throws her phone towards Daisuke.
“She’s not very careful with her stuff, huh.” Daisuke catches the phone using both hands.
The file is already displayed there. It seems that it contains summarized information about the robots. He starts to scan through it to quickly get whatever useful information is available there.
“H-hey, Dice.” She calls. “Explain it to me too.”
That is not his name so hesitates to answer. “Yeah, wait a moment,” he sighs before scanning through the files again.
Back then, stories about the youngest demon hunter fascinated him. For fun, he investigated the accomplishment of the Witch of the West, he followed the news like he is reading an entertaining novel. Without realizing it, he too, admired her skills. Her actions are always calculated; tactics and strategies name it, she had mastered them all. He believed that her charm is due to her mysterious and intimidating solitary life. He never would have imagined that she will show up in this academy fooling around. She founded a club that is led by some wimpy-looking kid and composed of such rowdy members. Furthermore, her closest ally seems to be this wild and reckless red-head. This red-head will most likely always somehow screw up the plans. Will it not be troublesome?
“Hey, hey,” she calls again. “Are you done reading yet? Explain it to me too.”
“Okay,” he replies unwillingly. “Those things are called Metaghost.”
Metaghosts are a kind of machine that the ubliss invented to fight against the overpowered reveils. Those junks are made of Trandium, a kind of rare metal that can only be mined in the country of Ragshelm. This metal rejects the flow of mana and deflects all mana-related force coming in contact to it. These metaghosts comes in different models, and it appears that whichever organization is involved in this has sent them some scraps of the oldest model around. Metaghost model First Doll K-071 (M-FD-K071), it was released three centuries ago and is one of the foundation of the metaghost development.
“Unmanned machine, seven feet tall and about three hundred kilograms.” Daisuke continues to explain but when he looks at Blair, it does not seem that she is picking up anything.
“Waterproof… and it operated on an installed program. Hey, are you lis--”
“Y-yeah, yeah.” She replies with a broken smile. She forces a laugh while rubbing the back of her head. “Anyway, it just means we can’t use our powers against them, right?”
“Basically… though, it seems that we’ve already let a lot of those pass through.” He then stares at the seemingly endless lines of machines that are slowly marching forward.
He remembers seeing the other guy that Blair beat up a while go but he let him go because he saw two green students loitering ahead. They could take care of that weakling. He has no idea what happened then. Now, it may become dangerous once those metaghosts finds them, or other students that are still outside... or the dorms. Most, if not all, probably does not know what these machines are.
“We should stop these metaghosts from advancing any farther. It’ll be really bad if they reach the dorms!” He warns Blair
Blair scoffs before running a few steps ahead. “Don’t worry, Az must have done something about that already!”
“Ah, I see…” His questions earlier seem to have just been answered. “Blair Lisiantha… unlike Azalea, she does not see things through reason but rather she relies on her gut-feeling. Somewhat opposite and somewhat alike.”
His eyes chases after her back. She leaps fast forward and then hits a metaghost with a spinning kick. It flies backwards hitting two more.
“You’re strong, but you may not be fully healed yet!” He yells. “It will be too troublesome if you get yourself injured again. After all, I don’t want to take care of some extra baggage.”
“Well then,” she smirks and then draws the blades from her vambrace. “Let’s see who gets to beat more of these metal junks!”
With a wide grin, she cuts through the back armor of one of those metaghost. She inflicted one cut after the other while dodging from the attacks. She is fast, agile and physically strong too. Little by little, she cuts through its thick armor and then reaches the wires inside. It seems that her movements are well coordinated. It gives the impression that close combat is her specialty.
Daisuke watches her with amazement. In this case, not being able to use their power would pose no real problem. A sudden surge of excitement fills him inside.
The path of entry of the intruders, their positions, and the location of the
academy's people as they fight of the intruders.
academy's people as they fight of the intruders.
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