Counter 18: Hurricane of Beasts
Thirty-seven minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Admin building, BK Headquarters, Monitor Room
Through the monitors, Oryx watches the scenery that is being engulfed by chaos. There are countless security cameras floating around the academy. In times like this, they are very useful in gathering information and keeping them updated about the current events inside the island.
His expression is serious but it does not show any hint of worry.
“I have always known that things will come to this. That is why we have to be very vigilant when we hold this event every year. It has been five years since someone thought of stirring up an attack to our beloved academy.”
There must be more than one organization involved in this attack. There is most likely more than one objective. He already has thought of several possible targets. One of their objectives must be to acquire that ancient artifact, the Statue of Acheron. After learning about it, Oryx has anticipated that it will be targeted by organizations with bad intentions. That is why he decided to hide it in the place they would least likely to expect it to be.
The Statue of Acheron was sent to his friend anonymously, then that friend gave it to him to have it studied. At that time, Oryx had no idea that it will be such important item. With Pana’s help, after careful inspection and rigorous research, they learned that it might be one of the five ancient artifacts that had been classified by ICA to be highly dangerous. It might as well be the artifact that was used to annihilate one of the Five Divine Kings and his followers, during the Age of Kings. That incident is one of the reasons that started the Age of Chaos.
That is why he has prepared himself to face this scenario. One way or the other, it will become the target of underground organizations and the most likely day for them to take action is today.
As for the other objective, she is already out there right in the middle of this mess. What is she doing? Using herself as the bait…
Thinking about all these, Oryx lets out a nervous laugh.
“What are you spacing out about?” Sadi’s voice takes him by surprise. “Are you really taking our situation seriously?”
“W-well, of course!”
“Not only that you don’t look like it, you also don’t sound serious.” She says while shaking her head in dismay.
“Don’t worry. I assure you, we are fully prepared for this.” He answers with a forced grin extending from ear to ear. “I have anticipated an attack from those vicious enemies of ours after all.”
She averts her eyes away from Oryx and before fixing her gaze at the monitors in front.
“Yeah,” she sounds uninterested. “But you didn’t expect its scale to be this huge, did you?” She fixes her glasses. “They are even messing around District 3. They have the power to put ICA in such a critical situation.”
He gulps. His throat feels dry. She is right, and also partly wrong. “Well… It’s not like we couldn’t handle this at all, right? Even though most of our reveil class faculties are away… and even though half of our students are away… and even though most that are left here are inexperienced freshmen and sophomores…”
“Hey, are you cursing yourself? No—aren’t you actually cursing everyone?”
Oryx have positioned their remaining fighters around the academy. They have twelve ICA guards left to defend the admin building and the faculty inside. Depending on the situation, he could use his authority as the Headmaster to move them. They have fifty-five BK left –composed of first and second year students only. They have been divided into groups based on their class and powers. Nine of them are in the admin building –the monitor room— to maintain communications and update the headmaster of the current situation. Two groups of five are stationed by the shore. Three groups of five are guarding the dorms. Another three groups of five are at the main gate. And the remaining six are stationed as guards in three of the four watch towers. Why only three? Because the fourth watch tower is in Jhalil’s jurisdiction. They will surely be fine there without BK's help. That is what he believes.
A knock on the door interrupts Oryx' inner monologue. It is then followed by a female voice, “We got a problem,” says she. The door opens and then she walks in casually. This time she looks like she is in her early twenties, short haircut extending down her nape. She is wearing a semi-formal office lady suit. “I lost contact with Pana, the barrier is falling.”
“Just as expected,” Oryx responds with an observing gaze, looking straight into her eyes. “What happened, Sylphid?”
She pauses for a moment. “I can sense an overwhelming presence above.” She says with low serious tone before biting her right thumb nail. “I lost focus for a moment, just for a mere few seconds and then I wasn’t able the get back my senses on that doll.”
“I see,” he replies while thinking over the next course of action. “Let’s mobilize some groups of BK and inform our other allies in the field.” He commands after a short pause. “Open lines 3 and 4, then contact line 1, 2, 5 through 10. Send the files of the enemy’s current location to all watch tower guards. Tell line 13 to prepare to move.”
“Okay, I’m done with my report,” Sylphid says after observing for a while. “I’ll go back to the faculty room and look after the other staffs. The headmaster aside… Sadi, you’re an ubliss too, aren’t you coming?”
“No,” Sadi answers frankly while wiping her glasses. “I want to keep myself updated about this situation. Either way, if I can’t be safe here, it won’t make any difference if I go there.”
“I understand.” Then she bows before leaving.
Meanwhile, Oryx looks like he is lost in his own thoughts again. As such, the room is left with only the ticking and buzzing of machines.
“Okay. I have expected something like this, like having our main barrier fall. I thought we could buy more time. Our reinforcements cannot come to our aid… not in the next twenty minutes at least.”
Forty-three minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon
The gym’s roof
“Are you sure about this move? Are you not going to let them fight? At this point those proud students are nothing more than a liability to you.”
Whoever is behind this voice, it seems that he is trying to convince Azalea to remove the barrier around the dormitories. Azalea is well aware of this man’s point. However, the time is not right. At this point, most students will only put themselves in danger due to confusion. Then again, just a minute ago, she felt a group of people slip out of her barrier. It might be just a fluke on her side, that is what she wants to believe but she knows her senses cannot be wrong. Whoever those people are, they can by-pass her magic barrier so she hopes that they can manage themselves well. If they have this level of skill then they most likely will not easily die.
Azalea looks behind her left shoulder. A blurry figure is present, like a ghost. She cannot explain how that thing got inside her barrier without her sensing it. She observes her surroundings and the enemies to check how this man is connected to their current situation. Elen, Gaozu and Taka are showing no specific reaction. It seems that she is the only one that can see and talk to it.
“What are you?” She asks with her soft and gentle sounding voice.
“I am human.” The voice answers with a mysterious tone.
She keeps her barrier up and steady while two of the intruders keeps on attacking. They may as well be wasting their energy. If Azalea chose to let go of the barrier and fight seriously, those small fries would not be a problem. However, defeating the enemy is not her priority.
“How long can you keep this act?”
“Sorry,” Azalea answers while turning away to fix her eyes back to the direction of the dorms. “I do not have time to chat with some weird creature.” Even though she keeps her senses in full alert, she cannot detect any hostility from that blurry figure.
“I do not intend to waste your time,” the mysterious voice replies.
She does not respond.
“Azalea, if you keep this up, they’ll know where you are. Aren’t you exposing yourself too much? If they attack this place then--”
The voice stops as if it suddenly realizes something.
The mysterious figure could not help but chuckle. “That is indeed her plan. It’s so like her, acting as the bait lure the enemy out now.”
Azalea might be under the impression that those organizations’ target got nothing to do with her, but that is a misconception in her part. Maybe she still does not realize or she is just denying the fact, her infamy attracts much unnecessary attention.
The silence ends when Azalea’s phone rings. She takes some time staring at it and then she totally ignores the call.
“Who might it be?”
She puts it back in her pocket, sighs and then she sneakily wipes the drop of sweat rolling down her chin. Even though she did not answer the call, her facial expression evidently shows a mix of distress and concern. It is definitely bothering her. She is not turning her sight away from the direction of the dorms no matter how strong the banging sound coming from the attacks are.
Strong-willed, or most likely just stubborn.
“Given how she acts right now, she will definitely ignore whatever I tell her. I should wait for a better timing.” He tells himself while silently watching.
He has been looking for her; for the past ten years, not even once did he think of giving up. Luna is cautious, she is very cautious that tracing her daughter's whereabouts is made to be very difficult.
He can still remember that night when he delivered the news of Xavier’s death to Luna. He offered to help but he was refused and kicked out of the house. He had to back away and give them some space back then. He did not expect that a terrible catastrophe would fall in that city. Since then, he decided that he should not rush things and watch over them; silently protecting them in the shadows. For the two years after that night, he was only keeping track of where they are and how they are living. That was enough as long as they were safe. Until the traffic accident that took Luna's life happened.
To hide Azalea's existence, he moved her from one orphanage to another until he found a small and isolated place to keep her until she grows older and ready to face her reality. Unfortunately, he did not expect Naraka to show up. Nobody would have thought of something like that. When he got the chance to check on her situation, she was gone. After that, looking for her became nearly impossible. But a year ago, news about the Witch of the West and the Bewitched Demon Hunter caught his attention. The hunt to find her once again begins.
“Of all places, you just have to be here… AB Academy… this peaceful-looking school might as well be a very dangerous place for you.” He says softly.
Azalea just stands, keeping watch on the roof of the school gymnasium. Here, she can see the smoke coming from the library area as well as from the area near the green dormitory.
She turns her sight towards the shore. There, weak sparks of light glitters from time to time. There are probably some groups of students, the BK that are fighting the metaghosts as well. If they are attacking from the eastern direction –Nalkad Island’s shores– then they must also have prepared something to attack from the west –the main entrance or administration building.
Her phone rings again.
“It’s Yan,” she mutters while looking at the glowing screen. She lets it ring. And she leaves it ringing. “Sorry Yan, I don’t want to take your call right now.” she tells herself while keeping her attention on their current situation. “She must have seen the news already and knows that AB Academy is under attack. I’m sure she’s worried about me but… right now… I don’t want to listen to what you want to say, Yan.”
The ringing comes to a stop. But then again, it started ringing again. For how many times now? Will it not stop until she picks it up? She frowns as she reaches for her phone to take a peek. “It’s the old fart,” she clicks her tongue. For a moment, she ponders whether he is worth hearing out or not. But maybe she should not ignore it. “Hello?..”
“Ah--!” His annoying voice indeed. “What took you so long to pick up? I thought something bad already happened to you.”
“Well, as you can hear, I’m fine. If you just called me to goof around then I’m--”
“Wait, wait, wait-!!” He answers aggressively. “You should be already aware of this. The academy’s main barrier had fallen.”
“Pull back,” his voice turns deep and cold. “Azalea, your playtime is over. Please pull back from this battle.”
She keeps her silence for a while. The headmaster is serious this time. How should she answer him properly? So that her thoughts could reach him.
“Headmaster,” she breaks the long silence. She could almost hear him sigh from the other end. “I believe I have told you… I will respond to any kind of situation the way I see fit.”
“Stubborn as ever, I see.” He sounds calm. He does not sound surprised. Had he expected her to disregard his request? “Since you seem determined,” he continues, “I think it’s not fair if I don’t let you know about this.”
“Quit dilly-dallying,” she is not in the mood to beat around the bush. “Just spit it out.”
“May I assume that you are already aware of their objective?” He inquires formally.
Azalea keeps her silence.
“They are after that ancient artifact, the Acheron. It is one of the five artifacts that is said to have the key to call strong demons from a different dimension into ours. But that’s not the important piece here… The person who found that artifact is a Rune Adventurer named Rei Vax D. Blake.”
“Rei Vax D. Blake,” she repeats. The sound of that name sparks sudden formation of ideas in her mind. “Rei… Vax… I see, thank you, Headmaster.” She answers before ending the call.
“That was quite long,” that voice chimes close to her again, so she turns towards her right side where it came from. “Why do you keep on ignoring me?” He says casually while his body is starting to become clearer. “Maybe you’ll pay more attention to me now that I have gained a physical form.” He smiles. He is wearing a mask, simple pure white that is covering the upper half of his face.
Azalea can clearly see his mouth down to his chin, while the upper part of his face is covered aside from the two holes for his eyes to peek on.
“You look stunned. Is my presence that hard to bear?” It is not just because of that mask, his long bangs are also partly covering his eyes. His black, silky hair extends a little over his collar bone. He is wearing black long sleeve polo and black pants, though his lower body is incomplete from the knees down. He is like a ghost.
“What the hell are you?..” Azalea blurts out; her brow twitches.
“I am Malikk.”
“Malikk?.. Malikk who?”
“Just Malikk,” he answers with a gentle smile. “Because if I tell you my full name, wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of the mask?”
“He is a smartass, I see.”
Azalea then decides to ignore him. Since she is the only one who can see this weird ghost guy, it will only make her look like an idiot if she continues to talk to him. She has to keep her concentration on the barriers. Once it falls, she will not be able to create it again.
“HEY, YOU THERE!!!” Two male voices blast a shout from mid-air. They have appeared out of nowhere and then immediately disappeared again.
“What the fuck was that?!” Gaozu with puzzled face looks around. Then all of a sudden he finds himself floating in mid-air. “Dafa--!!” He cusses while falling from the roof down the ground.
“Gaozu!!” Taka shouts while running towards the edge of the roof.
Elen turns towards their direction to check on the fuss. “Taka, be careful!”
Hearing the commotion, Azalea turns around to get a clearer view of whatever is happening.
If not both, then one of them can teleport himself along with another person. Azalea looks around for them. She notices that they are wearing the academy's uniform but she did not get a good look at it. Then the two men again appear near the ends of her barrier. One has dark skinned muscular body with height that must be more than six feet. He has shaved his black hair baring his face clear and his black eyes unobstructed. The other got more average body type, lightly tanned skin; nicely brushed peach colored hair. He appears a little shorter standing beside his gigantic partner. Both of them are wearing BK armbands that explains why they can wander around during this time of crisis.
“This is weird,” one with peach hair says. “I tried to teleport closer to Miss mage over there but I can’t get the right location.”
“It appears that some help had come your way.” Malikk says calmly.
“Ah, Ren… maybe your power is malfunctioning.” The larger guy observes the area close to the mage. “We still can’t do this move perfectly after all.” He then fixes his eyes on Azalea.
“Hello,” he waves, “my name is Zen Ntare Harsiotef.”
The other guy waves while wearing a refreshing smile. “I am Ren Agila.” He moves his eyes around, while Zen keeps watch of the enemies. “Are you alone? Why is a mage fighting here alone?”
By observing the expression he makes, Azalea then concludes that he cannot see the figure here beside her. “I’m fine here,” she answers casually. “I’m sure you are headed somewhere else, so please don’t mind me.”
“Stop acting tough. Make use of whatever’s sent to you.” Malikk suggests appealingly.
“Your answer is wrong.” Ren says as he touches the barrier in front of him. “Please introduce yourself. Are you a student? What’s your name?”
“Er- Yah, Azalea Blakewo-.. od.” Malikk's comment has distracted her that she answered without thinking. “Arg- crap!”
“O-oh… Then…” Zen chuckles, “Azalea, we’ll take care of those guys. You can keep doing whatever it is you’re doing there. You see, we were supposed to go see the situation in the dorms but we sort of got separated from our team. I have no idea what your task here is but for sure, someone with such badass looking staff ain’t doing some minor job, right?”
“Strategy and tactics isn't our specialty, so you don’t have to spare us the details.” Ren adds as he moves his hand away from the surface of the barrier.
Ren taps Zen's shoulder and then they teleported. Both suddenly appear briefly at Taka’s side before the three of them teleports out of Azalea's sight.
Ren and Zen, Gaozu and Taka, left the scene.
Azalea's eyes surveys the less crowded and more silent roof. “Those BKs are kind of weird but seems like they are trustworthy enough. They must have mistaken me to be part of whatever operation they are on.” She looks at the enemy who appears composed in front of her. “Elen does not look like she is going to make a move, or is she planning something else? In any case, I just have to hold my ground here.”
“Why do you keep on ignoring me?” Malikk starts pestering her again. “You’re not doing anything anyway, why don’t you have a chat with me. You know, just to kill time.”
For a moment she wonders if he is trying to break her concentration. “No, you are such a bother.” If she loses focus, the barriers might fall.
“I’ll give you a bonus.”
She turns to look him in the eyes. “I’m not asking for th--” She cannot finish her speech when she gets a clearer look at his eyes. His facial features are becoming clearer more than before. “The color is... purple?..”
Forty-two minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Inside an aircraft above Nalkad Island
Yhor and Asna are keeping an eye and observing the progress of their attack in the academy. After a while, Yhor checked his watch before taking a deep breath. It does not appear like they will stay idle all the time.
“The witch and the K’shirm woman are alone now, brother.” Asna says while looking down at the gymnasium.
“Hm. The next part of the show is about to begin, just as scheduled.” Yhor’s cold-toned voice rings. “Is she really alone?” He whispers.
Asna looks at him inquisitively as she tries to distinguish the vague sentence her brother just muttered. When Yhor notices the expression in her eyes while she peers at him silently, he then deliberately brushes off the topic. “Those rusty scraps we gave to K’shirm had served their purpose well. Asna, begin phase two.”
“Alright! We’re going closer down there!” She answers enthusiastically, then she opens a portal beside her. “Let’s go,” she says while pulling Yhor’s hand and then they walk into the portal.
Just above the admin building, another portal opens, from there, Yhor and Asna comes out. They stand floating in mid-air. Their foothold is made of a magic circle. They are facing the admin building’s garden area. From there, Asna looks around and then waves her arm across. She snaps her fingers and then three portals open simultaneously in the grounds of the garden. From the pitch-black interior of the portals, monsters begin to spring out one after another. From three portals, three types of monster are coming out. All of those monsters are acting aggressively as soon as they step in the academy grounds. They are immediately attacking and destroying anything nearby.
“Now, now… just this can’t be enough to stop them, right?” Yhor’s deep voice echoes as if it is drawn far within the abyss.
Asna silently agrees as her gaze rolls across the academy below. She pauses and stares at the empty field in the middle. “Shall we call some demon then?”
Her sinister smile proves her words to be far from a mere threat as another larger portal—at least five times larger than those three in the garden area—has appeared in the middle of the field.
“Il Darvan seems to have grown tired of waiting!”
It’s as if the space is cracking, the ground is shaking. The huge portal opens an endless pitch black path and from within thundering roars echo filling the surroundings with terror.
Zen Ntare Harsiotef
Member of Balaam Knights
Member of Balaam Knights
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The Bewitched Demon Hunter
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