Surface of the Deep Water
Twenty-eighth day of Sat’xahr, Alti’zien, 4044 AOT
AB Academy, Administration Building, BK Headquarters
Few minutes before the clock hits four in the afternoon, AB Academy grounds is serenely quiet like a faraway meadow. Some students are energetically playing around while the others are peacefully passing by. During weekends, most students go to hang out around the city, in the malls, parks, amusement parks and the like. Some of them, who are living near or within Eldoon New City, return home for a while; however the academy demands that all students must go back inside the campus before curfew. Unless the student has applied for a weekend leave and then acquired a written permission to spend their weekend in their family or relative’s house, they are expected to return to the dorms before the sunset.
On the other hand, throughout the weekend, all members of the Balaam Knights in duty stay in the academy to guard the campus and watch the students’ activities; the officials train these members to patrol as well as to check internal movements. Most, if not all, students that join BK aspires to become part of a military division in the future. They may return to their homeland and serve their country or enlist in ICA to become part of their strongest army. This resolve is the reason why they take their duties in BK seriously; even more than their academics.
For BK’s commander, Ivanryd Naoe, weekends are just the same busy days like the regular ones. Around this time he goes through the reports of the team captains to evaluate the knights’ performance, make a report about it, recommend amendments, and review all incidents that BK and students got involved with for the past week.
In his office, the floor shines like it is always newly polished and the furniture are kept clean without a speck of dust left. There is only one place that looks crowded. On the commander’s table there are a lot of folders and envelopes containing different kinds of files piling up. The man with black hair and blue highlight is sitting there; his back is relaxed leaning on the chair. He closes his eyes and then pinches the bridge of his nose. His other hand holds a pen, ready to sign some papers. He made a deep breath, as if he has not been able to inhale some fresh air for hours. He exhales, replenishing his energy. He then opens his eyes, revealing his electric blue irises. He stares at the papers on his table before continuing his work. His eyes are so focused down the papers; he signs and puts them aside. One after another.
Two consecutive knocks cracks his concentration. “Sir,” a familiar man opens the door. A freshman with light blonde hair and grayish blue eyes steps in. He bows politely before continuing towards the commander’s table. “I have gathered the files you asked. About those students…” He then hands a flash drive.
Ivan reaches out for the flash drive. “This contains the detailed results of your investigation, Keito?” He asks for reassurance before plugging it into the computer beside him.
“I’m sorry,” he answers. His head hanging low with his eyes closed. “But there is some information that I cannot obtain no matter how much I searched for it.”
“Which one? Why?” His brows furrow while opening the file folders one after another. There he notices that one of Asylum’s member have almost non-existent personal information. “Blakewood, Azalea Ashina,” he whispers, his tone is grim.
“Azalea A. Blakewood.” Keito repeats while facing the commander. “Birthplace: Pixiu City in the country of Westar. Ten years ago, a large scale calamity erupted in the center of the city; the whole place was scorched down to ashes. The cause of the calamity is still unknown and the city remained a wasteland until now. All documents that relates to her birth had been destroyed. I tried to trace her whereabouts after that but it seemed that she moved with her mother from place after place. The last track of hers that I can confirm is that of the orphanage in Capplaesyo City, Young Angels Hope Orphanage. But again, everyone there are--”
“Enough,” says he, raising his arm gesturing a stop sign. It is as if he has gone all tired in the middle of listening to such report. He skims through the other files while Keito remains silent. “Red hair, red eyes,” he mumbles and then he covers his mouth with his left hand while keeping a serious look with his eyebrows crossing on his forehead. “Rank-B mage with rare skills. This guy has a questionable background as well. Saintgregor, two of them?.. Another esper, wait he had been involved in some cases from his hometown... And the professor handling this club, Jhalil Claws.” He leans back on his chair, keeping his head low, crossed arms, relaxed legs, staring blankly on the air for a few minutes. “Have there been any suspicious movements from the House of Rouge?”
“Nothing big since school started,” he answers attentively.
“What do you think about the incident with the nobles in the cafeteria?”
“Which one, sir?”
“Both of them.”
“I think it’s something like confronting or confirming the target. They probably have already planned something, from now on, they must be simply waiting for a good timing.”
“I see,” he responds with composure as he returns to his position signing a couple of documents. “Maybe I’ll leave Evan in that club for a while.” He continues still facing down.
“That odd collection of people… Keito, I want you to keep your guard up. They are going to be involved in trouble, whether they cause it or just get dragged in it… they’ll attract trouble like magnets of misfortune. Keep a look out, especially to that person named Azalea.” He turns his sight to Keito, eyes piercing and his voice deep and grim. “After looking through this little information about her, I’ve become very doubtful of that girl’s existence. Expand your search boundaries and continue on collecting information about her. Anything and everything that may be directly or indirectly connected to her must be investigated thoroughly.”
“Sir, yes sir!” Keito answers with firm will while he raises his hand to salute.
After hearing the command he relaxes his posture before turning away to leave. He is now going to go back to his duties as a rookie knight.
“According to ICA’s registry, neither of the ubliss named Luna Ashina nor the rune adventurer Xavier Blakewood, Jr. exists. Or at least, that’s what the paper says.” He continues to evaluate the information at hand, arguing with his inner self, proving and disproving every possibility he could think of. “Did she lie about their names? Or did she lie about her name? Maybe she changed her name somewhere in the past. Why?.. Am I over thinking this? Nevertheless, I definitely can’t trust someone with an unknown identity strolling around this academy.”
Twenty-eight day of Sat’xahr, Alti’zien, 4044 AOT
District 3, Mellow Out Café
Not returning to the dorms could have been a problem for some members of Asylum; fortunately, Lillian is able to immediately put an excuse together. As of the moment, the message has been received by Zharyx and it has been delivered to the dorm managers. This group of students went to visit an alumnus that is related to one of them and then lost track of time; that being the case they were asked to stay the night and return the next day. The excuse that they have come up with would not have been as effective if Lillian did not hold a good reputation earning her the trust of the school’s faculty. The members of Asylum that have not returned to the dorms will be staying under Lillian’s custody.
While waiting for Azalea’s return, Tristan thoughtlessly keeps on pulling and fixing his white gloves. “This place looks new… that or it’s just kept extremely neat.” He looks around. “Azalea didn’t tell me that she had any siblings so I just assumed she’s an only child.”
“She’s not?” Blair whose eyes keep wondering around says in a carefree tone. She pauses while tilting her head. “Hm… I guess, we don’t really talk about those stuffs.”
“I remember, she told me that her father suddenly disappeared before.” Tristan recalls.
“Why did she tell you that?” Evan’s expression feels sinister with his menacing smile.
Tristan gulps and then he averts his eyes away from Evan’s sight. “Well, we just had a little conversation back then before I joined Asylum.”
“What was that about?” He continued asking.
“It’s none of your shitty business,” a feminine voice answers from behind. “Stop prying into other people’s conversation.”
“Ah, Azalea,” Evan responds turning to her direction. “You’re back.” She stares at him for a while before taking a sit at the other end of the sofa. “You can sit closer to me,” says he with that same kind smile he always wears.
“I’m not sitting there because I don’t want to,” she answers coldly.
The purple gems on each hand seem to have been replaced with new ones. In fact, all the gems and what they used to think of as simple expensive accessories have been replaced with new ones. The cracks, grazes, and tatters are completely gone. To have prepared replacements in case they break, shows just how much she needs them. For her, those are not accessories, they are necessities.
“Don’t be rude to your own guests, Azalea.” Another feminine voice rings from the direction of the door. Lillian comes in with Kino following her, walking towards the living room; both are carrying a tray of different flavors of fruit smoothies. “Move; I’m going to take the edge of the sofa.” She lays the tray down the table.
Azalea grimaces. “Can’t you just sit in between?”
“No, you move over there.” She insists while pushing her giving her no choice but to submit.
“Hello,” she then turns her attention towards Azalea’s friends sitting on the sofa across. “I haven’t introduced myself properly yet. I’m Azalea’s guardian, Lillian Adams.”
Kino gently puts down the tray on the table. “Lillian, I’ll be taking the study room. Just tell Dino I’m going first. I’m sure he’s preparing something special for dinner.”
She nods and then Kino leaves the room. “Don’t be shy, I’m glad to know that this little rascal found some people she could confide in.” She wraps her arms around Azalea’s shoulders then pulls her close to her. “I’m especially grateful that Ivan’s little brother is helping you around.” She continues with a kind smile while fixing her eyes towards Evancross. “She isn’t used to city life, much less about school life, I was really worried that she might end up being an outcast amidst all these changes she’s facing. I am very thankful that she finally opened her heart a little to others.”
“She talks like a mom.” Tristan mumbles.
“You’re making it sound like I’m playing the role of some brooding anti-hero!” Azalea refutes while trying to get away from Lillian’s neck lock.
“I know very well what kind of person you are!” Lillian argues lowering her tone enough so that the guests will not hear her. “I have already been informed that you have been skipping a lot of your classes. I was very worried that you might become an outcast again.”
Azalea clicks her tongue and grits her teeth. “Goddamn it, Zharyx! You traitor!”
“Words, young lady!” She whispers before turning her gaze back to the guests. “Please make yourself at home.” She smiles.
Tristan forces a laugh. “Good evening,” he greets courteously with his hands clasped together. “I’m one of Azalea’s friends; my name is Tristan dela Torre. We’re in the same club.”
“I’m Az’ roommate, Blair Lisiantha.” She wears a wide smile making give off the impression like an innocent kid.
“Emil Franz Dreo, red zone student.” Everyone’s attention shifts to him after hearing his introduction. There is a brief pause as they stare at him. “What?” He wonders looking back at them with guiltless eyes.
“I believe, you didn’t have to specify that,” Tristan mumbles turning his gaze to the side while fidgeting with his gloves.
“I can’t believe you got in touch with the red zone too. You see, the red rarely interacts with other colors.” Lillian says; her jaws dropped. She then releases Azalea of her neck lock. “Here, get some refreshments.”
“Thank you,” Evan responds with a smile. “I believe I don’t have to introduce myself anymore, Miss Adams.”
“Of course, of course.” Lillian answers with a bright smile. “Don’t be so formal. I have been good friends with your brother. Evan is always welcome to visit here.”
Azalea clicks her tongue again.
“Blair Lisiantha,” Lillian mumbles while touching her chin. “Is the color of your hair and eyes natural?”
Blair tilts her head a little, and then pauses for a moment. “Does having red hair and eyes that rare here?”
“No… Actually, there are many others who have red hair or red eyes.” She fixes her eyes at her and then she changes her tone, deeper and softer. “What’s rare is if you have both of them. How do I say it?.. It’s unique, the physical appearance of a certain clan. Let me guess, you must have gotten into some troublesome situation because of that?”
“Sort of,” Blair answers while scratching the back of her head.
Emil then shifts his attention to Blair, staring at her for a while. “What do you mean troublesome situations?”
“I-it’s nothing,” she answers while averting her eyes from him.
Lillian stares at Blair with a serious look. It is clear from her expression that she is starting to figure something out. She is about to say something when-
“Oh look-!” Azalea interrupts pointing at the smoothies. “It’s your favorite flavor, chocolate!” She the grabbed it and then passes to Blair. “Great, nobody took it yet!” She forces a laugh.
At that moment, Lillian continues on staring at them. She is squinting her eyes. That is the look of a person who is picking up hints of suspicious activities going on.
Azalea cannot help but notice her calculating gaze.
“By the way, I’ve already called Miss Malupit so you won’t be in trouble when you return.”
Lillian continues still looking at them suspiciously. She picks up one glass of the yogurt melon smoothie and sipped a little. “Even if you don’t tell me everything in detail… One way or another, I’ll eventually find things out via Zharyx line.”
“I think Az’ guardian is hella scary.” Blair whispers invading Emil’s personal space.
“Stop leaning on me, sit properly.” Emil says softly as beads of sweat form on his forehead.
“You can take the guest rooms.” Lillian continues. “There are two available. You can prepare it while waiting for dinner.”
“I think she’s also a good person.” Blair whispers again in the same manner.
“Yeah. Could you stop that already?” Emil responds while leaning away.
“Azalea, take care of your guests.” Lillian says before leaving; going back to her job.
“Y-yes, ma’am.” Azalea answers with a crooked smile.
Right after Lillian leaves the room; Blair puts up a big smirk. “So, Az, what did that person do to you?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Azalea replies going back to her usual ill-mannered tone.
“Like, you won’t be that obedient if it’s nothing.” Tristan adds. His expression is very inquisitive.
“W-well…” Azalea looks away while scratching her nape. “She got something very important hostage. I can’t go back to my previous life without it.”
Blair tilts her head. “What is it?”
“I’m not telling you.” She pulls her business smile back. She then stands up. “Let’s go. I’ll show you the rooms we’ll use tonight.”
Azalea leads them to the guest rooms. The rooms where divided between boys and girls. In the room that Azalea and Blair will be using, Q lays sleeping peacefully. They prepared the rooms, both of which are spacious without any obstructing furniture. They cleaned the rooms, put out a folding mattress from the cabinet and laid it down. After preparing their sleeping quarters, Lillian called them out for dinner. After dinner, it seems that they all feel asleep due to the very tiring day they went through.
The next morning, Azalea wakes up first. She talks to Lillian while she is preparing for breakfast in the kitchen.
“Yan,” she calls.
“What is it?” Lillian responds with a smile. “I’m making pancakes. Do you have anything else you want to eat?”
“I’m fine with anything.” Azalea replies. Her tone is low. “I have a request.”
Lillian’s smile falls flat. “This has something to do with what happened yesterday?”
“Mhm. I need my armor and staff back… as soon as possible.”
“It’s that serious?” Her lips almost curl into a frown. Her expression is covered with worry as she stares straight into Azalea’s lightless eyes. “Okay. I’ll have it delivered.”
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