Counter 20: Raving Geyser
Forty-two minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Blue dormitory, Herneihmys' room
While the commotion outside is getting louder, none of the nobles are panicking. Despite the shaking and rumbling, the blue dormitory's atmosphere is quite calm.
Inside the seemingly peaceful room given to the daughter of the House of Strange, Rio keeps watch outside the window. His stance is calm and dignified. There is no trace of worry showing on his face.
Meanwhile, in the living room, Athena pours the warm chamomile tea and then serves it to the young lady who is flipping pages of documents. The tea in the cup ripples as thunderous noises explode not far from the dorms. Athena is quick to secure the cup to make sure it does not spill anything on those important documents.
“What do you think of the situation outside, Rio?” Herneihmys asks while laying down a piece of paper inside a white folder.
“We're holding out but it's quite dire.” Rio answers with a polite tone.
Athena passes the cup of tea to Herneihmys while they listen to Rio's evaluation.
“There are very few on our side that's fighting against a large number of invaders.” He continues while facing the young lady. “These invaders seem to be nothing more than fodders. Old machines and a bunch of monsters… However, they do outnumber us.”
Herneihmys stands and then walks towards Rio. Athena is quick to arrange the left over documents using her object control magic. She makes sure that the table is always organized and neat, just like the rest of the room.
“It doesn't seem like this barrier is going to be lifted soon.” She says while looking outside. She lifts her hands to touch the wall and feel the mana flow of the barrier. “This barrier is sloppily created. A little bit of tweak here and there and it'll collapse. It also unnecessarily consumes too much mana.”
“This kind of messy spell is not something that Sylphid Pandora would make.” Rio adds.
“Right.” Her lips curl as if she found something amusing. “It makes me wonder just who created it.”
Athena abruptly turns at them. “Is this mage strong?”
It is easy for Herneihmys to tell that the barrier is made by an amateur. Though she cannot tell for how long this mage has trained to master magic barriers, it is the amount of mana being poured into that intrigues her. No matter how much of a beginner this mage is, if she gets proper training with this amount of mana, then whatever kind of magic she masters will definitely shake the world.
“I do not know about strength, but she sure is someone to take note of.” She answers while opening the window.
When Rio tried to open it a while ago but it did not budge. However this time, it opened easily when Herneihmys gave it a little push.
All she needed is a few seconds to analyze the magic barrier, and she is able to find a way to breach it without destroying the whole spell. What she made is just a small hole that will restore itself eventually. It is only enough for the three of them to get out.
“Maybe we'll find something interesting if we take a look outside.” Herneihmys says with a half-smile.
"As you wish, Milady." Rio and Athena replies with a slight bow.
Rio jumps outside first to check if the surroundings are clear of threats. Athena along with Herneihmys follows floating down after Rio gives them the signal. They look around first. The thundering sound of explosions and the rumbling of the ground is more apparent now that they are standing outside.
After a moment, Herneihmys takes the lead walking in a random direction. Rio and Athena quickly follows.
Forty-four minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
The metaghosts are still swarming in from the north-eastern direction of the island while the monsters are spreading from the western parts to the eastern area. Emil, Duke, Wrie and Zacharius are still busy whittling the numbers of the metaghosts down in the library area so that it would not cause any more damage to the library where Sylphid Pandora’s true body resides.
“I really hate to say this,” Duke says while stepping back to distance himself from the metaghost that is closing in on him. “But… These metajunks just keeps on coming, there’s no end to them!”
“Fuck your cliché line!” Zacharius cringes while throwing one metaghost and then runs for the next one. “I’m getting tired of seeing and doing the same thing over and over again.”
Emil snorts as he listens to Zacharius’ complaints. “It’s not that bad to admit that you’re at your limit already, spoiled ass noble!”
“I’ll fuckin’ rip that smug look off your face!!” He responds as flame burst out of his body.
Emil and Zacharius are not getting along at all. They always have something to keep themselves heated up about each other’s issues. Nevertheless, they do not have any serious bouts as far as they take their anger into crushing the metaghosts. Emil and Zacharius are fighting in the frontlines while Duke defends on the rear, for the time being, this shows to be an effective strategy in reducing the metaghosts. Meanwhile, Wrie stands few meters away from the library to prevent any metaghost or ranged attacks from suddenly hitting the library. Primrose and Schnitzel are being kept safe inside the library. They are only watching the battle from the far back; the safest place for those who cannot fight.
However, as the battle continues and as more metaghosts come towards their direction, Emil could not just shake of a certain thought.
“Woah-!!” Duke shouts when an unidentified monster flies past him going towards the direction of the dormitories. “That monster just--!”
Emil follows the monster’s silhouette. “Look out!” He shouts when he notices a metaghost coming closer to Duke. He then kicks it away, making it crash to the ground. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Duke smiles. “I was almost had. Thanks.” He politely says while looking around for any potential danger. “I might have disappeared you know.”
“What?” Emil tilts his head in confusion.
Duke laughs, forced sound of laugh. “Nothing,” he answers. “I’m worried about the situation near the dorms.”
“Yeah,” he answers as his tone turns serious. “Duke, I want to check out the situation there. Can I leave you in charge here?”
Duke pauses, giving him a curious look but then he suddenly smiles teasingly. “I see, I see~ I have no problem with that. You’re going to see Blair, right?”
“H-huh-!!” He chokes and then coughs a little. “Not really,” he averts his eyes. “I just wanna check on her and the situation near the dorms.” Emil returns his gaze back to Duke who simply smiles back at him. “Well… Thanks. Later!” He then leaves running towards the dorms.
“Is it a good idea to let him leave?” Zacharius asks while retreating towards Duke's side. “It seems some more nuisances are appearing. We don't have enough fighters and you're letting one leave.”
Duke understands that Zacharius have a point. Looking at the leaping bat monster that Wrie just punched down. With one punch the monster's skull seems to have cracked open. What scary strength she has. Well, it is obvious that more are coming their way. Wrie is helping a lot; however they have to consider that even she will run out of mana too. Defending the library area is going to be impossible if reinforcements do not arrive soon.
“Maybe we should all just lock ourselves inside the library.” Schnitzel suggests; her voice quivers. “We are in big disadvantage now, aren’t we?”
“Mhm.” Primrose responds while chewing some gummy bears. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t seem like those robots are attacking as aggressively as earlier.”
“H-how do you still have the appetite at a time like this?..”
While Duke, Zacharius and Wrie are fighting outside, Primrose eyes never moves away from them. She is observing the situation carefully. It seems that the metaghosts are only attacking humans within their range. Unless Duke and Wrie attack them, those robots are solely focusing on Zacharius. For the moment, Wrie is working hard to prevent them from getting close the library keeping both Schnitzel and Primrose safe. If they retreat and hide inside, the metaghosts will focus on finding their heat signatures and attack them. They have no choice but to fight.
“They’re really working hard.” Schnitzel mumbles while watching the situation outside. “The young master of the House of Rouge looks so different from the rumors. This situation gives me the feeling that he’s actually a decent person.”
“Oh, is he a delinquent?” Primrose asks. She briefly looks her way before turning her eyes back at Duke’s direction.
“E-eh? N-no… I mean… The House of Rouge doesn’t really have as good as a reputation as the other houses.” She takes a deep breath to straighten. “Unlike the other six that have been a part of ICA from the beginning, the House of Rouge joined mid-way by destroying another house and taking over their place.” Her tone suddenly turns grim. “What more… that house are the descendants of one of the Five Heavenly Kings.”
The incident happened around two centuries ago. The Rouges, which was only composed of small tribes at that time, cooperated with ICA to banish a very strong unclassified demon. After the battle, the Rouges had a disagreement with one of ICA’s high nobles. This made the Rouges become more united. They rebelled and hunted the members of that one particular house until ICA proposed that they be accepted as high nobles and they will be absolved of all the crimes of rebellion that they committed. The Rouges accepted and officially replaced the fallen house. Currently, they have the strongest fighters and also the most uncontrollable members. They are full of violent and vulgar people.
From what Schnitzel heard, the young master of the House of Rouge is arrogant, self-centered, and a trouble-maker. However, since he introduced himself, Zacharius never mentioned that he is the next head of the House of Rouge which most other teens in his position would take pride in. He is not acting as pampered as other nobles she encountered. Even though he still acts proud of himself, he still cooperates with them. He does not mind that they are just some green-zone student and he is even fighting alongside of some red-zone students that most nobles look down upon.
“So, these red-heads are scarily strong, huh.” Primrose says after listening to Schnitzel’s story. “I see. That’s why a lot of other students are so afraid of that idiot Blair. Not only do they both have red hair, they also act very similar.”
“Well, anyone who knows history that meets her for the first time would think she’s part of that house.” She then forces a soft laugh. “But I guess that would be impossible.”
“Why is that?”
“Um… Because the House of Rouge is also known to never abandon one of their own. They consider everyone in their house as “family.” They swore to always have their’ family’s back.
That’s one of the positive sides of their house.”
Primrose silently stares at the battle outside. Sweat rolls down the side of her cheek. “I feel so troubled for no reason.” She mutters. She then activates her phone and earpiece. “Since everyone else is busy, I guess I’ll have to do the reporting.”
Forty-one minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Nalkad Island Airspace
Yhor Ergus looks down on the chaos in AB academy. He and his little sister, Asna, stands on a floating magic circle above Nalkad island seemingly enjoying the view.
“The students of AB academy are quite good. They are indeed promising. It makes me wonder, what could have happened if I had not lead her into taking action in this case?”
Originally, this plan did not involve The Witch of the West, however the opportunity just came and Yhor decided to take it. Because of this he needed to make last minute adjustments to their original plan. It was his idea to lure Azalea into the ship and tip her about the attack. If she is in the academy, then she is going to become a big obstacle in their plans. They could keep her in the dark and then deal great damage in AB Academy, eliminating many of their promising students. But that is not the goal. Taking too many lives of these children will make the world sympathize with the academy painting their organization as mere terrorists. If they want to expose ICA’s dark side then becoming the villain in the people’s eyes is not advantageous to them. They have to play their roles right in this stage.
For now, gathering information is necessary. If they could get their hands on Acheron, then it would serve as a big bonus. It will be very useful in the future once they decide to completely annihilate ICA. In the meantime, if they could damage the academy then the mission will be considered a success. They have to kill some students, maybe not more than ten… no, even two would do. They just have to make it look like ICA failed to protect their own people, those who might have gotten a bright future serving the world. Their attack must not come too strong, let the insignificant ones perish. No matter how talented the students in the academy are, there are bound to be a number of them who lags behind. They are to become the casualties of the casualties of this unfortunate incident.
ICA’s high nobles would probably not take it much of a lost with the death of those insignificant few. However, the less fortunate ones could be quite unreasonable once they find themselves the victim of the powerful peoples’ unfairness and injustice. Those feelings are not wrong, they are normal. That is what they want to take advantage of.
To get to those weak students, they need that magic barrier to disappear.
“Brother,” his little sister calls. “Lyrus seems ready. Shall I summon him?”
Unlike the small fries they sent for reconnaissance earlier, Lyrus is of higher level deserving a rank in the organization. Those who could get past the Root and the Labyrinth are accepted into the Den and are given higher quality training to awake their full potential.
“Yes, just in time.” He replies while pointing out the place just above the gymnasium. “We need him to be as close to our target as much as possible.”
She smiles –no, she grins– an expression tainted with a devious will. “Okay, Lyrus Yumero!” She calls as another portal opens in the place that Yhor has pointed.
From the portal a man comes out. He is wearing a black cloak. He jumps down the roof and a loud bang resounds.
“Asna, close the portal now that he’s here.” Yhor advices with a ring of worry.
“Hm.” Asna nods. Her grin is still clearly visible.
Seeing her expression, Yhor wipes the worried look off his face. He takes it that she is far from exhaustion, but he can never be too careful when it comes to his little sister's well-being.
“You have to conserve your mana, since it is your job to keep those three other portals open until this mission is completed.”
“Yes brother!” She responds with a childish smile while making a salute. “Will she become our comrade?”
“Our master will decide on what to do with her after we bring her back.” Yhor answers while keeping his eyes at Lyrus.
Their newly summoned comrade is about to start his attack, a barrage of magical explosions. The explosions are not reaching Azalea, which means she is protecting herself with some kind of barrier.
“If she becomes one of us then that would be great.” He continues. “It’s not like we don’t have the means to make her. But when things turn for the worst…” His tone is flat and grim. “We just need her to be somewhat alive.”
Asna turns her sight down.
“Have you ever heard of the Heaven’s Wing?” He asks.
“That mage... she’s like a myth, they say she could make miracles happen.”
“Miracles only happen to those who could surpass their limits. That limit that normal humans couldn’t even grasp… I wonder what kind of miracle she’ll show us this time.”
She suddenly lifts her face to stare at her brother. “But the Bewitched and the Heaven’s Wing got a very different background to the point that they are almost the opposite of each other.”
“Her existence is a very interesting one. There has not been many mage –no, there has not been that much reveils in the history that could hold such great mana capacity. Also, getting our hands on that magic spell called Hol and its secret is a big bonus”
“That witch is not doing anything though.” She frowns.
“Lyrus, hurry up and fight properly!” She continued while stomping at the floating magic circle.
Yhor stays calm observing the situation. It would have been more efficient if Azalea fights them head on. In this situation with a flood of mindless machines and rampaging monsters, it will be more logical to find the mastermind immediately and end the attack as soon as possible. She should be already aware of their existence. By exposing themselves, he expected her to make a move to get rid of them since they are the ones leading this attack. Maybe then, they could exhaust her and then isolate her.
“Why won’t she take the offensive?..” Yhor touches his chin.
If her priority is not eliminating the threat, then what could it be?
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