Counter 24: Quell the Squall
Fifty-one minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
“Those tin cans sure are tough,” Primrose says while stuffing her mouth. “Duz shanzing hir ish voring.”
“Excuse me,” Schnitzel responds while looking at Primrose in a weird way. “I couldn’t really understand what you just said.”
Primrose gulps down what she is eating. “I won’t give you any even if you beg me.”
“No, I’m not really hungry… and they look gross.”
“It’s called gummy worms. Hey, do real worms taste sweet too?”
“I don’t know—I mean, I wouldn’t want to know.”
Primrose and Schnitzel keeps on their leisure chatter by the library’s broken door. They cannot fight on their own so they are left on standby behind. Emil went off to the green dorms area, leaving Duke and Zacharius in the front lines, and Wrie is supporting farther behind.
“Ah--” a familiar female voice resonates from inside the library. “The fighting still continues. Well, I guess it can’t be helped… if it’s something like this.”
When Primrose and Schnitzel turn their eyes towards her, they immediately recognized her but their supposed to be joyful response is cut before they can express it due to the fact that the person that is standing healthily like a model by the stairs, is someone that is supposed to have died a while ago. They are definitely the same person aside from the clothes that was a casual office attire has changed into sporty t-shirt and jeans.
Schnitzel croaks, “Miss… Panahon?” Her eyes almost teary, with mixed emotions of relief and disbelief.
The lady peers at her for a moment. “Ah-!” She gasps. “You’re an assistant librarian here, I see.” She crosses her arms then touches her chin. “I’m sorry… I am not that person you are hoping to see. Well, more like… I am like her… err… maybe I could also be her but we are different though we might as well be the same person.”
“Excuse me ma’am,” Primrose cuts in raising her right hand like a reciting student. “I know I’m not that smart, maybe I’m already at the border of being an idiot but I don’t think what you said really made any sense.”
“W-whoa-! P-primrose, what are you saying?” Schnitzel says with shaking tone.
“It’s okay~ It’s okay~” The lady goes in between with a carefree. “I get what you’re saying… so let me explain, while the others are busy over there.”
“Wow, that’s quite intriguing.” Primrose rolls her eyes to the side with such languid attitude.
She smiles while gesturing, “You can call me Pana number 2.”
“As you are already aware of, the original Pana Panahon died and turned into dust over there. I am sent here to act as a substitute look out while a more appropriate replacement for that Pana is being prepared by the real mage, Sylphid Pandora.”
Schnitzel looks at her with perplexed eyes. “So… What are you exactly?”
“A puppet,” Primrose interrupted without looking them in the eyes. “Am I right?”
“Almost,” Pana no. 2 answers smiling playfully. “I am a doll. We, the dolls, are provided with a set of instruction which basically composes our individual personalities and duties. It also decides what certain magic we can use or if we are allowed to use it at all. In this case, the Pana over there acts as the core of the barrier while I act as a substitute look out. I have no ability to recreate the barrier.”
“I see,” Primrose responds uninterestedly. “We don’t really need the barrier now. The enemies are already inside.”
“That’s right!” Pana no. 2 answers with a carefree tone. “As long as all of those enemies are inside the academy, the Great Mage Sylphid, won’t renew the barrier. So, do your best to fend them away.”
“Now that I think about it,” Schnitzel whispers while staring at Pana no. 2. “Miss Panahon and this Pana no. 2 feels very different.”
Primrose sighs, “What a pain…”
Meanwhile, amidst the flood of metaghosts, a lone monster suddenly appears. It looks like a humanoid reptile that is around three feet tall with large sharp claws and fangs. It looks like one of the Nilmergs but something is off.
“What the hell is that?! Fuckin’ ugly!” Zacharius yells looking at the monster that is coming closer.
“Wait-” Duke steps forward. “I’ll take care of that one you keep up with reducing those metascraps.”
“Yeah right,” Zacharius answers as he turns his back away. “I’ll leave that shit to you since your pretty much useless fighting these metajunks.”
“You didn’t have to put it harshly,” Duke mutters. He marches calmly towards the monster. Calmly, so that he would not end up agitating it recklessly.
“Hey, seaweed haired yashou!” Zacharius waves at Wrie. “Don’t let those metajunks near the library!” At the path he walks in, pools of lava follows him. There some metaghosts falls in causing them to cease function immediately. “Sylphid Pandora is somewhere inside. We have to keep her safe if you want this academy to stay peaceful in the future.”
Wrie nods silently. Then the two of them proceed on fighting like before. On the other hand, as Duke comes closer to the monster it becomes more aggressive until it starts attacking him. As he observes its attack patterns, something clicks at the back of his mind. That monster he is fighting is a boss monster, the Shadow Master Nilmerg. According to their intel, its claws contains very poisonous chemical; just one scratch from it and it could kill a normal person within two minutes. He keeps on evading the hostile slashes of its claws while assessing the full potential of the monster. Trying to defeat it hastily is not a good idea. It moves fast, fast enough that even with his extra hyped senses he could barely evade the tips of its claws.
“I see,” Duke whispers while distancing himself away from the shadow master nilmerg. “I really am the most appropriate opponent for this monster.” He grins.
The scales of the shadow master nilmerg also serve as their strongest armor. But then again, Duke’s exoskeleton is not something to belittle either. The one with tougher armor has the advantage in this battle. He focuses his senses in the surroundings while taking his orthodox fighting stance on.
The shadow master nilmerg grits its teeth looking so furious. It leaps at him as it swings both arms in the air. Its claws, swinging left and right, tried to slice through Duke’s body; luckily, he is alert enough to block them using his exoskeleton-armored arms. He then swiftly grabs its shoulders and then maneuvered a headbutt with his sturdy helmet. The monster shrieks in pain as it struggles to escape from Duke’s hold. Due to Duke’s hyper senses, the shriek feels more ear-piercing than it should be, which forced him to let go.
The shadow master nilmerg, having its head dripping with blood, distances itself away from the aggressor. To not waste the opportunity while the monster boss is still injured and confused, Duke dashes towards it with his knuckles clenched tightly. The shadow master nilmerg, shifting to defense sprints away, leaving Duke behind as he hits nothing but dusts in the air. As he keeps on chasing, it also keeps on racing away from him.
“The only way for me to catch that nilmerg boss is to wait for it to attack,” he thought as he gasps for air. “But will it still attack? Or will it actually escape now that it got injured?” He could still feel the pulsing rage of the nilmerg boss. Its teeth gritting with anger, he can hear the clank of its claws as it wriggles its fingers, along with the movement of its feet that cracked a twig on its way. “I guess it doesn’t want to run after all. It might as well want some revenge.” He concludes while relaxing his arms down. “If I give it an opening, will it come after me?”
He stands unfaltering as if he and the monster are having a staring contest; it’s just that he got no eyes to see. Time passes idly, and the shadow master nilmerg, judging by how much it grits it teeth tightly, seems to have become more irritated than it used to be. With not enough patience, it jumps at Duke who still has his guard down. He is not moving, not even any trace of hesitation in his stance. With nothing at hand, he simply keeps his standing position while the monster stretches its arms and claws. Unwaveringly, he takes on the nilmerg’s claws that slashes into his exoskeleton. It rips through his chest. The force of the nilmerg’s attack made him fall a step behind as the pieces of his armor flies scattered into the air. The claws –its poison might be very dangerous yet he pays no mind. The sharp claws are now buried deep in his body. It is too deep that the monster is unable to pull it out anymore. It is stuck.
“Got’cha,” Duke whispered with a sinister smile.
He clenches his fist as he stretches his right arm. While the monster boss hangs with its claws buried in his chest, he rams his exoskeleton-covered fist into its head. The blow lugs its claws out before smashing its body hard on the ground. It bounces once before Duke follows it up with a kick right into its stomach pit. The nilmerg boss rapidly dashes on the ground in a straight line until it bumps into a metaghost’s busted body. The clanking noise echoes loud enough for Zacharius and Wrie to notice that they turn their attention towards that battle.
Being at the moment’s spotlight, Duke turns his attention back to his comrades too.
Zacharius is waving his hand while Wrie just kicks another metaghost away.
“Hey! Done there already?!” Zacharius yells actively.
Duke waves back at him. “Yea--” he is about to give his affirmative answer but then he sensed something coming. A large number of something he cannot discern yet. They are getting closer too.
“Oi-!!” Zacharius sounds impatient. “What’s wrong? Suddenly dozing off on your own.”
“Just mind the metajunks!” Duke responds as he turns towards the direction of the main gate. “They’re coming… more of them.”
“Huh-?” Zacharius crosses his brows in confusion.
“More monsters…” A different voice rang. Low pitched and cold.
Zacharius curiously moved his gaze towards the direction of the voice. “That seaweed haired yashou! Wait—you can talk?!!”
Wrie averts her gaze away. “We’ll be flunked by the enemies.” Then she runs away, racing back to her former position closer to the library.
“Seriously?!!” His calm demeanor is caught off guard.
Fifty-three minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Administration building, within the monitor room
“Metaghosts… monsters… and now, there is even a demon.” Headmaster Dimasalang says softly while looking at the monitors. “This situation has become very troublesome. We will not be able to take care of this mess on our own. Right now I’m not even sure whether those intruders still have something up their sleeves. This scale of attack… it’s definitely beyond of what I have expected. Could it be that those people are aiming for something else other than Acheron?”
“Headmaster,” one of the BK in charge of the communication calls out. He is wearing a concerned expression. “A message from central ICA.”
He goes closer to the communications monitor and reads the message silently. “The Kiriharas… Great news!” He shows a big smile while clenching his knuckles. “What’s the status by the gym?”
“We can’t get through anymore.” He answered with shaking voice. “The cameras near the gym has malfunctioned.”
“Since the intruder sort of transformed.”
“Keep trying to get any news about the situation in the gym area.”
Headmaster Dimasalang then moves his sight to a different monitor. In the Blue dorm area, the nobles do not seem to have any problems. After all, they have their own set of guards, their so called ‘retainers’ or ‘aids.’ All they have to do is let their retainers handle the fight while they relax behind. Even if the nobles do not particularly get along with each other, their retainers would be able to handle the situation on their own. Most of them are specially trained in combat to carry out their task, which only prioritizes the safety of their master.
On the other hand, in the red zone area, the students appear to be more coordinated compared to the other two dorms. Only a certain group fights in the frontlines. Who might they be? They are changing frontliners from time to time, so that the fighters would not get too exhausted. They have also lined up their assist-type students to provide healing and support buffs to the frontliners. They have remarkable teamwork. Unlike the nobles, these students who are charged with criminal acts, most of them have real combat experience; or perhaps one could say, they simply have been through a lot in life that they no longer hesitate to fight in order to survive. This kind of approach from them just goes to show that in the sophomores or probably, in the freshmen, someone with vast battle experience must be taking the lead. Someone so skilled and a person they trust at the same time.
“Should I be concerned that they are way too organized?..”
Then, at the green dorm area. Despite being the dorm with largest number of students, they are still in disarray. In the green-zone, unlike in red, they do not have any leader in particular nor are they united by a pact or by clubs. They are all over the place. Unlike the blue-zone students, they are ordinary people, the middle class; they do not have retainers at their service. Nobody takes the lead. No one is willing to go and risk their safety in the frontlines. And almost none of them have tangible battle experience either. Their life is far from luxury, yet they are not quite in the pits of despair either. Most of them simply go with the flow of stagnation.
Headmaster Dimasalang turns his head around looking into the other monitors. There, he notices the battle with Il Darvan which is currently taking place in the field.
“Those three. They are all renowned professors in this academy… however, they all have their own little quirks.” He focused his sigh at that particular monitor. “Can you turn on the audio here?” He asks one of the BK in charge. He then turns the audio on, loud and clear.
“zzt… What are you doing?!!” That voice sounds like Isaw.
It seems that they are arguing.
“Experimenting whether it’ll blow up if I overload it with power.” That monotonic voice is coming from Xiao Feng.
“You know that’s useless!” Isaw retorts passionately. “We’ll get grilled! Grilled!”
“Relax,” that familiar carefree voice, it’s from Rajid. “I’m right here.”
“Why? What’s with you?” Xiao Feng raises a brow. “Aren’t you useless too?”
“No way!” Rajid yells like a little kid. “Don’t you know that just having Huanglong around increases our luck by two percent! That means, we have a great chance of surviving even if we get grilled by that demon!”
“That’s not very motivating at all,” Isaw sighs while slouching.
Then an eardrum-blowing static follows. They can hear them yell as the monitor flashes all white. They have been blown away by something. It is kind of shameful that those very skilled young professors, known to be the pride of the academy’s educational system, actually behave like those kind of idiots as well.
How ironic… but it’s not bad at all.
While the headmaster is lost within his thoughts, a sinister aura snaps me awake. He turns his head around the dimly lit room to find a shadowed figure standing close to the sealed windows.
“An intruder? Someone from our enemies just got in the admin building without anyone noticing until it’s too late?!”
“Hello,” his grim voice rings across the room. “You have such a nice place, Mister Dimasalang.”
Headmaster Dimasalang is speechless for a second. “How?” He stares at him while familiarizing himself with his figure.
The enemy is wearing a black cloak. The clothes are barely exposed. Combat boots. Army pants. His face… it’s too dim for me to recognize but they can see him grin.
“Everyone, keep your guards up!” Headmaster Dimasalang hurriedly commands as he realizes that none of them in that room has the ability to fight.
“Don’t get too excited,” says he. “I have no plans to spill any blood… right now, at least.”
“I see,” the headmaster responds while struggling to keep his composure. At any rate he cannot let my students of staff get hurt. “What do you want with us?”
“Oryx, don’t talk.” Sadi’s voice alerts him.
He then moves his gaze towards her and notices her ever serious expression; but this time it seems that something is off.
The man smiles. The malicious kind of smile. Silence spread athwart the room as the air become more perturbed with every tick of the clock. If someone is ever able to slip inside the admin building now, then Sylphid should have noticed it. Unless…
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