Counter 5: Restoration: Recollection
“She was that girl that was being troubled by those sophomores I beat up.” Blair says with her casual tone of enthusiasm.
“You aren’t supposed to say that with such big grin.” Azalea turns her sight towards the troubled girl. “Yeah, I remember. I also spent most of my time here in the library back then so I remember you well… though we haven’t talked. You are helping as a student assistant here, right? Then that incident happened. We haven’t seen much of each other afterwards. I understand if you find this idiot terrifying.”
“Umm… not really,” she answers; her head hanging low. “I just don’t know how to approach any of you. I’m sorry that I haven’t thanked you properly after helping me back then.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Blair cheerfully replies. “You probably don’t remember it but you helped me back on the first day of school so let’s just call it quitz.”
“I, a-actually… remember you w-well.” The girl responds softly. “You’re that… B-blair Lisiantha…”
The girl is sitting in between Azalea and Primrose. Her back is slouching and her head is hanging low. Her apricot hair covers her eyes as she looks down on her fidgeting hands.
“Really?” Blair shows a big smile. “It’s good to hear but I actually don’t know your name.”
“That sounds pretty rude.” Primrose mutters.
“Sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet.” She panics while turning her head from left to right not knowing where to look. “I-I’m Schnitzel vi Magnolia, green zone, Class 1-D.”
“Hm. Same class as Tristan,” Azalea recalls while fixing her sight at the girl.
“H-huh?” Tristan croaks as he does not seem to recall her clearly. “S-sorry, I’m not especially close to anyone in my class.”
“Don’t worry about it I don’t really have that strong of a presence.” Schnitzel says lowering her head again. “I don’t even know why I got dragged here,” she murmurs. “T-this group of people known troublemakers… I’m very grateful for Blair’s help but I don’t want to get involved into more trouble.”
“Is that so?” Azalea’s voice rings with a curious tone. “Just what kind of rumors do other students spread about us, I wonder.”
“E-eh?” She panics. “I didn’t mean it that way. I-I’m very sorry.”
Azalea chuckles. “You didn’t have to apologize like that.”
“You’re just… like very intimidating… I guess.”
“Mhm. How about that mountain idiot?”
“She’s… well, looks scary… I-I’m s-s-sorrry-!.”
“I see, I see.” She nods. “How about Prim here?”
“Prim?” Schnitzel tilts her head to recall. “I don’t think other students talk about her that much.”
“Hey, do I look that scary?” Blair asks while looking at Azalea and Prim.
“Depends,” Prim looks at Blair. “At very least I don’t wanna be hit by you. I might die, you know.”
“I don’t randomly hit people.”
“Heh-… You do hit people.”
“Urgh- that’s… you do have a point.” Blair then gives Schnitzel a curious look. “So, why were those higher year people after you?”
“Well… that’s because…” She hesitantly says in a soft voice. “Um. It’s something that’s happened long ago.”
“Long ago?” Blair raises her brow.
“Like in my grandfather’s time.” Schnitzel’s voice shakes. “Have you heard about the “Fallen Nobles”?”
“Fallen. Ah-...” Tristan recalls the phrase. After a while he looks somewhat apologetic.
On the other hand, Azalea says nothing even though it looks like she knows what it means too. Primrose does not seem to care at all. Only Blair is left with her forehead wrinkled in confusion while waiting for an explanation.
“In my grandfather’s time,” she proceeds to explain. “The Magnolia family used to serve under the House of Strange. We used to be nobles.” She clasps her hands. “The business that my grandfather had failed; leaving our family buried in large debt.”
“Sorry,” Blair says softly.
“Oh, it’s fine!” Schnitzel jolts waving her hands. “It’s long ago, I don’t really remember much of it myself.”
“And, what did those guys want?” Azalea asks.
“Umm. I think their parents, or relative used to work in grandpa’s company.” She sits back with a more relaxed posture while fiddling with her thumbs. “Grandpa was involved with a lot of different projects that time. I’m not really informed of what they are, but it felt like some problem came up with one of the pharmaceutical product being developed… I don’t know the full details, b-but grandpa’s company is not deeply involved in medicine or s-something health related so… umm… But things became hectic. T-those people probably got in all sorts of trouble due to the sudden closing down of the company… it seems. They are probably just… not happy to see me going to the same school as they are… or something… B-but because grandpa did a lot of favors back then, the House of Strange offered to help… that’s what I know.”
“So, this strange house are good people.” Blair says without putting much thought into it.
Tristan shakes his head. “The House of Strange is one of the Seven Noble Houses also known as the Higher Nobles.” He explains. “They manage the central command of ICA. The Magnolia Family used to be in the transportation business. I believe… Right now, the Wolfbane family holds the contracts.”
“Yes,” Schnitzel nods. “My grandpa’s company dealt a lot with designing trains and railways. His company used to work for Eldoon New City’s public transport. Mister dela Torre, you know a lot.”
“It’s just random knowledge.” He replies softly.
“Hmm. Is that so?” Blair tilts her head. “You talk about these noble people like they’re really strong. If you used to be noble, then how strong are you?”
“H-huh?!” Schnitzel flays her hands in front. “I-I’m not strong in particular! T-that’s… umm… The Seven Noble Houses are… but not all nobles under them are chosen because they’re strong. S-some of them are j-just… kinda… I mean, really rich or hold some sort of power.”
“Is that so?..” Blair scratches her head. “That redhead guy back then feels really strong though.”
“The House of Rouge is considered as one of the strongest among the seven.” Schnitzel mumbles while turning her eyes away from Blair. “T-that’s why I thought you’re… scary.”
“I wanna hit him at least once.” Blair adds while wearing a big grin.
“Why would you do that?” Tristan furrows his brows.
“Actually she already did.” Azalea adds casually.
“W-what-?!!” Tristan almost falls off his seat. “You are seriously not thinking about the consequences of your actions. Even I’d feel afraid being around you.”
“You’re mean, Prez.” Blair frowns. “So, Schnitzel, what’s your ability?”
“I can turn memories into pictures.” Schnitzel blushes.
Azalea’s eyes suddenly brighten as if she has just laid it on a chest full of treasure. “Is that true? And to think that we got Tristan here too.”
Tristan and Schnitzel looks at her with questioning eyes.
“Schnitzel, could you get make a picture of memory that is being passed at you?”
“I don’t know,” Schnitzel answers shyly without meeting anyone’s eyes. “I haven’t tried anything like that before. T-to be h-honest, my ability isn’t as flawless as it sounds.”
While smiling like a child, Azalea taps Schnitzel’s shoulders several times. “Don’t worry about that,” says she while taking out a blank piece of paper inserted from the old book she has beside her. “Let’s try it.” She passes the blank piece of paper to Schnitzel.
“I wanna see too!” Blair says while moving in the seat in front of Schnitzel.
“O-ok…” She mumbles while putting the blank piece of paper in front of her face. She lowers her head; her forehead is touching the upper part of the paper. “I’m going to, um, picture a part of the library.”
Tristan, Azalea, Blair, and Primrose are staring at her in silence. Two minutes of tense silence passes, Schnitzel finally moves the piece of paper from her head. She lays it on the table. The blank piece of paper now has an image of a shelf filled with books painted in it.
“Awesome!” Blair casually picks up the paper. “Is this where we were a while ago?”
“Um. Yes.” Schnitzel responds with a small voice.
“Something’s off.” Tristan peeks at the paper. “Most of the books in this picture do not have their titles.”
Upon noticing, Blair puts the paper back on the table so that everyone can see.
“T-that’s because…” Schnitzel answers with her voice sounding smaller than before. “I don’t have a good memory… So, the pictures I make are always lacking in details.”
“I see. That’s why you said that it’s not flawless.” Azalea observes the picture.
“Then again…” Tristan touches his chin while talking under his breath. “If I help pass clearer memories to you using my psychometry…” He then turns his sight to Azalea. “I just remembered. Didn’t you tell me you want to ask for a favor?”
“Ah-… yeah.” Azalea responds rather unconcerned.
“I assume that favor has something to do with combining my ability with her?” Tristan continues looking her straight in the eye. “Then… you want to restore something?”
She lets out a dispirited chuckle. “You’re sharp, Prez.”
“Aren’t you going to ask for it now?”
“Well, on second thought… maybe you should just forget about it.”
“Huh-? Why?” His voice raises a little.
“What’s this about?” Blair scratches her head.
Azalea takes a deep breath. “Okay. I have decided that the favor I want to ask is something that’s kinda difficult.”
Tristan clasps his hands; his brows furrow. “At least discuss it…” His clasped hands tightens. He lowers his eyes. “Let me hear about it too. If I can help then, I might as well try.”
“Uh, i-if you allow me.” Schnitzel then follows up. “If you think my ability could be of use, then… Um, please let me help.”
“You heard them, Az!” Blair adds while showing a childish grin. “Maybe I can help too.”
“No, your ability is useless in this case.”
“That’s one hell of a quick rejection.”
Azalea moves the old journal to the center of the table. The black cover has scratches and tears around it. She then flips the pages and then takes a piece of paper that is pinched inside in between the pages. She puts it on the table. It looks like an old photo with an image that had been distorted and smudged by a dark colored liquid. The picture that is supposed to be there is barely recognizable. A large part of the top is no longer identifiable, along with some parts in the bottom and sides. The middle area is the only place with a clear image in it. There are three people in the picture. The faces of the two adults behind are smeared but anyone could tell that one is female and the other is male. The child that stands in the middle holding the adults hands is undoubtedly the little version of Azalea. She is wearing a white dress with yellow lace. That child is smiling; a smile wrapped with innocence and purity. That is a smile nothing like any of the smiles she puts on now. It is an expression that they may never see in the person she has become today.
“This was taken when I was five, before papa’s last trip. We were supposed to take another one when he comes home on my sixth birthday.” Azalea says.
“This is something very important to you, right? I think we can restore this.” Tristan is about to take it but Azalea stops him.
“This damaged picture is full of memories.” Azalea explains while taking the picture back.
“Even I can’t tell how far it goes… and how much of these past years are recorded in it.”
Tristan tilts his head while inspecting the picture that Azalea holds in her hand. His eyes focus on the dark stains. It might be the color of the image that had gotten washed off after getting in contact with water. However, something feels eerily off about it. He feels as if he saw a similar stain before but could not quite recall it. As he searches his memories, he unconsciously covers his mouth with his hand.
“Is that blood?” Tristan mumbles behind his hand.
Due to the absence of noise, his unintentional remark is heard by everyone in the same table. Their attention turns to him. Even Primrose who had only been indifferent towards the whole topic has opened her eyes.
“What did you say?” Blair asks; her tone is soft but deep.
Azalea keeps her obviously fake smile as if she is trying so hard to hide her real feelings.
“Hm?.. Well…” She then casually hides the picture back into the scratched up black book. The long pause only makes the atmosphere even more awkward. “You’re really… quite the sharp one, Prez. It’s been so long since the blood that destroyed this picture had dried, yet you were still able to tell what it is.”
“I’m kind of used to seeing those kinds of stuff.” Tristan replies recalling his volunteer work with the police.
“You’re not going to brush this off just by praising Prez, are you?” Blair interrupts.
“I hate it when your curiosity makes you less of an idiot.” Azalea replies.
Blair responds with a clear frown.
“Fine, fine.” She shrugs and then relaxes her sitting posture. “That picture is our last family picture. My mom used to hold on to it. But we got into a traffic accident around eight years ago. The hospital staff gave it to me the day I was released.” She takes a deep breath before crossing her arms. “Tristan, you know what that means.”
Tristan opens his mouth as if he was about to say something but he swallows the words back. He avoids their eyes. His lips shut close.
“Your last… family picture.” Prim mumbles before standing up sluggishly. “Snacks,” she continues while walking slowly away like a newborn zombie. “I need more snacks. I’m going first. Bye.”
“Why does she always look so tired?” Schnitzel whispers while watching Prim walk away.
“Is there no other way for you to fix that picture?” Blair asks with a concerned tone.
“Because… you can’t take a new one…”
Schnitzel promptly turns her gaze at Blair. She looks at the girl beside her but somehow she is afraid to see her expression.
“I know my control is not that strong.” Tristan is very apologetic. “However-.. I think, I can get through it. I mean, I sort of used to seeing those stuff.”
“Don’t worry about that, I’m not in a rush.” She answers in an energetic manner. “You don’t need to get used to those…”
“I’m sorry.” Tristan looks down.
“No matter how many times you witness it… It’s not something you’re supposed to get used to.” This time Azalea keeps a smile that is not the same fake ones she used to display. Without her noticing, she has started wearing a sorrowful smile. “The blood… violence… people’s death. They’re always very unsettling.”
Tristan, Blair, and Schnitzel stare at her; wordless. It is like, the more she shows off a smile the more she buries her true emotions behind it. She deliberately keeps the mask on even after it cracks due to pressure. In that moment, they believe that they have seen a piece of her past.
“Besides-!!” Azalea suddenly raises her voice. “There are still other options left. Like… maybe learning restoration magic.”
“That’s right.” Schnitzel says softly. “There should be some book about that type of magic but it’s in the restricted area. You can apply for permission. At least about that, I believe I’ll be of some help.”
“Thanks a lot,” she makes a half smile. “However, at the moment, I've applied to borrow something else.”
“O-okay. W-well, if there’s anything you need involving the library… I mean, I think I’ll be helpful around the area.”
“Thank you.” Azalea then stands up. “Lunch is almost over, we should go.”
Blair follows quickly. “I’m counting on you too, Snitz!” She salutes before leaving.
“I apologize for this sudden event.” Tristan says humbly with a soft voice. “I hope you won’t think badly of us.”
“N-no, it’s good to know you better.” Schnitzel answers anxiously while standing up. She lifts her head to see him beyond her long bangs. “T-then, I’m going back to work.”
She pauses for a moment to watch the three walk out.
“They are weird,” she tells herself. “But they aren’t bad people. Some of the rumors sure are exaggerated. I don’t think they have something to do with those bullies suddenly dropping out of the academy back then.”
Schnitzel vi Magnolia
---> A student from the green-zone, Class 1-D. She is an esper with Photo Memory. Her ability allows her to create a photo on a blank paper from her memory, however she doesn't have a good memory. Most of the photo she creates are incomplete, thus making her ability pretty useless.
---> Schnitzel is an introvert, she has a weak presence and is usually bullied due to her family's "fallen noble" status. She loves reading books, so she spends her free time in the library, doing her job as a student-assistant or simply relaxing reading books.
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