Hunt 12: Entangled Strings
The morning classes end early with only the freshmen orientation given by each class’ homeroom adviser. During lunch break, most of the students eat in the large cafeteria of the Alapaap building, while the others only buy their meal there then take it to eat somewhere else.
There are five long lines in the counter that provides full meals which the students have a variety of menu to choose from. On both sides of the cafeteria, a line of vending machine is found. These vending machines provide different drinks and packed or instant foods like bread, sandwiches, biscuits, as well as chips, and candies. They are considered less healthy but convenient snacks, so most students prefer the meal sold in the counter even though it takes longer time to get one.
During lunch time, various students from different grades from all color zones can meet and get in contact with each other. This set up is made so that students who would normally not see each other can find a place where they can get to know more people and form bonds. However seeing a blue-zone student passing by the cafeteria is a rare sight which defeats its intended purpose. Red-zone students prefer not to interact with other colors while the green-zone students fears and avoids them. But then again, this set-up still serves the students of different grades in the same color zone. On the other hand, if there is a form of interaction between different color-zone students having a positive outcome is still infrequent. Having bitter confrontations will not benefit most of the students so they mostly just ignore those who are different from their clique. The cafeteria offers both benefits and drawbacks for students of different standings.
“Hello, mage-sprout.” A familiar voice greets. He then takes the seat in front of Azalea.
She paused from eating her spicy beef flavored instant noodle before turning her face in front. “Ah—it’s that clown from back then. Hello.”
“Bitch, learn my name already.” Earl Spade frowns while opening the packaging of his apple-cheddar bread. “So, how is your first day here in the academy?”
“Sort of fine so far.” She answers casually while looking at the year level marked on the sleeve of Earl Spade’s uniform.
“Well, if that’s how it is, I’ll make do with that.” He replies reluctantly taking a bite of his bread.
“Did someone ask you to spy on me?” She rolls her eyes to the side. Then she notices an upperclassman trying to converse with a freshman girl who is sitting alone. “You’re not doing a good job.”
“You have a nasty way of viewing at things. Lillian asked me to look after you.”
“Mhm… Is that so...” Her eyes are caught by the freshman girl. Her attention is focused on that specific crowd. “She’s from the red,” she mumbles.
“What are you looking at?” Earl Spade inquires after noticing how she glares at something behind him. He then turns his eyes to that direction to observe the situation. “Don’t get too worked up over someone else’s business.”
The girl with short shoulder length curly black hair, wearing the uniform of the red zone, tries to stand up and leave but two other guys grab her shoulders to make her sit back. She has a noticeable collar around her neck that does not seem like it is made to be just a fashion accessory. It looks like a troubling situation but the girl’s expression and body language remains indifferent. It does not seem like she has any intention of fighting back. She also does not look like she wants to form some agreement with the upperclassmen. The only apparent emotion she shows is that of boredom and disinterest.
“A freshman from the red zone.” Azalea’s expression becomes dark. “An upperclassman, a junior… with two other sophomore guys. All from the blue-zone… What the hell are they trying to do?”
“Don’t get yourself involved.” Earl Spade warns grabbing Azalea’s arm before she could stand up. The action she is about to take is obvious.
“Can’t you see, that blue upperclassman over there is clearly harassing the other student from the red.” She reasons out.
“You already know the differences between the three color zones here. There are unwritten rules beyond the ones you can find in your student handbook.”
“But I don’t think that it particularly means that the blue could just do whatever they want and push around the red.”
“Of course, of course,” He sneers. “It just means that the blue can mess up the lives of both the red and the green with a simple flick.” He lowers his voice. “Stay put. It’s not your problem and you are not in the position to interfere. You have an uncanny talent of pissing people off without so much effort.”
Azalea snorts before turning back to him. “My life’s already so messed up. I doubt they could mess it up even more now.” She stands up and directs her glare at the blue-zone third years.
“If you don’t care about that shitty life of yours then think about Lillian!” He tightens his grip on Azalea’s arm while trying to keep his voice low. “She’s your guardian right now, right? Please remember that anything you do will reflect on her. If you make trouble, that trouble will go directly to her as well.”
“I see… so Lillian is like my shackles here.” She thinks to herself as her face grimaces.
“Listen,” Earl Spade continues, not letting her go. “You can’t just go and beat up anyone you don’t like here. You have to know your place. In this world, there are different kinds of power. You know what kind of power you hold, so just use it so that you can avoid undesirable situations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a very strong demon hunter; those blue guys hold the highest kinds of status in the society. Mess with them and they’ll mess up everything you have and you could ever have.”
She clicks her tongue as she pulls her arm from his grip. She glares down at him; her eyes are cold and dead. “There are also different ways of dealing with those pampered bastards.”
He finds himself baffled and terrified of her words. It is as if she had already plotted something distasteful inside her head and she does not care about the consequences anymore. She turns her burning glare back to the ruckus on that table to find out that there is already a man settling the unwanted uproar. Another upperclassman, he is also a junior from the blue-zone.
Earl Spade gulps. “See, looks like the blue can settle the chaos on their own. Let’s not get involved, okay?”
“That person, does he have some higher status than the other?” She asks with the same serious tone.
“Not necessarily, but yeah... He is just the Commander of Balaam Knights; you know they serve as student officials authorized to subdue certain kinds of commotion within the campus. We told you about him before; he’s the Ki Master who couldn’t make it to the hunt last time, Ivanryd Naoe.”
The commotion seems to be calming down after the commander of BK had a silent talk with the blue-zone guys. Then another red-zone freshman came by. He is wearing a bonnet over his black curly hair. He politely thanks the commander before escorting the girl out of the cafeteria.
“Hmm… I see.” Azalea says softly while staring at the back of the commander. “I’ll consider it a good luck that he didn’t come.”
“Huuuuh-?!” Earl Spade growls watching Azalea walk away. “With his strength we could have taken care of that hunt faster.”
She turns on him again and making a sarcastic smile. “Maybe.”
Earl Spade is left dumbfounded as Azalea goes her way. Watching her back reminded him of the heavy atmosphere she had on their way back after the hunt. Remembering her habitual smile with those dead eyes is still creeping him out. He knows too well, that uncanny moment she drops her pretentious acts, radiating a guarded but also intimidating aura.
For the time being, Azalea decides that she must not get involved with other students. Earl Spade has a point. She must not repeat her mistakes from the past. She reflected on her actions while walking away. If she wants to graduate from this academy without any trouble, then she must keep a low profile.
She decides to look for a place where she could relax and have some time alone. There are still a lot of things she needs to learn around here in order fit in with the environment. So, she is thinking of visiting the place she is most curious about, the library. Due to limited time, she does not have the chance to go the day before. On her way she almost bumped into another student. He has a light brown hair, styled in a spikey fashion. He is wearing an unusual necklace that seems to hold a mysterious magical power. His irises are golden brown and the vertical scar over his right eye makes him look quite daunting. He looks like the kind who gets easily pissed off.
“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” Azalea apologizes to avoid any more trouble just as she finds out that the boy is from the red zone.
“Yeah.” He answers casually. “I wasn’t careful either.”
They passed by each other minding their own business, continuing on their separate ways. Azalea went straight to the library. The building looks like it is six floors high but the elevator only shows up to the fifth. She believes that there must be a hidden passage somewhere. The style of the building is intriguing but she will have to leave that mystery for another day. What she wants to find out are information about a certain demon she had been chasing for years after it mysteriously disappeared.
“Good afternoon, madam.” Azalea greets the librarian politely. “I would like to inquire about the demon called Naraka.”
“Naraka?” The librarian quickly checks their records. “Sorry, but the information about that demon is classified and will need special permission from ICA to be disclosed to any individual.”
“What?!” She suddenly raises her voice attracting some unwanted attention. “Why would they limit the access to a demon?”
“Even if you ask me, I wouldn’t know. It is a demon that destroyed cities and killed millions of people. Naraka is an unranked demon that even the most refined army of ICA can’t match up with. I don’t think an ordinary student like you should dig that kind information.”
“O-ordinary student?..” Her brow twitches while listening to the librarian. “Hey, if… just if, okay?.. If I have a demon hunting license, would I be given access to Naraka’s information?”
“Whaaaa~.” She feels an urge to flip the desk but she keeps her actions in control.
“If you are that eager, you can only check the articles from the newspaper and few video reports that are open to the public.”
“Is that so?..” She is still holding her cool.
“I think I heard something about a demon hunting license.” A female green-zone student accompanied by a boy in the same zone suddenly appears joining in the conversation. “Not to boast, but I am a licensed monster hunter since I was thirteen years old.” She smiles proudly while flipping her blond hair.
“That’s an awesome achievement, right? Right?” The boy says with a cheerful smile.
Azalea stares at them with a blank expression while examining them carefully.
“I think I’ve seen you somewhere before.” The girl fixes her light blue eyes on her. “I can’t recall but, oh well~ it’s definitely not something important. By the way, I’m Deeveen Wolfsbane, a mage and a freshman. I hope we get along well.”
“Y-yeah.” Azalea answers indifferently.
“Hey!” The boy with dark brown hair raises his voice. His light brown eyes glare furiously at Azalea. “How could you act so insolent? You are in front of the soon to be greatest mage in the freshmen’s green zone!”
“Are they delusional?..” Azalea turns her attention to the boy noticing something familiar. “You look like someone I know. How are you related to Victor Luha?”
“I’m his younger brother, Vargas!” He answers proudly. “I can’t believe some mongrel from who knows where have heard about the greatness of my brother.”
“They do act quite differ..rent….” Azalea thought while looking at Victor’s younger brother who is hiding behind Deeveen.
“Why aren’t you answering?!” He continues to pester.
The librarian forces a soft cough to get the noisy students’ attention. “If you are done with your business, please leave the premises.” She glares at them.
“We’re very sorry, ma’am!” The younger Luha shouts in saluting position.
“Would you keep your voice down?” Deeveen says while pushing the boy aside. “You haven’t introduced yourself yet.” She whispers while looking back at Azalea. “You must be some talented new mage if you are aiming for some demon.”
“Hey, Vargas.” Deeveen pulls the boy’s sleeve. “Have you ever heard anything about mages with the name Blakewood?”
“No, ma’am.” He answers seriously after giving it little thought.
“Ah, you don’t seem to have come from a good family of mages, Miss Blakewood.” Deeveen continues her banter. “That’s sort of pitiful… But. But if you need some protection, I’ll let you become my minion and the Wolfsbane family will take good care of you. We may not be that famous here but my father’s side used to be strong demon hunters.”
It takes her some time to realize that Azalea has already left without waiting for her to finish, and without saying anything.
“Whaa--!” Deeveen is feeling offended.
“Please be silent. If you are not here to inquire for any books then please leave the library.” The librarian repeats.
“Hey! Don’t be rude to Lady Deeveen, you mongrel!” Vargas tones up his voice again.
“You idiot!!!” Deeveen deliveres a chop on his head. She then drags him out of the library.
“Would you like to be banned from the library?!”
“I was just being protective. I am your knight.”
“If you really want to be an honorable knight for my sake, use your brain first before you open that mouth of yours!”
“I’m sorry, my lady.”
“Good, let’s go. It’s almost time for afternoon classes.”
“Are they role-playing something?” Azalea mumbles while walking up the library’s third floor. “I’ll search around this place first.”
Azalea decides to skip her afternoon classes to check out various books stored in that maze of information. She believes that she might be the only one skipping afternoon classes to stay in the library, but it seems that there is another girl with at least the same idea as her. She has apricot hair with thick long bangs covering her face, especially the eyes. She is organizing the books in the library. Azalea assumes that she might be a student assistant.
The vastness of the inner structure of the library that sometimes feels like an old castle maze is awe-inspiring. Azalea has never seen so many real hard-copy of books from different eras collected in one place before. Printed books are rare and very expensive in the present time. The whole building is like a treasury of limitless knowledge and a museum of the world’s untold history. Since she cannot access the information she is most curious about, she decides to look around and read the Academy’s historical background. She also checks on the information about the nobles. Having some basic knowledge about the people she wants to avoid is important. Because of her admiration of the library, she almost forgot the time and almost went over the dorm’s curfew.
All of the dorms regardless of the zone’s color have the same curfew. All students must be inside the dorm at six o’clock sharp in the evening, then everyone must have eaten their dinner before eight, lastly all lights will be turned off at exactly ten in the evening. Azalea barely made it in time before the six o’clock bell rang. The dorm supervisor, Shane, looks at her suspiciously while she passes by the front door. So she goes directly to her room and rolls over her bed. That is when she notices that she is in the room alone. They will surely get in trouble if the supervisor learns about the absence of her roommate.
It is already past seven in the evening and the dorm supervisor will soon check up on them. Azalea does not want to get in trouble as much as possible but it seems that everything and everyone including herself is contradicting her wish. She is about to sneak out and use a locator spell so that she can find that missing roommate, when she hears a creaking sound by the window.
She looks at the slightly open window to check on it. “What the hell?..”
“Ah-…” The red-haired, red-eyed girl climbs the window from the outside. “So, you are my roommate?” She says casually entering from the window. “Good evening. I’m Blair Lisiantha, nice meeting you. Err.. B-black?..”
Azalea stares at Blair stepping inside the room. Her hair is dancing with the evening breeze like the fire lit in the middle of a dark room. Her eyes seem to glow like the bright red dwarf twinkling in the night time sky.
“She looks like a delinquent… No, most probably she’s already a gang leader or something. I really don’t want to get involved with her.” Azalea’s inner voice whispers.
Blair rubs of the dirt on her shoulder and pants. She stares at Azalea for a while. “Nice meeting you!” She greets with a big smile.
Azalea in her casual clothes
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The Bewitched Demon Hunter
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