Hunt 24: How Unsightly
Twenty-fourth day of Sat’xahr, Tnej’xien 4044 AOT
Past four o’clock in the afternoon
Fourth Watch Tower, Asylum’s clubroom
Without any notice, Headmaster Oryx Dimasalang is visiting and checking on his beloved students, as he refers to them. The whole room is now neatly arranged. The shabby looking tables which appeared as though they would break if you put a little pressure on top of them are fixed and painted over again. Most of the unneeded ones are stocked in the second floor. The chairs around where the members of Asylum sit homely are repaired and now look like they are newly bought. A homely couch is placed by the window. At the further back, they have arranged an area which resembles a kitchen, only that there are no stoves. It also seems that they have cleaned up the only toilet in that watch tower enough to be usable and orderly.
“Good day, my dear students,” he greets cheerfully while all of them give him a puzzled look. “What’s with those expressions? Look here, I got you some present to commemorate the official establishment of your… err, somewhat crazy club.” He puts a metal case on the table and then he opens it.
“What the hell is that?! It looks so fucking horrible.” Emil blurts out without thinking.
“It’s an antique sculpture.” Headmaster Dimasalang answers cheerfully.
“Whatever it is, it still looks gross.” Blair raises her left eyebrow in disgust.
Azalea turns to the right averting her eyes from the thing. “How unsightly.”
Evan chuckles while looking at the headmaster kindly. “It’s unsightly indeed.”
“Please don’t bring any more trash into our clubroom; we’ve just cleaned the place. You are making me lose my appetite.” Primrose says in monotone.
“W-what?! Are all of you turning my present down?!”
“You see, headmaster,” Duke says with a calm tone. “I feel disgusted knowing that thing is sitting over there.”
Tristan just looks away and then covers his face in embarrassment. He does not want to join such conversation.
“I have no ally here?” Headmaster Dimasalang pouts like a child. “Ah! What do you think of it Prof. Claws?” He is anticipating hearing a good response.
“Well, how do I say this,” Professor Claws touches his chin while looking down as if he is thinking carefully. After a short pause he turns his gaze back to the headmaster. “It’s goddamn ugly. Please throw it out.”
Headmaster Dimasalang takes the grotesque looking sculpture out of the metal case, which is about one foot tall. He places it on top of the table. “Other than the fact that I wanted to bring this present personally, I also--”
“Are you sure you’re not cursing us?” Azalea interrupts.
“No!” He responds rather quickly. “Please grow some manners and let me finish. You haven’t changed at all.” He sighs in dismay. “Okay, now that you’ve received my present with delight.”
“With delight, my ass.” Azalea mutters.
Headmaster Dimasalang stares at her for a moment before clearing his throat with a cough. “Again, now that you have received my present with unparalleled delight; I want your club, Asylum, to take some ‘odd job’ from me… Since you have it in your club description.”
“Have we put something like that in our club description?” Emil inquires.
“Ah… I guess we did.” Azalea answers while rubbing the back of her head.
“May I now continue, students?”
“Sorry, please go on, sir.” Emil responds nonchalantly.
“The Student Council and Balaam Knights has noticed some irregular movements in the red zone.” Headmaster Dimasalang’s tone turns serious while he moves the grotesque sculpture aside. “We still don’t know the actual cause of this but both SC and BK have their hands tied at the moment. The upcoming seniors’ ten-day study and training session in a faraway island and the juniors’ four-day field trip are getting all of us busy. Furthermore, BK can’t easily move against any of the students without legit proof of the ongoing illegal activity. That’s why I am directly appointing your club as ‘secret agents,’ I want you to investigate this matter.”
“No way.” Azalea declines frankly.
“The club president should decide about this one.” He turns his eyes towards Tristan who has been quietly staying out of the conversation.
“Um… I don’t think that we are the appropriate group to handle that kind of case.” Tristan replies timidly, looking away from the headmaster’s eyes. “We are just a group of freshmen students; we can’t possibly take some covert operation which might become dangerous.”
“Don’t worry,” he continues to persuade the students like he is some online scammer trying to sell a very suspicious kind of item. “You will just investigate; you won’t be going into any kind of fight.”
All of them give him a dubious look.
“You will simply investigate; you won’t be going into any kind of fight.” He repeats adjusting his tone to sound more convincing though it seems to give the opposite effect.
“Isn’t that boring? Can’t you give us something much simpler…? Like the one where we can just beat up everyone and then problem solved?” Blair complains with furrowed brows; her sight turned away from the headmaster while wearing a very uninterested expression.
“What kind of brute are you?” Headmaster Dimasalang cringes. “Okay, let’s take a different approach. How about I give you a reward if you can fulfill this flawlessly?”
Primrose opens a pack of cupcakes and starts eating again. “If you are talking about that ugly thing you brought then… No, thank you. The exit is over there.”
“No,” he adjusts his tie. “I’m talking about the processing of the permit you‘ll need to for an out of the campus club activity.”
“Hey, are you blackmailing us or something?” Emil grunts.
Tristan looked into the headmaster’s eyes. “There shouldn’t be any problem regarding an out of the campus activity. We just need the consent of our guardians as requirement.”
“I guess that problem concerns only me.” Primrose says while setting the cupcakes aside.
“She stopped eating, this is serious.” Blair mumbles.
“Right,” Headmaster Dimasalang scratches his left temple. “According to HHI and AB Academy’s agreement, Primrose Saintgregor, under any circumstances, is not to be allowed to go out the academy’s vicinity.”
“Of course, if my li’l sis isn’t going, then I won’t too.” Duke adds.
“I can go out just fine!” Emil complains slamming his palms on the table. “How come your rules are so strict on her?!”
“Calm down. It’s not my rules but I can do something about that if you give me a good enough reason to sway ICA’s higher committee.” Headmaster Dimasalang proposes.
“I see,” Azalea crosses her arms while fixing her gaze down the table. “Prim, what will happen if you go out of the campus without permission?”
Primrose points at the collar around her neck. “This collar serves as a tracking device, so ICA always knows where I am. If I ever break any rules such as leaving the campus grounds, this thing will inject poison into my blood stream which can instantly kill me.”
“That’s bullshit! Those collars are supposed to be designed to only inject paralyzing drugs!” Emil reacts violently pounding the table.
Emil, Tristan and Blair’s expressions are mixed with rage and confusion.
“I’m at ICA’s mercy.” Primrose keeps her composure. “It appears that they aren’t going to take any risks when it comes to me. In fact, they could just make up some excuse and kill me off on a whim right now.”
Azalea sighs deeply, “I really hate it when you talk like that.” Then she turns to the headmaster. “Old man, other than just that permission to go out, can’t you do something about getting that thing of her neck instead?”
The Headmaster Dimasalang shakes his head. “It’s not like I didn’t try at all. The power that controls this academy isn’t solely dependent on me.”
“Is there another way to get rid of the collar?” She asks earnestly.
The headmaster makes a gloomed expression. “There is only one that I know of. It’s the same for everyone else in the red. Serve the nobles.”
“What the fuck do you mean by that?!!” Blair furiously raises her voice while slamming her left hand on the table. “Those kinds of rules should be removed! What do they think these people are?”
“Cool your head, Blair.” Azalea keeps a composed expression though her hands are tightly clenched and shaking. “Alright, old fart. We’ll take that odd job request you’re giving us, just make sure that Prim will be able to go out when the time comes. That will be enough for now.”
The room is suddenly filled with unrest. Emil can only click his tongue. The tension in the air gets thicker and thicker by the minute.
“But Az--” Blair turns to her voicing her disagreement but fell into a sudden silence when she notices the rage in her expression as if there is a thundering storm brewing inside her eyes.
“In that case, just pass your report to Zharyx. I’ll be waiting for the results of your investigations ASAP.” Headmaster Dimasalang states before leaving the room.
The door closes with a soft click. A brief silence follows.
Azalea closes her eyes, takes a deep breath the she slowly exhales. “Emil and Duke will search around the red zone to gather information.” Her commanding voice rings alerting them. “As soon as you can get ahold of anyone who is involved in this ‘movement,’ report it in our next club meeting.”
“Okay, we’ll start around the red zone clubs tomorrow.” Duke agrees readily.
“Prim, I’ll somehow find a way to remove that collar off your neck.” She then stands up and then walks neatly towards the door. “This meeting dismissed.”
Blair immediately follows after Azalea leaves.
“She doesn’t need to be that concerned,” Primrose mutters.
“Um… I’ll be going too, then… See you, next time.” Tristan leaves.
Evan is also about to leave the clubroom when he notices the metal case where the unsightly sculpture came from. He examines it for a while, then he notices a few cracks on the case that appears to have been newly inflicted on it.
“What’s wrong?” Duke asks turning towards Evan.
“Nothing. I’m just thinking that, this sculpture, though it’s made of some wood, is very tenacious.” He answers while wearing a polite smile. “By the way, I don’t want to sound rude, but… Duke, what is the color of your eyes?”
“That’s rude,” Primrose interferes. “My brother is blind.”
“My apologies.” Evan replies wearing the same unfading smile before leaving calmly.
“He sure notices some trivial things.” Duke mumbles before turning to his sister. “Prim, could you return to the dorms with Emil? I’ll stay a little while to put away this hideous present and organize a few things above.”
Primrose nods. Emil then escorts her back to the dorms.
From that day, something unnerving has been bugging Azalea’s mind. As she reflects more into the past events, from the day she was scouted by Zharyx’ group until the moment she entered AB Academy leading to different chain of events which has resulted to the creation of Asylum. The way it all falls and fit into the right place to challenge her principles and incite her to act is very suspicious.
The next day, she goes directly to the Headmaster’s office after her classes are over. She wants to confront the person who is most likely pulling the strings behind these events.
“Good day,” he greeted. “It appears that I am now well aware of the reason why you are giving me a sudden visit today, Miss Blakewood.”
Azalea turns her head around observing the surroundings. She pauses when she catches the sight of Miss Malupit who is sitting by herself on the sofa. “Did I just interrupt some important discussion between the two of you?”
“It’s not something for you to concern yourself about. Please do learn how to knock first before entering the office.” Miss Malupit advises her.
“I’ll be careful next time.” She says with skeptical tone while taking a sit at the chair beside the sofa. “In any case, Headmaster, was everything you said yesterday about Prim’s collar, true?”
“You said,” she is looking quite stern. “You can do something about it if we give you enough reason to sway ICA’s higher ups?”
“Unfortunately, that only stays true towards a few and limited conditions. As you can see, Primrose Saintgregor is collared because she is seen by ICA as a threat. Why is she a threat? Just because she is Gideon Saintgregor’s daughter. If you can erase that fact then wouldn’t that solve the problem?”
“However that’s impossible. So, how about we go through some more realistic approach? Like something that doesn’t line-up well with ICA’s regulations?”
“If you are going to take some measures that go against the conditions then there might be a couple of other ways.” He smiles menacingly while playing with the cigarette stick on his hand. “It’s either you find someone with influence as strong as ICA to back you up or you obliterate them in one quick swoop… But alas! Something like the latter option is out of the question, is it not?”
She makes a devilish smirk as if she is provoking him. “Do you think I can’t do that? Reducing ICA into a pile of rubbles, I mean…”
“Be mindful of your words, young lady.” With her firm voice, Miss Malupit interrupts the conversation’s flow.
Headmaster Dimasalang bursts into laughter. “Far way too serious, aren’t we? Of course, I know how destructive you could become, but let me snap you back to reality.” He pauses for a minute looking directly at Azalea’s purple eyes that carries such chilling expression. “You may be able to deal us a big blow but at what cost, Azalea? Is it worth it?”
She looks down, closes her eyes, and then she deeply breaths in before exhaling slowly. “I see… My bad.”
“As of now, there is nothing for you to worry about as long as your club and its members stay out of the ‘blacklist’ radar.” He smiles. “I want to make it clear again. I don’t want you to become our enemy.”
“Is that so?” She responds with a hollow tone. “I did say that I’d play with you as long as you aren’t becoming a nuisance.”
He forces a laugh. “Hm? What are you planning to do if I become a nuisance?” He puts the cigarette stick aside. He then smiles, like one of those innocent kids feigning ignorance.
Azalea responds with a disturbingly cheerful smile. “Well, I can’t let you foil my plans… but I guarantee you that I will respond to any kind of situation the way I see fit.”
Headmaster Dimasalang and Miss Malupit just watch her as she naturally leaves. The office is engulfed with silence for a brief moment.
Miss Malupit sighs. “Are you sure it’s fine to leave her like that?”
“Don’t you think I’ll be holding the advantage if she thinks that I am always a step ahead of her?” The headmaster responds while fixing his face down the cigarette stick. “If she hasn’t created that crazy club, I would have put her along with the other club-less students in a specially formed auxiliary club under StuCo. Now I realize, those kids don’t need my intervention for them to figure out their way. I’m just being a doting parent.”
“Our duty as adults is not to dote on them,” Miss Malupit says while fixing her glasses. “We are here to guide them. Those kids are smart and strong but they aren’t invincible. As much as this academy cultivates them, it also exposes them to danger.”
“I just want these kids to have a fair chance to choose the better path for themselves.” He answers with a serious tone. “Any news from Rajid?”
“Nothing worth mentioning,” she shakes her head. “That boy, all that he ever does is goof around.”
“If that is the case, then I want you to call him back. We will need his assistance here.”
Even though Azalea is not getting a clear answer to what she has confronted the headmaster for, she is now certain that something is about to shake the seemingly peaceful atmosphere of this academy soon.
Going back to Asylum’s affairs, after using up their two days for investigation, Emil and Duke are able to get a lead from one of the three clubs that reigns over the red zone. The same week, Erba’zien, afternoon, they are back to their clubroom to discuss the progress of their club activity.
“So, it just goes like that.” Emil tries explaining how their research went through. “Duke and I were simply strolling around the recreation area while listening to some gossiping little shits, when one punk approached us. He was trying to get us join into their club, Smash. We did some negotiation… Err, Duke took care of the talking and so…”
Duke chuckles. “We were able to arrange a meeting between our club, Asylum, and Smash. Where their leader or club president Hakusen Ahmil, and secretary, Ophelia Leto, will be attending. They probably just want to force us, who are from the red, to join their club.”
“I think there had been a power struggle between the three clubs but the cause is still unknown. This might turn out to be something bigger.” Emil adds.
“According to information we got from the Student Council President, Smash has the smallest number of members compared to the other two. This might be the reason why they are feeling desperate to gather more.” Tristan states while checking on his tablet.
“What is that?” Blair blurts out while looking into the list of clubs. “There’s a club called ‘Burgers and French Fries’? A culinary arts club?”
“Please don’t focus on the unnecessary stuff.” Tristan pushes her away. “By the looks of it, it’s highly probable that they are going into a form of large scale fight.”
“Could they be planning to go on a war with each other?” Duke mutters trying to assess the situation. “That’s not very smart.”
The door then creaks as Evan goes in. “I just saw a lot of cats outside. Are we having a new trend today?”
“Isn’t that your doing, Blair?” Emil turns to her.
“Well damn,” Blair clicks her tongue. “Evan, do you really have to come in late and begin your entrance with my cats as the topic?”
He snickers while taking his seat. “Sorry about that.”
“Get rid of the cats later.” Azalea gives her a displeased look.
“B-but it seems that Q is enjoying his time around here too.” She reasons.
“Kyu?..” Evan wonders.
Azalea closes her eyes and sighs. “Going back to our original topic, since Evan is now here, let’s have him arrange a place for Asylum and Smash to meet up this weekend. Make sure it’s presentable enough and private. You know this stuff.”
“Yes, you can leave that to me.” He replies delightfully.
“What’s next?” Tristan puts down his tablet. “Are we going to directly confront them?”
“I don’t see any problem with that.” Primrose says while munching marshmallows. “If anything we can be sure that they won’t be acting with violence with a bunch of green and one lonely blue.”
“Emil and I will continue being the messenger.” Duke smiles while tapping Emil’s shoulder.
“Let’s settle with this for today. However, I doubt that this problem will be over with a simple talk.” Azalea says while looking at her PDA. “If there’s something you want, you have to offer something in exchange…”
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