Hunt 28: Mismatch
Twenty-eight day of Sat’xahr, 4:37 pm
District 3, Port area
Azalea, Blair and Emil have finally reunited with Tristan and Evan. They are now headed to the ship where Q is being held. Fewer people are strolling around the port this time. Most of the ones left are workers who carry and organize the cargoes into their assigned warehouse.
“Where’s Duke?” Blair asks on the way.
“He went ahead,” Tristan answers casually. “He said he won’t be able to survive any longer being apart from his adorable little sister.”
Emil sighs softly. “What the hell?..”
“I’m sure he got his reasons,” Azalea says while they continue on their way. “Prim must be spending all of her time alone today.”
“Now that you mention it,” Blair recalls. “Prim doesn’t seem to have any other friends aside from us.”
Emil snorts. “Yeah, and you talk like you’re any different.”
She frowns while peering at him. Her brows furrow and her eyes narrows. “Well… That’s because…”
“Shhh-- we’re here.” Azalea cuts in while they stand in front of the ship. She pauses and then whispers, “Aren’t we all like that?..”
“Az, did you say something?” Blair prances a few steps closer.
“Nope,” she smiles. “Let’s go.”
Then everyone else follows her lead.
Meanwhile, in front of AB Academy’s front gate, Duke notices a woman standing by. It seems like she is stressing to resolve herself about something.
Duke hesitates on his way for a moment. On his right hand he is carrying the treat he bought for his sister, a box of cookies and some fruits. He wants to reunite with her as soon as possible. While getting closer to the woman, he suddenly senses a very familiar feeling. He halts his advance. The woman, whom he seems to not like much, is tracing the metallic gate of the academy. He walks indifferently, getting closer until he reaches a desirable distance beside the woman. He pauses in front of the gates and then turns at her.
The woman chances his presence. Her face shows an expression of surprise and shock and then changes to pure discomfort. For several minutes no words are uttered between them though the traces of distress linger on her face a little longer.
“What might be your business here?” Duke asks trying to act polite. “The Academy won’t allow visitors unless you have filled up the right papers. I am amazed, why the look outs haven’t turned you away yet...”
“I want to see my daughter,” she insists with shaking voice. “I haven’t seen her for years.”
He clenches his fist, holding the plastic bags tighter. A frown forms on his previously smiling lips. “Please leave,” he says strongly. “May be you could see Primrose, if you follow the process, however I beg of you, please don’t. Just leave quietly and never come back, mother.”
“You…” The old lady croaks while her brows furrow deeper. She turns her eyes away from him and then takes a step back. “You are not my son! I came for my daughter not for some monster like you!”
“Yeah… I guess you can put it that way too.” Duke walks past the woman, leaving her behind. “I know you’ll never acknowledge me, but if you are going to insist showing yourself to Primrose the way you are now, then I must not let you pass.” He says softly while approaching the smaller side gates. He goes inside leaving the woman without any further arguments.
She cannot even bear to watch him leave, the person she treats as a monster. She grips the bars of the gate with both of her hands. Her head hangs low. Tears start to drop from her sunken eyes.
“J-just for a while,” she whispers a few times without moving away for several minutes.
“No matter how long you wait, she’ll never come near the gate; she waited long enough, blankly staring at those iron bars hoping you’d come… but you never did. You abandoned her yet every day, those same hopes crushed her heart with no way to recover… Please, enough of this.” Duke repeats the words inside his head while walking into the admin building. His heart is heavy, like there is a thick cluster of clouds inside his chest weighing his body down. “Please, don’t hurt her any more than you already did.”
As he enters the building, two men pass by him on the way. They do not feel like students of the academy. They are adults, must be the guards stationed to watch after the front gates. They approach the woman in front of the gate. It seems that she has been staying there for few hours now despite of their persuasion and warning.
Now, Q’s retrieval team is currently inside the ship. They are searching for the possible places in the ship where their live goods are being kept. Currently, they are in the ship’s main deck. No matter how they reassess it, the cargo ship is too big for them to inspect with only five people. The sun is setting, the surrounding is starting to change its color from light orange to darker blue violet, it will be night soon and the interior of the ship is dimly lit. After observing it for a while, they concluded that there are not many guards looking after the ship. The main deck is mostly empty; they doubtfully walk around without encountering anyone, not even a crewman. It is as if the place is abandoned which is quite suspicious. The fact that it looks safe for anyone to come inside and leave, feels more and more like a trap.
Before they go ahead with the search, Tristan touches the wall using his psychometry to tell the route that the thief took. Unfortunately, it was very dim and he could barely make the figure much less the path. Azalea can feel Q’s presence but the interior of the ship makes it hard for her to tell the right way. It is like a maze, even though she can tell the general direction, they can still end up taking a route leading them to a completely different place. It will take them forever to go for a trial and error strategy. To expand their search area, they decide to split into two groups with one group having two people while the other has three. However Evan disagrees insisting that it will be more helpful if they split into three instead, where one of them is to search alone. Without knowing what kind of organization they are exactly dealing with, the proposition only sounds dangerous.
“Don’t get too over confident,” Azalea strongly argues with Evan’s idea. “We have no information, what kind of traps might have been set around here. Our only goal is to get Q back and leave without making too much noise.”
“That’s why I propose that I’ll go look alone.” Evan retorts, not holding back his will. “If we can look for the cat in three areas it’ll be faster and we can leave without getting too much attention.”
Emil steps in between. “We are wasting more time with this argument. Just let Mr. Noble do what he wants.”
“Stop cutting in, Scarface,” Evan glares at Emil before turning his sight back at Azalea. “I’m simply suggesting something that I know I can handle.”
“What did you just call me?!” Emil raises his voice. He grits his teeth; veins start popping out on his forehead.
“Guys,” Blair says while tapping each of their shoulders in an attempt to stop them from getting on each other’s ends. “Don’t start a fight now. Also, don’t shout.”
“She says some smart things at this kind of times, huh.” Tristan mumbles at the corner.
Azalea turns away from them. She touches her chin while spacing out. They are quiet for several minutes. “I’d prefer if we all work at least in pair,” she says while relaxing her posture. She takes a deep breath. “Okay, if you insist, Evan.” She then faces them and looks at Evan eye to eye. “You can take on solo, but don’t overdo it.”
“Sure,” he smiles kindly at her. “I didn’t know you were that concerned about me.”
For a split second, Azalea looks at him as if she is looking at a pest crawling on the ground before turning away. “Tristan,” she calls, ignoring Evan’s comments. “Pair up with me. Emil, Blair, you two pair up too. Let’s divide our destinations.” Then she takes a look at her phone. She spaces out for a while. In front lies passages they are yet to explore.
“I thought Azalea would pair up with Blair since they really get along.” Tristan mutters while walking towards Azalea’s side.
“Yosh! Emil, I’ll be counting on you then!” Blair enthusiastically says while hitting Emil’s back.
Before they split up, Azalea pulls Emil away dragging him far from the rest. “Ah, Emil, come here for a while,” she whispers. While they are standing close to each other, Evan cannot hide his evil glare behind their backs. “You know Blair easily gets into trouble so I want to ask you a favor, please always keep your eyes on her. Okay?”
“Why don’t you pair up with her instead?” He whispers back.
“It would if possible, but you don’t get along with anyone better than her.”
“I-I’m fine around Duke and Primrose, you know.”
“They aren’t here, you know.” She then tapped his shoulder twice and smiled. “Tristan still looks uncomfortable around you. Give him some time; he’ll warm up to you soon. But Blair, she likes you a lot already, so I’ll leave her in your care for now.”
At the moment Azalea turns away, Emil suddenly blushes and then he rubs the back of his head as he shrinks away due to shyness.
As soon as the two separates, Evan prances closer to Azalea. “What were you talking with Scarface?”
“None of your concern.” She answers indifferently while she grabs Tristan’s arm and then she pulls him away. “We’re going this way. Later~” She waves.
“Hey slow down!” Tristan complains while getting dragged around.
“Emil!” Blair calls out while running cheerfully running towards him. “What did Az tell you? You look disturbed.”
“N-nothing worth mentioning,” he answers turning away to hide his reddish face. “Let’s get going, we have to find that cat and go back to the academy before curfew.”
Evan watches as the pairs vanish into the dark shadows while they walk deeper into the interior of the ship. After everyone else has gone on their way, he sighs heavily before proceeding on his way; calmly like a feather riding the wind. Blair and Emil are going further down into the dimly lit passage of the ship and on their way, they notices that the area where there are supposed to have cargoes are empty. On the other hand, Azalea and Tristan’s pair that is on the second deck encounters the same sight. Azalea thinks that the ship looks too suspicious. It is baffling how much it feels like a ghost ship that sent one of its ghosts to lure them in.
“This is sort of creepy, you know.” Tristan’s voice is shaking while he looks around. “Could that cat of yours be really here?”
Staying quiet, Azalea observes the surroundings. The light orb she casts illuminated the space around them, showing nothing but empty wide space. On the steel flooring, there are signs showing that there used to be something there. There are some marks; scratches made by a number of heavy objects that were moved out into somewhere. When she walks few steps forward, she notices a small object flicker in the dark.
“Where are you going?” Tristan follows her while she goes ahead to check on the small object that caught her interest.
“It really feels like a lot of things are off in this place,” Azalea says deep in thought. “Could it be that--” Her speech gets cut off when she felt an unknown person’s presence with oozing killing intent directed towards them. A second later, a gunshot echoes. Due to her keen senses, she is able to immediately push Tristan away from where they stand. She then quickly casts protection spells on both of them.
Tristan grunts from the fall while keeping his body on the ground. “What’s going on?! Firing at us without warning!” Staring at the hole on the floor that the bullet made gives him goose bumps.
“Of course they won’t warn us if they want us dead!” She shouts before another round of attack starts. She dispells the light orb leaving both them and the attacker unable to see in the dark. She took advantage of the time while their eyes adjust to the darkness to drag Tristan behind the nearby wooden boxes. “Keep down.”
“You’re kidding, right?” He feels a sudden chill on his back. “Why would they be so eager to kill a couple of students who might have just accidentally wandered in?”
“Probably because they know that isn’t the case.” She peeks at the side looking for the enemy. There are two enemies, both of them have guns. “Prez, what do you think is inside these boxes?”
“Are you saying we have fight them too?”
She hides again while keeping quiet. “Just tell me,” she says with unusual calmness.
Hearing her unwavering voice, Tristan feels a little relieved. He takes a deep breath before touching the boxes with his bare hands. “They look like bullets,” he says. “Looks quite powerful… and larger than the ones made for hand guns. These are… armor piercing bullets!”
“I can hear you well, don’t raise your voice so sudden. Goddamn it.” She says looking at the gems on her bracelet. She notices small cracks on it. “It’s only been three weeks, I haven’t even used any complicated spells. These gems really can’t hold my mana.”
Just in a few moments Tristan and Azalea pair is already cornered.
Meanwhile, Blair and Emil pair is taking their time on the tween deck. They have no source of light aside from the dimly glowing bulbs around. Both of them have strong senses and do not rely on their vision alone to find their way. However, not knowing the exact route, those strong senses do not prove much help. After going back and forth finding their way in the upper tween deck, they finally reached the lower tween deck. Just like the second deck, the place is also empty. Blair prances on and about without a care in the world while Emil follows catching up to her whims.
“Blair!” He raises his voice slightly so that it may not get unnecessary attention. “What are you doing?”
She halts and then faces him. “Just passing by. There’s absolutely nothing here, let’s be quick and check out the next deck.”
“You do realize that there might be other people here, right?” Emil grunts then he grabs her right arm to make her stay put for a moment. “Pay attention to your surroundings, we are trespassing right now so who knows what the crew might do.”
“We are just trespassing; they won’t hit us for that would they?”
“She doesn’t realize that this ship might be hiding something illegal?” He pauses and thinks deeply. “But given that they just abducted some sabercat… Anyway the problem is that she has no sense of danger at all.”
“What’s wrong?” Blair looks at him with innocent eyes.
“N-nothing,” he gulps turning his face away. “I wonder if Azalea knew that this would happen.” He mutters.
“You don’t have to fuss over it, what’s wrong with you?” She continues with the same tone while looking at her arm. Emil simply turns away looking somewhere else. “Hey Emil, you said before that you’re in the red because you’ve committed a crime. What did you do?”
He keeps silent for a long while and then stuffs his hands inside the pocket of his pants. “It’s like how everyone else… just I had no other choice... I guess.”
“You didn’t murder someone, did you?”
“OF COURSED I DID NOT!!!” He frantically shouts and then covers his mouth after realizing their circumstances again. “Hey, is that what you thought of me?”
Blair laughs cheerfully. “I was just kidding. I’m sure you won’t do something like that.” She smiles at him kindly. “It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me.”
They are about to go ahead on their route when he notices someone lurking ahead. “Blair, wait up!” He shouts but then something goes flying towards their direction. Both of them are able to easily dodge. The mysterious item hit something behind. It makes a loud clang, the sound is metallic. “Let’s find some cover, come!”
“Let’s just beat up the bastard now!” She disagrees and tries to charge forward but before she is able to take any action, Emil has pulled her into hiding behind the supporting pillar.
“Don’t get too reckless. What if you get hurt?”
She pauses and they stare at each other’s eyes for several seconds. “Emil… You are actually very caring like… like a worrywart grandma…” She smiles teasingly while watching him get caught in surprise.
“Y-you didn’t have to make me sound like a grandma,” his eyebrow twitches.
She laughs genuinely at him. “You can let go of me now, you know.” He turns his face to the side while letting go of her arm. “So, what’s our course of action now? That person doesn’t seem friendly enough to listen to us.”
“We either lose him or fight him now,” he answers after a little thinking.
“Oiii--!!” A man’s voice echoes. “Intruders! Come out now and I’ll be nice enough to give you a painless death!” The man laughs mischievously like a kid who just opened a box of toys. “Are you guys actually here for that sabercat in the lower hold? I can’t believe it, you are risking your lives for some monster.”
“I can’t believe it either,” Blair whispers softly.
“He just told us where to find Q. Where exactly is the lower hold?”
“It’s the lowest part of this ship, I think.”
“COME OUT NOW!” The man shouts then pieces of sharp blade like things hit the pillar they use as hiding place. “Kids should not play in someone else’s territory.”
“Stay hidden,” Emil says when he jumps out of their hiding place to run farther away. “Over here, bitch!”
“This little shit!” The man responds angrily while he chasing after Emil. “Who are you calling “bitch”?! My name’s Raya!!!”
They both face each other off, glaring and anticipating each one’s next move.
“Is he an idio--” Emil’s eyes widen and his jaws drop when he sees Blair nonchalantly step out from behind the pillar. “What the hell is she up to now?!” He panicks internally.
Blair waves at him. “I’ll go first,” she mouthed with a childish smile then she jumps and uses D-shift to pass through the floor down to the lower level of the ship.
“Shit!” Emil’s jaws drops while he keeps his eyes on the enemy. “I shouldn’t have let go of that idiot. Did Azalea know something like this would eventually happen? Always keep your eyes on her, my ass!”
All of a sudden Emil is stock in an unfavorable situation. He knows that Blair will thoughtlessly charge into the lower hold and look for Q. But before he can follow her, he must first deal with the opponent in front of him. He still has no idea how the opponent’s ability works so he is very cautious in his every movement. All that he got in mind at the moment is that he needs to finish up fast and look after that mischievous girl.
In the third deck, Evan seems to have found his opponent early and is currently facing him. Just like the other decks, the place is also wide and mostly empty. The man stands firmly a distance ahead of him with a yashou by his side. It looks like an armor clad warrior, an ancient royal knight, who had been through many battles proved by the number of grazes on that crimson plated armor. A yashou should be able to return to its dormant state to allow the contractor to rest. Evan could only conclude that this yashou’s appearance is only there to intimidate its opponent. It is most probably part of his battle strategy.
“Hello there,” he greets with a sinister smile on his face.
The man standing firm sneers. “All trespassers are going to be eliminated.”
“Ah, wait,” he responds nonchalantly while raising both hands. “This is actually my first real fight, all I’ve been through before this is nothing more than trainings and sparring sessions.”
“So?” The enemy is irked.
“I see,” he closes his eyes and crosses his arms while stooping down. “In real battles, you don’t actually need to introduce yourself, huh? Isn’t it rude to simply beat the opponent without knowing anything about them?”
The nameless man clicks his tongue and then points at Evan. “Willy, butcher him!” He commands and then his yashou moves in light speed pulling it’s claymore from the scabbard.
“So, your yashou’s name is Willy. How nice.” Evan mutters as he easily dodges the light-speed slash from his lower left. With a single step, he spins sideways while watching Willy cut though air. “I shall get rid of that first.” He smiles menacingly. “If it’s not a training session then that means I don’t need to hold back.” He points his right index finger to Willy and then discharges a laser-like beam of ki. Like a flash it goes through its mana imbued metal helmet which made it stop.
“Hah! Some lucky first strike he got there!” The enemy sneers wearing wide grin on his face. “That’s not enough to defeat Willy!” He clenches his fist and shouts. “Rip him to bits and pieces!!!”
Before the yashou is able to make a move, Evan rains it down with simultaneous beams of ki.
“No way!!!” He screams, panicking inside. “How could all those ki attacks pierce through Willy’s armor like it doesn’t have any protective aura covering it? I-is this person a fifth degree—no, maybe a sixth degree ki master?!!” He stands there petrified in terror, finally realizing the difference in their power.
Without looking at the man, Evan continues to rain beams of ki to the helpless yashou. Every hit pierced through the armor like it is poking into paper.
“Hey, do you know what happens to a contractor once you destroy their yashou down to its core?” He asks while wearing his usual good-mannered smile.
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