Hunt 31: After the Daring Mission
“I’ve opened the door, just like you asked,” Evan says with a kind smile while walking closer to Blair. “I found some card keys in the man’s pockets.”
“Waaaaaaah!” Blair screams hysterically while rubbing the top of her head. “Why haven’t I thought of searching through that person’s belongings?! Of course he got the keys!” She slouches her back feeling defeated while Evan opens Q’s cage. When Evan is about to grab Q, she stops him. “Wait, I’ll carry him.” She carefully takes Q out of the cage and then carries him close to her chest.
They leave the room with Blair leading the way while Evan keeps his senses alarmed in case something unexpected happens. The enemy is still lying unconscious by the side of the door. He destroyed the unknown man’s gun and tied him up using the man’s belt. Half way the lower hold, they hear footsteps coming from the next room. It is the sound of someone in a hurry. They continue on their way with caution. Evan grips the scabbard of his sword while fixing his eyes straight ahead. The footsteps come closer and closer until they can see the silhouette of the man coming directly into the lower deck. It does not take long for Blair to recognize that person running with a flustered face.
“Emil!” She shouts while she speeds up her walking pace to meet him. “Nice, you made it here faster than I thought!” She smiles candidly after getting close enough to him.
“You idiot!” Emil growls while catching up his breath. “Don’t just run off on your own like that. We were told to move in pairs.”
“Did you just call me an idiot?” Blair responds playing innocent. “Ruuuuude.”
“So you don’t deny that you’re an idiot?” He mumbles.
“I see,” Evan joins in the conversation. “To think that you were left by your partner far behind is ridiculous. Shame.”
Emil glares at him. “Bastard, why are you here?”
“Hey, calm down.” Blair steps in between. “Van helped me rescue Q.”
“Yeah right,” he responds a little pissed. “Let’s just return to the main deck and meet up with the others. Have you informed Azalea?”
“Ah, I forgot. You do it instead.” She replies with a kiddy chuckle.
“I’ll do it instead,” Evan cuts in and insists. He then takes his phone out to make a call.
Emil peers at him. “Yeah right.”
On the second deck, Tristan is internally panicking as he watches the drops of blood slide down Azalea’s cheeks. On the other hand, the person sweating blood just pulls a wide smile as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
“What’s with that look?” The creases on Tristan’s forehead increase. His expression is full of worry. “D-did that guy do something? A t-trap?”
“Calm down, calm down.” Azalea responds playfully. She then continues to walk ahead. “It’s sorta normal in this case. Let’s continue on our way and meet up with everyone. I’ll fill you in later, with everyone. This isn’t just the right time.”
His forehead is still wrinkled and his lips frowning. His heart is pounding rapidly nonstop. “B-but…” His suddenly rings. He picks up the call with shaky hands almost dropping it as he taps the answer button. “H-hello, Evan… Um. Ok.”
“Any news?” Azalea wears her business smile on; ignoring the blood dripping from the tips of her fingers.
“Y-yeah.” He ends the call. “Evan with Emil and Blair got Q. He’s sleeping deeply but it seems that he’s fine.”
“I see. That’s great.”
“We should meet up with them in the main deck.”
It is past curfew already, if they return now they are going be in so much trouble. However, if they do not return this day they will surely get into a more serious mess. They continue on their way silently, tracing the dark path they took earlier. On the way, the blood sweating eventually stopped. When they reach the main deck, Azalea takes out her phone. She dials with a serious expression; and then distanced herself quite far from Tristan assuring that he will not hear her conversation.
Azalea and Tristan meet up with Evan, Emil and Blair’s group in the main deck. She may not show it, but the instant they became visible in her line of sight, her action speaks louder than words. She runs over towards Blair who is carrying Q. Deep asleep, she takes the little guy over and carries him close to her chest. Everyone seems curious as to what happened. After all, among the five of them, she is the only one looking like that. However, time is pressing and they do not want to run into more troubles so they have decided to leave immediately.
Acting as if nothing happened, they stand in the place where the cargo ship still rest in their view. There are less people than before so they are less concerned about the occasional curious onlookers. They loaf around the side of that same small store they hanged at before they went into the ship.
“So, what happened?” Blair breaks the silence with a clear dissatisfied look on her face.
“It’s not a big deal.” Azalea replies casually.
“Huuuh?!” Blair’s brows knitted; her glare is piercing.
“Well… In simple words…” Azalea scratches her head without letting go of Q. “You know we all have a “mana circuit” where the mana we use for our abilities flow. In my case, I have abnormally too much of this mana that could easily get out of control. You can consider this blood perspiration as a light feedback… You can think of it like a circuit overheating.”
“Does that mean you can’t use magic without being subjected to that bloody feedback?” Emil asks.
“Of course I can!” She answers confidently. “I’ll need my armor, though. Its custom made to suit me, with seals and stuff. Armors will make me really stand out here so I’m using these suppressant gems for better control but they break easily. Also, that armor is currently in repair.”
“Hmm…” Blair scratches her temple. “I kind of get it. So does that mean you fought someone strong back there?”
Azalea gives no answer. She only keeps her business smile on.
“I should go finish him off.” Evan mumbles as he is about to take a step towards the ship.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Azalea grabs Evan’s shoulder; her smile turns somewhat sinister.
Evan faces her with his own nice guy smile. “Nothing. I just thought I should get some fresh air. By the way…” His tone suddenly sounds deeper. “Azalea, what did you mean by “light feedback”? Is there a worse feedback?”
Azalea lets go of him. “Mhm.” Then she shows a smile brighter than before. “I do not intend for something like that to happen, though. So, worry not.”
“Is that her own way of saying, “please stop asking”?” Tristan thinks while looking at the two smiling dorks.
They watch the sky change its color from the gentle orange of the late afternoon to cold distant purple of the early night. Half an hour passes by before they see a van coming their way. It stops near the store, and from the driver’s seat, a stylish young lady comes out and heedlessly goes straight to Azalea. The stylish lady grimaces the moment she gets a clear look at Azalea’s appearance.
“Uhmm… Hello Y-yan,” Azalea greets with a forced smile; sweat rolls down her forehead. “We sort of got into some troublesome situation.”
A profound silence follows. “I haven’t heard a single word from you since the classes formally started,” says Lillian, tilting her head a little to the side with one of her brows raised high. “Now, you suddenly call me and tell me you’re in trouble?! You look like a mess. What in the world have you been up to?”
“I’m sorry,” she humbles herself while scratching the back of her head. “But could you help me out of this. Could we… errr like spend the night in your place?”
She responds with a quiet stare, her eyes peering at her, while Azalea could only avert her eyes away while still holding on to Q. “Look at me properly, young lady.” She suddenly speaks with an enraged tone. Azalea, while stooping low moves her pupils up just enough to see half of Lillian’s face. “Don’t give that “lost puppy look” of yours. You have a lot of explaining to do.”
“I’ve never seen Az become that submissive.” Blair whispers softly to Emil.
“That woman must be some kind of a god then?” Emil responds with a joke.
With her head down and her back slouching; Azalea touches her nape while making a forced smile followed by a monotonic laugh. “Yan… C-can we do the talking later?”
“Get in the van,” she answers while pointing behind.
“Blair and the rest, please get into our ride.” Azalea turns to her clubmates.
“Who’s she?” Blair asks before going into the van. “Your older sister?”
“Uhm.. no…” Azalea answers. “Not really siste--”
“We’re sort of like that,” Lillian cuts off while smiling at Blair. She stares at her for a while then rolls her eyes and stares at Emil. “Azalea, since when were you friends with gangsters?”
“That way of speaking,” Blair says with a mix of annoyance. “Az, she’s definitely your sis!”
Azalea then pulls Blair’s arm, spins her around and then kicks her into the van’s entrance. “Please, just get into the van.”
Evan then follows closer to Azalea and Lillian who gives him a kind smile. “Excuse me,” he says politely. “Are you Miss Adams, former Student Council President?”
“Former StuCo President,” Tristan says softly while getting in the van. He looks at the lady standing beside Azalea. “Miss Adams… not Blakewood?”
Lillian looks at him with observant eyes. “Ah! You’re Ivan’s younger brother!” She recalls and then she moves closer. “Evan, right? You’re with Azalea?”
“Thank you for taking care of Azalea.”
“Huu~h?!” Azalea lets out a sound so unbecoming. “Who’s taking care of who, now? Like hell I need such--” She suddenly cuts her complaints when Lillian glares at her. “Great,” she mumbles looking away while petting Q.
“How come he gets different treatment,” Emil mutters before going in the van.
“Because I’m good looking,” Evan answers teasingly. “I’m sorry for imposing on you without prior notice.” He says politely while turning his sight back to Lillian. “I’m glad to see you doing well after two years, Miss Adams.”
“Ivan and I were good friends, just call me Lillian,” she answers politely with a kind smile. “It’s been a while, you’ve grown a lot.”
“Ugh… Can’t we just leave… like now.” Azalea comments while rolling her eyes.
“Watch your manners, young lady.” Lillian responds after hearing her.
“Yes, ma’am.” Then she moves to get into the van.
“You are going to sit in front, with me.”
Before Azalea can get in the van, Evan reaches out to her. “Azalea,” he whispers. “There are two of them, prying.”
“I know,” she replies softly. “If they aren’t going to attack just ignore them.”
“What are the two of you hiding?” Lillian curiously interrupts in between. “Hurry up and get in. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Lillian sits on the driver’s seat and then checks to see if everyone is comfortable. Azalea is sitting quietly beside her. Blair, Emil, Tristan and Evan are behind and they seem comfortable enough to keep on rumbling with each other.
The color of the sky once again changes, now it gives of a dreamy feeling of dark violet.
It takes few minutes travel to reach Lillian’s café in District 3. Lillian drops them off right in front of the café while she parks the van in the garage. It is a simple three-story building near the park and public offices; the walls still looks newly painted with colors green and blue; a transparent fiberglass presents the elegance of the cafe's front which allows the passers-by get a general idea of what it looks inside while keeping the customers secured.
Tristan looks up. “Mellow out Café,” he reads out loud.
“Hm. Pretty chill.” Emil says following Tristan.
Blair pops out from Azalea’s side. “Do you live here?”
“No,” she answers with a teasing smile. “This place is pretty new. It changed a lot since my last visit.” Then she takes the lead calmly walking closer to the entrance. The guard opens the transparent door. “Let’s go inside.”
Animals are not allowed inside, much less a monster, so they used a different entrance; one that is for the café’s staff. Despite how much of a mess Azalea looks, the guard courteously greet her as she passes by. Blair is the first one to follow running like an excited kid. Tristan sighs and moves slowly in. Emil follows casually strolling along. The last to come in is Evan who takes some time observing the outside atmosphere. After making sure that the mysterious presence he felt before are no longer following or observing them, he goes inside calmly catching up with the group.
The after rush hours effect where there are fewer customers is making the café look very spacious. As they stroll through, they notice the neatly maintained floor, almost reflecting everything above it. Over the rhythmically arranged tiles with light refreshing colors are their reflected silhouettes. The mixed aroma of brewed coffee and freshly baked bread that floats in the air is very inviting that they feel like taking a seat and have a taste of such calming atmosphere. They take the stairs going to the top floor.
“This place looks really luxurious,” Tristan comments while following Azalea up to the third floor. “It also looks new. What kind of person is that lady?”
Without looking back Azalea laughs. “Just normal.” Then they reach a wide door that Azalea opens with her card key. “We’ll be staying here for the night.”
After she pushes the door open, two tall men are standing near. They look very similar, like twins but one has a clean-cut while the other grew his hair long enough to cover his nape. “Hello,” the man with clean-cut’s greeting partially startles Tristan and Emil. “Don’t be nervous. I’m Dino, Lillian’s older brother. It’s great to see you here, Azalea, no wonder Lillian was flustered a while ago.”
“I had an emergency,” Azalea smiles at him. “Sorry for the sudden visit.”
Then Dino lets them pass, extending the invitation. “Don’t mind it. Kino and I just dropped by today to see how our little sister is doing. Please take a sit and feel at home.” He humbly leads them to the living room. “It has been long since we last meet, it seems that you are doing well… at school. Given that you have this many friends.”
“Isn’t this guy trying too hard to ignore a certain something?” Tristan says softly while looking away.
“Well, some things just happened,” Azalea answers with a false smile.
Blair, Tristan and Emil take a sit on the sofa while Evan sits on the other sofa across.
“Kino, could you get them some snacks?” Dino orders politely. “I’ll go prepare some drinks, I’m sure you’re exhausted.”
“You don’t really have to, we’re fine.” She insists. “I’ll go in the guest room and lie Q down for a bit.”
“You should also go clean yourself up. I’m sure that appearance made Lillian very upset.” Dino says with a solemn expression.
All of them keeps their silence, their eyes looking down the polished wooden table, fixed on the small transparent cone glass vase with lilac and clematis flowers arranged in it.
Meanwhile, the two mysterious hooded people that have been spying on Asylum’s group have returned to the cargo ship. They are currently in an isolated room, reporting to their superior who is communicating through a sound-only call. Inside the room is another person who acts as the team leader.
“How is it?” The acting leader asks while sitting in front of the communication screen. He has brunette hair and grayish blue eyes. He looks like he is in his early twenties but gives off a more mature vibe.
One of the spies takes his hood off. He has gray hair despite looking so young. His eyes are blood red and fierce. “It does not seem like they are going to call the attention of the police here.” He says with ease and calm tone. “I believe they decided that it will be too troublesome for them to get involved at this point. However, as I observed how they acted, I am certain that they are already preparing for the bigger incident.”
“Hm…” He pauses while slipping deep into his thoughts. The buzzing sound of the communication link consumes the room for a while. “Interesting.”
“But Yhor,” the other man calls. He has blond hair and blue eyes. “Will this be okay?”
“Do you doubt our leader’s plan?” He responds with a grim tone. The blond cannot utter a single word in response so he only shakes his head.
“Sylvan,” the voice from the communication link calls then the man with gray hair fixes his eyes at him. His voice is masked by the rasping sound in the background. “I need you to start the next phase of our plan.”
“Yes sir!” He responds before leaving the room.
“Yhor,” their leader calls again. “Is it her?”
“I am certain,” Yhor answers with a confident tone. “Our man inside confirmed, and I saw her earlier. Blond hair and purple eyes.” He stands up and faces the white blank screen. “I did not expect it either… to learn that she’s in that place.”
“This explains why Diana’s team could not find her these past months.” He continues. “Their team is efficient when tracking her back in the wilds. To accidentally cross paths here… We’re taking this chance. You know what to do.”
“Understood.” Yhor replies and then turns back to his subordinate. A zapping sound follows as the monitor turns black. “Lyrus, what happened to the two K’Shirm guards we assigned in the deck?”
“They seem fine,” he responds recalling the statement of the two guards. “Aside from few bruises, they are quite healthy. Though they had direct contact with the target… well…” He smirks and then lets out a laugh. “I don’t know what happened but they look like they just shit their pants.” He is not able to stop himself from bursting out with laughter the moment he finished his sentence.
“That’s unfortunate,” he says with a cold tone while Lyrus continues laughing. “We won’t need them in the next operation. How about the mercenaries we hired?”
He forces himself to stop laughing. He takes a deep breath. “Raya and Shio are fine despite getting their butts beat. The problem lies with Kaga, he said, he cannot feel his yashou, Will, anymore. He is also unable to summon it after his fight. Also one of our own, Vaset… he’s kind of frozen right now. It doesn’t look like the spell is going to wear off any time soon.”
“Have Kaga deliver the two ubliss guards to Hawkweed.”
“H-hawk- Hawkweed?!” His voice trembles at the mention of the name. “Y-yes sir.”
“Reassign Raya and Shio to Diana’s team.”
“As for Vaset,” he thinks for a while. “We’ll just have to return him to HQ for now.”
“Should I go?” Lyrus asks.
“No, we need you here right now.” Yhor says while sitting back to relax his posture. “Call Asna, we have to properly explain to her the change in our plans. This is not the time to go on rampage.”
“Understood.” He is about to leave when he pauses for a moment and then turns back to Yhor. He fixes his eyes on him. “She’s outside of AB Academy at the moment. If our main objective is her capture, why can’t we attack now?”
Yhor’s lips make a slight arch for a moment, as if he finds the question amusing. “I understand, it’s your first time coming out of the den. If she is alone, we could easily overwhelm her. The people she’s with, though just a bunch of kids they may be… Hm. They are skilled. Do you think we could attack, defeat them, and take the target in a matter of a few minutes?”
“Azalea, alone, in her top condition, it’s impossible. What more if she has a group of people she that could command and assist her?”
“Yhor,” he stares at him with serious expression while forcing a smile. “Something like that, it’s too much even for exaggeration.”
He lets out a chuckle, a cold and heavy one. “She isn’t the type to go down without a fight.” He recalls with an amused expression. “She was only captured and confined once… And that was only possible because she was extremely exhausted from a hunt back then. She was able to take down a number of them before escaping, a futile attempt to lose them. In the end, the only thing that was able to bring her down is her fatigue.”
“So we just have to wait until she’s overworked herself?”
“To put it simply, that’s one of her weakness. However we’ll need to earn a lot of patience. It took them more than three months of stalking and observing her to finally get that rare chance. Still, in a couple of weeks, she was able to escape that laboratory. For now, we cannot touch her without a solid plan and an effective way to keep her restrained. Once she learns about our organization’s existence and objective, it will be difficult to take further action.”
“That’s why our objective right now prioritizes information.” Lyrus lets out a heavy sigh. “I thought that day would be a good time to crash that AB Academy.”
“If they could be crashed easily then it would not have taken us this long to get this close. Do not underestimate ICA. They continue to rule because they never let their skill rust away.”
“Who knows, they might have gone weak.” He sneers. “If by any chance, the academy shows any sign of weakness, don’t you think we should grab it?”
He scoffs. “I’ll take my leave.” He then leaves the room wearing an excited expression.
Yhor stays and ponders on his own. “Weakness? Even if that is so… With her there, and with the information she holds now, it won’t be possible…” He mumbles while resting his eyes. “I want to see for myself… how formidable the “Heaven’s Wing” Azalea is…”
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