Chapter 11 – Academia (1)

Academia – Part 1

     As we head to our destination, the Academy,  Mimi briefly informs me how this will go. According to her, we’ll be taking a private coach on the train- yes, there are trains, but to get there we will have to walk near five miles.

     Somehow though, they have little faith in, “the sciences,” yet are capable of occasionally building machines that are similar to things found in the olden times of my world, but which run on magik in lieu of the typical resources my world would have used.

     I’m told that it is imperative to walk with dignity, grace, and yatta yatta; more formal stuff. The main thing was the fact that I’m apparently supposed to always remain in the center of my wives. Most of the city knows who I am, even if they haven’t seen me. The women are all well-known faces as well. So my being with them will be a dead give away. I would have assumed they’d simply just have guards escorting me or something, but I guess the Zeroth position isn’t really supposed to stand out, unlike the other Knights.

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     But as I was thinking just a moment ago, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. People will know who we are, if only because of the Valkyries. So I am failing the mission at step one; I am failing to blend in. Yet the girls insist that this is to be the way.

     From what little information I’ve gleaned from Mimi, the Zeroth’s place isn’t to be center stage. The power and prestige the title carries are meaningless if everything goes to plan- that is to say, no trouble crops up; but in the advent that it does, the lack of guards is to show that the Zeroth can protect themselves. Never am I allowed to appear weak in the public’s eye.

     This sounds like a really bad idea to me, but I suppose my entire time here has been one mistake after another. So with a sigh, I leave Valdrossa Manor.

     However, beyond the stares of wonder directed both at me and the women around me, we arrive at the train without issue.

     Once we are boarded, we’re shown to our own private section of the train. Kay forces me to sit in the back corner of the train, then proceeds to sit right next to me. Mimi protested at first, claiming that as the “best wife” she should have the right to sit next to me. After a terrifying glare from Kay, she backed off.

     “I’m pretty sure she’s just being protective Mimi. Please don’t pout,” I plead to the slightest glimpse of amethyst hair peeking over the seat in front of me.

     “I’m not pouting!”

      She turns around and glares over the seat at me. But Mimi, don’t you know? That is pouting; I neglect to contest anymore.

     Kay glances around the room constantly as if at any moment we will be jumped. Her being so on edge can’t be good for her, so I reach over and place my hand atop hers. She visibly tenses at this then glances over at me.

     I allude to being busy by suddenly becoming fascinated with the passing scenery. Eventually, she seems to give up waiting for me to look her way and flips her hand over, giving mine a squeeze.

     We finally arrive at the next station over still sitting in silence. The scenery was pretty. It was just mostly flat grasslands around us though. In this case, the only real difference from what I’m used to in my world is the grass is blue.

     When we arrive at our station, “This is our stop,” is all that Rose states as she stands and starts to head to the front of the train. Kay releases my hand to follow behind Rose. This leaves just Mimi and I in the back of the group. She still seems a little downcast, so I ask if she’d like to sit next to me on the ride back. Her face lights up, but she quickly jerks back down.

     “I will talk to Kay; I promise,” I ensure her. I’m rewarded with her smile.

     Mimi and I exit the train and immediately are swarmed by Kay and Rose. Together, the four of us walk through the main plaza of the city. What I see is magnificent. All around me are people, people, and more people. The vast majority of them have rather bland features, but occasionally you’ll see someone with an otherworldly set of eyes or hair pass by.

     The street is some kind of cobblestone; it’s nice and smooth. I think, at least I remember reading from a book about roads like that. That technology hasn’t been used in so long, perhaps I’m just misinformed. You can see wagons being pulled by various creatures. Some are horse-like but l have six legs. Some even look sort of like a cross between a hippo and a cat.

     The city proper is like something straight out of a fantasy book. The part that Val House is located in is more like some kind of suburb, filled with mostly houses.

     But here in this peculiar world, even the air around us is different. I’m looking around in wonder and awe, like a child’s first time in a toy store. I am constantly getting distracted and separated from the group; along with a multitude of scoldings from Rose. But I just can’t help it!

     With an audible sigh, Rose chides me, “You’re so energetic, my Lord. You would give even Vol a run for his money!” I blush and rub the back of my neck in chagrin.

     Mimi giggles when she sees this and says, “Indeed. I’ve never met someone who didn’t live here. So it’s quite amazing to see you like this, so excited.”

     Just then a shrill scream pierces the air around us, yet nearly everyone around me pays it no attention. I stand up straight in attention, chest puffed, and scan the immediate area.

     “What is it my Lord?” Mimi asks quizzically.

      I hear the scream again; being prepared for it, I dash off. It seems to take Mimi and Rose a moment before they start to move, but Kay doesn’t miss a beat.

     We’re running through the main street, our progress is slowed by the need to weave through the crowd. I dodge those that I can, apologize in passing to those that I can’t, and jump or duck under the rest.

     I make sure to keep in mind the increasing distance between us and Mimi and Rose. Truth be told, they’re slowing me down, and honestly, I’m slowing down Kay. She is unbelievable. We’ve all been running at near-full speed and she’s not even breathing hard. But I can’t afford to leave them behind or get separated from them. 

     There’s a third scream as we cut through an alley. I arrive just in time to see a woman with a dagger held high, and a beaten, bloodied man on the ground. “Kay!” I shout. And just as the woman brings her blade down on the man, Kay is at her side, driving her fist deep into the woman’s ribs.

     A scream reaches my ears first, followed by the sickening snap of her ribs as she crashes into a building. I can’t help but be mesmerized.

      “Um… wasn’t that a bit much? Is she even still alive?”

     Kay looks towards me. She’s wearing no expression and yet, I can tell she is confused; as if the thought of this random woman living or dying never even crossed her mind.

     A moment later Rose and Mimi arrive, completely breathless and hair ragged.

     “What the heck is the big idea leaving us behind like-” Mimi cuts herself off mid-sentence as she finally catches a glimpse of the man on the ground. It’s amazing how fast she switches gears; she’s kneeling right next to the man, checking him over.

     “He needs a healer immediately,” she snaps.

     “How close are we to the Academy?” I ask then turn and bark at Kay, “Subdue the woman and bring her as well.”

     I motion to Rose and kneel in front of the man with my back to him. “Get him on me.”

     Rose seems confused for a moment and replies, “But my Lord… it’s just a peasant, he’ll get blood on-”

     “Rose!” I shout at her with a ferocity that startles even me.

     In a panic, Mimi starts trying to pick up the man, but he’s far too heavy for just her to lift. Rose snaps herself out of it and aids Mimi in hoisting the man onto my back.

     He’s heavy, and barely conscious, but still breathing. Truth be told I could never normally pick up someone like him on my own; but just when I start to despair, I feel a warmth spread throughout me.

     “Hurry, you have little time,” I hear Rei’s voice echo in my mind. With renewed determination, and Rei’s energy pulsing through me, I stand.

     Rose and Mimi seem surprised, and I turn to look at Kay; she’s just hoisting the woman over her shoulder, having already been bound, seemingly by pieces of her own clothes that Kay must have ripped off. I’m floored by what this woman is capable of doing. Here I am, barely able to hold one man, and sure men tend to weigh more, but she’s holding up the entirety of this woman, over her shoulder, like it is nothing.

     With a nod, Kay and I start to make our slow pace to the Academy- well, I’m sure Kay would be a lot faster on her own but she’s keeping my pace. As we jog through the streets, people are turning and looking at us, some in confusion, some in fear. I can only imagine just how bad this looks to people.

     Rose and Mimi seem extremely put out and look like they want to be anywhere but here. However, they would never leave my side. In their minds, that dishonor is the same as being given a death sentence.

     As we get closer to the Academy, the number of guards around us increases. It’s not long before they’re yelling at us. But I ignore them.

     I ignore everyone and everything around us and I run. The warmth of this man on my back is fading. I have to keep going. I have to save him. I will not allow him to die.

     I am jolted with electricity pulsing through my body with every step I take. The origin is clear. A guard screams for me to halt and begins to draw his sword. When I don’t respond, he actually charges at me, sword in hand. I’m so mad at the situation that the cracks in my mental guard lessen and I feel Rei’s arms push through the cracks.

      I shout, “No!”

     Just then a black flame shoots from my shadow and engulfs the guard entirely. He falls to his knees, writhing in pain. I feel his pain; I don’t want him to die.

     There’s no point in saving one person at the expense of another.

      “Rei! Stop it!” I shout out loud. Within me, I hear her argue that it isn’t her, but she supports the decision.

    “I don’t care. You will stop it now Rei!”

     Again she argues that it isn’t her, yet immediately the blackness around the man dissipates. He lies on the ground, motionless.

     “Rei!”

      She tells me he’s fine and urges me to keep moving if I wish to save the life of the man on my back. Behind me, even Kay seems to be slowing down. The weight of an adult human on you is tiring to anyone – period.

     As the guards in the area switch to full alert, many of them start to encircle me, swarming from their posts. We’ve made it to the entrance of the Academia and the guards seem more plentiful than ever before.

     Rei is barely restrained, she wants the violence so much that it’s near-painful. She wants to destroy, to rip, to tear. But she listens to me, just barely, and stays still. Guards surround me, seeming to have given up on talking after what happened to that last one. I look around wondering what to do next. Behind me, I see the guards force Mimi and Rose to their knees. They’re hesitant to approach Kay, so she’s fine for now.

     As the guards begin to tighten their circle around me, I give up, and put the man down while shouting to them, “He needs medical attention immediately!”

     “You’re under arrest, give up now and we’ll give your ally attention after a proper trial for your transgressions.”

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     I can’t believe the audacity of them. There’s a man lying helpless in front of them, bleeding profusely and their first thought is a trial for transgressions that have been completely imagined.

     I’m so enraged that Rei begins manifesting again. I can feel my skin burn as she begins to claw her way out. She’s literally just beneath the surface of my skin; she’s coming and I can’t stop her. At this moment,  I don’t think I want to stop her- if it really is her.

     Before Rei breaks free, I hear a shout clear across the courtyard. Something about its familiarity snaps me out of my anger.

     As Rei slinks back to my depths, the guards freeze. “What is the meaning of this? I want answers now!” comes an authoritative voice. The doors open up to reveal Charlotte.

     It takes but a moment for her to survey the area and grasp the situation. “Someone fetch the medics,” she shouts out. With a salute, a guard near the door hurries off. “Guards put your weapons away.”

     “Ma’am, these people-” he’s immediately interrupted by a right hook to his jaw.

      “I said put your weapons away. Or do every single one of you want to be tried and executed for drawing your weapons on our Zeroth and the Valkyries?!”

     I’m breathing hard as panic overtakes the guards. I see. The central part of the city is just far enough away from the arena to not completely know who I am. They all slowly put their weapons away, not able to fully believe what they’re being informed of.

     “Ouch,” Rose lets out in exasperation as one guard seems to be roughly shoving her away from him. Something overtakes me and before I realize it, I’m in front of the guard. I’m looking at myself from the outside in, that is how severe my anger is. It runs deep, on a primal level.

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