Breakthrough – Part 1
Upon our arrival in the city, guards swarm us. When Rose protests and inquires as to what is going on, the woman who seems to be in charge simply informs us that they were the unit sent to escort us to the Consulate; and that is when I fully realised the severity of today’s gathering.
We move through the city, but it’s unlike the city I’ve grown to know. People were going about their days, but an anxiety hung in the air- perhaps due to the amount of guards posted in the area. They seem on edge though, jerking their heads to every uncommon sound.
I look over at Rose with a questioning look but she gives a small shake of her head. I look to Mimi, who whispers to me, “A really highborn noble was killed last night in his house.” The news of this almost causes me to lose my lunch.
I look over to Kay and catch her eye. She stares into my eyes without flinching- a small smile dancing at the corner of her lips. But why was she smiling? Was she smiling at me? Or what she smiling at me; with knowledge of what has come to pass- her brown hair bobing with her steps.
Before long, however, she gives me a cute tilt of the head. That action struggles with my current emotions, threatening to win. I can’t have that happen, so I look away. The rest of the walk felt harder, heavier, than any before. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep, or perhaps it’s the anxiety in the air, spreading its pathogen into me. Or perhaps, it’s because of what I know of last night, of Kay. I only now notice the Academy fast approaching, and try to smother my racing mind.
The guards salute us as we enter, and behind me, somewhere in the distance, I hear the sounds of metal being unsheathed. No one else reacts, so I assume it’s just my imagination; hope it’s just my imagination. We pass the Academy, and start skirting around it. I’ve never actually explored the outside, so this sparks my curiosity.
I take in the new surroundings, much of the same yes, but much of more. The gardens are more lavish, as if home to people who need to show their superiority in all things. There’s beautiful flowers of purple, smelling similar to lavender- perhaps it’s what they use for our main bath.
There’s beautiful flowers of white growing high above the others, dwarfing the former purple flowers. The white flowers are beautiful in their shape, near star like. The one that catches my admiration the most though, is a single black flower. I can’t help but stop to stare at it. Everyone else stops shortly; annoyance covering the guards’ faces, not that I care. I’m too fascinated by this flower.
Rose comes up to me and wraps her hand around my elbow, giving it a squeeze. “It’s a dead flower, I think.”
But I don’t turn her way. Instead, I take in the flower. It’s beautiful in its absence of conformity. Deep within its petals is a shift of colors from black to an ending of pink, near the deepest of it’s bloom. The more I stare at it, the faster my heart beats. The more I look at it, admire it, the more my blood rushes.
My skin tingles and my muscles tense- to the point that even Rose is able to tell the difference in her hand. My eyes feel hazy yet alert. The colors around the area grow vibrant and shift in hues. The tip of my tongue sparks lightning- lightning that shifts across my skin.
This forces Rose to take some steps back. But I can’t stop staring at the flower. The pounding in my head threatens to crack me open. The tickling of my skin sends the shock of lightning down my feet, and dissipates into the my shadow. A moment passes, and a scream fans out all around us, originating, seemingly, from me; yet my mouth hasn’t opened. I looked to my shadow, and see it quiver.
It’s Gee, it has to be. Before long my shadow grows, as if contorting itself to the evening sun. Hands spring from the shadow and snake towards the flower. They grasp the base of the flower and rip it from the courtyard. Light erupts from that point and the ensuing explosion throws everyone else off the feet. Before I know it, the alarm has been sounded.
Guards swarm out of the nearby buildings on high alert. Yet when they arrive, all that remains is me, standing inside the remains of a charred crater, with a normal shadow. Kay immediately appears next to me followed by Mimi, whom I didn’t even see move. Rose comes up last.
They surround me and with pure rage, Kay draws two blades from her sleeves and holds them up against the guards. They look around at one another in fear before hardening their gaze and pointing their weapons at us. Rose gets a worried look on her face but otherwise does nothing else.
The guards incircle us, spears at the ready. I can’t understand what is going on. My actual escorts are still on the ground, possibly not even alive. The guards crash in on us all at once. Kay takes the four to my left, with a flurry of blades. The group on the right is met by Mimi head-on, weaponless, but hardly defenseless. Rose doesn’t move. She simply stands near us. I wrap an arm around her waist in comfort. I always figured she wasn’t a fighter, but it’s strange to see her in such inaction.
The four guards facing Kay are made short work as her blades dig deep into them. Every sheen of her is followed by a slice to a vital. It isn’t long before they’re all dead. You can see it in their eyes. But they’re too deep in to back off now. A guard charges at me from our behind but is intercepted by Mimi as she digs her hand through his chest.
I can’t believe she’s here, because she’s still on my left, parrying blades with her wrist guards and breaking bones where possible. But indeed, I can’t tell which one is the afterimage. Her speed is surreal to see in action, when not being used on yours truly.
Before long she’s gone from in front of me, and the guard falls to the ground with a hole in his chest- a cavity oozing the source of life. Lightning explodes to my left and I see the other guards charred and broken. No sooner than the madness began, the fights came to a close. My girls murdered nine people, all in defense of me. I should feel elated at their loyalty, but I only feel dismay. No sooner than we catch our breaths, does everyone else, including Dom, rush out of the Consulate- seemingly alarmed by the sound of fighting.
Before they even make it to us, a big brute of a man starts ordering people around. It seems he’s able to grasp what has happened even from that distance. Dom approaches us with a quizzical face. It takes only a moment for Rose to get Dom up to speed. With a nod of understanding he turns to face a young man who approaches us with cursory information from their investigation.
“From what we can tell, these are certainly our guards. They must have been traitors aligned with the Outerlands.”
Dom’s face grows dim, as they continue their conversation over the report. Once the young man is gone, Dom informs us that we still need to go to the Consulate, and says he’ll escort us personally.
The four of us come upon a building, impressive, but smaller than I would have thought. It’s two stories high, bricked and decorated in all kinds of colors. The columns supporting the corners of the buildings raise skyward in an amber red. The building is the majestic ivory white similar to other buildings, but its roof shines a deep teal color. The door we come to is an earthy green and swings in its hinges silently.
The gaudy building confuses me, but the insides are spectacular. The reception area is doned in all kinds of flowers, giving the room the sweetest of smells- no black flower, much to my dismay. I wanted to know what that sensation was.
Evidently I’m not alone because the moment the girls see flowers, they’re immediately looking around for something else- I’d say probably a black one too. They’re all too smart to have let that detail pass. But now is not the time to bring it up.
We make our way through the deep lobby and up some stairs made of some kind of cast-iron. They’re cold to the touch and my tongue experiences a sharp sting. When I pull my hand away and quickly cover my mouth, Mimi lets out a small laugh behind me. I turn to her and stick my tongue out, causing her to laugh more. Rose gives us both a glare, causing us both to straighten up and face forward; but I don’t hide my laugh very well.
The closer we get to the large doors at the end of the hallway, the more somber and serious the atmosphere turns. I wish I knew what was going on. Dom turns to us with a nod, causing the escorts to salute and leave, then pushes open the doors. As we move inside, my breath hitches. The room is a massive circle- closer to an auditorium than a standard room. The entire area around us is filled with seats, empty seats at that, yet the potential for hundreds of people to watch whatever goes on here, still takes my breath away. The room carries a blue hue to it, full of a dampening magik that shocks my tongue, and runs to my eyes. The sparks bounce between my eyes wildly, demanding a release.
Kay grabs my arm and turns me to face her. “Breathe,” she tells me, before putting her hand on my stomach, seemingly trying to direct my breaths. My stomach grows warm at her touch and I think I feel a blush creep across my cheeks. I distract myself by staring into her wonderful, brown eyes.
She hides so much from me, and tells me little else, yet when she looks at me like this, with such intensity, it’s like she can see through me. Kay has her own silent determination that she keeps close and ultimately, she uses it to protect me. But I can’t stand that it brings her down to do so. I’ll get to the bottom of her before long; but now is not the time.
Before I realized it, the energy that was sparking through me has dissipated, leaving me with a clear mind. Only now, I realize nearly everyone is staring at me- of which I mean far more people than just the Valkyries. The room is filled with nine people outside of us and Dom; all with their eyes on me.
Some of them have their eyes locked on mine, others with head in near-bow, and some with gazes avoiding me all together. Dom clears his throat and asks if I’m alright. I poke Kay on the nose and give a nod. She scrunches up her nose in an out-of-character way, cute even.
Dom turns to the others, “My Knights Ten, I admit to you all, the Zeroth and Valkyries.” They give a small celebratory clap before taking their seats.
I say to the group, suddenly feeling bashful under such stony gazes. Dom goes down the row of knights introducing me. The open seat seems to have been Fennis’ with the second knight being Gableal Throughdon, a hulk of a man.
He’s massive in his frame with a giant broadsword carried on his hip. He stands and bows to me- still taller than I am. His hair burns in a dark red, with his eyes matching. He’s clad in a spectacular looking armor with a fiery motif. On the chest of his armor is a Tree; that’s all.
A small but, I’m sure, important way of, differing itself from the symbols I’ve grown accustomed to- the Valkyries and all other students having a picture of a man receiving a fruit from another man, and Dom’s, which is a Tree with the fruit falling off.
In my studies, I still haven’t came across the exact meanings of these trees, but I want to believe the symbolism is clear enough to get. But having just a tree? I don’t quite understand. Dom stands above them, so the tree should come first I’d think. But having a barren tree seems like it would come before his. This train of thought has distracted me far too long when I realize he’s now on the Knight Six.
She raises and introduces herself as Kagura Mitsuki. She has pure jet-black hair with almost green eyes. Her attire is very much more in line with what you’d expect of a knight, yet without the flamboyant style that Gableal has. Her armor is pure white, blindingly so, with the tree on the center of the chest piece.
Kagura sits with perfect posture without meeting my eyes. Instead she opts to close her eyes, as if listening to the wind outside. She wouldn’t really stand out if it wasn’t for the fact that she holds a seat of power, yet carries no special glow in her eyes. Her hair being black, and so very much like Rei’s, still has me eyeing her questioningly. I’ve not actually seen anyone else with black hair here.
Nonetheless, she is clearly a curt and to-the-point woman, sitting down the moment her introduction is finished, with no wasteful movements. Dom continues down the line, ending with a man named Talim A’skar.
His olive colour skin contrasts nicely with his deep blue hair and crystalline-like blue eyes. He carries a contagious smile on his face as he makes some kind of joke about how long it took to get to him. Some of the room laughs, others shoot him an annoyed glare. He pays none of them any mind though, and tells me how happy he is to finally meet me.
Talim’s outfit is a bit different than the others. He’s in a leather jerkin and some kind of wool pants. You wouldn’t think him a knight, but you’d think wrong. The depth of his eyes reminds me of Fennis’ and I know not to trust what the surface shows. With the introductions out of the way- introductions that had nothing to do with the Valkyries, Dom goes on to recount to the others what has happened outside and asks for me to tell them everything from my perspective.
Recounting the events a third time is laborious and aggravating but I do so nonetheless. Everyone talks for awhile about the events and what it could mean. They all seemingly agree that there’s some kind of spies in their ranks from the Outerlands.
Once they’re all seemingly finished talking conspiracies, Dom takes us full circle with why we were even asked to be here to begin with.
“Zero, the lands are becoming unstable if you did not know,” Dom informs me.
“Obviously.” I reply, shifting my gaze towards the door.
“And so we need to restructure our order,” he says with a sweeping motion over the rest of the room.
“As you have no doubt noticed, we have a vacant seat due to Fennis’ outcast. This has put some strain on the others and their resources, leaving an entire battalion sitting around with nothing to do when they could be put to better use both within the city, and without.”
I stare at Dom, dumbfounded. “Surely you don’t mean to say that you’ve just had a bunch of guards standing around doing nothing with everything that’s been going on?” I ask. He gives me a confident nod.
Before I can ask him what the hell he’s thinking, Gableal speaks up, “No one would dare attempt control over the soldiers of House Haslothun without the proper authority to do so. They are a maddeningly loyal lot. Fennis spent the better part of twenty cycles beating those men and women into shape.” His voice is deep, with the underscore reminiscent of a grizzly
The Knight Third speaks up in agreement, a woman with an earthly brown kind of hair. Not long after most of the others throw up their agreements as well, and the hall filled with the noise of words for Fennis.
Amongst the mixed chorus of indecipherable words, one message was clear- Fennis had their admiration.