Chapter 46 – If I Only Knew

  • by lemuel moo

The students broke out into their individual categories, and Jacinta and Vanessa were found alone together. They moved to another part of the forest after the debrief to start their breakout session.

“I guess we’re the only two psychic users around here!” Vanessa remarked.

“How do you know?” Jacinta said. “I’m working undercover at the moment, and I’ve not even used my psychic powers once since I got into Aelfsige Academy!”

Jacinta didn’t feel the need to hide her identity because SPAW would’ve recruited most psychic users before middle school.

“Colonel Jack sent your details to Principal Stella and me,” Vanessa answered. “This means Colonel Jack is disregarding your status as an undercover.”

“Are you going to send me back to the headquarters?!” Jacinta asked. “I’m not going!”

“Chill, girl,” Vanessa said. “I couldn’t do it even if I tried. The Flowers Of Death is watching you this very moment.”

“She’s right,” a voice came from a nearby bush. “Even her secret bodyguards wouldn’t be able to save her if she tried.”

Celinda stepped out of the bush and Camelia dragged two unconscious bodyguards down from the trees.

“Celinda! Camelia! Have you been here all this while?!” Jacinta asked as she went forward to hug them.

“Silly girl. It’s boring to keep watch all the time. I’m able to locate you with my psychic powers and Camelia can use [Shadow Walk], an instant teleportation technique that allows the user to traverse through shadows,” Celinda explained. “It’s difficult to take down a psychic user without another psychic user, and that’s why we’re here.”

Vanessa looked at her unconscious bodyguard and lamented. “Can’t you be gentler, Camelia?”

“Your Highness, you know I can’t afford to make any mistakes,” replied Camelia.

Jacinta was shocked that Camelia addressed Vanessa as ‘Highness’, and Celinda explained. “The Cyneburgs are among the oldest families in the world, and they are also one of the founders of the World Alliance. In other words, she’s above SPAW.

The Cyneburgs do not reign over people or lands, but they are considered royalty among the other founding members of the World Alliance. Camelia used to work as Vanessa’s bodyguard.”

Camelia looked at Vanessa in her eyes, and the latter looked back. Though they were now in different camps, the respect for each other runs deep.

“I’m not here to do any biddings from Colonel Jack, and he hasn’t sent any orders to capture you. I answer to my father, but I don’t take orders from SPAW,” Vanessa said. “In fact, I’m not fond of SPAW.”

“I’m pleased, your Highness,” Camelia said. “You held on to your values after all these years.”

“Of course, Camelia. I’ve always been me,” Vanessa replied. “I’m only here to have fun and train with a fellow psychic user.”

Celinda and Camelia were satisfied with Vanessa’s answer, and they turned to Jacinta. “We should get going now, Jacinta. The combat instructors will make their rounds, and it wouldn’t be good if they find us here.”

“Alright, I will talk to you later!”

Celinda and Camelia walked back into the bushes, and their presence disappeared from the premises.

“You’re quite the precious gem to the Flowers Of Death,” Vanessa remarked. “Rafflesia wouldn’t send two commanders to protect you if you’re not worth it.”

“I have good friends who made this happen,” Jacinta said.

“I should make friends with your friends then,” Vanessa said with a smile.

———-

In the magic users’ class, there were only five persons with Victor Spectre, and Clere was among them. Victor stepped forward and asked a question.

“Is there anyone who is a pure magic user?”

The students looked at each other, and one of them asked. “What is a pure magic user?”

“That means, you don’t mix magic with martial arts to fight,” Victor explained. “Clere and I aren’t pure magic users because we depend on our physical strength and energy when we fight.”

Victor opened his bag and gave each student a stick.

“Channel your energy into it.”

The students did so, and the sticks glowed in different colors.

“If the stick glows, it means you are born with an affinity to magic. The different colors represent the different degrees of affinity,” Victor explained. “Everybody can learn how to use magic attacks, but some are better at it than others.”

Clere’s stick glowed a luminous blue, and it sparkled like a sapphire. Victor saw the glow and remarked.

“Wow, you have a high concentration of spiritual energy within you, Clere!”

Clere didn’t understand what Victor meant, so he explained.

“Through breathing techniques and magic sequences, we can covert [qi] into spiritual fuel or energy. This spiritual fuel is lighter in density than [qi], and it melds with the natural power around us to create supernatural phenomenons, such as lightning attacks or fireballs.

Clere’s brilliant glow means that Clere has a high concentration of spiritual energy, and she could conjure magic attacks easily if she knows the incantation or the magic sequences of the spell.”

Clere didn’t know her body was refining her [qi] into spiritual energy at a perfect equilibrium. Her [qi] and spiritual energy are equal in her body, and she was able to create [Cursed Ink] unconsciously without the use of magic sequences or incantations!

The rest of the students’ sticks glowed either white or green. White means the student was just getting started, and green means the student was a novice.

Victor jotted down the students’ stick colors and said, “All of you should have a conversation with Rei, who is head of the Occult Research Group in our school. She’s a pure magic user, and she’ll be able to give you good advice if you endeavor to become a magic user.

Without further ado, let me demonstrate my techniques for you and explain how we can fight using magic.”

Victor spent the rest of the time demonstrating and helping the students to get started in refining their [qi] into spiritual energy for magic incantations.

———-

Reynard was placed in the martial arts group, along with Hideki. Asti challenged all the students to a fight.

“All of you are familiar with martial arts, so there isn’t a need to explain the fundamentals. Come at me, and I will debrief you later.”

“Even if one of your opponents is me, Ms. Asti?” Dylan said. Dylan hired Asti as his assassin before, and they knew about each other’s strength.

“Yup, come at me with the rest of the students, Dylan,” Asti said as she picked up her wine bottle. “However, give me a minute to prepare because your [King Of Hades Scriptures] is something else.”

Asti emptied her wine bottle into her mouth, and consumed more than two liters of wine in a few seconds! Once she was done, she threw her wine bottle aside and activated her [Monkey God Technique].

Asti’s body began to glow in gold, and she leaned her back on her staff.

“Hic. I’m r-ready. Hic. D-Dylan should c-come at me first. O-Otherwise, n-none of you can e-even land a p-punch.”

Dylan stood forward while the rest stepped back. Hideki unsheathed his katana and joined Dylan in the frontline.

“I don’t need any weak swordsman to distract me,” Dylan said.

“It’s a good thing that I’m not weak,” retorted Hideki.

Reynard stood at the back with a massive stone sword which Gale crafted. Gale was standing beside Reynard.

“Is Ms. Asti going to be alright?” Reynard asked Gale.

“I’m sure. That looks like the [Monkey God Technique]. It would be quite difficult to defeat her even if it was the [King Of Hades Scriptures]. Her trance mode makes her completely unpredictable because her body would react faster than her brains,” Gale explained.

“Why do you seem to know all kinds of martial arts?” Reynard asked.

“Well, it’s knowledge from my adventures.”

Dylan launched his [King Of Hades’ Cannon] from a distance to test Asti. As a dark energy mass flew towards her, Asti swung her staff and returned the energy blast like baseball. However, she didn’t merely return the energy blast. She added more power into the energy mass and amplified its speed.

The energy blast aimed directly at Dylan, and he had no time to dodge. He frantically activated his [King Of Hades’ Protection] and avoided damage by the skin of his teeth.

“And why didn’t you use this technique when you fought against Gale at Babel Square?!” Dylan roared as he charged towards Asti with a barrage of the [King Of Hades’ Claws].

Asti parried Dylan’s claws with the tip of her staff. Each thrust from Asti’s staff sent piercing pains onto the heart of Dylan’s palms, and Dylan knew Asti was overpowering him by a significant margin!

Dylan activated his [Fog From Hell] and his fog began to dissolve Asti’s aura. However, Asti swung her staff in a circular motion over the top of her head, and the fog could not reach her! Dylan took the chance and attacked her legs, but with one swing, his head became a baseball and Dylan flew several hundred feet away!

Hideki took the chance to unleash his [Mizushima Waterfall Slash] as Asti’s back was facing him. The [Water Serpent] katana amplified Hideki’s sword energy, and sent a massive projectile at her back! Hideki was immensely surprised by his technique!

Asti swung her staff with an equivalent force and canceled Hideki’s projectile. She circularly twirled her staff to gain momentum, and then she swung horizontally towards Hideki and the students with a massive force!

The swing created a thick cushion of air, and all the students fell backward by the force of the wind! Hideki was too near the attack, and he flew several feet before crashing onto the ground!

“Gale, Ms. Asti is crazy!” Reynard said as he picked himself up.

“Do what you did with Dylan when she attacks you,” Gale said.

Asti attacked the students and swept them to the sides like garbage. The students struggled to pick themselves up, and some of them managed to counterattack, but Asti blew them away with cushions of air!

Reynard countered the cushions of air with his swings and Asti charged straight at him. Their weapons met, and a thunderous clash erupted upon impact!

However, Reynard’s massive stone sword broke under Asti’s staff as the latter was made of reinforced steel. Asti thrust the tip of her staff into Reynard’s abdominals lightly, and Reynard fell backward.

Asti then fell onto her staff and began to sleep. The students couldn’t believe what had happened.

“That’s the end of Asti’s lesson,” Gwen said as she walked into the premises. “I will be giving you your evaluations.”

The students picked themselves up, and except for Dylan, they suffered only minor bruises from falling onto the ground.

Dylan bled through his nose because the impact was significant on his head, but his body was sturdy, so he didn’t receive substantial damage. Asti was able to inflict sufficient pain without severely injuring the students.

“Dylan, you’re strong, but you’re too confident of your energy. Without your [King Of Hades’ Protection], your techniques are below average. You’ll need to refine your skills,” Gwen said.

Dylan scowled at Gwen’s assessment. He didn’t like losing to the assassin whom he hired.

“Hideki, your new weapon did wonders for you, but your basics are lacking. How could you be lifted off the floor by a single swing?! You’ve got to do better than that!”

Hideki realized that his [Water Serpent] katana was terrific, and he determined to be worthy of his weapon.

“Reynard, your weapon of choice is pathetic. Stone sword?! Not many fighters could reinforce their weapon to match Asti’s staff with their energy. Find a better weapon, and you’ll fare better.

Also, you’re only good at defense. Work on your offense.”

Reynard was upset that his stone sword shattered into pieces, but Gale said, “I’ll forge you a new weapon. No more stone swords.”

“And the rest of you were swept around by a broom,” Gwen continued. “From tomorrow onwards, Beatrix will teach you to cook food that strengthens your body. Every one of you will learn her basic breathing techniques and strengthen your energy levels.”

Asti humbled every student under her tutelage that day, and Gwen walked over to Gale for a question.

“How would you fare if you were facing Asti at her best?”

“I’m sure you’ve seen my battle at City Plaza. I should still be able to win,” Gale said.

“How confident,” Gwen said as she walked away.

———-

It was dinner time, and everyone gathered at the kitchen and the dining area. Vanessa sat with Class 1B for their meals because the food on their table was to her liking.

Hideki helped Clere with her food, and the rest noticed that.

“Looks like they patched up,” Jacinta observed.

“You said it,” Reynard concurred.

Gale thought about what Kasumi said earlier. What wasn’t right? As he mulled within himself, he accidentally bumped into Clere, and she almost dropped her food.

But with lightning-quick reflexes, Gale wrapped his arms around Clere’s shoulders and made sure she didn’t fall.

“I’m so sorry, Clere! Are you alright?”

Clere looked at Gale’s eyes for a moment and then looked away. “Can you not be so nice to me?”

Gale stared in bewilderment as Clere walked away to find Jacinta. Jacinta heard it and shrugged.

“What?! What did I do wrong?!” Gale questioned under his breath.

Gale returned to his seat beside Clere. He roasted chicken with Reynard earlier, and he sliced out the best parts of the chicken to give to Clere.

“Here you go!”

Clere looked at the chicken, and she looked at Gale with teary eyes and asked Jacinta to switch places with her.

Gale almost pulled his hair out.

“Reynard, what exactly happened?!”

“…You’re hopelessly dull sometimes.”

Gale turned to Jacinta, and Jacinta uttered, “Eat your chicken and don’t ask questions.”

Gale spent the entire dinnertime going over the history records in his brain. He couldn’t fathom what sparked the drastic change in behavior from Clere. She was supposed to be happy when she and Hideki made up!

Hideki saw that Gale was struggling to understand, and he let out a deep sigh.

“Gale, meet me at the brook after dinner.”

That was rare from Hideki, and Gale replied, “sure.” Clere didn’t look up, but she heard what they said.

———-

Hideki was there at the brook before Gale. It was a moonlit night, and the place basked in a soft light. Gale walked over to Hideki and stood beside him.

“It’s been a while since we talked. How’re things with you, Hideki?”

“Good. I’m here to talk about Clere,”

Gale raised his eyebrows. Did Hideki know why Clere was acting so strange?

“Who do you want to date, Gale?”

“Date? That’s pretty sudden coming from you,” Gale remarked.

“Just answer the question.”

Gale let out a deep sigh before answering.

“Your sister, Kasumi.”

“How about Clere?” Hideki asked.

“How can I date two persons? I’m only interested in Kasumi,” Gale said blankly.

“Have you ever thought of dating Clere before?” Hideki asked.

Gale didn’t understand what was Hideki after. What had Clere got to do with this? However, Hideki wanted Gale to express the hidden feelings of his heart.

“Well, I sure did. I thought she was cute,” Gale confessed.

Hideki froze as a sharp pain struck his heart.

“But Clere gave me the feeling that she already liked you. Remember the time when we went out to an amusement park? I thought both of you looked cute together,” Gale continued. “I brushed my feelings aside and focused on other things, and then Kasumi came into the picture.

However, what has this got to do with now?”

“If time were to reverse itself, and between Kasumi and Clere, who would you choose?” Hideki asked.

“That’s unfair! My feelings for Kasumi have developed!” Gale protested.

“But surely, you are more fond with my sister than Clere, correct?”

Gale took a while to ponder. “This is hard to say. I’m not switching my choice for Kasumi now, because your sister is awesome. But if time were to reverse and I didn’t know Kasumi as well as I know now, I would’ve picked Clere.”

Hideki was ashen-faced as he heard Gale’s words. Gale thought Hideki didn’t understand his choice, so he explained.

“First, Clere’s pretty soft-hearted. Your sister as well, but Clere empathizes with people even though she doesn’t look like it. After spending so much time with her, I realized …”

Gale spent a good ten minutes talking about the great things he observed about Clere. As Hideki listened, he clenched his fists tighter and tighter.

“… and so, after talking for so long, who on earth will not consider Clere? But she clearly likes you, and I’m in love with your sister now. Isn’t this picture perfect?”

“NO!” Clere screamed as she exposed herself from the bushes nearby. Gale was stunned as he didn’t know Clere was around. She had learned from Gale about hiding her presence, and she was doing it perfectly.

Gale looked at Hideki and then looked at Clere. “What’s all this about?”

Clere covered her mouth as she ran away in tears. Kasumi emerged from the bushes too.

“I’ll go after her. You boys stay back!”

Gale was astounded with the turn of events, and Hideki walked away. “H-Hey Hideki? Would you mind explaining what happened?”

Hideki ignored Gale and went his way. Gale didn’t understand a single thing, and all he could do was to look at the beautiful stars for comfort.

———-

Kasumi finally caught up to Clere at a clearing in the forest. As soon as Clere saw Kasumi, she crashed onto Kasumi’s bosom and wept bitterly.

Kasumi caressed her head to comfort her, and both of them spent a long while in each other’s arms.

“Stupid Gale. Why say so many nice things about me to others when I’m not there? WHEN YOU HAVE ALREADY CHOSEN SOMEONE ELSE?!”

“My brother is the stupid one. He thought Gale fell in love with me first before you, so he took his chances and made Gale express his hidden feelings,” Kasumi sighed. “And Gale said so many nice things about you. I wonder what he will say about me if I weren’t there.”

“Gale said so many nice things about you too!” Clere said. “He keeps saying, ‘Oh your sister has this quality as well’ while he lists what he likes about me!”

Moments of silence passed as they spent the time to recollect their thoughts. Suddenly, Kasumi chuckled and giggled, and Clere looked up.

“Why’re you laughing?!”

“We’re love rivals, but we’re praising and comforting one another. Isn’t that funny?”

Clere thought about it for a moment, and she laughed in tears too.

“You’re right. This is so silly and funny.”

Both took a moment to laugh their hearts out and embrace their intimate friendship.

“Gale’s so sharp about assassins and fighting, but when it comes to relationships, he’s as dumb as a rock,” Kasumi lamented.

“I know,” Clere lamented. “He’s probably perplexed now.”

“Let’s keep him confused as our revenge,” Kasumi declared.

“Great idea!” Clere concurred.

“But would you consider my proposal and embrace Gale’s other lovers as well?” Kasumi asked.

Clere paused as she took a moment to think. “I don’t know, Kasumi. I’m not ready yet, and he looks set on you and only you.”

“We’ll figure something out,” Kasumi replied. “What matters is that you’re true to your heart. As much as my brother likes you, I don’t think you should lead him on if you aren’t in love with him.”

“I’ll remember that and keep a distance, Kasumi.”

The girls spent their time embracing each other under the moonlight as their friendship thickened with love.

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