Don't Worry, We Have the Best Supporter in Our Team
“Did you look into the documents I sent the other day?”
“Not yet. I need to mark the exam papers first. I will get them done by tomorrow so that I could resume my work. How’s your end? I heard that you were assigned to an interesting project.”
“It is going smoothly, so far. We’re still working on the foundation as of now.”
“What was it?”
“Sorry. I was told not to inform anyone about it, but we will when we confirm everything.”
Lecturers who worked in the Adventurer Academy sometimes took on the role of researchers. Adventurers were bound to discover new herbs, animals, ores, monsters and new areas during their quests.
Of course, most adventurers were taught the basics of acquiring such materials or drawing the locations on their maps and report them back to the Academy if they wish to do so. Most of the materials sent to the Academy for research purposes were from the Capital Headquarters.
Their conversation continued down the hallway until they were out of the earshot. Then, a silhouette appeared from the shadow formed from the window frames. He listened to his surroundings once more to make sure the coast is clear.
“I never thought the training takes place during the first day of the holiday,” Aiden sighed.
Before he sneaked into the building, he equipped himself with his grey adventurer ensemble and a pair of blade gauntlets back from his apartment. Weapons weren’t allowed to be carried by students in the academy,
He was well aware that he would get in trouble if anyone, except for his guildmates and Stacia, found him in the Academy hallway or classrooms at this time. He had pointed that out to Stacia before commencing this training, but all he received was, What’s this? An assassin scared of exploring the academy during the night? Want me to send someone to hold your hands and lead you to me?
Just thinking about how absurd his master gave him a slight headache. His friends might not know about this, but his master was highly audacious when providing unreasonable training regimens. There were times where he was trained to the point where his entire body sore for five days.
Aiden’s objective was the same as usual: locate and take down Stacia without getting noticed by anyone aside from Stacia. He placed those thoughts to the back of his mind and continued further into the Academy.
Whenever Aiden explores new places or revisits them by himself or with someone else, he did his best to draw the map within his mind. But that didn’t apply when it came to the Academy. Instead, the entire building was a living maze as it has a defence mechanism that prevents intruders from meeting students and lecturers, and it applies to training and theirs.
A sinister, childish voice came from behind.
Aiden didn’t need to turn around. That was Stacia usual way of signalling the start of their training. Even though he had experienced this many times, it still made him shudder, and cold sweats ran down his cheeks.
Cutting through the air, a small throwing knife flew toward him. He managed to dodge the weapon with minimum effort, but another suddenly came from behind and landed square on his back.
Shards of blue light scattered and dissolved in the air from his back, but part of it soon recovered at the expend of his mana.
A figure appeared on all four at the ceiling above him. Its limbs were positioned as if anyone world deemed them as dislocated and the head. If anyone ever saw this, they would probably scream and run away at that point.
He adjusted his grey hood, then checked his blade gauntlet’s spring mechanism, raring for the offensive. Coursing mana through his arms, legs and blades’ runes, he launched himself.
Bouncing from wall to wall, toward the ceiling where his target was. When the target came within his range, he swung his right blade at it from the side.
“Is that all?”
Stacia’s playful voice came from the creature itself. However, he could sense a hint of her bloodlust consuming his entire body and mind. But even so…
He twisted his body and raised his left gauntlet to defend himself, but Stacia was no longer there.
As gravity pulling him down, he couldn’t afford to let his guard down. He knew this was her way for combat: instilling fear into her foes until they couldn’t make rational decisions and finish them off.
Halfway back to the ground, a powerful kick landed on his stomach, causing him to fall to the ground with his back. He gasped for air. A considerable chunk of mana shields chipped off from his abdomen section.
He made use of the momentum to distance himself away from Stacia.
Even with the mana gloves, it was surprisingly hurt, clutching onto his stomach with his right hand. Compared to his friends, Stacia’s attack was more decisive, and the pain he just felt was between moderate and high.
“Giving up?” asked Stacia innocently while holding three throwing knives in one hand.
“Not a chance.”
Aiden appeared behind Stacia within milliseconds. But his attack soon got deflected by her dagger to steered him to the side, then gave a knee kick to his stomach and slammed his back with the other dagger’s pommel.
You still got a long way to go, kid, thought Stacia.
“Hmm. Did he notice it?”
While Stacia’s other self (?) was fighting Aiden, she relaxed on a couch in one of the guild rooms. Her action would consider trespassing with the time and place in mind when it comes to guild rooms, but she received hospitality from the room’s guild master herself.
A girl inquired while repairing her weapons on the workbench. The Academy’s guilds could purchase and install any equipment and tools to their guild rooms as long as they received permission from the Academy’s faculty. In this case, the guild room where Stacia currently relaxed had every tool and equipment needed to create parts or upgrade and maintain their equipment.
“Don’t play dumb with me. You know what I mean,” said Stacia as she was flinging her arms.
Stacia seemed mature and well respected to any onlookers, but she acted like a spoiled child when it came to interacting with her apprentices.
“Master… I don’t know what you are talking about.”
She placed down her tools and tested her weapon. Its mechanism failed to function. Her mind wandered elsewhere, thinking about solutions to her weapon’s issue.
“I’m talking about Aiden. He might have seen— I mean heard through my skill. Also, you should meet him in person. As you master, I ord—”
Before she could finish her sentence, she heard a set of footsteps outside. She usually kept her breathing steady but silent. Even if the sound of footsteps faded into the distance, she remained cautious.
“Master, why don’t you fight Aiden with full strength? I’m sure he will grow stronger quickly.”
“I could do that, but I will end up killing him in the process. Besides, he wasn’t even ready for it yet.”
“But still… what are you trying to teach him anyway?”
“It’s a secret.”
She heaved a sigh, silently praying for Aiden’s safety. After all, she was Aiden’s senior.
When tea was ready, she went over to refilled the teapot and placed it on the coffee table next to Stacia, then returned to her workstation. The holiday had just begun. She took this opportunity to repair and improve her weapons and armour.
“I’m sorry for intruding on your guild room at this hour. I will be heading out now. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Stacia downed her tea, got up from the couch and headed for the door. But, instead of opening the door, she melted into the shadows as if she was a ghost.
“You could have at least leave the guild room like a normal person,” she muttered as she was dismantling her weapon, sending some metal parts flying.
Throughout the bright illuminated hallway, just walking through it in the middle of the night alone would make one feel anxiety. However, that wasn’t so bad as there were sparks and sounds of clashing steels. If one with keen eyesight looked at the sources of origin, a boy with a blindfold was fighting against a young girl with azure eyes.
Between the two, Aiden was being pushed back by Stacia’s ongoing assault. However, her expression was relaxed, treating this battle as nothing but a trivial matter.
He did everything he could to dodge her strikes by using the floors, ceilings and walls as footholds while not leaving any traces of their activities and searching for an opening.
Even if he tried to seize an opening, Stacia returned his actions in kind by parrying his blades and made use of her free hand or legs to topple him over. Not a single hit lay on her.
“Is that the best you got?”
“It would be a lot easier if you just stay still.”
He gave an upward swing with his blade gauntlet then lunged with the other.
She took one step back, dodging his first swing, then grabbed his other arm and circled around him, forcing him in a difficult position. But he twisted his body to avoid that outcome and gave a horizontal sweep with his leg.
Good response. Stacia smiled gingerly to herself as she let go of his arm to jump over his leg and kicked his arms to distance herself away from him
Although she was in a difficult position right now, her moves were deliberate. Making use of a crouch position, she gave herself a short dash toward Aiden, close enough that he couldn’t make use of his blade gauntlet.
She made use of the momentum to punch his chest after placing a foot behind his, causing him to lose balance and fall. Before he fell to the floor, Stacia’s other hand quickly took out a dagger from her waist and brought it down toward the exact spot where her punch had landed.
Aiden quickly crossed his arms to block the dagger, but that caused him to land on the ground with his back. Luckily the mana shield absorbed most of the impact on his head and back. However, he is losing a lot of mana for his mana shield.
“Now, why would I stay still? Surely you don’t think your targets would be dumb enough to act that way?”
He wasn’t frustrated; he was enjoying this training. Every time his master invited him for training, he always thought that might be the day where he could defeat her. Battle after battle, he always got himself beaten to a pulp. All he had, for now, was speed and the ability to find the weak spots, but those wouldn’t work against the opponent before him.
I need to find the weakness behind her skill.
Thinking back on their past training, Stacia’s fighting style didn’t seem to be what he and his friends had in mind for an assassin. It was the exact opposite of what an assassin should be doing; she had engaged in a battle against him head-on, hand-to-hand combat, and sometimes with her daggers. With her nature and class in mind, he had a feeling that those daggers were not her primary weapons.
“Giving up?” She brought down her dagger at his abdomen.
Hearing the sound of the dagger slicing through the air, Aiden rolled to the side and got back up. By the time he did, he heard a dagger thrown at him. He dodged and sprinted down the hallway, away from Stacia.
But no matter where he went, Stacia was always there. To him, no human or adventurer could pull it off like that unless…
They didn’t call you Azure Phantom for nothing.
“Where might you be heading to? I thought you’re looking forward to this battle.”
She appeared next to him and gave a roundhouse kick, sending him crashing through a door and into a classroom. The door shattered into pieces and spread on the floor beneath Aiden, who lay sprawled on the ground face down.
“Ughhh. You know, for an assassin, you hit hard,” chuckled Aiden, even though he was losing this battle, as he slowly got himself up with his hand and knee.
“I will take that as a compliment.” Stacia smiled and puffed her chest out proudly, not leaving a single opening.
Tch. I was hoping she would lower down her guard a bit. Guess that doesn’t work for her.
Stacia disappeared then reappeared at the podium. The corner of her lips curved upward slightly as she crossed her legs. Without a word, she silently produced another dagger from her sleeve. Not a single sound was made from that.
“It would be in your best interest not to underestimate me, Aiden. Shall we continue where we left off?”
“Underestimating you? I always go all-out when I fight—”
Before he could finish his sentence, she threw a dagger, aiming for his head. He crouched down as soon as he could, to a point where the dagger flew over his head. While he crouched low enough, he focused his mana on his legs and dashed toward Stacia.
Stacia jumped off from the podium, landing on one of the tables. To her surprise, Aiden was already next to her, swinging his blades toward her arms.
“—Until I defeat you, of course.”
Without any time to parry them, she raised both arms, sending her flying to the back wall of the class. She landed on the border with both feet gracefully.
Aiden wasn’t going to let this momentum die out, so he continued his offence by closing his distance.
“I’m not letting you get away this time.”
“We will see about that.”
By the time his subsequent attacks landed on Stacia, they had met nothing but air.
“Don’t be mad. You should be happy that you put me in a situation where I had to activate my skill.”
He listened to his surroundings, even though there was a chance that he couldn’t locate her presence.
He could barely hear the inconsistent footsteps from the ground, wall, ceiling. Sometimes the footsteps from all directions could be heard simultaneously, and not a single movement for the furniture in this room.
To make things complicated, her inconsistent presence was starting to confuse him further, masking her movements.
He took a deep breath and exhaled.
He raised his blade gauntlets in a defensive stance.
With that signal, ghostly strikes landed on his back, left leg and right arm in quick succession, causing him to drop down in one knee. Even though he couldn’t defend himself from her, he kept his ignore all of his senses and focus on his hearing, trying to locate her until…
What was that sound?
The sound was eerie. He turned his attention to it, but nothing was there.
The sound disappeared when it noticed his attention. When it stopped, he could briefly sense Stacia’s presence.
She appeared behind him and struck him at the back of his neck with full force. Aiden’s magic gloves’ safety mechanism kicked in. He fell forward and dropped down to the floor.
Stacia stared at his unconscious state and sighed to herself.
“That was close.”
She signalled it to go back home. Her partner nodded and disappeared into the shadows.
“Ughhhh. What happened? Where am I?”
“You lost the fight. We’re in our apartment. Stacia brought you here and left,” said Irene as she was placing two dishes next to him in bed. “I also brought some dinner from a café.”
It was normal for Irene to see Aiden’s current state every time he went out for training with her. She sometimes went out with Stacia to know how their training went and asked for further details on her assignments while she was at it.
According to Stacia, Aiden seemed to be improving. Irene wasn’t concerned about his safety, but instead, she wanted to know how much he had progressed as they see each other as rivals and comrades.
Trying to get himself up from bed, the pain started to spread all over his body, but he could manage on his own. This was the effect of the magic gloves’ safety mechanism. Mana was crucial for adventurers to execute class skills and improves physical prowess. With mana deficiency, adventurers could barely walk properly, so the best they could do was either consume mana potions or rest.
“How long was I out?”
“About two hours.”
“So that means it’s about 11:30 PM?”
After confirming Aiden’s condition, Irene began heading back to her room, leaving Aiden to his device.